Can we all just stop buying crap for Christmas?

Christmas is a time of excess. Excess spending. Excess food. Excess drink.

People love it, I get that. It’s a time to relax, to let your hair down, to spend time with family and take a break from the everyday grind.

But the excess usually comes with a big side order of guilt. Guilt that you’ve spent too much and now don’t have enough cash to see you through to the end of the month. Guilt that you’ve eaten too much and have put on weight and feel a bit rough. Maybe guilt that you haven’t bought your kids as much as other kids have got.

And what about the guilt about all the crap you’ve bought that will just go to waste?

At Christmas, everything is shiny and sparkly. We have lots of people to buy for and the shops are very good at enticing us to buy their products. Suddenly things that would look like crap at any other time of the year look exciting.

But they’re still crap.

A lot of what we buy at Christmas is set for the charity shop at best, landfill at worst. Maybe it will sit collecting dust for a couple of years before we pack it off to the school fayre.

Buying more than we need to buy doesn’t make us nice or kind, it just makes us broke and causes more stuff to be wasted and disposed of. That shiny gift pack will sit in landfill forever. Putting it in the bin doesn’t make it go away.

I am a great believer in buying what people actually want or need rather than just something that looks nice. It might not look as exciting on the day, but it has a purpose and will last. It will be used, it won’t just gather dust or be chucked away.

I’m also a great believer in not buying too much, even if it does make me look a bit mean (but not to my kids, only to people who like to share pictures of hundreds of presents on social media). That little saying on what to buy kids is a good place to start – something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. That covers all bases.

So for a tween boy you might buy the Xbox game he wants, the football boots he needs, a new jumper or pair of trousers and a book. It might seem a bit boring to buy football boots for Christmas, but you’re doing yourself a favour and saving yourself a few quid by not buying them just before or after Christmas. And a week after the big day, will he even think it was a bit boring? Will he wish he hadn’t had football boots for Christmas?

No, he won’t.

As a parent, you might think just giving four presents is a bit mean, but don’t forget, most kids also get presents from grandparents and aunties and uncles too. Added together, that’s a sizeable pile of presents, which they will be very happy to receive.

My kids have always been very good at not calculating value and comparing numbers of presents. We do try to keep the value similar, but we don’t stress over it. This year, my younger son has three presents, my daughter has five presents and my eldest has four presents from us. The value is fairly equal. They will be very happy with those presents.

They are all things they either want or need. There isn’t a shiny gift pack in there. Nothing that will end up collecting dust or in landfill. I’ve learned to resist the lure of the shiny three for two offer, buying one thing too many and desperately trying to make it fit a person it doesn’t fit. There is no benefit in doing that, either financially or for the environment. It’s not even the thought that counts, because there’s actually very little thought in it at all.

We don’t do stocking fillers because they are prime landfill material (although I appreciate that some people do put practical stuff in there, which is a very good idea).

If you’re buying for a teen or tween nephew or niece, a voucher is always a good option. They get a lot of pleasure out of choosing something, but do check with their parents what shops they’re into, otherwise the vouchers will end up collecting dust too! It’s remarkable how much their tastes change in even a year.

What do you think? Do you like a shiny gift pack or do you try to buy more practical things that people need, even if it does appear a bit more boring at first?

 

Christmas, Christmas presents, Waste, Can we all just stop buying crap for Christmas?

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Author: Sarah Mummy

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36 Comments

  1. I wholeheartedly agree. I buy the boys one present off Father Christmas, one off me and Paul, and then they get fun but USEFUL things in their stocking – buying interesting things for their stockings is the only Christmas shopping that I enjoy. I’ve had a few people tell me that I’m mean but it works for us. I’ve also told friends and family not to buy me anything this year. And I really mean it. I’ve had so many messages saying that want to get me ‘something to open’ but I need nothing. It’s very excessive and makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I’m looking forward to fun, drinks in the pub, the carol concert in the church, games with the boys and excessive After Eight consumption x

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    • YES! So glad someone thinks the same way as me. I genuinely don’t get excited about Christmas day, and nor do my kids. I don’t think that’s ruining Christmas for them. I get excited about going to see my daughter in panto – and she gets excited about performing in it. There’s so much more to life than a pile of presents.
      Love that you don’t want anything. I just want clothes every year, because I never buy any for myself. Nothing fancy, just the hoodies and Tshirts I wear all the time.

