Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Spending

I think one of my greatest financial successes is due to my decisions about gift-giving, which include buying only items that are:
  • Consumable, meaning you can eat or use them up, like foods, candles, soap
  • Locally Produced, say from a local farmer or artist
  • Used, from thrift stores, garage and estate sales.
  • Homemade, like treats, artwork or gift baskets I assemble myself with items above
...and by buying these gifts throughout the year instead of in one lump during the Thanksgiving / Christmas season. Most gifts can easily be purchased for $5 or less. I have prepared my friends, family and clients (yes, clients get gifts that fall into these realms also) for this and all seem to be very open-minded about it. I find that I am thinking about the desires of loved ones all year round vs. just at the holiday season, too. So it's a great exercise in spirit.

I used to participate in the extended-family gift exchange, but I found that to be both expensive and contrived. The agreed upon amount was $40-50 for one gift. Everyone would call up grandma who kept a list of everyone's name and 2-3 items that person wants. So essentially, we are all going shopping for each other! Many times, items need to be returned because it's not the right color, fit, style -- whatever -- which means more time at the mall.

I admit that it's fun to exchange gifts, to get a little something in a little package all carefully wrapped. Plus, I felt a little left-out while everyone was unwrapping. To change this, I started a green elephant gift exchange in my extended family.

Like the white elephant gift exchange, the green elephant gift exchange involves getting rid of an unwanted item. Unlike the white elephant gift exchange, the green elephant gift exchange promotes the giving of something that someone might actually want. This means that there are no 5-year old fruitcakes, shriveled apple head dolls, an old shoe or any other obnoxious, truly unwanted object. We have a lot of fun with this.

This is my second holiday season not setting foot into a shopping mall or typical retail outlet. (Come to think of it, I haven't been to one all year, since I buy most of my items at the grocery store, online or from the thrift store.)

I attribute this change in my financial lifestyle to my dear friend, Linda French, who showed me that used gifts are no less delightful from brand new -- in fact they can be more delightful because more thought tends to go into it.

Here's more on the subject...

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