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Finding balance in gift-giving (or, some rambly thoughts from me)

This morning I was reading The Simple Dollar’s roundup of Christmas links, many of which were anti-consumer.

Several of his commenters were saying that this anti-consumer thing can be taken way too far, and that you don’t have to go whole hog on either shopping or on being nonconsumery.

I totally agree with that idea. I think that presenting the two options as

1) overspending and charging up huge balances on credit cards

2) doing no Christmas shopping (or similarly, giving nothing but homemade gifts)

presents a false dichotomy. I totally think it’s possible to strike a happy medium where you buy some presents, make some presents, and still manage to make Christmas more about giving and about spending time together than about shopping. Balance is achievable!

I also think that a store-bought gift can represent as much care and thought as a homemade gift does (honestly, giving the same cookies to everyone on your gift list doesn’t require a lot of thought or studying of the person! Not that I condemn the giving of cookies…I’m just saying that homemade presents aren’t necessarily more thoughtful than store-bought presents).

I guess I just think that those of us who try to keep consumerism in check need to not be so entirely dismissive of shopping and gift-giving. Broad-brushing and referring to store-bought gifts as “useless crap grabbed off the shelf and Wal-Mart and thoughtlessly stuffed into a gift bag” just isn’t really fair. Not every store-bought gift is useless crap and not every store-bought gift is thoughtless.

For example, a couple of years ago, my Christmas present was my first SLR. I’m pretty sure it was the most expensive Christmas gift I’ve ever received (everyone that normally gives me gifts pitched in to buy it), but in no way did I feel the gift was impersonal.

I was especially very touched that Mr. FG used the money he’d been saving for a laptop to buy my camera (I cried when I opened it, in fact. To this day, Mr. FG considers that to have been quite a triumph because I don’t normally cry about presents!). And I think it’s safe to say that my camera has been enjoyed and used as much as is humanly possible.

I don’t look back at that present and feel disgust that my present was store-bought…quite the opposite. It was thoughtful, it required sacrifice on Mr. FG’s part, and the camera is something I treasure and use (and use and use and use and use and use.)

(and use.).

If I had to put it in bullet points, I’d say that responsible, loving Christmas gift giving should be

  • paid for with cash (or with a credit card that you will pay off before the due date!)
  • thoughtful (you should study the recipient and think about what their passions and interests or needs* are)

*needs should only be taken into consideration when the recipient likes to have gifts that meet their needs in a practical way. I am that sort of person (bring on the cookie sheet and bread pan gifts!) but not everyone is.

  • quality (homemade or store-bought, the gift should be well-made and durable, so that it’s not going to be thrown away promptly)

Paying for gifts with cash pretty much reduces the possibility of overspending or over consuming, giving gifts with thought keeps you from giving meaningless gifts, and giving only quality gifts keeps you from buying/producing items that are just going to be trash.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have a slightly different take?


Today’s 365 post: She’s growing up

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Wednesday 5th of January 2011

You mentioning your dSLR made me think back to the Christmas when I got my KitchenAid Mixer. Still in my top 5 gifts of ALL TIME - I also cried! But it really was given with love by someone who knew I'd appreciate the heck out of it. And to think of all the deliciousness that has come out of it in the last 4 years, well, there's just no comparison.

Condo Blues

Monday 27th of December 2010

I read the same point being made in the green blogging community and it upsets me. I've received some very thoughtful store bought gifts and some handmade gifts that while I appreciate the time and energy to make really missed the mark - I'm just not a homemade Snuggie kind of girl. Besides we have plenty of well loved afghans made by our grandmothers that are used when the need arises.

Although I have to admit, sometimes getting a thoughtful not so practical gift is nice too. When I'm way too practical (I asked for insulation for the garage for Christmas) sometimes my husband gives me something that's just pampering because he knows I won't buy something like that for myself.


Sunday 26th of December 2010

good thoughts here!


Sunday 26th of December 2010

What a great discussion! I love to do a balance of gifts that are requested, ones I make (for those I know would love them) and ones I buy at the farmer's markets I vend at. Those are my favorite to buy, as I know I am supporting a local business person who has put love and thought into their product. And I am blessed to have folks who feel the same about buying from me!


Friday 24th of December 2010

Im with the others, if you don't know them well enough to know what to buy them, then they shouldn't be on your list to buy for.

Also to me gift cards are great in certain situations but with my brother, we were exchanging gift cards. (silly, isn't it) We agreed to not exchange 2 years ago. He and his wife have no children and make good money so they buy things they really want. Throughout the year I send "photo" gifts of my kids, which they love. For Christmas my kids made them a photo calendar that they will love more than any gift card or present I could give them.

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