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  2. I always buy things my children want or need. I don’t buy anything that I’m not 100% sure they would play with. I also get them practical things like clothes, shoes and PJ’s. I’d not heard the “want, need, wear, read” saying before but I think that’s excellent! x

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    • I first heard it a couple of years ago and it makes perfect sense. I suppose I was pretty much following the principles anyway, but it’s a good reminder not to go crazy. I’ve made a few mistakes over the years and I’m not going to do that any more! x

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  3. A lot of our presents are books, I am slightly obsessed with books I admit but I try and find more unusual ones they won’t see in the library or at school. They get bath stuff and stationery. Anything to stop them using all our sellotape and blue tack etc. Both my girls have a new rucksack, a sparkly one I bought months ago in tkmaxx which is fun but also practical. And some clothes, new pyjamas they both need, new leotards for dancing, as you know those add up during the year, and socks.

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    • I’d love to buy books, but my boys don’t read any more and my daughter only reads a few pages a day. I have bought her one book. We’ve made the stationery mistake in the past – bought too much of it and it’s all gone to waste! Some kids love it, my daughter likes the idea of it, but doesn’t actually use it.

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  4. This is probably my most favourite blog post this month! I saw the subject title in my inbox and instantly clicked as I 100% wholeheartedly agree. My son is 12 and about three years ago I was Christmas shopping for him and made the decision to just not buy the crappy tat that I previously thought was good. It would get binned, hidden in a cupboard or just completely forgotten about?! I only buy things that will make a difference or what I know will get used lots. Some years he gets less, some more. I watch my boyfriend buying tat that just makes me cringe and the amount of plastic that comes with it is shocking! My son’s stocking this year has a fancy new pen I know he’ll love, some new pencils, socks and sweets.

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    • Thanks very much! I feel very chuffed to have written your favourite blogpost of the month! Like you, I’ve made the mistake of buying extra stuff that looked nice in the past, but I’ve now learned from that! Even the chocolate I buy is just bars of Dairy Milk because there will always be something in a selection box or tub of chocolates that doesn’t get eaten.

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  5. Yes! I’ve made the mistake in the past of getting the kids a few surprises – remote control cars, boardgames, puzzles – which I think they’ll like, but which end up unopened in the back of the garage.
    No more.
    Apart from the stuff I know they want/need, I might buy them some sweets and some clothing. But that’s it.

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  6. I’m in the middle. My OH is all about things people want (hence why presents in the past for me have included a wardrobe, phone console table, table and chairs for the kitchen – I wasn’t impressed, these were all things the house needed not me!). I like to buy things that people will like and use but that they wouldn’t know about, or wouldn’t buy them.

    Once family kids are in secondary school they get money though. It’s so much easier because they want gadgets and there’s no way we would spend that much.

    I wouldn’t stop doing stockings though.They are the best part of Christmas because they’re the bits that have the tradition and surprise unlike the rest which is often from a list. But most of it is things I know N will love and use – like little notepads and cool pens, socks, gloves, a book, maybe a little game or lego type of set/yoyo and something really fun I’ve spotted.

    Mostly though we know what people will want and use. The worst is people buying for me – they just don’t ask or think about what I like. I end up with woolly scarves/gloves (don’t wear them), or toiletries (hate them, only ever use whatever shower gel is on offer, they end up going to raffles, although it’s hard when my SIL is also involved with the same school). And I think they could just save their money.

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    • I had to laugh at the OH’s presents. That’s definitely a step too far! The presents definitely need to be for a person rather than a functional item for the house (although my husband has decided we should spend the money my parents have given us on a new radiator!). You can see why I don’t do stockings for my kids as they wouldn’t want yo-yos and Lego, so it would literally just be socks and chocolate! I’ve made the mistake of stationery in the past and it all just adds to the clutter because they don’t use it.
      Totally with you on the toiletry gift sets! To me, they show a complete lack of thought. Most adults have particular brands they use and don’t want a gift set of a completely different brand – or even if the set is the right brand they might only want the shower gel, not the moisturiser etc etc. I’d rather they saved their money too!

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  7. Yes!!! Completely agree. I have tried to focus on experiences rather than things when suggesting what to get my girls as a cinema ticket will be appreciated far more than a toy that will be played with for a day and then forgotten about.

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    • Experiences are a great idea! The one thing my daughter wanted is a ticket to a West End musical. She’s forever asking to go to one, but it gets expensive for five. But it makes the perfect Christmas present, particularly as we don’t need to take five of us!

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  8. Completely agree – a good reminder not to get caught in the craziness…

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    • Thanks very much! It’s so easy to get caught up in it, but I’ve been resisting for a good few years now.

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  9. I am with you on this. And don’t ask what to buy and then totally ignore what the parent says and get something different as that won’t get used. Not that I have a bee in my bonnet or anything!

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    • Oh yes! That’s a real pet hate of mine too. I would genuinely rather people spent less, but actually got presents that were more meaningful/ useful than something that someone else thinks is nice.

