It’s no secret that we are practical spenders who believe in living simply, and the same philosophy applies at Christmas as well. For those of you who do not know us well, we are a small family of three with our little girl who is quickly approaching four in a few months. We are gainfully employed at a generous company and are able to spoil our daughter and each other with whatever our hearts desire. We do participate in potlucks, gift exchanges, and try to be extreme in our generosity when donating to charities, toy drives, and food banks. I do not believe anyone would call us cheap when it comes to supporting those who are in need. However, when celebrating the holidays with our family and friends, we spend little to no money at all. It is our belief that stuff in our home may actually be detrimental to living happily, and by reducing our “stuff” and the packaging that comes with it, we are lowering our load on our planet. To read about how our family changed our “consumer ways”, please read my personal post, Stuff. Below is a description of how our immediate family celebrates gift giving as well as some tips to reduce your holiday spend.
My husband and I choose not to buy each other any Christmas gifts, a tradition we started when saving for our wedding. Our thoughts are that when we need something during the year, we usually buy it. If we haven’t sought it out by Christmas, it is not because we need it, but rather that we want it. Instead, we have a tradition of making each other a holiday card by hand and reading The Gift of the Magi to each other Christmas Night. If you have not read the story yet, you may want to skip to the next paragraph (spoiler alert). It is about a couple who have little to spend on Christmas and so go to extreme lengths to get what they believe the other wants. In the end, neither gift is useful and they are reminded that the most important thing at Christmas is that they have each other to love.
As gifts for our three year old daughter, we are giving her hand-me-downs and free-cycled toys with some gifts from friends and dollar bin purchases. We believe she will be just as excited to open these toys as she would be to open the most expensive, packaged toys. We understand that we have a slight advantage with her age and that we do not need to compete with peer pressure yet. She also does not watch regular tv, only DVDs or non-commercial programs, so she is not bombarded with the barrage of bright, loud commercials for toys. She does, however, have a habit of watching You Tube videos where kids unwrap chocolate or plastic eggs to find little dime store toys. She has asked Santa for these and we have succumbed to using recycled plastic Easter eggs filled with dollar store toys and stickers. She is sure to be thrilled!
Below are some helpful hints and resources to bring less “new” into your home for the holidays and more tradition.
1. Tell People About Freecycling – Let your friends, family, neighbors, parent groups, church, and any other useful sources know that you are open to their gently used toys. Families tend to clear out old toys prior to the holidays to make room for the new ones. Be sure they know your openness to receiving these treasures and then passing them on later as well. Need a wider net? Check out the Freecycle Network, a non-profit website that connects people for freecycling.
2. Hand-made Awesomeness – Choose a craft, baked good, or other handmade talent to make gifts for friends, family, and potlucks. Let people know ahead of time that you plan to make something so that they do not feel pressured to shop for you in turn. The first Christmas we went “gift-free”, we made candles for everyone with leftover supplies from my candle sales. Baked goods are always welcome during the holidays, and wrapping them in wax paper or brown craft paper with twine is not only cheap (all are available at the dollar store), the packaging also brings an air of nostalgia. Want to find hundreds of ideas, Pinterest has got you covered. Also check out these super cute hand made ideas for under $5 from the talented girls at The 36th Avenue.
3. Give Time Not Gifts – The holidays are hectic and time-consuming for everyone. Giving the gift of time to the ones you love is a priceless reminder of how much you love them. Offer to watch your friend’s children so she can run errands. Take the time to write a handwritten note to your best friend telling him/her the ten reasons they are so dear to you. Get creative, and just communicate to the receiver that in lieu of Christmas gifts, you’d like to give them something they never have enough of, Time. Who can refuse such a gift? Not this girl!
4. Create Experiences and Traditions – Just as my husband and I read The Gift of the Magi each year, a tradition marks in the mind that you are celebrating the holiday. Create a tradition with your best friend of walking and talking with cocoa or exchanging letters across the miles. Go ice skating or other fun memories, and promise to make it your Christmas tradition that you will give to each other every year. I am sure many people would appreciate a guaranteed play date with a friend over a wrapped gift any day.
5. Regift – I’m not talking about wrapping up the gifts you wish you hadn’t received. Although, that is an option. However, regifting the things you have that people admire is a wonderful way of expressing your gratitude for them. A couple years ago, I was pleasantly surprised by a gift from my friend whom I don’t typically exchange with. She saw an ornament that just screamed my name and she brought it to me. I was so pleasantly surprised; and that ornament did suit me perfectly. I walked into my closet and grabbed one of my dresses that she had offered to buy from me. She was thrilled.
We’d love to hear of any traditions or ways you reduce the holiday Stuff overload! Please share your hints with us in the comments or on Facebook. We are always looking for ways to reduce! Stay connected with Potluck Happiness by signing up for our monthly newsletters. You’ll receive coupons, freebies, and updates – never spam.
Thank you for sharing this space! – Tanya