Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Shopping: How to Choose Meaning over Materialism

Thanksgiving is now over, which of course means it’s time for the kick-off of this year’s month-long shopping spree. The holiday season, if approached mindfully, offers a beautiful opportunity to connect with our loved ones and remind ourselves of what is truly important in life. But so often we give into the stress of holiday shopping and travel – which not only ruins the joy of the season, but also contributes to materialistic cultural practices that ignore the importance of sustainability and ethical business practices. So I’m suggesting three ways to make your holiday shopping more meaningful and less materialistic.

Make Something

Every year, someone in some magazine suggests homemade gifts as an affordable alternative. And every year, I scoffed. It couldn’t possibly be more economical – and less time-consuming – than just buying something from the store, I thought. But last year, I made baked goods for my relatives, and I saved both time and money. Not to mention the added bonus of avoiding the crowds at the mall. Similarly, I have a friend who knits beautiful hats, scarves, gloves, and mittens for everyone on her list. She has been doing it for years, and the first scarf she gave be is still one of my favorite accessories.

Share an Experience

Rather than buying something just for the sake of giving a gift, share an experience with a friend or family member. Take them out to a show or a restaurant. Or for something truly affordable, go on a hike or a picnic (if you live in a warmer climate). If the holiday season makes it impossible to find the time, give your gift recipient an I.O.U. and spend some time with them later in January, after the holiday rush is over. Sharing an experience is more memorable than simply buying something the recipient probably doesn’t need, and it strengthens the relationship. It also doesn’t add to the recipient’s clutter and fill up their closets.

Donate to a Charity

Instead of spending money on consumer goods, find a charity you believe in and send checks in the names of each person on your list. If you want to personalize the gift a bit more, find a charity you think each person on your list would care about. If you have an aunt who loves to cook, send a check in her name to an organization that combats hunger. If you have a friend who is a writer or loves to read, donate to an organization that supports literacy.

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