Whenever the Christmas season comes around every year I get super excited about the decorations. I get excited about eggnog lattes and peppermint essence in the air. I get excited about lights on houses.
I’m that crazy lady who goes to the mall to walk around looking at decorations. I love everything about the season.
But I had to quit.
I didn’t quit the essential parts of Christmas, which for me is festive decorations and an attitude of gratitude. I quit the active parts: gift giving and consumerism.
If you ask me, Christmas has been stolen by marketing. It no longer represents the wonderful spirit of giving, but rather the spirit of spending money.
It will be no surprise to my readers that I gave up consumerism a long time ago. To have any level of financial responsibility in our society one pretty much has to forego keeping up with the lifestyle of peers. This is because most of your peers will be deep in debt. They are just trying to keep up with their own peers, and so on.
I’ve begun to observe over a number of years a phenomenon of sale creation. Black Friday became a thing, then it was Cyber monday, now stores are opening at 5pm on Thanksgiving. For the last couple years China has observed singles day November 11th. This year Alibaba hit 25 billion in sales on singles day far surpassing Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
Let us be clear, the creation of “sale days” are not so companies can give you a good deal. They are supposed to get you out of the house and shopping. The more sales they create, the more they hope you will be in the mood to buy.
As a good frugality blogger I would not be doing my job if I didn’t tell you what’s happening here: you are being duped by Black Friday. Stay home and eat some turkey you’ll be a lot happier.
Consumerism tends to bring out the worst in us. It’s stressful, competitive, and time consuming. Even the word consume is a negative word. You’d never be consumed with gratitude or joy. You’d be consumed by fear.
Some people I know have begun to observe Black Friday as Buy Nothing Day.
Make a Gift
The angle that’s taken on Christmas by most frugal people is to buy reasonably cheap gifts or do home made gifts. This was the strategy I used to use.
*Mom opens present* “Oh thanks honey it’s a big glass jar you decorated yourself with ceramic paints.”
*Grandma opens present* “Sweet a gift basket full of shampoo and conditioner.”
These were actual gifts. Don’t laugh at me.
The problem with handmade gift giving is that for me it wasn’t cheap enough. You’d be surprised how expensive those ceramics painting stores are. Ever buy a lanyard making kit or a set of paints? Expensive.
I found that I was spending nearly as much money on things nobody really wanted. Sure, they were happy about the gesture but no one has room in their house for this pinterest crap.
The Christmas strategy my mom always used was to just ask everyone what they wanted for Christmas. No mystery. You knew what you were getting and you’d stare at that wrapped laser printer under the tree for 15 days.
This completely ruins the idea of Christmas because if you know what you’re getting then why don’t you just go buy it yourself. This pre-ask gift giving is some kind of gift hostage situation in which we usually know everything we will receive but we can only get it on one specific day. Then it’s the wrong color.
When I give a gift I want it to be special and/or a surprise. If I ask someone what they want, buy it for them, then deliver it to them on the expected day via tree and wrapping paper, that is just not what this is supposed to be about.
I’m spending money I don’t want to spend, buying people what they could’ve bought for themselves.
All gift giving is for me during Christmas anymore is expectation.
In my mind it sounds like this: here comes that time of year where I spend all this money on people so I don’t look bad on the day we exchange gifts. Gift giving is not supposed to be about expectations, it’s supposed to be a ceremony of love, family, and friendship.
Now that I work in marketing I can see more clearly the blatant attempts by industry at turning Christmas into a consumer holiday, and oh have they succeeded.
Forbes reported that last year holiday spending topped $1 Trillion. Retail grows as a whole by around 4% each holiday season.
Here’s what I do for Christmas now.
For about 45 days I watch strangers rush around town buying gifts. I see them at the stoplights looking preoccupied and I’m always in their way as I saunter up to the checkout line.
When you’re not concerned with buying gifts in December people suddenly seem very stressed.
During December I go ahead and buy myself those things I’ve denied all year. I buy myself the things I might’ve asked for for Christmas. It turns out I end up spending a lot less than I would’ve on Christmas too.
This year I bought the Divi WordPress Theme and made an appointment with that excellent physical therapist who doesn’t take my insurance. Yay for my body!
My mom or relatives might ask me what I want for Christmas and my answer is that they should spend their Gundo holiday budget on themselves. When that magical day comes I usually have a couple different Christmas gatherings to go to. I sit and watch the gift-giving take place and it’s joyful.
I don’t generally feel left out because I have made a statement with my distinct non-gift giving. In the past I might’ve felt left out if I forgot a gift for a relative, or they forgot one for me. This way is so much more simple and I get to chill and enjoy.
The most important part is, I then endeavor to be giving all year. I found out recently through writing and self-analysis that I’m not a very giving person and that isn’t where I want to be. In the month of October I decided that any consumer item I bought could only be for other people.
I still found myself on Amazon shopping for others but whatever.
Some other ideas I have for giving are to make a donation to a charitable cause in the name of a loved one. Also, I’d like to do more favors for people that they might never even know about. Something like feeding an expired parking meter or buying coffee for the person behind me in line.
I’ll take your giving ideas in the comments!