Christmas is coming and we are all super excited (well, we are anyway). So how much of it for you is to do with family, friends, full bellies, festive tipples, laughs, being merry and all that good stuff? And how much of it is to do with consumerism? Extravagant gifts, the perfect wrapping paper, cards, advent calendars, stockings, decorations... the list goes on. Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with spending over the Christmas period, after all who doesn’t love to tear open beautifully wrapped packages? We are trying to encourage you to think beyond consumerism and to get down to what really matters, what really makes a difference. With Black Friday coming up at the end of this week, it is extremely easy to get caught up in the sales, discounts and roped into making unnecessary, wasteful purchases. Below is our guide on how you can try to avoid this and spend your hard earned cash in alternative ways this year.
1 Purchase from an independent retailer
When you make a purchase from an independent retailer or a small business, not only is it the more ethical choice, but a higher percentage of your money actually stays in the local economy with comparison to when making a purchase from a larger business. Independent retailers generally also tend to stock quirkier or ‘one off’ items that you’d struggle to commonly find elsewhere and therefore the gifts tend to have more significance or sentimental value. Keep an eye out for our soon to come ‘Top 10 local producers / indie businesses to support over Christmas’ write-up for more specific suggestions.
Our Suggestion: Love Cambridge Card
2 Gifts that make a difference
Many of us wish to make regular donations or to contribute towards charitable causes, however with more transparency now than ever - such as what percentage of your money actually goes directly towards the stated cause; we are becoming more cautious and thus hesitant and reluctant to ‘give back’. There are however companies that are really making a difference, who are ensuring that your money does actually go where they says it’s going. What’s more is that you can choose which specific causes you would like your money to go towards supporting rather than sometimes ‘blindly’ donating and leaving it to the discretion of the charity.
Our Suggestion: Good Gift
3 Gift a plant
The gift that keeps on giving… If you are considering purchasing flowers, why not try a plant instead? Not only is it a fact that plants make your happier, it is also the more sustainable choice (if you are able to keep it alive). Plants make for a simple, yet effective way of decorating a space, they hold sentimental value and gifting a plant enables the recipient to share this story for years to come. It is often easy to associate having a plant with the dreaded thought of upkeep and maintenance, however it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way, If you are worried about being able to keep the plant alive, try a low maintenance plant like a cacti or succulent or speak to somebody at the stall on the Market Square for guidance.
Our Suggestion: The Manor Florist, Cambridge Farmer’s Market, Darwin Nurseries.
4 Re-home a pet animal
‘A Dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ - consider re-homing a rescue dog; If in your own home you have young children, this could be the perfect gift. It could be a way of introducing responsibility and chores in the house from early on and also a way for children to connect and bond with animals to avoid developing a fear of dogs, cats or other animals. As the old saying goes ‘A Dog is a man’s best friend’, you might know somebody that is particularly lonely and could do with some love and affection, a new presence could be very welcome into their home.
5 Feed a neighbour
Do you have any neighbours that could do with a sprinkling of festive fairy dust? Many of those in our neighbourhoods that we interact with on a regular basis are in vulnerable positions. Have a think about any OAPs, a single mother or father, or anybody that might be particularly lonely or might be struggling this Christmas and take over a festive hamper. You could fill it with wine, cheeses, fruits, nuts, ingredients to cook up a Christmas dinner or whatever else it may be that they would appreciate. If you’re feeling particularly festive you could invite them over for Christmas dinner. If you can’t think of anyone in particular but like the sounds of gifting a hamper then get on board with the Hitchin Partnership ‘Christmas Hamper Appeal’.
6 Regift an existing item
We all have at least one pair of shoes, a dress or a shirt that still has the labels on, is in pristine condition and has never even left the packaging let alone been used or worn. Perhaps you made an impulsive purchase or the item had been reduced significantly and you convinced yourself that you would need it for a special occasion at some point. Perhaps it was a gift from last Christmas or from a previous birthday and you’ve not had any need or use for the item, or maybe it was just love at first sight as you walked into the store but it no longer appeals to you. Whatever the case is, it has been sat around in your cupboard for months if not years. The fact of the matter is that you are never going to use it, so why not give it to somebody else that might?
7 Give vs buy
This year you and your friends might like to try something a little bit different; in replacement of where you would usually purchase a gift for each of your friends, you could all instead each give one item away, against each person that you would have made a purchase for. By doing this you can accomplish many things: 1. Clear out all of your overstocked cupboards, keeping only what you require and use, 2. Donate or send items where they will be of use to somebody else, 3. Spend time together sorting through your items, 4. Save money on gifts.
8 Donate vs gift
What is the total amount of money that you would be spending on Christmas gifts this year? Our guess is ‘a lot’. There are a lot of things that you could do with ‘a lot’ of money, our suggestion however, is that you take a little time to consider which causes resonate with you and where you believe your money could really make a difference. Then find a charity that works towards meeting your requirements and expectations and make your donation, this could be in the form of money, food or even toiletries.
Our Suggestion: FoodCycle, Jimmy’s, Winter Comfort.
9 Do vs have
Have you and your friends / family / co-workers used the phrase “we should”? We know we have. It is a phrase that is commonly thrown around yet very rarely translates into anything more than just that: a phrase, so what is stopping you from following through? Time? Money? This might just be the perfect opportunity to get something organised. Which activities / experiences have you all expressed an interest in? Paintballing? Ice skating? Wine / gin / beer tasting? A cookery workshop? Camping? Visiting a theme park? Whatever it is, it might be an idea to refrain from purchasing each other gifts this year and instead use that money to spend on organising activities, sharing experiences and creating memories.
Our Suggestion: Cambridge Cookery School, Satyam Yoga Centre, The Wellbeing Warehouse, The Cambridge Gin Laboratory, Anna’s Flower Farm.
10 Gift a monthly, quarterly or annual subscription
Subscriptions as gifts are wonderful because the truth is that most of us consider signing up to the gym or a yoga centre, for Netflix (or Gaia), Hello Fresh, Apple Music, a Magazine or for a monthly treat that drops through our letterboxes. However it is just that: a treat, as adults we tend less to treat ourselves and tend more to treat others. This is one way to gift so that the recipient can look forward to and enjoy your gift again and again.
Our Suggestion: Lifebox, Birchbox, Gaia, Graze, Books That Matter
If you are keen on material goods for gift-giving then be organised and plan ahead. Most of the time we end up spending more than what we set out to spend simply due to lack of organisation and last minute impulse purchases. In addition to this, much of that time, the gifts that we do end up purchasing tend not to be very personal and tend more to be fairly generic, how many times have you ended up gifting wine, candles, a perfume and such? If you are going to end up doing that anyway, why not buy it at the beginning of the year for a fraction of the price? The Boxing Day and January sales are always a bit manic but everything goes down in price even online (for those of you that prefer to avoid the large herds in shops). Save yourself time, hassle, worry and most of all money by doing all or part of your gift shopping in the sales.