The holidays are upon us, and that means that it’s gift-giving season. While the tradition of gift-giving at the holidays can stir up some controversy among postconsumers, we maintain that there’s nothing wrong with getting into the spirit of the holiday and showing the people who mean the most to you a little appreciation with a gift. We just think that you’ll want to be responsible about knowing how much of your gift giving is driven by the consumer machine and how much is your choosing and supporting beliefs about society that matter to you. We’ve already talked about some of the ways that you can be more conscientious about holiday gift giving by donating in the recipient’s name, creating upcycled gifts or opting for “experience gifts.” Today we’re going to talk about another option: setting limits on conventional gift giving.
Before We Get Reprimanded for Supporting Conventional Gift Giving …
We know that there are some postconsumers out there who are already cringing at the thought that we would endorse or give advice on any type of conventional holiday gift giving. We get that, and we applaud you if you’ve moved along far enough on your postconsumer journey that shopping, buying materialistic gifts and exchanging them is no longer part of your reality. But we don’t view postconsumerism as a dogma. Rather we view it as an evolution and a journey that’s ongoing. The current status of some is that they want to be less tied to consumerism or driven by the consumer machine but they still enjoy certain holiday traditions and a certain level of “stuff.” That’s okay! Not supporting those individuals on their journeys would almost be the same as not supporting the person at the gym who wants to lose ten pounds just to get healthier. Not everybody needs to start at the most extreme or deepest goal. It’s simply about learning to become more conscious of the workings of consumerism and finding a point where you decide how much is enough rather than the consumer media. If that involves gift-giving at the holidays, then that’s fine. We’re here to help you find ways to be more in control of that process, not to judge you.
Now, About Setting Limits…
The concept of “more is never enough” is rampant in consumerism throughout the year, but it jettisons to a new level when the holidays approach. Driven by prices so low that it’s difficult not to buy more than you need and the idea that the holidays are exactly when you bring things into your house, the concept of more hits home hard. But you can take back control from the consumer machine by using the concept of the satisfaction of enough rather than the race for more. It all starts with having a discussion with your family and friends about possible limits on gift giving. These limits can manifest in a number of ways.
The Dollar Value of Gifts: We certainly cringe a little writing this because we don’t want to tie the holidays too closely to dollar value, but it is a reality of our current culture. One way to avoid having the consumer engine take over (and to have more money left after the holidays) is simply to set a dollar amount on what every individual can spend or receive this holiday. In groups of friends, pick a smaller dollar amount to minimize the impact. In families, consider telling each child how much you’re willing to spend on them so that they can prioritize the list that you know you’re going to get! We find that setting a limit on the amount spent is often the most effective way to do this.
The Number of Gifts: You can also choose to set limits on the number of gifts. Each person in a family or group of friends can receive for example no more than two, three or five gifts. While it may not control your budget as well, it helps to minimize the sheer amount of “stuff” that comes into your home during the holidays.
The Number of People Exchanging Gifts: There is a classic episode of Beverly Hills 90210 where the kids pull names out of a hat and each person purchases a gift only for the person they pulled (then, of course, whacky hijinks ensue). But this tactic is a fantastic way to limit the number of gifts getting purchased and exchanged and also make sure that individual gifts have a little more thought behind them.
For Children Who Still Believe in Santa…
For children who still believe in Santa Claus, the best course of action is to work with a gift limit by telling them that Santa will give them 50% of their list (and then be sure to set a limit on how many items may be on the list, because a smart child will then give you a list of a hundred items). That way, the child begins to learn that we don’t need to get everything we want to be happy and that you can, in fact, be satisfied by enough.
While setting limits on gift buying doesn’t remove you entirely from the consumer machine, it does take the control back and put it in your hands. We consider anything that does that a step in the right direction for society as a whole.
Did we miss an idea on how to beat the consumer machine by setting limits on gift-giving that you want to share with us? If so, just tell us about it on one of the social media channels below.
Photo Credit: meg via Flickr