Wednesday, December 19, 2012


While, in a national survey, 70% of Americans said they would welcome less emphasis on Christmas gift giving and spending. (Center for a New American Dream), the average American family is still spending $800 on gifts over the holiday season. Does that sound like a wise quantity of money for a nation that’s still struggling with a recession? Well, it doesn’t to me. What I get from this is that people are reluctant to face up to their reality. The majority is not doing well at all, financially, has no savings, and is getting mixed up in all kinds of new debt – to add to their old debt, much of which was never paid off.

If you’re like most of the 98%, extra holiday spending is going to do a number on your credit card debt and bank balance, so be smarter. Don't let December overspending be the reason for a New Year’s hangover. Consider stopping right now and starting over with a thoughtful gift-giving list that won’t bring on New Year stress. You don’t have to spend so much to have a nice Christmas. Here is some information about how the spirit of Christmas has gone wrong, along with some tips on how to make this December season less of a spending holiday. Remember consumerism is bad both for working families and for the Earth.

We’re still getting this wrong.
The statistics given here were reported in Facebook by This group only posts once per day (Dec. 10).
From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added  food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons - it all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills. (Use Less Stuff)

In the U.S., annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons. (Use Less Stuff)

The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

Half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap and decorate consumer products.

Each year, 50 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S. (Cygnus Group). Of those, about 30 million go to the landfill. (Environmental News Network)

About 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. (EPA) packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons - it all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills. (Use Less Stuff).
So, what can you do?
First, set a limit on total holiday splurges, including gifts and meals. Decide how much money you can afford to spend and stick with it. Make a promise to yourself that what you buy must come safely out of your December salary or bank account. That means you use cash not credit cards (and certainly not cash advances) and still have the right amount left over for your regular monthly payments – for rent, food, gas, etc.

Second, make some hard decisions. If your shopping list includes several people outside of your immediate family, cut that number down to just a few or none at all. You can bake some cookies or make small gift items (cakes, candies, tree ornaments) for all the people you eliminated after some consideration from your original gift list. Remember spreading holiday cheer doesn’t mean spending beyond what’s comfortable. If others don’t understand this, it’s their problem.

Try giving the gift of sentiment and time. Plan for a nice visit or invite people over to your house or go visit them. Then you can share small gifts and many hugs. Call those who are far away to let them know that you’re thinking of them.

Personalized gifts are an economical substitute for more expensive gifts. A small, thoughtful gift, thinking about the person’s interest is worth more than an expensive gift that someone may never use.

Group volunteering for a charitable cause is another good way to celebrate. And that way you can bring season joy to many more people. This kind of activity can even take the place of holiday parties and gift giving. Tell your friends and family that instead of spending on gifts for you and yours, you want them to join you in a group volunteer day. That way all of you will finish by feeling proud of your efforts. And that's a lot better than choking back a sense of doom, thinking about the bills that, all too soon, are going to roll in.

Homemade gifts that I made this year.
I always try to give my family members gifts that I make by hand.  For the grandchildren, I made little fleece pillows for their beds. The children’s gift pillows were in bright colored prints and personalized by embroidered initials. This was not a fast-to-do project and I spent about a month, off-and-on, completing 6 pillows. The total cost was about $40 for the 6 pillows. (That was more expensive than I planned because I bought the wrong type of fleece the first time around and had to buy material twice. The fabric I didn't use is put away awaiting another project.)

For the adults I made one-of-a kind, Christmas tree ornaments. The ornaments featured messages for holiday cheer and the names of the family members. It only took me one afternoon to buy all I needed for the gifts and one 4-hour morning to make four ornaments.

Here’s how I did it. I started with a 4 inch diameter glass iridescent ball (4 to a package) found at a 50% sale in the week before Christmas at a local hobby store. The globes only have a small opening at the top, so care is needed when handling these items.

Now, I had seen a bunch of different kinds of glass globes filled with a variety of materials – everything from natural moss and little sticks to colorful cotton balls, and clay snowman figures in snow made out of salt and others filled to the top with tiny colored candies.

I chose my gift ornament to be personalized with the names of the family members who would gather around their Christmas tree. I also wanted to celebrate this particular season with mention of Merry Christmas 2012 and Happy New Year 2013.


I wanted something printed to express my sentiment.  So, I took out a bunch of old, slightly yellowed printed pages from a couple of books. For color, I bought three of the heavier sets of gift tags, still held together as a page (not separated). The gift tag pages came from the dollar store.

For each ornament, I ink-jet printed a page of text onto a book page - 4 lines of the names of the family members,  4 lines with Merry Christmas 2012 and 4 lines with Happy New Year 2013. I used spray adhesive to glue the gift tags to the printed pages. Then I cut out the printed lines of names and seasonal greetings in thin strips.  I had on hand some light card material in bright green and sky blue and I made more strips to fill up the globe.

I doubled each strip in half without a distinct fold and stuffed them, one by one – fold side down, in the top of the ornament. As I worked, I fluffed up the mix of paper strips with a chopstick. That way I got a nice-looking mix of messages and colors inside each globe.

When I had all the strips in, I returned the metal top of the ornament, added a gift card, and a bow. I put each ornament in a small, pre-decorated cardboard box that I also bought at the dollar store. My total cost for 4 ornaments was about $14, including gift boxes. (I already had red ribbon and the spray glue - those two items together would have been more expensive than the cost of the glass globes.)

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