5 Reasons to Dodge Holiday Shopping This Year

Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Many shoppers are scrambling as the holiday shopping season begins to wrap up. However, there are a number of excellent reasons to cut back on holiday spending, or forego holiday shopping altogether. If you are feeling guilty about not having spent much on gifts this year, consider that there are other ways to be generous to your friends and family. It’s not necessary to give them yet another product that will end up in a landfill, or to shell out big money that you could put toward something practical. And for many families, stretching the budget any further for holiday shopping simply doesn’t make sense.

This year, the National Retail Federation’s annual survey found that the average person celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa, and/or Hanukkah will spend $804.42, up nearly 5% over last year’s actual $767.27. The survey also found that about four in 10 still begin their holiday shopping before Halloween, consistent with more than 10 years of findings. The winter holidays by far generate the biggest sales of any shopping season, accounting for nearly 20% of total annual sales for retailers. NRF also found that total overall holiday sales increased 3.8% to a whopping $602 billion last year.

Gallup measured Christmas spending plans among U.S. adults, projecting they will spend an average of $720 on gifts this year, up slightly from last year. Gallup also found that 9% of Americans won’t participate in holiday shopping, perhaps because some don’t celebrate or simply choose not to spend money on gifts. In fact, this year a number of “buy nothing” campaigns have cropped up online. In addition to social media groups, websites such as buynothingchristmas and buynothingday are encouraging people to make their own gifts and reduce holiday consumerism. Here are five good reasons to scale down your holiday shopping efforts considerably — or to buy nothing altogether.

For the sake of retail employees

While it’s true that holiday shopping provides additional retail job opportunities, these positions are largely high-stress, low-paying, and merely temporary. As Black Friday mayhem continues each year, now extending to Thanksgiving and keeping many retail workers from their families on the holiday, employee protests are now a common part of the holiday season. And dealing with the Black Friday crowds can be dangerous, and even lethal. At the very least, this is one tradition that can be skipped, if not for the employees’ sakes, than for the fact that the supposedly great deals are often a “carefully engineered illusion,” as the Wall Street Journal describes it.

For the environment’s sake

For many, the choice not to spend money on holiday shopping comes from concerns for the planet. It can be a decision not to contribute to increasing waste in landfills, factory production in foreign countries, and the number of cars on the road during this season. These factors, as well as keeping large stores and malls open longer, create an incredible amount of waste each year and add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Staying home and making handmade gifts or recycled art projects, “buy nothing” advocates point out, dramatically decreases your carbon footprint.

For the sake of your friends and family

Remember all of those times you found a holiday gift in the back of your closet that you never used? Perhaps you can’t even remember who gave it to you. Store-bought gifts are rarely as memorable as a shared experience with someone you care about. Instead of adding to your friend’s junk pile, and even their future guilty conscience, give a gift that saves you money and gives you quality time with your friend.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

For your bank account’s sake

Americans frequently go as far as jeopardizing their own financial health to give their loved ones expensive gifts. However, shopping on a limited budget is very doable. Start by avoiding huge stores where you know you will run into temptations. If handmade gifts or cards aren’t your thing, make a short list of affordable but thoughtful gifts, and stick to it.

For your own sake

Particularly if you shop at crowded malls with fluorescent lighting and loud music assaulting you at every turn, the stress of holiday shopping can certainly affect your health (and maybe your sanity). Even online shopping has its frustrations. There are ways to shop small, shop smart, and make the experience more fulfilling. But if you know that it’s best for your mental and physical health to bow out, don’t hesitate. There are plenty of alternatives that can bring you much more happiness, togetherness, and holiday spirit than you would get spending your time at a mall.

Alternatives to holiday shopping

If you still want to celebrate the holidays by giving gifts to loved ones without participating in the shopping frenzy, there are a number of reasonable alternatives. Some of the best options include baked goods, art projects, handmade cards, or a charitable donation in your recipient’s name. Skillshares, toy exchanges, and other trade-based ideas are another creative alternative.

Aiden Enns, the co-founder of buynothingchristmas.org, said “Our website challenges people to de-commercialize Christmas and connect in simpler ways, such as spending time with friends and loved ones and giving to less-privileged people.” A holiday “gift” could be as simple as taking a friend out to lunch, to a concert, or on a free or low-cost adventure you both would enjoy. Use your imagination.

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