Gone are the days when I spend half of my salary on Christmas gifts that people will more than likely never use. I’ve bought really expensive gifts for children who play with them until the novelty wears off and they never see the light of day again. What about all the decorating and splurging on Christmas food and alcohol? Or the new drapes and furniture?
In Trinidad & Tobago, and by extension the rest of the Caribbean, the Christmas season is heavily celebrated with lots of food, music and spending money. We love to show off to our neighbors that we can repaint our already perfect walls, buy new drapes, stock up on food and snacks to last for months, buy the new trendy toys for our children and host the biggest Christmas lime (party). Not only do we spend lots of money, we also create a lot of waste.
Of course this a blanket statement and doesn’t go for all as we don’t all celebrate Christmas here. Even if we do, we don’t all celebrate it the same way. But what I can say is that generally, we have a culture of over spending for Christmas.
I am not exempted from this equation. Christmas is my season. I love it and look forward to it every year. Over the past few years though, I have reengineered how I take on the holiday season. I ask myself some pertinent tough questions and the answers justify how I spend.
I aim to be a conscious consumer generally, and now, during the Christmas season. The temptation is enormous but I think I have it under control. Here’s how we can all work on being conscious consumers this Christmas.
Trust me, I know how hard it is to not over do it. I love love love Christmas food and I come from a background where food around Christmas time was overflowing and you were expected to indulge (in a good way of course). Not to mention when you go to holiday parties and family get togethers, the food is boundless. Don’t fall into the trap of eating everything you see. Over indulgence is never good. Everything in moderation is key. I always try to remember to eat so that I’m not hungry, rather than eating to be full. It also sets a good tone for the young ones looking on.
Materialism is a hell of a thing. We need to have stuff to be happy. We need to give stuff to be happy. Big companies know of our insatiable desire to give and receive things so they wrap themselves up nicely and mesmerize us. They present everything we think we need. And we fall for it. Hence the grandiose sales and deals. Imagine people line up for hours in the cold, behave like caged animals and kill (yes literally take someone’s life) each other for a TV or barbie doll. It’s something I can and probably will never understand.
When giving gifts this year, focus on gifts that the giftee will actually use and appreciate (like these dryer balls). If you must buy something, choose local craft and specialty markets and websites like Etsy. That way everyone wins. The community benefits and the giftee gets something that was made with great thought and is probably customized just for them. Also edible gifts are always appreciated. How about a jar of coffee, bottle of wine or a homemade cake?
Nothing is better than giving time or an experience, though. Experience grows old with you and it is something that you can share forever. Concert (and fete) tickets, a weekend trip or a tree, so that they can nurture and watch it grow are all good ideas. For kids, you can use the Four Gift rule where if you must buy something, you can buy something they want, they need, can wear and can read. Don’t forget to use your imagination!
Avoid big sales (like Black Friday) like the plague. I can guarantee they’re not offering you anything you need anyway. Reuse decorations from previous years. I know for some this is hard as they’d love their house to look refreshed every year but think about what happens to the items you’re not using. Where does that end up? Some don’t decorate at all in order to save on money and eventual waste, but if that’s not your thing (like me, I love a decorated house), then try to spend and waste as little as possible. I bought decorations one year and will not buy any until these are at their wits end. As mentioned above, buy sensible and sustainable gifts. Nothing that will keep running you a hefty penny long after the holidays. If you have to spend anything, spend time.
Someone is always in need. Christmas time can be particularly hard on some families that may be having a hard time. What about those that don’t have a family? Instead of receiving gifts, have something donated in your name to charity. You can also participate without spending a dime. Give your time. There are organizations that visit children’s and elderly homes to bring Christmas cheer by singing and just engaging with residents. I think we all know a family or someone who knows a family that would welcome a box of groceries with open arms. If that’s not your thing, connect with a trusted charitable organization and donate what you can afford. It’s a million times better than gifting a cologne or wallet to someone that would never use it.
To be a minimalist this Christmas doesn’t mean that you have to go without. It means we are being conscious consumers, decreasing our carbon footprint in some way and simply focusing on what’s truly important.
What does your Christmas look like? Are you a minimalist? Or are you in an in-between like me?
…..thanks for stopping by!
P.S ~ Are You Giving Back? and 20 Simple Ways to Declutter your Home
Published: November 20, 2017 9:30 AM