Christmas spending

1 December 2007

I would like to give everyone a gentle reminder and, hopefully, a little strength to not go overboard with Christmas spending. I've received a few emails recently from readers who feel they need to indulge their family and friends with Christmas gifts, even though they're on a tight budget and trying to move out of debt.

It's a difficult balance to achieve. On the one hand you're evolving into a new way of living that even if it doesn't involve paying off debt, is frugal and non-consumerist. On the other hand, you want to show your love and friendship to those you give gifts to, you want to celebrate and be part of the season and that involves gift giving.

Christmas is a time for family and friends to get together to honour their religious convictions, celebrate the season of good will and to reconnect with loved ones. There is no tradition that I'm aware of, apart from the con that advertisers try to pull about buying everything you can, that urges us to spend beyond our means. But I am a realist and I know that urge is there. Christmas needs to be part of your year-round strategy of being true to your own values of thrift, conservation and caring for your family and yourself. That doesn't include providing a luxury goods and toys splurge that you'll be paying for well into next year. Even if you can afford such a splurge, your new found values would, I hope, guide you towards a more frugal Christmas.

Give gifts that reflect your new values. Give, and receive, in the true spirit of Christmas, be generous with your love, acceptance, tolerance and kindness and you will be rewarded with the knowledge that you stayed true to yourself. Remember that everything you do is watched by your children, you are teaching them how to be. If you run around like a headless chook (chicken), buying too much with too little, that is what you'll teach them to do when they grow up. But my feeling is that if you are reading this, you want to give up your headless chook days and move more into a feeling of relaxed celebration; the kind that provides the feeling of abundance without dollar signs attached to it. So if you need to reduce your Christmas spending bit by bit, do that, but at least make an effort to make your Christmas not totally about expensive gifts and more about the embrace of your family.

Don't keep up with the Joneses. They're probably in debt up to their ears. Be glad that the sum total of your life adds up to more than shopping. You may well become the new leader in your family; the one who starts the frugal revolution. My feeling is that many people want to stop spending so much at Christmas but they don't know how to stop. Show them. Show them, by example, that a gift hand made with love, or picked with care at the fair trade store, is the best expression of the season that is not about expensive gifts but about love, peace and goodwill to all.


  1. You are so correct! Another wonderful blog!I have Family and Friends we exchange gifts from Thrift shops and enjoy it.We know each other well and know what each other likes. Some I craft for, some we buy for but we set a limit and stick to it.Some we just gather and each one brings a covered dish,enjoy fellowship and a good meal. I think alot of folks would be surprised ,others would be happy to stop exchanging if they suggest it to them, due to cost.
    Hope youhave aGreat day.
    Blessins', Lib

  2. I am with you in fact if you get a chance please stop by and read my post today on Pen of Jen titled to spend or not to spend.

    I for one am really tired of the total frivolous spending that Christmas takes on.

  3. You are so right, I wish more people would think as you do. In our family, we buy for the really little kids and us adults we draw names. It works out really well. We have such a big family that there is no way we could buy for everyone!

  4. There's an interesting post on home made herbal tea blends at this week. The writer mentions using dried hibiscus in her blend and on following the links, I think that this hibiscus might be (or be related to)the rosellas you talk about using to make jam. I've never come across rosellas, although I've heard about them often enough. Do you know if you can make herbal tea from the rosellas you grow? - I presume you would use the flower petals rather than the leaves.
    A home made herbal tea blend would be a great home made gift I think.

  5. Good morning Lib, Jennifer,domestic goddess and Marg. Marg, you can use many of the hibiscus flowers for tea. These are dired and used like tea leaves. Rosella is a hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) and it is a red tea. You use ¼ cup of fresh rosella petals, not the seeds or leaves, and pour in boiling water. Let it steep for 3 - 5 minutes and strain off the rosella. If you use dried rosella, use two teaspoons.

