The pressure to spend beyond our means during the holidays is real and powerful. The meaning of ‘The Giving Season’ has been lost while people rush to sales, willing to put up with excessive crowds and stress. Shopping online can eliminate crowds, but it’s not free. So how do we approach this holiday season with less spending and less stressing?
Always start with a budget for gifts and food and stick to it. Know what you can afford and try to stay away from using a credit card. Shop for those closest to you, instead of everyone you know. If you have a big family, do a Secret Santa so everyone is buying for only one person.
Buy durable, useful gifts, not gimmicky things that will get tossed after the gag wears off. To really get away from shopping, make personalized gifts. De-clutter and give away some of your own possessions. Shop thrift stores and upcycle your finds. Get in the kitchen. Sharing food is an act of love. Bake breads or desserts or create an original fruit and nut basket. If you garden, plan ahead for next year to make pickles, salsa, or chutney, or grow herbs to dry.
Donate to a non-profit
If you have an aversion to crowds and meaningless gifts, donate to a non-profit in someone’s name. Food banks, the animal shelter, a women’s or men’s shelter, or Habitat for Humanity are excellent local organizations.
Also, consider these environmental non-profits:
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) “works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.”
The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is “to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. With breakthrough research and education, we drive consumer choice and civic action.”
The Sierra Club’s purpose is to “bring people together to defend our natural resources and everyone’s right to enjoy them.”
The National Audubon Society “protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation.”
Research non-profits at Charity Navigator for detailed information.
Avoid spending altogether by the giving of yourself. Your time is valuable! Food banks or organizations that do food drives (or gift drives) need help collecting, sorting, and delivering donations. Soup kitchens need help with set up, serving, and clean up.
Help feed and clean at the local animal shelter, so staff can go home early. You may be able to foster a dog for the holidays. Bring everyone baked goods as a gift for their tireless and sometimes thankless work. Consider gifting the police and fire departments with homemade treats as well.
Call the volunteer coordinator at your local hospital and ask what you can do. Make cards for the children in the pediatric unit. If allowed, visit with other patients, too.
Check with Habitat for Humanity to see if they are building a new home. You can also volunteer at the ReStore.
Giving your time teaches your children or even other adults that they will feel good when they get outside of themselves. It brings a new perspective on caring for others, and they feel gratitude for what they have. Always call organizations to see what they need or what restrictions they may have.
The holidays do not have to be expensive or superficial. Start some new, less materialistic and more environmentally friendly family traditions this year.