On the whole, Americans are very fortunate – many, if not most,
of us have items that make our day-to-day lives easier, more comfortable,
and even more stylish. We have TVs, computers, washing machines, designer
jeans, cars, and so much more. While it is not necessarily wrong to
enjoy these relatively lavish things (“lavish” compared
to what the majority of the world’s population enjoys), it is
important to recognize a certain degree of over-consumerism and materialism
that plagues many of us in America.
One of the best times to really pay attention
to what you are spending your money on is during the holiday season,
the season of gifts. This is a great time to make a statement and to
make a difference by giving alternative gifts. Here are a few ideas:
• A donation – choose a charity that
you know the gift recipient approves of and supports (do not simply
make a donation in his or her name to one of your own favorite charities).
Yes, the gift recipient may have enjoyed receiving a necktie, your
monetary donation (at the cost of just a tie) could make a much grander
difference by being put to a different use. Besides, who really wants
another necktie to hang in his closet… next to all of his other
• Give time, not goods– what your friends
and family likely really want is to spend more time with you…
and/or to get that garden plot weeded! Gifts that offer your time
and services – an hour doing yard work, a homemade dinner, a
massage (no strings attached), etc. can be extremely appreciated.
You could even sign up your family to spend some quality time together
volunteering for a local project.
• Once-again gifts– these are gifts
that either you have received and no longer have or never had a use
for (just because you don’t want it does not mean that somebody
else won’t love it), as well as those special thrift store or
flea market finds. No, it is not tacky to give a used gift, as long
as thought went into it. In fact, it is possible to find unique and
antique items that recipients will love. It is often possible to find
fantastic pieces of home décor that make great gifts.
• Recycled gifts – look for gifts that
have been made from recycled materials. It is possible to find purses
made from placemats, baskets made from magazines, wall decorations
made from oil drums, glasses made from beer bottles, and so much more.
Also, oftentimes when buying these items, you are not only decreasing
the impact of gift-giving on the environment, you are also supporting
artisans and their crafts.
• Tickets or a pass – tickets to an
opera, play, or speaker are often appreciated. Such gifts are enjoyable
and do not clutter the house! You could even give a pass to a national
park or botanical garden, etc.
• When buying material goods… pay attention
to where it was made, what it is made of, how it is packaged, etc.
When buying electronics, look for the Energy Star label. Also, although
it can be difficult to, be sure to buy only items that the recipient
will want. Even if it is an environmentally friendly gift, it does
not good if it just sits in the closet.
• Solar powered products – there are
fun solar powered radios, solar battery chargers, solar toys, and
other such items that are fun, useful, and even educational.
Our country depends on consumerism. When we stop buying things, economic
problems can arise. So, no, you should not necessarily stop buying products
cold turkey. But you can be more aware of what you are buying and where
it is coming from.
For more ideas, check out: