It happened. Last night, I saw the first news report about the 2012 holiday shopping season. I hate talking about Christmas before Thanksgiving, and I know that it’s not even Halloween, but I understand that a lot of people are already thinking about and budgeting for their holiday shopping.
Last year, I made the resolution that I would only ask for American Made items. This meant that I had to provide a pretty detailed wish list, which I didn’t really enjoy doing, but I couldn’t expect my family to spend hours doing the research that I had done.
This year I’ve come up with 5 resolutions that I’ll apply to my own wish list and to my holiday shopping. I know Christmas isn’t all about the gifts, but it does show people that you care about them when you take the time to give them a carefully selected gift that you know they’ll love, rather than whatever sweater happened to be on sale on Black Friday.
1. Quality over Quantity
When I was younger, I was a counter. I would count how many gifts I had under the tree compared with my brother. I wanted to make sure we had an equal number of gifts, and the same number of large and small gifts. Things like that seemed really important when I was six.
Now that I’m older, I no longer count gifts. I know people say this and it sounds cliché, but I enjoy giving presents more than I like receiving them. And I enjoy giving gifts that I hope the receiver will enjoy for many years. I prefer to spend money on one well-made gift than on five so-so gifts. It may not be as much fun to only open one gift, but if it’s something someone will keep for 10 years versus six months, than it’s worth it.
2. So “No” to Fast Fashion Trends
My all-time favorite colors are blue and gray. The majority of my t-shirts, blouses and sweaters are either blue or gray, and I always seem to gravitate to those colors at the store, even when I tell myself that I’m going to branch out into other colors.
In fashion magazines and on the web, it seems like there is a new “it” color every week. While incorporating these colors into your wardrobe will keep it fresh, it would be impossible to keep up with absolutely every color trend. And you don’t have to in order to be stylish. If you are picking clothes that fit you and look good on you, they will always be in style.
Fast Fashion is something I’ve become very aware of this year. I’ve bought into fast fashion unknowingly for years, but in the last few years I’ve really become more aware of my shopping habits. How could I have a closet full of clothes that were free from rips and tears but still feel like I had nothing to wear? If you’re not familiar with the term, fast fashion refers to the speed of fashion trends and how quickly clothes get to the market. Designers and manufactures have found that consumers want to pay very low prices for clothes, and that low prices matter more than quality. These clothes don’t last long, and they are not meant to. By the time they wear out, they are no longer in style.
“The Story of Stuff” is a great video that covers everything we buy, just not clothes. But there is a very interesting part that talks about clothing trends and how we buy new clothes, even when we don’t need them. It’s a 20-minute video that’s well worth the time.
3. Give and Ask for Less Stuff
For the last few years, my family has gifted a lot of gift cards. While not as instantly gratifying as opening clothes, books and games, when you receive a gift card, you receive an experience. And I’m not referring to gift cards to the mall. I’m talking about gift cards to the local zoo, your favorite restaurant, movie theaters, stage performances, professional sports teams, and beauty spas. Most people remember experiences much more than they remember items. Studies have also shown that in the long run, people find more pleasure from experiences rather than items.
4. Appreciate Handmade
You do not need to be crafty to give handmade gifts. For my parent’s wedding anniversary a few years ago, I went through piles of old family photos, picked out photos spanning all of the years of my parent’s marriage, scanned them and retouched them, and then put the images into a photo book that I made on Kodak.com. My parents loved it and keep on the coffee table in the living room. The cost was relatively low (~$30), but I had put a lot of time and effort into collecting the photos, scanning and retouching them, and then laying the images out in a book. This may not be handmade in the macaroni-and-glitter sense of handmade, but it was a highly-personalized gift.
If you don’t have time to make a handmade gift, then a great place to find handmade items is on Etsy.com. A word of warning though – there are some shops on Etsy that sell mass-produced items. Be sure to read where the items are shipping from, and if a price seems too good to be true, then it is. Handmade items should cost more than items from big box stores because they are made by skilled artists.
5. Buy American Made
If you read my blog on a regular basis, then you know that this is something important to me. But I understand that it’s not important to everyone else. So if someone on my list asks for a specific item, then I’ll buy it for them, even if it’s not American Made. But if someone tells me they want a new wallet for Christmas and that’s all they tell me, then I’m going to buy them American Made.
There are a lot of reasons I believe in buying American Made: it’s better for the environment because of a smaller carbon footprint, it helps the local and national economy, it supports skilled labor, and the US has stricter regulations that keep our products safe (lead in toothpaste, anyone?).
What are some of your holiday shopping resolutions this year? Do you plan on doing anything different this year?