First published December 2011, last updated December 2012
I received the best Christmas present last year. Nothing, nada, zip and zilch. It’s taken some years (decades) but people have apparently finally given up on buying me stuff just because they are told by marketers they need to. Put simply, the Xmas gift push is a massive con-job.
The big problem with gift giving, particularly among adults, is people often don’t know what to buy, what is needed, let alone wanted or would be appreciated. The pressure of imaginary obligation and a December 25 deadline makes otherwise sane and good-hearted people make some very interesting choices.
But the madness continues on the recipient’s end too. We’re given a gift we have no use for and feel obliged to look delighted and say thank you for the resource sucking lump of useless (to us) material we are now responsible for that will clutter up our lives further.
To make matters worse, having displayed the appropriate level of excitement and thanks, the stage is then set for more of the same next year.
I know this all sounds a little heartless; but when it comes to gift giving, it is not the thought that counts as such. It’s the thought that goes into the gift choice. We need to break the Xmas hyperconsumption cycle – it will not only save us cash but reduce impact on the environment.
An Australian charity estimates the value of 2010’s discarded/unwanted Christmas gifts was more than $750 million – and Australia’s population isn’t that huge (23 million). If that figure is accurate, unless folks in other countries are much better at picking gifts than we Aussies, the global total would be mind boggling.
Unfortunately, sometimes these unwanted gifts just wind up being shoved in a closet, never to be used. They can haunt us throughout our lives.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The Australian charity points out that organisations such as theirs can put these unwanted gifts to good use; either directly for their clients, or sold and the cash raised to help fund the charity’s activities.
Some people “regift”, meaning they give the gift to someone else next Xmas. I wonder how many of these gifts wind up being shuffled from place to place and never used :). Still, it’s a good idea and at some stage perhaps the gift will wind up in the hands of someone who could put it to use.
I read another report where an auction web site stated at around 7pm on Christmas Day they noticed an uptick in new listings and put it down to people selling unwanted gifts. I see nothing wrong with selling something you can’t use in order to buy something you can.
A gift unused and stowed away that may be appreciated by someone else is a horrible and wasteful thing. It’s a loss all round.
But as prevention is better than cure, if you’re someone who often receives unwanted gifts from certain folks, just start your own don’t-give-me-anything-and-dammit-I-mean-it campaign. You can mention environmental concerns or even that you have everything you want and need and as you care about the person so much, you don’t want them spending their money on you. If the person really insists and there is no way to dissuade them, point them towards greener gifts that won’t cost them any more than what they would have spent.
Don’t feel obligated to buy anyone anything either – after all, there is no law to say you must and it’s not illegal to give gifts on any of the other 364 days of the year. In my opinion, gifts should be given when a need or desire is identified and when your heart dictates – not when business does.
Let’s end the Christmas gift giving insanity – for the sake of our bank balances and for the environment. The money saved on paying off the Xmas gift credit card purchase interest can be spent on more useful and enduring things for ourselves or others.
Christmas has become such a screwed up event on so many levels, it’s beyond redemption. I strongly feel it should be ditched altogether aside from the religious aspects for those choose to observe them.
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