I am one of those people who enjoys Christmas most for the giving; there’s nothing I look forward to more at this time of year than choosing presents for loved ones. But as I’ve made significant changes in my life in order to be more sustainable – in May I started a year of not buying new clothes and stopped writing about trends for fashion magazines – it follows that I’m going to change my sometimes wasteful gifting habits, too.
But rather than seeing it as a Scrooge move, I’m approaching it as a festive challenge, and one I’m really excited about. Because the thing I enjoy most about giving presents is the thought I put into what I choose for people, and this year I’m going to have to be more creative than ever. There won’t be any ‘silly’ presents (AKA novelty gifts that no one knows what to do with, often made of plastic), or any misplaced extravagant spends that with retrospect are regretted.
I may be giving less stuff, but everything I do wrap will come with a story, or will be useful, or 100% wanted by its recipient. And as a bonus, it should also mean that none of us overspends. Here’s how I’m going to do it…
1. SET LIMITS
There’s nothing more awkward than imbalanced gifting – when one person has spent more than the other, and everyone ends up feeling embarrassed. So have discussions with the people you’ll be exchanging presents with, and let them know if you’re planning to do things differently this year. A great idea is to set a price limit that everyone is happy with, or restrict yourselves to a single gift each, which means you can all be prepared and saves any tension on the big day.
2. ASK PEOPLE WHAT THEY ACTUALLY NEED
I’ve spent the last few months making a note of what my family have said in passing that they really need, rather than what they want. The male family member who is struggling to find moisturiser without plastic packaging, for example, is in for a treat with the Deep Feed facial serum from Five Dot Botanics, while I have something really special lined up for my parents involving organic cotton and their hobby of swimming in the sea. I know they will use it every day of the summer.
3. CREATE A GIFTING GAME
Once you have everyone on board with a non-wasteful Christmas, you can turn present buying into a sort of game. Maybe you’ll only source second-hand gifts, or perhaps limit yourselves exclusively to consumable things that can either be planted or eaten. Not dropping any hints or anything, but I’d be more than happy with a personalised jar of Marmite (I can tell you this with confidence, because I already have one and it’s run dry), or a packet of yellow rattle seeds from Landlife Wildflowers (essential for turning your lawn into a meadow, and I am the proud owner of my very first garden).
4. DON’T IGNORE WHAT WORKS
Doing Christmas more mindfully doesn’t mean walking away from the tried and tested gifts that are appreciated every year. I always buy the men in my family socks, because they are affordable and they are always thrilled (genuinely!) to receive them. Although this year I will be making sure I source them with care. I love MAiK for its responsibly sourced, quality socks in geometric designs, and Rapanui’s bamboo ones that can be bought as a pair or multi packs. Because all men love a snazzy sock, right?!
5. SOAP STORIES
My journey of more responsible gifting started two Christmases ago, when my sister-in-law gave me a bar of soap. It was from The Soap Co, an ethical company that provides employment for disadvantaged people in the UK. It even came with a note from the person who had handmade my bar, and it was such an uplifting thing to receive. The soap was also really nice, and lasted absolutely ages. Just a simple bar of soap, but I loved the story behind it, as well as its cleaning abilities. I mean, two years on and I am still talking about it! I also love Aerende for beautiful gifts that support social enterprises, and Upcircle for its exfoliating soaps that are palm-oil free and made from discarded chai tea spices.
6. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Maybe you’d rather not receive anything at all this Christmas, but that can understandably be a hard concept for others to grasp. So a good idea is to give your family and friends other options. Patchwork aims to reduce unwanted gifts by giving people the opportunity to donate to an experience, such as a holiday, although this Christmas it is focusing on Give Lists. The idea is that you ask people to donate in ways that will give you joy, rather than focusing on material things. It’s an especially lovely idea for kids, as Bo, who is eight, demonstrates perfectly with her request for tins of food for the local food bank and for someone to help her plant a tree in her garden. How adorable is that? Or charity websites such as Choose Love enables you to buy a refugee anything from tents and toothpaste to language classes and mental health support, which spreads the message of giving so clearly.
Thank you for this. In the sea of online gift guides this makes for a refreshing change. Another thing to add is to think outside the box with decorations – my 3 year old really wanted a tree this year and I really wanted to not add any more plastic to the world so I managed to get a second hand tree and asked around family and friends for decorations they no longer wanted. The only “new” thing we bought was so bakable clay to make our own extra decorations together. I’m happy (no new stuff) and he’s happy (big tree covered in shiny things like orange dinosaurs and pink rocket ships he made) and we both have a beautiful memory of making our decorations.
Alexandra Stedman says
Oh how lovely! We have a plstic tree my parents were throwing out, so keeping it from landfill and costs less in the long run! And what lovely memories xxx
Danish Pastry says
Great to see two of my favourite people working together! Great ideas for responsible gifting.
Alexandra Stedman says
Thank you xx
Thanks for the tips and links to great suppliers! You have inspired me – I am having a party and am not going to go mad on fancy canapes but will make some mini sausage/veggie rolls in various flavours. I was going to buy some Christmas themed drink charms but when I was looking at them your words popped into my head and so I’ll just offer a chalk pen or a ribbon for people to mark their glasses with. I did buy some outdoor Christmas lights as I love them, but made sure it was on Amazon Smile for the charity donation, and thought solar was the best option to save on batteries. Or I wonder if batteries would be best but using rechargeable? My other big ‘save’ was using a spa day voucher from my summer birthday on a day for two with my mum for her birthday. We had a wonderful day out, chatting from 9 to 5 which was worth way more than any box of something.
Keep up the great work frugalsisters!
Alexandra Stedman says
Aaah brilliant! Just thinking more about every purchase makes such a difference, and I bet your guests will come away with more ideas to do themselves! x
I love reading your post. After seeing this one, I said i should place my first comment. Great piece!!