real life

Meet the family who aren't buying anything this Christmas.

Consumerism at Christmas time is so ingrained into our national psyche. The frenzy of shopping, the avalanche of presents and the resulting mountain of rubbish. Not to mention the financial hangover.

I think it gets to all of us a little bit, but we continue along the same lines every year because of a sense of tradition or because we don’t want to be seen as the stingy one who doesn’t go to any effort.

This is why I actually found it really refreshing to read about a UK woman who works to a ‘buy nothing’ rule for her family at Christmas. Jen Gale has two sons and for the last couple of years she has banned the shopping sprees, the unnecessary gifts and the endless plastic.

Instead of a fresh tree, her family has fashioned one out of cardboard egg cartons. They bake their own cookies to give to family and friends and the boys get gifts that are homemade or second hand.

image via istock

Jen admits that her youngest, 4, did need some persuading to get on board with the concept of a non-commercial Christmas. But she says “It’s down to me to make different memories for them. To break the cycle of buying, and debt, and stress. To step back and step out from the crowd, and to choose a different way.”

Clarifying that she is in no way cancelling Christmas, Jen says that she is simply doing it without the towering stacks of presents, the stress and the debt.

How much of this do they really need? image via istock
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I’ve got to admit, I’m inspired by this. Ever since I went to a screening of ‘Bag It’, a documentary which explains just how much non biodegradable plastic ends up in the ocean, I’ve been making an effort to be mindful of what I buy and throw less away. Watching the film also forced me to take stock of just how many plastic toys my family has accrued in the three years since our child arrived. I can tell you - it’s A LOT. Most of it hardly gets played with. A lot of it is going to end up as landfill.

What a waste.

Going zero on the shopping might be too big a pill to swallow in one go. But it’s possible to make small changes in a gradual way. What I have done this year is reduced the amount I spend at Christmas by keeping an eagle eye on discount websites. That way I’m able to give presents that are good quality but I'm not left scrounging for cash in the new year.

Have some fun baking gifts instead of buying them. image via istock

We are giving the home made angle a crack as well, this year. My husband, a professional brewer, is elbow deep in a special Christmas beer that we’ll be distributing on the day. Instead of buying a Christmas tree, we bring in a potted fruit tree from outside and decorate that. After Christmas it goes back out to its home in the garden, instead of off to the scrap heap.

We’ve also decided that my son will get one large gift from Santa instead of lots of little ones and we have carefully selected something he will enjoy for more than twenty four hours.

Christmas is still a special time that deserve to be enjoyed. But we're taking a leaf out of Jen’s book this year.

Would you ever have a buy-nothing Christmas?

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