Buy Stuff and Be Happy!

4 years ago


Last week’s blog highlighted the holiday dilemma of the retail expectations (buying stuff) at the holidays versus the tradition of being together without breaking the bank.  However, tapping down the commercial aspect of the holidays is not easy.  All the media messages have one theme:  Buy stuff and be happy!  But, for how long is your new found happiness going to last?  The latest research says not that long.  So, how do you create a low-key approach to holiday gift-giving?

Here are 4 ideas that our family has used over the years.

1. Santa’s workshop.

A decorated frame still loved

It’s never too late to ditch the overt commercialism of the holidays.  Long ago my husband and I instituted Santa’s Workshop in the garage.  We made things for the person whose name we drew.  There was a growth stick to measure the kids as they grew (and now new little ones); the lap writing desk that I still use, the trivet made of corks, the collage of photos with a decorated frame; art painted on rigid foam insulation — two snakes and a map of our town – cut out and glued to wood; coat racks with a child’s name stenciled; the terrarium that produced rain for gosh sakes!  Obviously, not much skill is required, I promise, but a lot of thought and care are assets.

 2. The Exchange

Since giving gifts is really about an exchange, when the kids were in college, funds were short, and Santa’s Workshop a far distance from the dorm, we started a book exchange with a theme. In your family it may be movies or music.  It’s really fun and here’s how it works.  In the fall, my husband and I announce the theme so everyone has a chance to buy a book and maybe even read it before giving it away.  In past years we’ve done “The Journey”, “Food”, and “Travel”. Last year in honor of the elections it was “Presidents or First Ladies”.  This year we’re doing “Discovery”.  If anyone brings a guest, they’re let in on the game which includes everyone picking a book and then going around a second time to keep your chosen book or switching for another.  It’s great after dinner entertainment.

3.  The Gift that Everyone Enjoys

Remember the time…everyone loves experiences, so think about pooling resources and planning a time together for the following year.  Last year we decided to plan a weekend at the beach over Mother’s Day.  Next year we’re hoping to extend it one more day. For your family, maybe it’s a similar escape, a trip to a family reunion, an adventure to a place no one has ever been, or an event in your own town, complete with tickets and dinner reservations to a favorite restaurant.

4.  Giving to Others

One year we bought a goat for a family through a charity.  Our kids have helped wrap presents for other kids, donated used toys and books.  Think about gathering basics like toothbrushes and toothpaste for a homeless shelter and buying dishes and bowls for a communal home for women.  Go visit a facility. Ask questions, then choose an appropriate contribution.

These are all ways we dodge commercial pressure at the holidays.  What about you?

Remember, if I can do it, you can too.

Susan Levy
Publisher, Well-Fed Heart

This week’s featured recipe:

Applesauce Nut Muffins & Fruit Salad with Yogurt & Honey


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