I'm already sick of the Christmas trees, tinsel and decorations in the shops and it's not even December yet. Recently ‘the presents’ have become a topic of conversation amongst my friends and I’ve been thinking a lot about gifts and giving and how I can get away from the rampant consumerism and environmental vandalism and still celebrate what Christmas means to me (not being a scroogy-humbug-killjoy , but hanging out with my family, eating, drinking and having fun).

One approach is, of course, to ‘just say no’ to gift giving , or perhaps all of the traditional Christmas traditions. That's not going to work for us because there is so much I like about the festive season. Another alternative, and one I think I might suggest to my family for next year is much like a workplace 'Kris Kringle' where names go into a 'hat' and everyone buys a present for just one person. This would solve two of the big problems - present budgeting and too much 'stuff' but I can't see my mother (in particular) being able to only buy a gift for one person in our family. It would also suck to get one of the really hard-to-buy-for people (such as my wonderful brother-in-law).

So, what I'm going to trial this year is *not* buying gifts for my group of friends (I must inform them! I don't want to receive presents either!), and Sanj and I are going to think really hard about what we buy for my immediate family (I would post my excellent ideas here, except I know two of them read this blog occasionally).

So, when I do give gifts, these are the things I'm going to try to factor in. Gifts should:

NOT add stress (so I’m not going to be making everything I give),
NOT add to household clutter (mine or other peoples)
SHOULD be environmentally and socially responsible
SHOULD be within budget
SHOULD be appropriate to the giver, the receiver and their relationship to each other

So I guess we come to ideas for gifts . I personally think, in the first instance we should be going for:
  • Gifts of time/skills: babysitting (!), help with anything from cleaning to computer back-ups.
  • Made gifts: there are too many things to list here: art, wearables (clothing and jewellery), food and treats and, only cheating slightly things like Snapfish calendars
  • Second-hand things (ideally from charity shops): Tricky – although buying second-hand means your gifts haven’t been manufactured …..they still add to the problem of clutter. Gifts should be chosen wisely here – I would always suggest second hand books and, cleaned up, toys can be excellent.
  • Donations: it’s nice to personalize donations to reflect the favourite charities or personal crusades of the recipient.

So what happens when none of those things are going to work? M

  • Consumables: wine and food, either made or purchased, art materials, beauty products (although it’s nice to be sure they are things people will really use – there’s no point giving bath products to people who shower or who don’t have a tub).
  • 'Experience' gifts: anything from the amazing (a skydive!) to the mundane (and agreement to go out for dinner together). I also count vouchers for massages or pedicures and tickets for movies or shows here too – this type of gift can be expensive but they don’t add to household clutter
  • Really super-useful: There are often things that you know people need textbooks for the student in your life , socks and underwear for someone like Sanj who never thinks to buy those things for himself. This can remove the surprise factor of a gift but it's quite possible to fit my original gift-giving criteria.

What am I missing? What else should be on my list? I have to say that after writing this post I'm much less 'bah-humbug' about the whole thing than I expected. In fact I'm starting to get excited about going to find our Christmas stick and about finding useful, inexpensive 'green' gifts for the family. Perhaps I'll try to do a bit of a round-up of some of the blogs I'm going to use for inspiration for greener Christmases.... Please let me know your favourites!

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