Tips for Consuming Less During the Holidays

Lorna Mitchell/flickrA few weeks before Thanksgiving, one of my daughters announced that she needed to pick up a “Secret Santa” gift for one of her upcoming Girl Scout events. This announcement was made at the last minute of course (as is the habit of 12-year-olds). Our outing then had an extra stop; Target was her suggestion. Personally, I stepped off the consumerism bandwagon some time ago, but this concept is hard to convey to preteens that get bombarded with tons of advertising in their daily lives.

At the department store, the Holiday shopping season was in full swing. The aisles were full of cheap imported goods and many shoppers were snatching up all of the latest “deals.” In the last five years or so I have fallen into the group of folks that “just say no” to the hype and binge of shopping during the holiday season. My Black Friday mornings have been spent, relaxing at my cabin and enjoying a nice cup of coffee, rather than waiting in line at a retail outlet for some early bird specials.  For those of you who are looking for ways to cut back this time of year, try some of these tips. 

Stick to the List

This may just be a hard copy list handed to you by your potential gift recipients or it might be some ideas in your head. Either way, sticking to it is always a good plan. If you are walking through a store and see some new shinny trinket…keep walking by.  If the item on your list is not available, you do not need to get something else - you just need to look elsewhere.

Stay Out of the Stores

E-commerce has expanded so much in the last few years that I do not frequent brick and mortar stores that much anymore. Picking up building materials for some of my projects at home and for my clients still has me shopping at Home Depot three or more days a week. But the fact that I do not “go shopping” for the sake of shopping helps immensely. Now and then I may pick up an item for pleasure, but this is usually done online. In most cases a Google search, or a peek on Ebay or leads me to some options, and a few clicks later I’m done. In fact, most of the time I can complete the entire transaction is less time than it takes to even find a parking place at the mall - let alone drive the 40 plus miles to get there and back.

Does it Add Value? Is it Needed or Wanted?

These are the primary questions I ask myself before I make a purchase, whether this item is for personal use or is a gift. While at a client's last week, I was presented with a display of two shiny new vacuum cleaners. My client was proud to show off her new purchases, and explain to me the great deals she got.  Having been in her home before, I knew she already had two vacuums…one a nice Dyson and another smaller lightweight version. These two additional vacuums would bring her total up to four. In my home I only have one, granted an extra one would have been handy last year, when our older one died…but it was replaced fairly quickly so the inconvenience was minimal. To us, our new vacuum added value (it was needed and wanted). Can you say that for every item you buy?

The Latest and Greatest

Often times, impulse purchases happen because we “have to have” the newest version of a product.  This behavior usually manifests itself around hyped-up electronics like the iPhone or Kindle. The consumer may already have a fully functional and serviceable unit but merely wants the “new” version. The burden of new or better can be diluted if the old item is appropriately recycled. Not for scrap per se, but gifted to someone else or donated.

The Gift of Services or Gifts to Charity


In lieu of tangible items, another fine alternative is a gift of service. A great example of this is the gift of a trip to the spa. It provides a minor luxury to the recipient that they might not get for themselves.  Another gift with no “clutter value” is a donation to a charity in the recipient’s name.

That's how I keep my Christmas season sane and easy, right here in the Rocky Mountains.

Kevin Stevens is a Networx writer. Get home & garden ideas on

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