West-wide Christmas consumerism is at an all-time high. The Christmas spending frenzy, despite the COVID downturn, it seems, will not decrease.

A consumer sentiment survey found that around 12% expected to spend more Christmas than in previous years. A third of respondents predicted that they would spend less Christmas this year, similar to previous years. The optimistic outlook of retailers is also evident, with over a third expecting Christmas sales to exceed 2019 by more than 5%.

Holiday spending can lead to significant waste, particularly in unwelcome gifts.

Consider why you feel so pressured to purchase expensive gifts this Christmas. Consider whether there are cheaper alternatives.

These wastes can be costly for both the environment and household budgets. Researchers from Stockholm Environment Institute discovered that people could save 80kg of carbon dioxide per person by not buying unwanted gifts, despite not having much research on the subject.

Why do we feel so obliged to buy?

Gift-giving is an emotional experience. It is not always an enjoyable experience. An Australian survey in 2016 found that 43% felt forced to spend Christmas money.

Research has shown that Christmas gift-giving doesn’t involve altruism. It is more about social pressure to return the favor – expecting to receive a gift and then giving one back. However, reciprocity does not always bring happiness. An experiment from 1990 found that people who give an obligation gift feel negative about it.

Respondents felt that they were restricted in their ability to choose gifts because of perceived obligations. They were expected to gift a matching gift, regardless of price or brand. This creates a psychological reaction; an unfavorable arousal people feel when they are restricted in their ability to choose gifts.

Gifts can be a great way to express appreciation. However, you don’t need to spend a lot. Gift-givers might expect gifts to be more appreciated if they’re expensive, but recipients don’t report such an association.

To save money, you could also regift unneeded gifts. In some circles, gifting is frowned upon in modern society. One study found that regifters were disrespectful, lazy, and inconsiderate.

In certain cultures, gifting is common. An ethnographic study from 1922 describes the Massim archipelago that the Massim people follow. Kula is a method that involves giving necklaces or shells to people living on nearby islands. The recipients would keep the gifts for a time and then pass them on to others.

The islanders believed that gift-keeping was harmful to the act of gift-giving, while regifting was beneficial.

Christmas green

You have many options for gifting a gift that does not harm the environment. There are many options available, especially since COVID-19 forced many online activities. These are just five options.

  • Virtual and digital gifts include gift vouchers, subscriptions to streaming and audiobooks, virtual bouquets, and electronic gift certificates allowing recipients to buy exactly what they want.

At first, virtual travel was a temporary solution. Virtual Christmas events could be gifted, including cooking classes, cocktail-making experiences, or craft workshops.

  • An experience is a gift that offers something. You can experience events such as concerts, jetboating or spa treatments. Or even romantic evening cruises. Experiences are more important for happiness than material purchases, according to research.

Experience gifts can also help to strengthen the social bonds between the receivers and the givers.

  • Gift Regifting: When done correctly, gifting can help prevent unsolicited presents from going to waste.

This is a common practice. According to a survey, 25% of those who get unwanted gifts give them away. Gumtree allows you to purchase unwanted gifts from others. At the time of writing, there were three products for sale: an unworn Maurice Lacroix watch and an electric drum set.

  • Give handmade gifts: Make a connection between the receivers and the givers. Even if the gift is handmade, many recipients perceive it as symbolically representing “love.”

Etsy is the world’s largest marketplace for handmade and vintage treasures. It is possible to create carbon emissions if you buy handmade gifts from other countries.

  • Upcycling: The creative transformation of old objects into new products extends their lifespan. A jar from demolition might be turned into a pot for hanging plants, or an old door could be used to create a tabletop.

Research has shown that people feel special when they hear about the past identity or “story” of upcycled products.

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