Avoiding the consumer trap: How minimalism can help in the holiday season

As soon as Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night are over, then – boom!– we seem to be launched into the holiday season. I always feel a little dismayed to see Christmas decorations in the shops even as early as late October/early November, with advertisers trying to persuade us that ‘Winter is here!’

[Dear marketers: Winter is not here. Here, you will find we are in the throes of a wet but nonetheless beautiful Autumn.]

Inevitably, though, our thoughts will turn to gifting and the inevitable questions:

  • What are we doing for Christmas? (swap out whichever holiday festival applies to you)
  • What would like for Christmas?

I’ve written about this before, but it’s no bad thing to reflect on what we can do to enjoy the festivities; to offer our loved-ones or colleagues a token of our love and gratitude; and to get through the holiday season with our bank balance intact.

Experiences over stuff

Experiences (as opposed to stuff) are what stay with us long after the occasion itself. This is where a minimalist’s approach can help avoid overwhelm, clutter, the purchase of unnecessary ‘stuff’ and overspending.

I recently celebrated A Signficant Birthday (yes, I am 20-lots!) and very much appreciated the lovely gifts I received. They were real treats, many of them consumable and (for the vast majority), they were about experiences over stuff. An afternoon tea with friends, dining ‘haute cuisine’ and spa experiences are the types of things we can share and enjoy together to create memories. These are the gifts that I will recall when I look back on my 50th birthday.

Enablers

One category, which may be worth considering as part of your 2019 gifting strategy is that of ‘enablers’. Perhaps piece of equipment or clothing to enable someone to enjoy a particular experience would be a great gift. When Mr G turned 50, we created a Fun Fund, which has supported a number of short trips, as well as the purchase of some necessary equipment (e.g. hiking boots).

For this Christmas, My dad has asked for something useful that, for him, falls into the category of ‘enabler’. Recently, he bought himself a new CAD/CAM package, with the associated e-book manual. However, he’d really like to be able to thumb through a physical book, which will help him get to grips with the new software that he uses for his model engineering drawings. That’s what we’ll buy for him.

Another example is membership of an association or organisation that could support and enable future adventures. We’ve just joined the South West Coast Path Association, which helps support the 630 miles of coastal path along which we hope to hike over the next few months and years. The photo for this post shows the first section of the Path, between Minehead in Somerset and Porlock, just a little way down the coast (and taken last weekend).

Consumables

Don’t forget, things you make yourself can be inexpensive, but very much appreciated.

Last year, my lovely sister-in-law got me into making fudge… in the slow cooker. This sounds very odd indeed, but it’s incredibly easy to do and the results are very delicious indeed. Imagine lemon meringue fudge, with a melt-in-the-mouth texture….you get the idea. There are groups online where you can get discover the basic method, get inspiration for different recipes and seek the advice of more experience fudge-makers if you’re not sure how it’s going (the group I joined is on Facebook). My mantra over fudge making? Follow the instructions to the letter and you can’t go wrong.

Do good, feel good

Finally, before you rush out and buy Christmas cards, consider instead a donation to a charity that will make a difference to people’s lives this holiday season. I’ve recently become aware of The Hygiene Bank. Their #ITSINTHEBAG is truly inspiring and that’s something I’m going to be looking into over the next few days.

Whatever we do – and however we celebrate – being intentional about how we spend our money and to whom (and to what) we give our attention means more than anything money can buy.

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Email me via catherineelizgordon@gmail.com, or connect with me on Instagram