• Abbie Tibbott

Gift Giving and Guilt

It's the run up to Christmas, and it's hard to imagine life without the pandemic. This year has had far-reaching financial complications for everyone. I lost the majority of my income that I would have made this year, and I know I'm not alone. Not all is lost for me; work is picking up and the money is trickling in, but I can't help but wonder how people will cope with the pressures of Christmas this year.

The act of giving gifts at Christmas is something we are introduced to at an early age. Presents in a Santa sack or put around the tree was a big part of my childhood, as was writing a letter to Santa or looking through the Argos catalogue. Now I'm older, I don't feel the need to receive gifts, and much prefer offers of company or acts of service. It's lovely to get a gift, but I'd much rather know that friends and family aren't worrying about getting money together at the cost of their own Christmas enjoyment.

This year, I wanted to make some adjustments in my attitude towards gift giving, to help support my bank account, small businesses and the environment. My Christmas shopping is done and dusted, so I thought I'd share some of my methods.

Choosing who to gift to

Typically, I'd give to a wide pool of friends and family at Christmas, and set a general budget to cover the costs. I'd also be able to give my gifts in person. This year, things are different, and parcels aren't the cheapest to post. To save on postage fees, boxes and parcel tape, I've seriously limited the number of people I'm giving gifts to this year. Instead, those people who don't live close to me will receive a nice card instead, with the promise of hopefully getting together next year for a meal or weekend trip. I've found people to be very understanding of my reasons not to post gifts, and have found that it has relieved pressure from them too. Calling it quits means there is less worry, but it doesn't meant that you care any less.

I'm only sending one parcel this year, and the gifts inside were carefully chosen to fit the weight allowances for a small second class parcel. The box I used was recycled from an online purchase, and the gifts had actually been requested, bar one small surprise, so I know that my money was well spent.

Making the numbers work

Money is tighter this year, so I wanted to set a strict budget for online and in-person spending. I'd always had a loose budget, but this time I kept a running total of my purchases to make sure I wasn't overspending.

I price compared online before I bought anything in person, so shopping online saved me a lot of money this year. I found that supermarkets were a good place to pick up gift sets, and I made use of Black Friday sales to pick up the last of my gifts that I was hoping would drop in price. For any sales on Amazon, I used a site called Camel Camel Camel (https://uk.camelcamelcamel.com/) to track the price of items, to make sure I was getting a good deal.

Not paying for delivery, multi-buy deals and Black Friday enabled me to stick to a budget. I saved over half price on all purchases of luxury beauty, and got some great deals on websites that waived delivery fees or had a really low minimum spend to qualify for free delivery.

Helping the planet

Shopping online usually results in a lot of unnecessary packaging! It seems to get worse every year, and I wanted to try and find a way to generate less waste this Christmas if at all possible.

To do this, I saved cardboard boxes and flattened them for the future. I'm hoping to move out in the next year, so keeping some boxes handy is never a bad thing. Carboard and padded envelopes were other things I recycled, either to send cards to friends or save with the boxes. Bubble wrap and other non-recyclable filler packaging was either reused as part of wrapping or stored for when I need to post things in the future. Anything else that was recyclable was put out in the green bin.

I also avoided gifts with a lot of plastic packaging, and stayed away from clothes this year as gifts. Fast fashion wastes water, energy and resources, as well as often contributing to the continuing exploitation of lower-paid workers in other countries. I'm not in a position to buy a lot of sustainable fashion, and it's important not to shame other people for their choices, but by avoiding giving clothes this year, I could spend my money on small businesses instead.

These things are really simple and obvious, but taking that little bit of extra time to think about where my waste ended up this year has made me feel a bit better about my impact on the planet. If you don't need boxes or packing, ask friends and family if they need it, or offer it up to the community. There are a lot of pages and groups on Facebook where you can post items for free! It's a great way to help others that may not be in the position to buy boxes, or help out a small business with packaging.

Stopping the guilt

Through my attempt to shop more responsibly this year, I have worked to free myself from the guilt surrounding giving gifts at Christmas. I have made a real effort to shop local and small for personalised gifts that people will love. When shopping big, I remained on task and within budget, and wasn't taken in by gimmicks or pointless stocking fillers,

Consumerism within society has become a massive part of Christmas. Regardless of your views on the meaning of Christmas, I believe that gift giving, if you are able to, should be pressure-free and an activity that brings you joy. If your shopping time is filled with financial worries or strains on how many presents to buy, for whom and for how much, the whole experience loses its magic, and becomes a chore.

If you do not have the money to gift to everyone you would normally this Christmas, use this as an opportunity to free yourself from the guilt that arises. Talk to your friends and family, and explain that this year has been difficult, and you want to be better prepared for the future. Offer a favour instead, or promise a meet up, a coffee or a play date when times are better. Perhaps bake some goodies to drop off at their doorstep, or donate a small amount to a charity of their choosing. These are all low cost and low pressure ways to show your love at Christmas this year.

The big message

The thing I'd most like you to take away from this is that you are under no obligation to give to everyone. Make budgets, ask for suggestions and stay away from the temptation to fill stockings just to make them look full. Buy meaningful gifts, items that will be used and things that will last a long time. Shop small if you can, recycle where you can and when you shop from major retailers make sure to compare prices, delivery fees and offers to make sure you have the best price.

If this year has taught us anything, it's that the people in our lives are the most important, not the things we surround ourselves with. Keep gifts sensible and be honest about your decisions this Christmas, there is always next year!