Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Deck the Halls on Budget This Year

As the holiday season begins, I can't help but notice that the holiday madness is also beginning. I've seen a few houses with Christmas lights already. Westlake Center in Seattle and Pioneer Square in Portland both have Christmas trees up waiting for tree lighting ceremonies to begin, and not surprisingly, the day after Thanksgiving. I've heard news reports that consumer buying is up despite a down economy and that the average person will spend almost $700 on Christmas presents this year. The Christmas rush is on. With that said, I'm becoming a big believer of beating the system, a system in our country that for some time has led us all to believe that more stuff is better and the only way to have fun (or celebrate) is to buy, buy, buy.

Now I am pumped about the holidays just as much as the next person. But this year I am challenging myself to be creative with a variety of low cost, high return alternatives to a consumer-driven season that too often leaves many of us in a worse position financially to start off the new year. Since the economy isn't getting better in a hurry, now is as good as time as ever to live within our means and enjoy ourselves while we're at it.

Now the intent of this blog post isn't to skip over Thanksgiving like the rest of the retail world (I will write next week about Thanksgiving) but to get an early word in about some of the alternatives I'm thinking of. The first milestone to get past in the holiday madness leading up to Christmas is Black Friday. Black Friday has always been the day that kicks off the holiday shopping season. It is a way for retailers to captivate us with great deals on stuff we never intended to buy. So what is a low cost, high return alternative to Black Friday? I live in West Seattle and this year Sustainable West Seattle, a local sustainability group, is organizing its 3rd annual Money-free Shopping Spree to keep gift giving simple, local, and community-based. Their theme: Enjoy the holiday season and celebrate resourcefulness that recaptures the spirit of giving before commercialism took over the holiday spirit. Such items up for trading- honey, handwoven scarves and hats, edible garden consultation, energy auditing, reusable school lunch bags, seed swapping, and a variety of other food and art crafts and services. If you are unable to attend, think about doing something similar with family and friends. It is sure to be a party!

(Stay tuned! Upcoming Eat What You Grow blog posts will give more tips on low cost, high return holiday giving ideas including making handmade Christmas cards, ideas for unique and creative Christmas gifts, wrapping paper ideas made from reusable or found materials, and other fun ways of celebrating the season on budget.)

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