Thoughtful Gifts

By Jeanelle Horcasitas

October 30, 2014 7 min read

The atmosphere during Christmastime always seems to be overflowing with cheerfulness, holiday spirit and, well, a bunch of consumerism. It is a well-known fact that Christmas is one of the biggest moneymaking times of the year for all retailers in store and online. Starting in October, we begin to see some hints of Christmas with whole aisles dedicated to light-up reindeer lawn decorations, extravagant wreaths and Mr. Kriss Kringle's face plastered on almost every little knickknack. After barely digesting a yummy turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, we are already rushing over to the mall for those blowout Black Friday sales. The main point is that we are all consumers. Therefore, it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. But that doesn't mean we should sacrifice spending time with loved ones and hundreds of dollars in order to have a "good" holiday. Moreover, we shouldn't fall victim to the strategic marketing and advertising that retailers put in front of our faces to make us believe that we need to buy their products.

Just like the Whos in Whoville from Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" we really do need to cut back on the consumerism and get back to the basics. In a "gimme gimme" society, it's sometimes difficult to be a minimalist, but it is not impossible. According to The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, less is more, or more is less, depending on your own point of view. Nonetheless, it is entirely possible to do less this Christmas and still have a wonderful holiday season. So here's a bit of advice for cutting back on the consumerism and embracing the holiday spirit in an entirely new light.

*Coordinate a gift exchange or a white elephant party!

Being strapped for cash during college years definitely made me appreciative of the fun (and affordable) gift exchange or white elephant party. In fact, my family has even adopted the gift exchange technique permanently to alleviate these tough economic times.

*How does the gift exchange work?

Well, at your next family gathering (most likely Thanksgiving), ask everyone who wants to participate in the exchange to scribble his or her name on a scrap of paper and place it into a hat or bowl. Then, let the drawing begin! Whoever the person picks from the pot will be the person for whom they are responsible for buying a gift. In addition, be sure to set a limit for the amount spent to make it fair for everyone, especially those who may not be able to spend as much as others. I find the gift exchange to be extremely effective, especially with large families. Everyone receives a nice gift, and no one has to break the bank to do so.

*How does a white elephant exchange work?

A white elephant exchange is always a favorite because of the suspense behind each gift. In a white elephant exchange, everyone is required to show up with a gift they have chosen but must not divulge any of its contents to anyone. The fun is in guessing the correct person that gifted the particular item. In most cases, these exchanges are gifts that are vintage or re-gifted items. Hopefully everyone in your group will put in the effort contribute something they would actually want, so that another person might enjoy it. Moreover, white elephant exchanges are usually a lot cheaper, too (I like to establish a $20 limit). The white elephant exchange is the perfect setup for you and your friends, or even those holiday parties at the office!

*Give the gift of time.

What's better than giving the gift of time? This can be put into action through a number of ways. First off, the gift of time is well-spent when it is an experience you can share with the other person. Therefore, don't just offer to weed your grandmother's garden or clean up your brother's room. Instead, make it an activity you can share together!

Here are a few ideas:

Get a couple of tickets for you and your loved one to spend the evening at the movies. Add some popcorn, soda and candy into the mix -- and it's a great night at the show! This idea could also work just as well for the music lover in your life who's been hoping to attend his or her favorite musician's next concert.

Have an artsy person in your life? Well, join in on the creativity (no experience required) at awesome venues such as Paint Nite. Not only can you sip on a nice glass of wine but you can paint the next Monet masterpiece (or at least try) with which you can decorate your home. This is a wonderful gift because not only will you have the memories but you will each be able to keep your canvas and remember it forever.

Lastly, for the parents who are getting a little worn down from the same toys wish list every year, the gif of a vacation or fun outing for the family could be an excellent change of pace. Depending on what your family enjoys, try to think of something that will be enjoyable for everyone. Disneyland is always a favorite, but can definitely push a family over its budget. Therefore, a trip to the zoo, an interesting art walk downtown or even just having a beach day or weekend at a cabin would be a great way to spend time together and enjoy each other's company (and give Mom and Dad a break, too).

*Give the gift of charity.

Once again, The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, recommend ways to completely cut out the consumerism from your life by giving the "gift of contribution." Although it feels great to give gifts to our loved ones and see the look on their faces, wouldn't it be even better to donate to a good cause or community in need? The Minimalists suggest "asking people to donate to Charity Water; they make it easy for you to set up your own page, and 100 percent of all donations goes toward bringing clean water to people who need it -- people who might die without it."

During the holiday seasons, a lot of basic living conditions go unappreciated. If you are lucky enough to have a roof over your head, a warm meal every day and a comfortable bed to sleep in, you're richer than you think. Giving during the holiday season is one of the most important aspects of Christmas, and sometimes consumerism blinds us of that fact.

Therefore, keep in mind what is really important this holiday season and don't feel guilty for opting out of all of the consumerism. Trust that with less there is more, and find solace in the time well spent with those you love. Life is short, and these are the moments to be treasured above any price tag.

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