December 3, 2014

The Realist’s Guide to Choosing Holiday Gifts.


Black Friday. Small business Saturday. Cyber Monday.

Even if you were one of the souls who resisted buying anything since the holiday season “officially” began last Friday, the chances are good that most of us will buy a holiday gift or two before the end of the month.

In some ways, it’s almost impossible to avoid this. Even those of us without families and who hate the materialism of the season will probably inevitably find ourselves at some sort of office holiday party or other gathering were we feel obligated to give a gift no matter how small.

While some people truly love buying and giving receiving gifts, here is one sobering thing to keep in mind: a large percentage of holiday gifts end up in the landfill. The introduction to the 2008 book, A Greener Christmas, points out that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are “two of the most polluting days of the year” with three billion tons of extra garbage produced on those days alone.

If that isn’t bad enough, consider that many holiday gifts are made of non-renewable materials that do not decompose and may contain hazardous materials that can leech into the ground water if not properly disposed of. (This is especially true when it comes to electronic devices.)

While many conscious consumers repeat the mantra, “Shop local, buy local” the truth is even following that rule does not necessarily ensure that a gift we buy for someone else will actually be liked and/or used.

Therefore, for those who want to buy the opposite of disposable gifts and want to make choices that are meaningful and designed to actually be used by recipients, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Ask ourselves, “Why are we buying this in the first place?”

Whether it’s something mundane as a box of chocolates  or as extravagant as flat screen TV, there should be a reason as to why we are getting something for another person.

At the very least, it should be something we at least think they will like rather than something that just happened to be within reach and happened to fall into our targeted price range.

Also, keep in mind that splashing out a lot for a gift will not buy someone’s love and respect even if they like it. Likewise, spending more or buying more objects isn’t a measure of our love for another person.

2. Consider the stuff we already have and aren’t using before we go out and purchase something.

While many consider “re-gifting” the ultimate in tackiness, I happen to think it can be the ultimate in resourcefulness and recycling. Speaking as someone who purchased things online I simply changed my mind about once they arrived, or only used a few times, I have done this several times.

Many of the said items were new with tags.

However, even gently used items can make great gifts and be greatly appreciated by others. (One of the best gifts I ever got were used baby clothes. I loved them and they were certainly put to good use.)

The only caveat is thinking of the recipient and whether or not we think they will genuinely like these things. Simply giving away things without thought for the sake of clearing our closets is tacky and usually easy to spot.

Also, all used items should be clean and nicely presented.

3. Remember that gifts don’t have to be objects.

Like many Americans, my problem is too much stuff, not too few.

I tell people who really want to give me gifts to donate to my favorite charities in my name.

I’m not alone in this.

Many people, especially those of a certain age who want to downsize or simply don’t feel they need anything, like this option.

I have a mental list handy for those who want to do this for me, so the money can go to organizations and causes that are really close to my heart.

Those opting for this may want to come up with their own list, lest a well-meaning friend or relative mistakenly donate to a charity or cause you would never support.

In closing, whether we happen to love or hate it, most of us will probably end up buying holiday gifts this season. While each person is unique and likes different things, keeping the above tips in mind can make it more likely that we will pick out a gift that they really enjoy and will use.

Therefore, whether we brave the stores, shop online, donate in someone’s else’s name, or give away stuff we already own, it is possible to make the process a little easier and maybe even enjoyable.

At the very least, it can remind us of the true nature of the holiday season: It’s better to give than to receive.



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Author: Kimberly Lo

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Pixabay



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