Hyper-organised people and bargain-hunters alike: stop what you are doing.
It’s around this time of year that people like you start thinking about Christmas. Don’t get me wrong – having it all bought, paid for and stylishly gift-wrapped by December 1st does give you a great sense of accomplishment. You get to feel smug at the fact that you don’t have to spend half of December trying to front crawl your way through John Lewis, while pondering whether step-brother no. 2 really will use that Homer Simpson shower radio you panic-bought in HMV…
But before you begin dutifully working your way down your ever-expanding list of gift recipients, stop and ask yourself:
Are all these presents really worth the time, effort and – most importantly – the money you’re about to pour into them? Are they really going to be that gratefully received? Could you even be saddling the people you care about with an unnecessary financial burden in your pursuit of spreading the festive joy? (I’ll explain this last one in a moment…).
One man’s gift is another man’s garbage…
There’s a scene in the Christmas movie (or the Dr. Seuss book, if you’re old-school) ‘The Grinch who stole Christmas’, where the title character confronts the town of Whoville with the truth about their lovingly-chosen Christmas presents: “Gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts gifts. Do you wanna know what happens to your gifts? They all come to me… IN YOUR GARBAGE! I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found in the dump!”
The irony of this movie is that, while families across the country are snuggling up to watch it, basking in the fuzzy glow of a story about a town that managed to eschew pointless materialism in favour of love and family and chowing down on mountains of food… under the Christmas tree a few feet away there will invariably be bad neckties, gimmicky gadgets and assorted cupboard clutter: all destined to end up on the rubbish heap.
Could it be that we’ve lost the plot when it comes to Christmas spending?
Are we actually more out of touch with reality than Jim Carey in a hairy green costume dressed as Santa Claus?
Martin Lewis, founder of consumer advice website moneysavingexpert.com, certainly thinks so.
Lewis wrote in a recent newsletter to his email subscribers: “tit-for-tat giving means that we often end up with tat”. It’s a repetition of the same message he’s been putting out every year for the last nine years: don’t buy unnecessary Christmas presents. He even came up with the idea of a ‘Pre-Christmas-NUPP’: a.k.a. a pre-Christmas ‘No Unnecessary Presents Pact’ – where you send an email to your nearest and dearest asking that you both pledge not to buy each other a present this year. The idea is that:
- You only get presents for the people closest to you, and make sure the presents you do get are items your loved ones actually want/will use.
- Giving gifts for the ‘joy of giving’ can actually do more harm than good, as you then make people who may not be able to afford it feel obliged to reciprocate.
- You don’t have to cut out gift-giving entirely – you can do a ‘lite’ version where you agree a spending cap of £5 or £10, and/or a do Secret Santa – again with an agreed spending limit.
Take the weight of unnecessary Christmas presents off your mind
Lewis wrote recently: “It’s nine years since I first braved this subject, expecting a snowstorm of protest. Instead, year after year more join in, like Julia who tweeted me,“@MartinSLewis, finally took your advice and told my family I can’t afford Christmas presents. What a weight off my mind. Thank you.”
With reports coming in last Christmas revealing that over 50% of Brits turn to loans and credit cards to fund their Christmas shopping, and that those who do get into debt don’t typically pay off their Christmas bills until April, it’s time for us to re-evaluate what Christmas really means for us, and whether all this debt and hardship is really worth it.
So: are you ready to get in touch with your inner Grinch and take a stand against unnecessary Christmas presents?