This holiday season, we’ve focused our Postconsumers content on helping you navigate the often tricky waters of holiday gift exchanges if you know – or are – a postconsumer. After all, having decided that your goal is to take control of your life, your happiness and your finances back from the consumer media machine doesn’t mean that you decided to give up the Winter holidays. So far, we’ve helped you to set limits on gift-giving, to create your own postconsumer-friendly gifts with upcycled materials and even to stuff the perfect stocking for a postconsumer. But we haven’t addressed the obvious gift that isn’t “stuff” – money. It may seem as though money is the ultimate gift to avoid the buy-in with holiday “stuff,” but there’s a certain degree of controversy there. Today, we’re talking you through the pros and cons as well as our opinion, an etiquette tip and a warning about cash substitutes.
The Money Pro: Hey, It’s Not Stuff
And that’s a pretty good reason to go with it! Of course, your recipient may ultimately spend the money on “stuff” but that’s nothing you can control. You’ve given them the opportunity to choose another path and you haven’t personally gone out and jumped into the deep end of the consumer pool. One note though! If you’re giving cash don’t give it with strings or give it in the form of “cash for something.” It’s not up to you how your recipient spends the cash. This isn’t an exercise in control, it’s a generous gift. We also think that it’s a winning gift for both parties. You avoid the consumer machine and your recipient has the freedom to spend on what they value.
The Con: It’s Still Capitalism
On the other hand, the argument has been posed that by giving money you’re essentially endorsing the system that is at the core of the consumer problem. Giving money is the ultimate form of associating affection, happiness and celebrations with “stuff” because cash is the most essential form of “stuff.” When you give money, it seems like you’re endorsing the idea that the person to whom you’re giving it should go out and embrace capitalism in all of its glory. So not only have you not avoided the consumer machine, you’ve essentially fueled it. It’s like saying that you don’t believe people should drive cars but then giving a can of gasoline as a gift. Giving money could be, in essence, the same as giving “stuff.”
The Postconsumers Stance
We’ll just come out and say it, we’re pro giving cash for holiday gifts if that’s what you want to do. Because that’s really the point of postconsumerism, that it’s a journey and you need to find your own comfort level with various aspects of it. If you feel like giving money is a great way for you to still be generous without having to get involved with holiday consumerism, then do it. If you feel like giving money makes you the godfather of consumerism, then don’t do it. The only person who knows what’s best for you where you presently are in your journey … is you. If you want to give a plastic pink Barbie house to a child for Christmas, then do it. We just want you to do it with the knowledge of what guided your decisions and the understanding that you truly, truly can’t find happiness through “stuff.” Fall in love with your own idea of enough for today. How you decide which parts of the postconsumer lifestyle you adopt and to what degree is entirely up to you.
An Etiquette Tip on Giving Money
If you do choose to give money for the holidays, there is one basic etiquette tip we’d recommend that you follow. Do something to personalize your monetary gift. Whether that’s a handwritten card or note, a box of baked goods given along with the money or even just some spoken words when the money is exchanged, be sure to add a personal element. While money is almost always wanted as a gift, it can feel very impersonal. It doesn’t take much to change that feeling, however. Just think through it and pick the right way to turn your money into a heartfelt gift.
Gift Cards Aren’t Money!
Just a reminder that giving gift cards isn’t the same as giving money. While the sentiment may be the same, there are a number of marketing “tricks” loaded into gift card purchases that make them one of the most insidious tools of the consumer marketing machine. Unused balances that add up to millions of dollars for retailers, amounts that are designed to ensure that you need to spend more than the value of the gift card in order to maximize its value, and service fees that you don’t realize you’re paying are just a few. While gift cards are usually appreciated, if your goal is to separate yourself from the consumer marketing machine, you’ll want to stay as far away from them as humanly possible.
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Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Flickr