Just As You Are

It’s okay to buy gifts.

It’s okay to feel good about it.

If you’re reading here you might be feeling some guilt about holiday shopping.

Even if you’ve prepared with lists and budgets and made some new traditions with friends and family that replace gift giving, you may still be feeling a gnawing guilt that it’s still too much. That the super simplifying families are doing it better than you and that a plastic toy or two, the one your seven year-old has been desperate for for months, means you haven’t simplified enough.

Let it go.

We’re having our first ‘traditional’ holiday since moving overseas. There will be a tree. And turkey. And gifts!

While I read things like Buy Nothing Until 2013 and am inspired by the commitment, it’s not in my plans this year. It’s not in my plans and I’m not going to feel bad, or guilty, that my son is getting a Brio Babar train or that we’ll be indulging in luxury chocolate on Christmas Day.

Buying a lot less than a few Christmases ago is in my plans. And buying second hand for some gifts. And avoiding fluffy silly presents that end up in a junk drawer.

I had hoped to have our holiday shopping all done by now but illness and a bit of procrastination conspired against me. There are a few gifts still to order or pick-up. We’re also contributing to a charitable organization and I haven’t done any of the shopping for that yet.

Hopefully by the end of this week my debit card will be put away and there won’t be anything left to buy except our tree.

I’ll have more posts up about gift giving and quelling the present frenzy in children in this month of often excessive consumption soon.

Even if you’ve already slipped up and bought so many gifts that you’re storing some for birthdays next year. Even if you went on a rampage at the dollar store and need to buy bigger stockings for all the trinkets and toys Santa is bringing. Even if you just looked at your credit card balance and your heart skipped a beat.

As Mark Darcy would say, your family and friends love you just as you are.

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  • well your friends either love you as you are or you need new ones. your family, well you are on your own there. billy

  • Buying a lot less than a few Christmases ago is in my plans. And buying second hand for some gifts. And avoiding fluffy silly presents that end up in a junk drawer. YES!

    We don’t forego presents but we do as you say. My victory feeling this year came from me asking my daughters what they wanted for Christmas and they came up with two very small toys, as in one inch tall and even with my prompting, couldn’t come up with anything else. (Last year, the list was immense.) We then sat down and talked about goals they had and interests they are pursuing and came up with a very short list of quality ideas. From that, their minimal gifts that will prompt creativity, family fun and help them get closer to goals will come from us and the family.

    We even do stockings but this year each will have a pair of yoga pants and a few morsels of quality chocolate that they love with the one very small toy that they each wanted. This stocking idea is the biggest change for us this year. In the past, the larger gifts were minimal and well thought out but then I would fill the stockings with the junk drawer beauties. I am very excited about this change.

    Otherwise, each other person will get one (or a shared one for couples) well thought out gift from us.

    For the first time also, I decided to shop online almost exclusively. I am conflicted about this as I normally buy local but I weighed the stress associated with busy stores, parking lots, carting small children, time, etc and decided to try it out. I spent about 4 hours shopping around one night over Thanksgiving break purchased 99% of what I needed with free shipping and some discount from Thanksgiving sales. I have all now and only need to return on gift. In addition, it allowed me to get creative and buy things like a unicycle for my 11 year old nephew rather than settling for what I could find because we were tired, hungry and cranky and just wanted to be done. We’ve already had several spontaneous meals with different friends that were so relaxing and fun not to mention family adventures. I LOVE how this turned out but will consider other ways to accomplish it with my goals of buying local, etc. for next year.

    • We did most of our shopping online. Of course, we’re limited in what we can buy locally (small town, island). Someone pointed out to me (think in the blog comments here) that small stores sell via Amazon and you are supporting small business if you buy from them. Made me feel good.
      Thank you for sharing here. It’s motivating, and affirming, to hear of other families that have scaled back on stuff and have had a positive response from their children. Well done!
      Sounds like you are set for a wonderful holiday!

      • I didn’t think about that for Amazon and that is probably true for Ebay and of course, Etsy, etc. That helps! Thanks for highlighting that.
        Merry Christmas!

  • Thank you for this post, Rachel. That’s exactly what I needed to read. I didn’t realized so clearly before there really is not insignificant amount of guilt in myself for buying gifts this year, when I suppose myself to be a minimalist! Feel relieved now, as I realized this guilty feeling and can let it go much easier.

    • I had a lot of guilt and stress over small purchases after we donated/sold a lot of our belongings. I still do sometimes. It’s been a good change for me to relax about the gift of material items for the holidays and let the guilt go. Everything was planned and budgeted for and a lot of time and thought was put into giving things that will be useful and hopefully enjoyable. Nothing to feel bad about with that.

  • “Just as you are”…I love that movie.

    Anyway, it’s nice to hear a balanced view on Christmas. We’ve spent more than I had initially budgeted (my budget was near zero, though) and it’s been really fun getting into the spirit of the season. The kids are really getting excited this year!

  • Thank you for this! I do so love that part in Bridget Jones :) but it’s true. I have a much simpler mindset about Christmas than I used to in large part due to your blog and others like it and embracing the idea of simplifying my life, but I do still enjoy giving and receiving some gifts. We have been very cognizant about cleaning out my daughter’s toys (she is 3 1/2 and has already given away 2 garbage bags full to Salvation Army) and also using wish lists to make sure she gets meaningful and useful gifts (and that we do too!). I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas :)

  • I would be curious to know if the person who is not buying anything until 2013 has already bought all their Christmas presents ahead of time. If that is the case, most of what is left is just food and tree. I would imagine that they already have their Christmas decorations, too. So, maybe it isn’t what people may think it is. I think it is still a good idea to take the season off, like he is, but I am not jumping to any conclusions thinking that they aren’t having any gifts, etc. just because they aren’t buying things in December. Does that make sense? I am only spending $100 out of pocket for Christmas. It sounds amazing, but the fact of the matter is, that we will have much more because I won $250 of gift cards, got some free gift cards from our credit card points, and got rid of clutter to consignment shops where I got a little more. I also sold some books, too. So, first thought is that 100 is all we are spending, but if you take the time to look closer, you will realize, that there are also the free things and the money from getting rid of clutter. Maybe it isn’t that way for him, but I would be curious to know more. So, before others choose to get discouraged, realize that there may be more to it. What really matters is what works for each of us and if other inspire us then that is great. But, we all do things differently and Christmas means different things to different people. There is no right or wrong way, aside from getting into debt in my mind.

  • We are doing the “Secret Santa” this year with all but the little grandson. One name each, $50 suggested as tops (but Mum, the “secret elf” may slip a small gift for each one in there – and I DO mean small and useful or edible). Kids are all grown and 2 have mates so we can do this.

    For our daughter’s and grandson’s birthday (they are 10 days apart) we ALL chipped in to buy a new carseat. Baby is too young to know it’s his birthday or Christmas and daughter requested this one gift. Our greatest gift this year is simply to all be together for Christmas, something that hasn’t happened in MANY years.

  • I needed to hear this. Since I’ve started simplifying my life, I’ve felt pretty guilty the past couple of holiday seasons. I’ll splurge on a few things I wouldn’t ordinarily splurge on during the year, and yes, yesterday my heart *did* skip a beat when I looked at my card balance! But there’s a time and place for things we use and buy during the holidays that aren’t used the same way during the year. I think as long as we keep our materialism in check before we buy oodles of stuff, we should just enjoy the abundance of season.

  • Really love the sentiment of this post. It really is all about making progress and finding ways that work for who and where we are right now. I will likely still spend more than I really like, but it’s so much better than it used to be. I’m even seeing progress with my teen-age kids. I introduced the idea of “something you want/something you need/something to wear/something to read” and braced myself for resistance. They are all on board! Baby steps can get you where you want to go.

    • The want/want/wear/read is becoming very popular. I can see us moving to that when our kids are a bit older. Great to hear it was embraced by your teens!
      I’ve started to realize that our holiday celebrating and gift giving will change from year to year. A lot of it having to do with being overseas. Some years we will travel back to Canada and be involved in more gift giving. Other years we will stay in our new home country or have a destination Christmas with few, if any gifts.
      I want to enjoy all of those celebrations and not get obsessed with if it’s minimalist or not. If I stick to our budget and buy useful gifts, and not too many of them, that works for us.

  • oh, I am struggling with this mightily right now. First we were going to really simplify Christmas, but then I ended up buying a tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. So then I felt guilty and silly about that, and it remains sort of half-heartedly decorated, which I also feel guilty about. We have a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and one on the way in January, and so we are really just beginning to make our own traditions, but I am really agonizing over making them simple and meaningful without being too controlling.

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