Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Scramble to Buy Something...

Going Green Mama is avoiding stores for a while...

It's interesting that it takes 2 1/2 years of a major recession before folks start publicly questioning whether we should spend, spend, spend for the season.

For the first time, I'm hearing discussions in break rooms, on talk radio, in the news about cutting down the unnecessary gifts in our lives. You know, the "she bought me something, so I need to get something" gifts. The "technically I'm supposed to" gifts. The "they have everything but I still need to buy something" gifts. The "I need to spend the same and get the same quantity" gifts.

Suddenly, this type of gift-giving is slowly becoming passe.

And I'm all for it.

There are few things more frustrating than buying a gift out of duty. OK, maybe buying a gift for someone who doesn't appreciate the thought process. So maybe the question is, can't we buy less stuff?

Does our courrier do his job less well because he doesn't get the Sam's Club box of cookies? Do we appreciate our vendors less if we don't get popcorn? (OK, I admit we rely on that for lunches at work in December...) Do our preachers or neighbors care if we do or don't present a plate of cookies? Do our teachers care if they get one less handmade ornament?

Realize I'm just talking out loud; maybe you want to buy something for the person who has everything or get something for the paper carrier just because. And if that's the case, I'm all for that. Gift giving should be because it's a true gift, not a transaction.

But if you're looking for giving less "stuff" this season, think outside the box. Christmas is three weeks away (Horray!) so the time for truly made-by-your-hands gifts is running short. Consider instead buying something from an etsy shop, or treats from your winter farmers market. Or consider a gift card towards an experiential gift or something you know they need or could use (art store for a teacher, coffee for a carrier).

This year, in our family, we've weighed heavily what gifts to give are most important to us. And we've settled largely on helping others in need when we could. Instead of hitting the toy aisles, which bring with itself a host of problems, we bought clothes for a little girl the size of my daughter, which sparked interesting discussions on how we can help this mysterious girl. We repacked toys that are not used in our home to give to children's organizations. We've decided to pass on the cookie trays in favor of a breakfast basket for our sitter, and my daughter, when we asked what to do for her teachers, announced she'd like to make them cards.

How do you handle the "required" gift giving that doesn't come so easily to you? Are you cutting back on those ancillary gifts this year? Getting creative in your approach? Shopping smaller or closer to home?


brendie said...

ive never heard of giving gifts to teachers, thats not done here or at least last i was aware, thats bizarre.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I like to give small gifts to people like teachers to show gratitude that often goes unsaid, but when I worked in an office, I hated the obligatory gifts to co-workers that I never saw outside of work. It takes a lot of courage to opt out of that kind of thing, though!

Robbie said...

Our office does a white elephant gift exchange, which makes it much easier. The teacher thing is pretty common here, though a lot of folks just pull in together to do a rather large gift card for the teacher.

Green Bean said...

I love white elephant exchanges! They are the best. Usually humorous. Often free. And always a good time. Perfect answer to those duty gifts - if you can get everyone to agree.

Chris of KnC Organic Coffee said...

How true and well said. Our society has gotten to the point that we feel "required" and like we're "supposed" to give a gift. A gift should be just that, a gift, something you want to give someone, not supposed to give. It should be something special for that person, not just the quickest or cheapest thing you can pick up that maybe they'd like. A gift should truly come from the heart and be centered around the person receiving the gift and what they like or want. Maybe that's one of the best things that will come from this recession, people will only give a gift if they want to give a gift and will give a true gift to someone.

Rosa said...

I usually give homemade toffee to the office/neighbor obligatory gifts - its' easy, and cheap, and people usually like it.

We did pick a kid off the Angel Tree this year, and dropped a lot more money on plastic "stuff" for him than for my own son - but also got him a winter snowsuit, gloves, hat, boots, etc, that my son gets just because it's winter, not as a Christmas gift.

For everybody else on *my* list (partner's family is not negotiable and requires a set $$ amount of brand new stuff per person) we are doing Heifer donations and Kiva gift certificates - I got a good response to that the last few years, so we're going to keep it up. I am hearing a little pushback in the world at large, though - some complaints at the bus stop and on blogs I read about the "self-righteousness" of a person who gives a charity gift. I don't really care - ooh, maybe some of these obligatory gift folks will get mad and take me off their lists! I should be so lucky.

Daisy said...

I'm an elementary teacher, and I'm just as happy with a hand-signed card as with a gift. Some of the holiday items I've kept for years are not the ornaments, but the little notes that say, "You rock!" and "You're the best teacher ever!"


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