Challenges, finance, Living, Uncategorized

Fight the Christmas Present Siren Song!

Tis the season! Almost everything about the Christmas holiday brings me joy: the smells, the colder weather, the overall general “good cheer” and, of course, the two weeks off I am afforded as an educator. It’s a wonderful time of year to spend with your family and friends, or to cozy up with a good book and strong cup of anything you would like.

There is one area, however, that has consistently raised my blood pressure to extreme levels, and that is the notion of gift-giving. Gifts have evolved over the years from small, thoughtful gifts with nice cards, to the more-expensive-it-is-the-better-and-therefore-I-win attitudes. I had to go the (shudder) mall the other day, and the deals on offer were pretty extraordinary. Huge tv’s, enormous bundles of bath products (who needs dozens of bath bombs at any given time??), make up products packaged together in some sort of suitcase contraption with hundreds of items inside. It was insane to me. Interestingly, there were far fewer people in the mall than in previous years – online shopping taking over yet again.

If people want to spend their money on enormous presents for others than that’s fine, that is their decision. What I don’t agree with is the attitude that it is a contest, or that the other person must spend the same amount on a present otherwise they are a bad person. Barring the fact that a lot of people can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on gifts, no one should feel guilted into buying something that won’t bring lasting joy to another in any case.

But my main pet peeve with all of this overconsumption is the waste produced. The wrapping paper alone (most of which cannot be recycled) must be enough to fill a small landfill every year. Small plastic trinkets for stockings that are fun to pull out but then thrown in the garbage, micro plastic glitter everywhere, Christmas crackers, shopping bags, cards, plastic trees, shipping worldwide. It hurts to think about how much one small portion of the year churns out so much waste.


There are so many sites out there that offer practical, waste-free, reasonably-priced gift ideas. I’ll add to them, but a quick search offers millions of ideas that are infinitely better for your wallet and for the planet. Here are some of my go to’s:

  • Home baking. I found a delicious recipe for orange cranberry loaf, and I have made it two years running for family members. I pop it in my festive stainless steel tins (which I collect again at a later date) and voila!
  • A Christmas feast dish. In the same vein as the above suggestion, offering to cook a dish for the family feast is a big help to the host and is very much appreciated. Combine this with a bottle of wine and a hand-delivered card to make for a thoughtful, USEFUL gift.
  • A Christmas tree decoration. This year my class and I made pinecone ornaments using hot glue and felt. We made reindeer and Santas. They turned out far nicer than I originally thought, and I ended up making some for stocking stuffers for my family. It’s fun, cheap, and very cute to hand make something small to be used for several years.
  • A photo time capsule. How many of us have thousands of photos but haven’t looked at most of them in years? Probably everyone. Making a little presentation with a few handpicked special ones throughout the years is a lovely, thoughtful gift that parents and grandparents truly appreciate.
  • Indoor plants. Find ones that are low maintenance to brighten up anyone’s living room.
  • Anything that can be properly recycled once it’s done it’s lifespan. My husband always asks for razors in his stocking – this year I’ve purchased him a stainless steel safety razor. It’s expensive upfront, but the cost of razors coupled with the recycling factor make it a big hit.
  • Package-less beauty products. Lush offers some great options, but you can also make some that work surprisingly well and display them in nice jars. Just experiment with a few online recipes first before finding one you feel confident gifting to someone else.
  • Monetary contributions towards a big goal for the gift recipient. I’ve asked for contributions towards my personal trainer this year, but other ideas could be education funds, RRSPs, debt. Put the money directly in the account if you can so that it reaches it’s intended purpose. Most people will be extremely grateful for it, plus it’s a little more personalized than cash in a card (which is also nice as well, if that’s what you’re most comfortable doing).

And the list goes on and on and on. Regardless of what you choose to do, you can also make a huge change by: WRAPPING WITH NEWSPAPER OR RECYCLABLE WRAPPING PAPER. Anything will do: newspaper, old maps, sheet music, paper bags, or anything that’s reusable (my mom uses cloth bags, and they are adorable). Ahem, please do this. It’s important.

And how frigging cute are these?!

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, etc.! Have a wonderful season!

1 thought on “Fight the Christmas Present Siren Song!”

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