Is it just us, or does Christmas seem to start earlier and earlier with every passing year?
As soon as the gaudy Halloween decorations come down, it feels like the Christmas ones go up and the never-ending adverts peddling ‘all you need for a perfect Christmas’ appear on the telly.
Without wanting to come across like the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge, do any of us really need the rampant consumerism that infects this time of year?
Whatever happened to simple pleasures? Things that don’t cost a fortune, aren’t made of plastic and won’t end up in the bin early in the New Year?
Do you know that the average cost of Christmas for a UK family is estimated to be £868 – which includes presents and festive food. Can you, or anyone you know afford that kind of money? According to the Money Advice Trust, a whopping one third of us will borrow money and use credit cards in order to pay for Christmas – debt we could still be paying off when Xmas 2020 arrives!
It’s time to consider what effect the seasonal buying frenzy has on individuals, communities and the planet in general.
Climate change is real, it’s happening all around us – you only have to look at the recent South Yorkshire floods to see that such events are no longer ‘once in a lifetime’, they are regular occurrences. Changing the way you behave at Christmas isn’t going to stop climate change, but it may lead onto other lifestyle changes for you and those around you, and something is always better than nothing.
For example, we may love a cracker at the Christmas party but apparently most of the 40million Christmas crackers bought each year end up in the bin within the hour – and that includes all the daft little plastic toys which are part and parcel of the ‘fun’. Many crackers, or wrapping paper for that matter, are not recyclable so what happens…more trash for landfill sites and more plastic waste which can make its way into our oceans.
As for gifts, yes, it’s lovely to give and receive but is it necessary to spend a fortune? Is it even necessary to buy at all?
Stop and think for a few minutes…when you, give or receive a gift, an obligation is created. If you receive (or expect to receive) a gift, do you feel obliged to reciprocate? It’s this cycle that needs to be broken as it’s what leads to so many people buying so much ‘stuff’ with money they don’t have, for people who don’t actually need it.
More and more people are opting to either greatly reducing the number of people they buy for or are indeed stopping the exchange of gifts altogether.
Is this something you could do? Talk to your family and friends about doing Christmas differently this year…you may be surprised by how many of them would be pleased to reduce their expenditure!
If you still want to maintain the tradition of gift giving, why not consider a different approach? Here’s a few ideas for presents which won’t cost a fortune (or the Earth!):
Have a read at this article, yes it’s American, but the same principles apply. Seek out charity shops, online auctions, even jumble sales and look for ‘pre-loved’ items – call it shopping for vintage items if that sits better with you! As the article says, you could come across absolute gems which would be perfect for your loved ones.
It’s actually becoming quite fashionable to buy second hand and vintage, especially amongst younger people who are inclined towards backing the whole recycling trend – they will after all be the ones left behind to deal with the impact of climate change.
How about creating your own gift cards, even a ‘cheque book’ which can be redeemed for certain things? If you are cash poor but time rich (i.e. retired!) why not offer an hour or so of your time perhaps to house sit, look after the kids, help in the garden?
Perhaps you’re a fabulous cook or bake great cakes - offer to make something at a time of the recipient’s choice.
The possibilities are endless – use your imagination! Even little things like ‘I promise to make you a cup of tea every morning’ are special to the receiver.
Put those cooking and/or baking skills to immediate use and make homemade goods…cakes/bread/a meal for the freezer…
How about jams and chutneys?
Sweet treats like biscuits, toffee and fudge.
With a little bit of imagination you could package all these things up beautifully in recycled jars etc and you could buy ingredients gradually over several months meaning no single big outlay of expense.
Don’t stop at edible things either…are you a whizz at woodwork, nimble with a needle or clever with a crochet hook? A bespoke something or other, could be a perfect gift and it will be unique too!
Instead of everyone buying multiple gifts, start a family Secret Santa – everyone buys just one gift for one member of the family and a spending limit is applied.
This will take some advance planning as everyone will need to randomly select another family member (names in a hat maybe?). The givers need not be named either – think of the potential guessing games on Christmas Day!
Donations and Charitable Causes
Why not ask your friends and family to make a donation to a worthy cause instead of gifting each other presents?
Many of us have all that we need (note, that may not mean ‘all that we want’!) so wouldn’t it be a true reflection of the spirit of Christmas for us to help someone else and spread a little joy?
Crisis, the homeless charity run an appeal each Christmas asking for donations in order to fund a place for one homeless guest at one of their Christmas centres. Check to see if any local charities do something similar.
If financial donations aren’t your thing, why not donate your time instead? Check out your local press for Christmas events, lots of churches and local charities will be hosting Christmas lunches for the disadvantaged…offer to help.
You could even consider hosting a small Christmas lunch or dinner in your own home and inviting lonely neighbours around.
A Final Word this Christmas
Christmas should be all about caring, sharing and spreading the love. We think it’s time to hark back to simpler (and cheaper) times, to cut out all the unnecessary expense and to just enjoy the season as an opportunity to reconnect with friends and family. And – if you are alone, we urge you to seek out charities in your locality…no one needs to spend the ‘big day’ alone.