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Escaping Holiday Consumerism

By Cary Anderson

The holidays can be a stressful time for people on a budget. Consumerism has infiltrated the holiday season has held a decades-long choke grip on the proceedings. Christmas has become more about buying “stuff” for other people than it is a holiday for Christians to celebrate the birth of their savior. But one needn’t participate in excess spending and consumerism of the holiday season.

It helps to begin by thinking about what the spirit of giving a gift to another person means. It’s perfectly normal to want to participate in the holiday spirit of giving to loved ones. However, many people are not in a financial position to spend lavishly on material goods to hand out as gifts. This is not an uncommon problem in the slightest. In fact, I would estimate that a majority of people feel a sense of dread regarding trying to keep up with gift giving expectations while also maintaining a sense of financial responsibility.

There are two things one can feel certain about regarding gift giving around the holidays. First, that you are not alone in feeling pressured financially; just about everyone, if they were being honest, would tell you that their financial situation would be rosier if they were able to exclude themselves from the practice of holiday consumerism. Second, anyone who truly loves you should be completely understanding and supportive of your decision to opt out of holiday consumerism in the name of responsible personal financial practice.

Indeed, the greatest gift you can give to a loved one is honesty and responsibility. Sometimes that means having a conversation with them to tell them that it doesn’t feel right for your current situation to participate in the practice of excessive gift buying. A great holiday gift you can give to yourself and your loved ones is to politely request that they do not make any purchases on your account in exchange for no pressure on you to do the same in return. You will be amazed at how receptive people are to this approach to the holiday season. Gift giving is like an elephant in the room. As soon as someone points out that maybe it would be better for them not to participate this year, there’s usually a pretty big exhale from everyone else who is more than happy to join along in agreement.

There are alternatives and compromises that can be made during the holiday season. One popular idea is to draw names out of a hat so that each person is responsible for giving one gift at Christmas to someone else. Implement a spending limit. Something like $30 or $50 is a nice number to ensure that everyone gets a nice little something on Christmas but no one is pushed into a state of financial misery in order to participate.

Another popular alternative is for adults to make a pact not to give gifts to one another and to instead purchase gifts for only children. This is a nice compromise to being able to save money while still allowing the children of your family to have the excitement of having a few presents to open on the holidays.

Always remember, any loved one in your life truly worthy of a gift will always be completely supportive that the best gift you can give to them is the gift of financial responsibility. There is absolutely nothing wrong with politely excusing yourself from the practice of holiday consumerism. You won’t be the only one relieved at not having to participate.


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