With frugality having its fashionable moment, the holiday excesses seem especially excessive. Luckily, there’s no shortage of methods to decrease the holiday consumer madness.
Many holiday shopping stories focus on strategies for getting more for less. But how about giving and getting less stuff for a lot less (or no) money?
Some suggestions for ways to scale back—not only on the money you spend, but on the items that somehow always seem to effortlessly pile on top of each other in your shopping cart:
Don’t buy stuff for yourself. Who buys themselves gifts during the holiday shopping frenzy? Lots of people, apparently, and they’re not stingy with the self love. One report says that the average shopper spends $99 on him or herself during holiday shopping season.
Don’t buy stuff for your spouse. According to a survey, slightly more than 50% of parents are cutting back on gifts for their spouses, compared to 44% last year, just after the economy did its big swan dive.
Don’t buy stuff period. Joel Waldfogel, author of Scroogenomics, argues that giving holiday gifts is bad for the economy, and also that the whole gift-giving game doesn’t result in my consumer satisfaction. From a TIME Q&A:
My objection is that the holiday spending doesn’t result in very much satisfaction. Normally if I spend $50 on myself, I’ll only buy something if it’s worth at least $50 to me. But if you buy something for me, and you spend $50, since you don’t know what I like, and you don’t know what I have, you may buy something I wouldn’t pay anything for. And so you could turn the real resources required to make things into something of no value to me. And that would destroy value.
By that line of thinking, cash certainly is the perfect gift. Then again, if I give you a $50 bill and you give me two $20s and a $10, why bother at all?
Only one store-bought gift per child. This post at the Dollar Stretcher.com offers a bunch of alternatives to store-bought merriment, including holiday family campouts in the living room and homemade coupons that can be traded in for special time with Mom or Dad. It might take a few years of these traditions to stop the kids from asking, “Ugh, where are my Transformers?”
Santa has no problem with consignment shops. Think of gifts from thrift stores and consignment shops as vintage (not to mention inexpensive).
Repurpose with a purpose. This LA Times story is mostly about getting more for less, but it also has some ideas for DIY gifts and smartly, thoughtfully repurposing items you own:
Instead of turning to the dreaded practice of regifting your unwanted goods — 2008 calendar, anyone? — how about items of real value that you’re ready to pass on, like an antique vase or an heirloom that’s ripe for the next generation? You could also give an unused gift card or frequent flier miles.
Regift, “dreaded practice” or not. And if you’re going to regift, you really should try to do it the right way.