  6. Very true Rhonda, very true. A few years back, I worked in an office outside of the home. When it came time for the annual Christmas gift exchange, I chose not to participate. I did not make a big deal out of it lamenting about debt, etc. I simply stated that I chose not to participate. Given the type of office it was, politics and gossip played a very big role in everyday events. And or course after the party and exchange of gifts there was much gossip mongering about who got what, who gave how much to the boss, etc. I quietly reminded them that that was not what Christmas was about. By the next year, others were choosing not to participate also. Sometimes all it takes is a steadfast committment to the true meaning of Christmas.

  7. We've really tried cutting down this year, and evaluating more the way that we shop for Christmas. Great post!

  8. Hi Rhonda:
    Great post! I have simplied my "Christmas giving" over the years and now I am down to nothing and proud of it. I must say, however, that it was difficult in the beginning. I scaled down a bit more each year. Now, the only gifts I give are from my kitchen. I bake all my gifts with that special ingredient - love. And you know what? The recipients are so much more grateful for that than anything I could buy in a store. It brings joy to my heart and makes the baking process that much more special. The only thing that I do purchase is a story book for my 16 year old daughter. I have been purchasing a Christmas storybook for her since the age of 3. I write something special in it then one day when she has children of her own she will have this very special Christmas library to hand down to her children and if I am lucky I will get to read those books to my grandchildren. Now won't that be a special gift. As you say, Rhonda, we must remain true to our beliefs and lifestyle. Because I have no shopping to do I enjoy the season so much more.

    Liane :)

  9. Rhonda, what a timely and kind reminder. I scale down Christmas each year. We've tried 'handmade-only' Christmases and a variety of other options. We like to give, to share, to celebrate... with meaning.
    Re: Rosellas - it's actually the fleshy red calyx and bracts that surround the green seedpod of the plant which are used for tea and jam, not the flower or petals. Just to clarify for marg.

  10. brandy :: Where the Lilies BloomDecember 01, 2007 10:12 pm

    Great reminder! Check out No Impact Man's blog and his letter to Santa. It's a great one, too. :-)

  11. We do a Christmas weekend early in Dec so my daughters and their families can be home for the holidays, church and school activities. Since there are so many of us we do homemade or secondhand gifts. Its such fun checking thriftstores, yardsales and fleamarkets for gifts or making that something special for a grandchild. Our getting together is the best gift. We always go caroling on a hayride, have a Happy Birthday Jesus cake and the Christmas story. This year my gifts are all wrapped in newspaper tied with ribbons I have around the house. Neighbors and friends get baked goods and soaps from us as gifts.

  12. this yr I did do something different and inexpensive for my side of the family.

    Yet I keep thinking - oh maybe I should send them something more - maybe it wasn't enough.

    My problem isn't that I can't afford more, so I don't want to appear stingy. Rather - it seems like the rest of the family totally considers the exchange a formality and I rarely if ever get a written thank you or a comment on the gifts. Sometimes they are not acknowledged at all.

  13. great post.
    I have scaled back the xmas giving this year. I bought a few gifts throughout the year which really takes the pressure off. Other than that I'm doing some handmade tokens and am enjoying it much more this year.

  14. Rhonda, I've learned that people LOVE handmade gifts. And there are so many ideas out there. Thanks for highlighting this issue.

  15. So glad to read this post and the comments. It's nice to know that I am not alone when it comes to not wanting to get caught up in the Christmas spending. Every year I felt uncomfortable as December got closer and I hadn't bought anything. Then at the last minute I would buy something without putting much thought into it. The pressure to buy was so strong. No need to feel guilty anymore. I've got my little girl now and I want to show her that Christmas is not a holiday to get into debt.
    Thanks Rhonda.

  16. Thank you for the reminder! You're very convincing. Boy it can be difficult to step outside of our consumer-driven culture, particularly on the holidays. But a truly thoughtful, handmade gift can be so much more meaningful!

  17. Very timely as just this evening we had an incident here which made my dh and I decide to skip gift giving for our children all together!! So eye opening. the likelihood that we will jump onto the consumer craze in December again is slim.


  18. An excellent post ~ thank you for the inspiration to 'try' to spend less and enjoy more :) God bless ~

  19. What a lovely, well-written and thoughtful post. Thank you for the timely reminder!


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