Blog, Simplicity

A Christmas dilemma

Each year, as Christmas rolls around, I get a mixed feeling. Excitement, comfort, nights spent snuggled in front of a crackling fire, tidings and joy and trees and carols.

But I also feel a creeping pressure starting to build. The season of giving is approaching quick sharp and I feel like I have to get into thinking, and spending, mode, to buy something, anything, for the people I care about to show that I do actually care. Emotion embodied in consuming. I listened to a colleague reel off the list of presents they were expected to buy a younger member of family this christmas. It amounted to over £1000. And just because we are expected to spend. Aren’t we losing sight of something?

This Black Friday was the ultimate in consumer hell in the UK. Having previously looked on with curiosity at the goings on over the other side of the pond, this year the UK inexplicably decided to jump in with both feet. Fights, injuries, smashed goods, arguments….the event brought out the worst in consumer behaviour. Are we so blinded by having to purchase more and more we’re willing to risk our safety, and our reputation?

It’s the enforced buying I’m having trouble with. Generally, as a rule, I don’t really buy much myself or for others. I’d rather have a chat and a drink and an adventure. But in December? I have to buy something to give to someone, usually in a rush and without the degree of thought I believe a gift deserves. I don’t usually buy stuff because I don’t usually come across stuff that people or myself would really love or find useful. When I do, it’s a treat and a treasure. In the words of The Minimalists, all of my things are my favourite things.

I want to give something that adds value. I want people to enjoy the things they have. I don’t want to just buy stuff because I’m being told to buy stuff. I think of the after christmas queues to return unwanted gifts. I think of the invention of the saddest of all things, the ‘gift receipt’. You’re buying things almost certain that the recipient is going to exchange or return them. It makes me feel hopeless inside. The pressure of hoping they’ll like it. I’m usually boring and ask what people want or need, so at least I know they will get value from it.

The best things in life aren’t things. Think back one, two or three years. Can you remember what presents you received? Can you remember what you bought your loved ones?

Think back again. Can you remember the events of a few years ago? The laughs, the smiles? Did you go for a walk? Were the sprouts mushy? Chances are, it’s easier to remember what happened rather than what you got. Emotions, memories, good times stay with us forever. But nowadays the season is changing, focusing more and more on endless shopping, late night opening, buying, spending, credit cards, pressure.

So my dilemma still remains. I don’t want to enforce minimalism on anybody. Everyone’s life is their own. So should I buy gifts? Should I give experiences? Should I just take a back seat and go gift-free?
I feel a bit Scrooge-like even asking myself the question. And I feel sad that I live in a world where I feel guilty for questioning whether or not to buy more ‘stuff’ for people. It’s nice to give a gift. It’s normal. What’s wrong with me? Am I that much of a miser?

Let me know how you deal with minimalism at Christmas-do you refrain from buying, or just from receiving gifts? Do you buy and get gifts? What type of things? Share your top tips…

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7 thoughts on “A Christmas dilemma

  1. My husband & I have decided not to buy gifts for one another this year. Our children 18 & 20, one got money for art supplies (he’s an artist) and the other got new boots which he needs. Our parents are getting handmade gifts. Knitted scarves for the Mums and Christmas cakes for the Dads.This is the extent of our giving this year. Both my husband & I come from very large families and even have 8 great nieces and nephews all of which we are all very close to. We have told them all this year that we will not be buying gifts for everyone as the waste is to much. They think we are being mean but I really don’t care. I have such a feeling of freedom this year. Its a great feeling, and on a plus I have way more money in the bank than I normally do at this time of the year.

    1. Hi Sharon,

      I love your comment! I find it hard to get on with the idea of having to buy things for people just because it’s expected, I look at the queues of people buying loads for the sake of it and wonder what’ll become of all the gifts in a few months…
      It’s such a good idea to give gifts that are needed or hand-making gifts with a personal touch. I like the idea of gifting experiences too- more memories and no waste!
      All the best 🙂

  2. We have been increasing our focus on the gift of experience over stuff. If we do get stuff, we get consumable items. This rings true especially for older relatives, who literally have too much of everything, yet typically have a limited income.

    So for parents and grandparents, we gave most of them gift certificates to the local restaurants. It boosts the local economy, while giving my loved ones a much-needed date night or night on the town. For my grandfather who lives a few hours up north, I had a basket of breakfast meats sent to him (who doesn’t love bacon?).

    For kiddos, I’ve had good luck with tickets to the movies, gift certificates for local ice cream shop, or tickets to the zoo. We also just took our niece to a children’s museum and day of fun – she had a great time and we created good memories with her.

    This will be my goal for the New Year. No things as gifts- but fun times, instead.

    1. What a great idea Monica, it’s so hard to find meaningful presents for people who have a lot of items, yet an experience is remembered forever. I love how you want to boost the local economy too. My brother once got us gift certificate for a local independent coffee shop one Christmas, and we’ve been regulars there ever since.

      Love your New Year goal of fun times over experience. (And Yes! Bacon is always a winner! Yum yum yum)

      All the best for next year- Sal 🙂

  3. It’s rare when you spot something, knowing that it will be valued or cherished or bring a smile to someone; the pressure to stumble on that gift for everyone is at odds with the whole reason to be festive. December has whirled by in a torrent of work pressures and illness for me which means as far as cards and gifts go it’s been a non-event, and man do I feel guilty! Like I do most years! Consequently I don’t want to meet up with anyone because I feel bad. That is very wrong isn’t it?

    Christmas= busy+stressed+skint+guilty
    I feel far less pressure hanging out with friends with whom there has never been an expectation of gifts or even cards, time is more valuable than a token. We should really be sharing that with each other. Time ….and cracker jokes (because they’re comedy gold) and terrible games of pictionary and slightly over competitive adaptations of Jenga!

    1. So true, I absolutely love it when I find something I know the person will love, use, and cherish. I’m happy to spend on people when there is a true reason to. I feel so much pressure when we are expected to buy ‘something’ just because tradition dictates.
      It’s sad that we’re made to feel bad because of the pressure of expectation. You’re 100% right that time should be more appreciated. People who love you for who you are, understand you, and love to spend time with you and each other just for the simple reason that you gel and inspire and support each other, and make each other feel amazing. Friendship is a gift, much more than a physical item will ever be.

      (Talking of cracker jokes: What shoes do frogs wear? Open-toad sandals! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha)

  4. ” Should I give experiences?” I’d like to hear more about this idea; how about a “shared experience”; e.g. a pair of tickets to a movie so that giver and receiver go together?

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