Yikes! As if Christmas is nearly here (why are you so surprised? it happens every year) and the gift buying fever is rife. With such busy lives, debilitating finances and the demonic burden of mental health weighing us down, finding the right gift for someone you care about is a challenge. It’s even more of a challenge if you’ve been roped into doing an office secret Santa, and you’ve got Sandra (and you think: who the hell is Sandra?) and you don’t know what to get her, and time is running out, and the Christmas party is this weekend (and we all know what happened last time) AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO BECAUSE YOU’RE SO STRESSED!
…and breath. I hear ya. Christmas is tough. On my navigation through minimalism, I’ve found the whole gift-giving side of the holiday to be such a bore. Honestly, I’d rather wake up on Christmas Day with no presents and just spend the day in a loving family environment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the presents I do receive (I’m not a total Scrooge), but the politics behind it all can cause so much agro.
Fear not my brave Christmas chum! I have broken down the discombobulation (love that word) around Christmas-gift-giving, and handed you the gift (see what I did there) of some helpful tips.
Need Before Want
The words ‘need’ and ‘want’ seem to have lost their meaning in modern society, we often confuse the two when making our purchases. We go to into the shop thinking “I need to get that brand new, 50% off moisturiser made from the tears of French nuns”, instead of considering “Do I need the French nun cream? Or do I just need the moisturiser for sensitive skin?”. By asking the person “Is there anything you need?”, you’re opening up the conversation into ideas of what they are mostly likely to use in the next year (or hopefully, years). They might respond with “You know what, I really need a phone holder for my car, so that I can use it as a sat nav”. GREAT! Now there is a practical item that will definitely be used (at least until they get a car with a built-in sat nav). Some might respond with “Mate, I need about £8000” and at that point you laugh it off because ain’t nobody gotta go into debt for Christmas.
Tried this and it didn’t work? No problemo amigo, there are still five more ideas for you!
Life is an Experience
Not to be that namby-pamby person who is like “The best gift is spending time with you, Timothy” but there is some truth in it. Buy that person an experience! There are loads of websites out there where you can buy experiences like cocktail-making, skydiving, food-tasting, alpaca walking etc, etc. These are great presents! Spending quality time together with someone is so good for us, especially when you get to share it doing something one of you loves to do. It doesn’t have to stop at a day – what about a weekend somewhere? Take a trip to a big city and see the sites, or escape to the country and take in all that yet-to-be-polluted air.
Now I’ll admit, these types of gifts can be a little pricey (and remember we’re trying to not go bankrupt this Christmas), so you could dial it down: arrange a dinner date, or go to the cinema (or movies if you’re American, or pictures if you’re old), try out a new bar or cafe together. Little moments of quality time, are better than dusty old trinkets.
If this is still not the right option for you (maybe Sandra is teetotal or do you even know her enough to take her out somewhere?) then don’t worry mijn vriend (in case you were wondering, that is Dutch and in case you were wondering, I do not speak Dutch), there’s still plenty of other options.
Get in My Belly!
This is arguably one of the most common last minute gifts, but it is so useful – consumables. Yes, we’ve all quickly nipped into the corner shop for a bottle of booze because we forgot to get Jim a present (and let’s all admit it, we didn’t really care). Food and drink gifts can be so much more personal than that though, and they won’t take up much space in that person’s life for long. Got a friend that loves a tipple of rum? Buy them a fancy rum they’ve never tried! Does Sandra often dip into the office sweet supply? Buy her a nice box of chocolates (go local if you can) or a posh tin of biscuits (it’s not just a biscuit tin, it’s an M&S biscuit tin). These presents don’t have to break the bank, but they should be a little special (a.k.a don’t go buying Sandra a crappy tin of Poundland shortbread).
Still not right? Not sure if Sandra has a food allergy or is vegan? I got you, keep scrolling mon amie (don’t hate me for my terrible French, but do give a shoutout to those crying nuns)
Zero Waste Baby
You don’t have to be part of Extinction Rebellion to try being zero waste – you just have to be a decent human being that cares about the environment (all tea, all shade). I’m not suggesting you buy them a tub of coconut oil and fashion them some zero waste makeup wipes (although feel free if you have the time), I’m purely encouraging you to consider something that they can completely use up. Much like the consumable tip, buying something that doesn’t end up in landfill in two months time is a great way to be eco-friendly this Christmas. There are shops on the high street that sell great, fish-friendly bath products, or earrings crafted out of recycled lottery tickets. They aren’t too expensive, and David Attenborough will sleep a little easier at night (and we can all agree to support Sir David).
Can’t find the time to seek out the good, wholesome hippy shops? Sad times mein Freund (you’re not gonna stop with the languages, are you?), but it’s okay we know you’re busy, here are some more ideas…
Spread the Cheer to Someone in Need
We’ve all seen films and Christmas-specials where the media have portrayed donating money to charity in someone’s name as a mockery present. It is high time we changed that view! Why is taking the money you would have spent on someone and giving it to someone in the world who really needs clean water/food/shelter/medical aid a bad idea?! Who would rather have another birthstone necklace, over rescuing neglected animals or protecting the most precious creatures on the planet from poachers? I’d rather have no friends, than friends who would put their greed before the rights of others. That £10 budget for the secret Santa could make someone or some cause’s Christmas the best one yet.
Will Sandra not appreciate this type of gift (1. Why is she so hard to buy for and 2. She sounds like a cow)? Not sure if they’d rather support climate change or poverty? Well I have one more option for you mio amico…
For Ages 6+
This is the option for those who have not found a more minimalistic present – an Appropriate Gift. The Appropriate Gift is the type where you get them something with the risk it will be adding to their junk pile. To make it a bit more meaningful, you should aim for a present that is right for them. For example, a toddler is highly likely to expect an abundance of toys for Christmas, so much so that they will probably throw tantrums on Christmas Day trying to decide which one to play with first. Save the parents (and the toddler) the suffering and think about something actually useful – a nice wintry outfit (kids need clothes) or a book they can use to learn the alphabet, etc. You wouldn’t buy a baby a yearly subscription for The Economist and you wouldn’t buy your Auntie Carol a Baby Annabell (unless she’s fucking weird).
Buy Sandra some nice stationary to actually do some work in, or a calendar to stop her missing those goddam Thursday meetings.
Whatever you choose, purchase wisely and try your best to support your local high street (these small businesses need our help) and the environment (WWDD – What would David do?).
Earth, Mind & Fire will be back with a new post shortly after Christmas (don’t miss me too much), so I’d like to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Joyous Kwanzaa!
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Featured Image Credit: Michelle