Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thoughtful consumption

Last year we turned my children's artwork
into note cards that they gave as gifts to
their grandmothers.
 I love Buy Nothing Day, an annual event that encourages people to take a break from consumption. The event, now in its 20th year, falls on that wild shopping day known as Black Friday, (the day after American Thanksgiving and one of the busiest shopping days of the year in the U.S.)

Black Friday or not, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of spot sales, buy-one-get-one-free offers and the lure of discount prices.  People come home from weekend shopping trips with heaps of stuff that they just couldn’t pass up because the price was so low. (Mind you, even Frenchy’s and Value Village shoppers fall prey to the same bug. They just spend less in one shot.)
Consciously going a day without buying anything can inch you toward what I call thoughtful consumption -- carefully considering what you purchase (Is it necessary? Will it get used? Do I already have some of these? Is there a bit too much plastic packaging for my liking?) It’s a helpful mindset as we all dive into Christmas shopping.  

Like most people, I’m happy to buy or make gifts for those on my Christmas list. But buying for the sake of buying or purchasing something, anything, just to check a name off a list can take the fun out of Holiday shopping. I can sympathise, finding just the right gift for someone can be exhausting and sometimes impossible.
How do you avoid the stress of searching for the perfect gift or buying something just to get it over with (only to have it sit in a closet some place)? I aim for the practical with a touch of pizazz.  Practical is great because it means the item will get used and the pizazz makes it a little special, just right for the Holidays.
I splurge on good wool socks for my husband, the kind that he’d never treat himself to. I treat my mom and sisters to high quality cooking ingredients and they often do the same for me. All of this stuff is enjoyed, and used. 
Here are some other ideas for thoughtful (and useful) gift giving:
Is there someone on your list who loves tea, or coffee or chocolate? Create your own gift basket full of their favourites or some you know they’d love to try but would never buy for themselves. Another idea - baskets of locally-made goods are fun to give, and to receive.
Restaurant gift cards, museum memberships, tickets to sporting events, concerts or the theatre, tucked in a gift bag and tied with a pretty bow are thoughtful gifts that will get used. So are donations to community charities, made in the name of someone special. Can you think of a non-profit that the recipient has a connection with, whether through volunteer activities or direct care?
Thinking before you buy is a good lesson for all of us. It might mean that we come home with fewer things, but less clutter is a gift in itself.

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