Christmas 2005 was my best Christmas EVER. I spent the day knee deep in mud, shared one slice of Christmas cake with my family and sang Christmas carols with complete strangers. We were travelling to the Maasai Mara in Kenya in a rusty old minivan and spent 14 hours of Christmas Day waiting, patiently, to cross a flooded river. There were no presents, no decorations and no lavish commercial displays of affection. Instead my family laughed until our bellies ached, created impromptu no-prop’s Christmas games and made memories we’ll cherish forever.
Last year Christmas spending cost each Australian AUD $1,079.00. Research by the Commonwealth Bank suggested that Aussie’s spent $7.6 billion on gifts and $4.6 billion on Christmas holidays, whilst research in the USA claimed that the average American spent more than 15 hours in the three weeks before Christmas shopping for gifts. As part of writing my book Underspent I interviewed hundreds of men and women in Australia, UK, New Zealand and USA about their shopping addictions and buying habits. They said their biggest fears about quitting shopping, buying and spending were making do with what they already own and have (most of us own lots of stuff but don’t think it’s enough) and feeling unprepared
Many of us believe that Christmas is now more about spending money. For most of us, Christmas shopping, buying and the subsequent credit card debts are triggered by depression, low self-esteem, peer pressure, past poverty, family issues, relationship problems and passive aggression.
So I’m asking “Christmas. Is it about the Brussel Sprouts, not the buying & spending?”
Yes, personally, I believe it is.
I didn’t buy anything new or 2nd hand during 2014. I quit shopping for 365 days. I saved 38% of my take-home salary without dramatically changing my life. It was one of the best years of my life. I’m doing it again in 2016. Here are 5 things I did last Christmas
1. Presence is the present
I spent time not money with the people I love and cherish. I switched off the TV, the phone, the computer and the social media. I reconnected. I gave people my quality time not my money. That meant helping my friend Deb with the homeless shelter soup kitchen, long beach walks with my best friends and good fun days out with my family. In today’s frantically busy world an hour of time is priceless and so sharing each other’s presence really is the greatest present of all.
I wasn’t too embarrassed to re-gift. My Great Aunt May was a serial re-gifter. Years ago it was frowned upon but with the rise of swapping, sharing and restaurant doggie bags anything goes. I found precious books I’d read and loved, I wrote a personal message inside and I re-gifted them to someone who I knew would appreciate that book just as much as me. Happiness doesn’t have to be purchased in a store.
3. Experiences and memories
It’s the memories we make, not the presents we receive that we’ll remember for years to come. I gave my family experiences to treasure not something manufactured and wrapped in plastic. I expressed my love with things they love; movie tickets, adventure park passes and coffee vouchers.
4. Borrowing not buying
I borrowed. If I need extra plates, cutlery or chairs I borrowed them from neighbours. Moses henry Cass said “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”. Our world’s resources are limited so I borrow what I need, if and when, I actually need it.
5. Contentment not comparing
Everyone is on a different life journey and we all have a different story. Let’s not compare our Christmas with others instead let’s enjoy the one we have. Let’s be content with what we own, the size of our home, the age of our car and the dynamics of our families. Sure, the Smith family have an argument – or three! – on Christmas Day but Christmas, we know, is a celebration of being together, not the perfect tree.
It all sounds easy, right?
If we really want Christmas to be about the Brussels, not the buying let’s share each other’s presence as the greatest present of all, let us not be too embarrassed to re-gift, let’s give the people we love memories to treasure, let’s be happy borrowing not buying and let us be content with everything that we are and have. That way, even if we are knee deep in mud with only one slice of cake to serve all four, we’ll make Christmas memories we’ll cherish forever.
Do you agree?
What inspires you at Christmas?
What would you do for family and friends instead of buying gifts?