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.)
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