Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Thrifty Christmas

In New Zealand, Christmas arrives in the middle of summer. In my family, we have a pot luck lunch or dinner at someone's house (one of us usually volunteers to host). We usually have a BBQ, tell stories, look back at photo albums (hard and soft copy), play board games, do jigsaws, and munch on leftovers. If we are feeling energetic we will go for walks, go to the beach for a swim and beach cricket, and/or get out on the bikes. Or we may fall into a cataleptic stupor having laughed ourselves sick playing Cards Against Humanity, following the hoovering of the lunch leftovers and one too many glasses of bubbly/cider/beer (strike out those which do not apply). We also might sing, perhaps doing a cover of Ronan Keating carolling a Meri Kirihimete:


I have blogged about regifting before (here), but I got sparked up by a Houzz article on 16 things that we could do in November to make Christmas less stressful. I read the list of things and kept thinking: don't do that; don't do that; don't do that... and being amazed that so many of us complicate family time with so much irrelevant crap. I know that in the Northern hemisphere it is a time to hunker down and do things that keep us out of the cold. I get that. What I do NOT get is the flaming waste of all the mis-directed spending and angst. There are calculations which show that Christmas spending was around USD$66b in 2007, with recipients feeling that the gifts missed the mark while feeling that they cannot get rid of what becomes an albatross (Waldfogel, 2009). 

"From about age ten on—when we first develop well-defined preferences— we endure receiving gifts that we do not like. To make matters even worse, we are obliged to pretend to be grateful" (Waldfogel, 2009, p. 25). When others buy for us, "it’s pretty unlikely that they’ll choose as well as we would have chosen for ourselves. We can expect their choices, no matter how well intentioned, to miss the mark. Relative to how much satisfaction their expenditures could have given us, their choices destroy value" (p. 28, emphasis added). 

Again, considering my family, the adults have a "$5 Christmas". This means no one may spend more than $5 on a present for any one person (and have to be able to produce the receipt if challenged). in this year of Covid, we are going hard out and are only allowed to make things or to recycle existing things. 

Children get to make presents - or buy $5 ones - but get 'proper' presents from the adults. We usually do lots of behind the scenes negotiation for getting what parents would like their kids to receive. Not only does this mean that we give less tat, it also means we can collaborate and give a larger 'unicorn' present. Once the kids become teenagers, we simply do a bank transfer, so we don't give things that fall into the Hogsnort Rupert "Aunty Alice" category. For those of you who do not know what that is, watch the video below:


However, if we get given Aunty Alice presents, the giver knows they will get a return, when we regift it, 'straight back atcha'. This created a lot of laughs and Wimbledon manoeuvres over the years. For example, there is an UGLY ornament perpetrated by my niece which has gone back and forth a number of times. It may have finally gone to an Op Shop (NZ for thrift store) when my niece moved last year, but I won't know until Christmas <Cue Jaws sound track>.

The Houzz article does point out that saving this year's Christmas paper for next year helps to prevent the 'tearing of paper', so generates little waste in that area. However, we don't wrap presents: we may use recycled paper gift- or shop-bags that we have collected through the year; or we may simply make a flax bow and put a repurposed cardboard label on it. We have simplified Christmas over the years to make it a real family event. It is about people, not things. 

This year, as very few NZ retailers use plastic shopping bags, I am considering making roomy and sturdy cloth bags this year out of doubled-up Op shop men's winter shirts. I will buy those too damaged to be sold, so destined for rags or flocking. I will design each with a colour palette to suit each recipient, with handles the 'right' length. Made with love, each one full of Christmas memories, each time it is used. And I might even stencil a Cards Against Humanity card on the outside of each one.

Let's focus on people at this time of year. And cut the crap, eh?


Sam

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