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  10. Hi Sarah, I totally agree. I do feel lucky that Christmas isn’t such a hyped up thing here. We aren’t bombarded with cheap, crappy gift sets no one really wants in every shop we walk in. So much money is wasted this time of year and what fun is it starting the New Year in debt. I do enjoy buying presents I know will be appreciated and wanted, and hate waste. As there is nothing my husband wants or needs (he’s a simple man) this Christmas I will give him a ‘coupon’ so he can buy something when he needs or wants something. There won’t be many presents under the tree this year, but I’m sure that each and everyone is a gift that will not go to waste.

    xx

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    • That must be nice not to have Christmas forced down your throats by the shops as much. It must really take the pressure off of buying for the sake of it because you feel that’s what is expected. I like your idea for your husband! x

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  11. I completely agree with this. Someone’s told me this week they end up spending at least a couple of hundred pounds on each child (x3). I’m not even sure how people can afford that within multiple kids. All I want for Xmas is a pair of gloves!

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    • That is a lot of money! We work on a budget of about £100 per child, but don’t sweat over a few quid either way. Gloves sound like a very good present! I lost one of my nice ones a couple of weeks ago, so bought some cheap ones to tide me over and they are already falling apart!

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  12. I have my kids write a list and then buy 70% of that list, i never buy the whole thing as i dont want them to be too spoilt.

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    • That’s a really good idea! Are you able to stay within budget that way? My younger son never knows what he wants and my eldest can usually only think of one thing, so it’s always quite a challenge to buy for them. Luckily my daughter is much easier to buy for!

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  13. Oh Sarah I know you’re just being sensible but you do sound like a misery guts sometimes!

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    • That’s fair enough, I’m sure you’re not the only one to think that, although there’s obviously a lot of people who agree with me! I know that if I was to buy stationery, socks, toiletry gift sets, CDs etc to bulk my kids’ presents out so it looked more ‘exciting’ and I looked more generous, it would all just be cast aside. Not because they’re ungrateful, but just because it’s not stuff they want or need (well they would wear the socks, but the rest would get forgotten!).

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  14. Yep, I’m with you on this one. My girls have both got what they asked for, which was a small thing each. They’ve also got a dressing gown and I’ll probably get some useful little stocking fillers. That’ll do. I also don’t buy for many people, I don’t want to give people things they don’t want or need. With my siblings, we do a secret Santa and then find out what our recipient needs from each other. Much better than buying something for everyone.
    Nat.x

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    • I love it that young children ask for small things for Christmas! I knew you would have a sensible attitude to the whole thing because I know you hate waste just as much as I do.

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  15. We don’t have children so don’t really have this problem but I hate to see people with trolleys full of tat.
    For me and my hubby, we haven’t bought each other a Christmas or birthday gift for about 6 years now. For us experiences of time together is much more important. So we book a city break or have a weekend away etc. Perfect.
    No chance of anything going to landfill from that!

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    • What a lovely idea! I’d love to do that, maybe something to look forward to when the kids leave home? My husband and I do buy each other presents, but it’s nearly always clothes we need. He’s got football boots this year!

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  16. I went out shopping today and yes, loads of tat, plastic and more crap. My teenagers are having aftershave/perfume, makeup/socks, underwear, sweets and PJs! That’s it. I’m fed up of clearing away crap from their bedrooms in March. I’ve asked everyone not to buy me a gift either and we are all spending our money on food so that we share it. Much better idea. Lovely post. #mondaystumble

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    • I do like your style! That’s all the kids need. My husband and I buy each other clothes we need and we’re spending the money my mum gave us on a new radiator!

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  17. I try not to buy them either as it’s all just for the sake of it, I’ve always asked for people to buy the kids things they need (much to their disgust sometimes)

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    • Amen to that! There really is no point in buying things for the sake of buying. There will always be someone who thinks it’s ‘a shame’ to buy the kids something they need and then goes and buys something the kids won’t like just because the person buying thinks it’s nice!

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  18. I couldn’t agree more! #mondaystumble Hope you have a wonderful holiday and a fabulous 2018! xoxo

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  19. Wow just came across your post I can totally see where you are going with this I have made many mistakes in the past and I still have a lot of the items still in boxes in my attic and I always over bought but the past few years I havd learned yo buy what is wanted/needed I am also guilty of this when it come to the christmas food shop again I am learning and cutting back but I still have far to much left over and freezer and cupboards still packed full old habits die hard lol but one thing that I have learnt this year is that I don’t like to buy gifts without a meaning or purpose as I bought my partner things for his flat as I didn’t know what else to get him just to bulk up his gifts and if made me feel quit crap to be honest as I can honestly say I dont think I havd ever bought him somthing for his flat I say things he always wanted/liked /personal to him I would get but now we have decided to start having breaks away spending quality time together and creating new memories seeing new things etc

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    • Oops no I forgot I have bought him stuff fof his flat kitchen gadgets because he loves things like that would see his face light up when they woulc come on tv lol

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