Yesterday in the U.S., we celebrated Thanksgiving. Many of us spent the day cooking, eating, and resting in a variety of ways. That's all about to change. Indeed for a few brave souls, it already has, as they've headed to the stores for bargains, bargains, bargains.
You couldn't pay me enough to go near a store today. I'd rather pay the extra money. Instead, this Black Friday is a good time to do some strategic planning to determine a sane approach to the holiday season. Today is a good time to plan for how we're going to have a meaningful December, how we're going to resist the consumerist, capitalist madness of a whirlwind that tends to sweep us all along.
Let's strategize. How can we avoid a hectic season? How can we invite more contemplation and quiet into December? How can we reach January with our budgets intact, our health robust, and our traditions strengthened?
Today's post will think about our monetary budgets and our shopping. Tomorrow's post will remind us of other ways to keep the holiday season meaningful yet less stressful.
--Make a budget before you buy a thing. Even as you're reading this, the Christmas shopping season begins for those of us brave enough to go into stores. Before you go, make sure you know how much you can spend. It's easy to get caught up in the shrill cycle of good deals and fierce desires. Don't buy so much that you'll still be paying off those credit cards in July. Nothing is worth that.
--Instead of buying stuff, buy experiences. Most of us have too much stuff. Why not give someone a meal out or a movie? Give the gift of your time.
--Instead of buying stuff, donate to charities. I'm lucky enough to be able to buy just about everything I need, albeit my needs are fairly simple. I am haunted by all the charities that are underfunded. I am haunted by the gaping needs in the world. I would prefer that people give money to the needy than to buy more stuff for me. Chances are good that lots of people on your gift list feel the same way.
--Why give gifts at all? I understand the appeal of shopping for children, but maybe this year is the one where we should think about why we give gifts to grown-ups, many of whom are perfectly capable of buying those items for themselves.
--Could this be the year that everyone makes their holiday gifts? I know, it's too late for most of us to knit a sweater or to make anything elaborate. But why not write a poem for the ones you love? Why not begin to write the family history? Why not make a sketch or two? Make some cookies: eat some and box some up for presents.
--Have this year be the year of found presents. Give an interesting stone or shell that you found at the beach. Make an arrangement of twigs and dried leaves.
--Or, if you're not surrounded by nature, declare that this will be the year of regifting. Go ahead and be open about it from the beginning. Give the film enthusiast all those DVDs you no longer watch. Sort through all your baking pans and cookie cutters and give a few to your favorite chef. Are you really going to read all your books again? Give them away to people who might enjoy them.
--If you have people on your list who insist on presents that they can open, presents that are brand new and purchased especially for them, see if you can find a way for your gift-giving dollars to support local artisans or local merchants.
--Or use your gift-giving dollars to support farmers and/or artisans from less-developed nations. The organization SERVV does wonderful work and offers beautiful gift possibilities. Go here for more information.
--Don't forget that those gift-giving dollars can support the literary culture that writers want to keep thriving. Give your gift recipient a book or a subscription to a literary journal.
--And don't forget about the other arts communities that could use our support. Give tickets to the theatre or the orchestra.
Tomorrow: Budgeting time
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