The Holiday Gift Dilemma: Buy Nothing or Buy Everything

By on Dec 09, 2012

9 Comments


A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together. – Garrison Keillor

More than ever, I’ve seen the extremes surrounding holiday gift giving this year. The first holiday catalog arrived at my house in late October. Following that, major retailers started running ads announcing Black Friday sales would begin on Thanksgiving evening.

After the early-morning Black Friday pushing, shoving and hair pulling was captured on video, several websites and bloggers began advocating a buy nothing strategy for holiday gift buyers. Instead, consumers should focus more on the spirit of Christmas. And if gifts are to be exchanged, they should be created, not bought.

To be fair, the buy nothing approach wasn’t a direct result of this year’s Black Friday event. It’s been building for years, not if decades. Also to be fair, the spirit of Christmas hasn’t been removed from our consciousness because of its over commercialism either.

Which way to go?

I think the answer lives in the middle – somewhere between the two extremes. But more than that, the answer is a personal one.

Budgets, family tradition and necessity contribute to the answer.

If your budget needs to rely on the savings offered by Black Friday sales, then go to Black Friday sales. It doesn’t label you as being insensitive to the spirit of Christmas; it just means there’s a gift that would light up the face of someone you love, while being able to save a few dollars in the process.

If you want, or need, to pull back on Christmas gift purchasing and focus more on spending time with family, baking treats or making gifts that come from your heart, then do that without feelings of shame or guilt from getting in the way.

Scrooge wisdom

In the Charles Dickens’ book A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge may have gotten it right when he tells his nephew:

Keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.

Maybe this is the best answer to the holiday gift dilemma.

My family Christmas

About the time the first gift catalog arrived, Mary Beth and I sat down and worked out a Christmas spending budget. We considered our children, family and friends and then came up with a number that made sense.

Along with the budget, my wife and I also talked about which family traditions we wanted to bring back. Since last Christmas was spent at Disney World, we wanted to make sure our customs returned this year.

Our family Christmas is a comfortable blend between buying gifts that will be appreciated and spending time with Brandon, Caitlin, Andrew and Emily.

There will be no guilt, no shame and no remorse for getting into the fray at the mall or jumping on an “internet-only” special. And there will be no rush as we settle in for our Christmas Eve family tradition of eating homemade treats as we laugh our way through National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

I can’t make Emily a KitchenAid stand mixer, but I can certainly enjoy watching her face when she opens the gift. I can’t keep the Christmas spirit alive by myself, but I can nurture it along when I lead off the family Christmas dinner tradition of saying what we are thankful for this past year.

The only dilemma for me will be considering where to start.

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The BridgeMaker Founder Alex Blackwell is the author of Letting Go: 25 True Stories of Peace, Hope and Surrender. Join the community to connect, share and inspire: Email | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Stevens/100001219009939 David Stevens

    Best wishes to you and family for the upcoming Festive season Alex. It’s the ‘spirit of Christmas’ that needs to be maintained…and a part of that is “giving”. It can be a battle when balancing the cost as against the spirit however you can only do your best.
    Be good to yourself
    David

    • http://www.thebridgemaker.com/ Alex Blackwell

      It is a delicate balance indeed David. My best holiday wishes to you and your family, too!

  • Christina

    A few years ago, I asked my family if we could adopt families in need each year instead of buying gifts for each other. We still get together and enjoy each others company and have our family traditions but our gifts are going to folks who truly need them. Feels worth more than giving to each other.

    The season is truly about giving, that is exactly what we do. :)

    • http://www.thebridgemaker.com/ Alex Blackwell

      That’s a wonderful tradition Christina, thanks for sharing – and for giving.

  • http://twitter.com/ElleSommer Elle

    Life isn’t all black and white Alex and I love the way you’ve walked a middle path…after all it’s what’s right for us at any given moment in time. Our traditions and those we share these special times with are what stays with us, and aren’t they our real gifts?

    Love Elle.

    • http://www.thebridgemaker.com/ Alex Blackwell

      Elle – I believe living in the gray is more comfortable, and a little less stressful. And, yes, you are right – these special times are indeed our real gifts! Thanks so much for stopping by.

  • http://carolynhughesthehurthealer.wordpress.com/ Carolyn Hughes

    I love your emphasis on traditions and not just gifts. It’s the people around us that makes the holidays so special. Wishing you and your family a wonderful time!

    • http://www.thebridgemaker.com/ Alex Blackwell

      Same to you Carolyn. Happy Holidays!

  • http://www.thebridgemaker.com Alex Blackwell

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