7 Things I Don’t Buy for the Holidays

The day after Halloween, one of our local radio stations switched to 24/7 Christmas music. The day after Veteran’s Day, our nation’s flag was replaced with wreaths all around the city. It’s not even Thanksgiving, yet Christmas trees are on display at the mall and holiday music is playing throughout stores. Instead of getting me into the “holiday spirit,” it’s getting me disappointed in the commercialization of our holidays. While I love giving my children gifts for Christmas, here are 7 things I don’t buy for the holidays.

1. Anything on Thanksgiving Day

When I was a child, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. It wasn’t about the pressure of finding someone the perfect gift or the stress of parties, decorating, and shopping . It was about spending time with family.

If you read my post about why I became an oncology psychologist, you may remember how I was inspired by my cousin Alyson. She was born on Thanksgiving Day. Although the date of Thanksgiving changes every year, we would always celebrate her birthday on this holiday. Even now that she’s gone, I can’t help to think of her and be thankful for the time we had together and how many lives she touched during her short time on this earth.

Thanksgiving is the day each year we are to reflect on that for which we are  grateful.

2. Wrapping paper, gift bags, or disposable boxes

Rather than buying something just to have it end up in a landfill, I save the bags and boxes received as gifts and reuse them. I also have some reusable boxes with adorable penguins that I’ve had for 20 years. In recent years, Amazon gifts the kids received from their GG come wrapped in cloth bags, which we reuse every year.

One year, I used one of my reusable boxes for a gift for an extended member of my family. My heart sank as I watched him open his gift, then immediately throw the box away. I retrieved the box from the large trash bag that was overflowing with wrapping paper. Since that day, I decided to save our reusable boxes and bags for my children or people who would care for them.

People who I know just throw the wrapping away will get old bags and boxes from previous years (hee-hee).

My fancy penguin boxes. After I finished taking this pic, my oldest and youngest both tried to sit in them (argh!).

3. Tree skirt

Overcoming functional fixedness, when our last tree skirt reached the end of its life, we looked for ideas to upcycle things we already had that could replace it.

For a few years we used a Christmas-themed table-cloth. Now, we just wrap a red blanket around the base of the tree.


4. A new Christmas tree

My artificial tree is looking rather sad. We purchased it for $25 eight years ago and the fake needles are starting to fall off. We’ve considered buying a new tree, but are torn on what to do.

Artificial trees are full of chemicals and will just sit in the landfill. Live trees are really expensive (in 2016, they averaged $75 each) and I don’t want to pay to watch a tree dying in my living room.

I will hold on to my sad little tree for now.

In the future, we may get a potted tree that we can decorate during Christmas, then plant in our yard when it has outgrown its pot. (Or maybe we’ll decorate our mascot money tree?)

Our sad tree with homemade ornaments and red blanket for a tree skirt

5. Ornaments and Decorations

Although our tree itself looks sad, what makes it so special is that it’s decorated with homemade ornaments. My step-mother started this tradition of making ornaments when my youngest son was born. Each year, she would help him make ornaments and artwork to give to us as gifts.

Years later, our tree and house are now filled with hand-crafted ornaments and artwork made by my children. This is a holiday tradition that I am excited to continue.

Optical Illusion: Reindeer or Feet?

6. Disposable items

We will be hosting Christmas this year! Although I’ve not reached the point of zero-waste, I strive to have events I host as minimal waste as possible.

A few years ago when we hosted our first Christmas, I purchased enough plates and bowls (on sale for $1 each!), cloth napkins, and mason jars (for beverages) for our extended family. We got neutral colors and designs that will fit any occasion. My family uses these items daily, so they are not just used for the holidays.

For each event I host, the menu is carefully planned so that dinner will fit on one plate and dessert in one bowl. This way, we do not have to run a load of dishes during the party, We also don’t need to buy disposable items.

To save money and for the good of our earth, I do not buy paper plates, bowls, plastic utensils, plastic cups, paper napkins. And unless I’m traveling or somewhere without clean water, I am very much against our country’s bottled water craze.

24 bowls and 24 plates
The platinum ring adds a touch of class to my $1 plates and bowls

7. Black Friday Deals

Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist once wrote, “Anything that cost you your peace is too expensive.”

Each year, people are seriously injured or arrested stampeding into stores and fighting each other over things.

There have been 10 people killed and 111 people injured during Black Friday shopping. There’s actually a site called Black Friday Death Count that lists each injury and death since 2006. I don’t know whether to laugh at the absurdity or cry at the disappointment in my fellow humans after reading this site.

No, I will not be shopping on Black Friday. I took the day off work this year and plan to spend it with my friends. If it’s a nice day, we’ll take our children to the park.

What I Will Buy

There are things I will buy this holiday season. But that’s a story for another day.

Photo by Annie Spratt. Thanks for the idea, Annie!

Take Home Message

I try to keep in mind that we vote with our dollars. I’m not perfect. Like everyone else, I am just doing my best to raise my children to be happy and healthy.

But I also want them to grow up in a world where people are more important than profits.

This holiday season, as always, I aim to spend in accordance with my values.


What are some things you have decided not to buy during the holidays?

You May Also Like:

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2 thoughts on “7 Things I Don’t Buy for the Holidays”

  1. Don’t buy anything from a shop for holiday! You can design cards using your own drawings or pictures. Another idea is to scan a beloved family photo from an old album and send digital versions to everyone who will enjoy it. Thanks!

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