7 Ways to Avoid the Christmas Crazies

In our overly politically correct society, it's a conundrum that marketing around the annual birth date of Jesus Christ becomes fiercer each year.  Just what is the purpose of Christmas trees sans angels and the rabid replacement of "Christmas" with "holidays"?  Most people have no self-reflective radar on the meaning behind trudging off to the mall and digging into debt for some nebulous tradition.  After all, how do "holidays" motivate folks to buy, if not out of obligation?

I don't offend easily, but the aggressive Christmas marketing strategies are enough to make me boycott gift buying.  If you want to take a stand against commercializing Christmas, you don't have to swear off buying completely.  Just be smart and follow these savvy shopping tips to avoid becoming a "holiday" lemming.    

1. Make your own gifts.
Get Rich Slowly has an amazing list of 34 easy-to-make Christmas gifts.  Who doesn't love a jar of hot chocolate mix or a homemade gingerbread house kit?

2. Never enter a mall without a list.  No browsing allowed.
The music alone will lure you to the cash register.  I'm convinced stores pipe in cookie scent too.  If you must go to a physical location to purchase, enter at your own risk with an agenda in hand.

3. Avoid shrink-wrapped gift packages.
Nobody likes the generic body lotions and candle sets.  I'm sorry if you've been that aunt thus far, but it's time to stop.  No more gift sets.

4. Give only to charities.
Shop within your budget for a selected charity.  Don't give blindly, but rather research each option and make a few phone calls to verify what they need.  Nonprofit organizations have specific requirements for donations, so don't assume your benevolent gesture will be appreciated unless it matches their needs.

5. Shop online only.
Recognize your Pavlovian nature and avoid the "holiday" mall environment all together.  Most stores offer free shipping this time of year--you'll probably find better deals online anyway. Depending on who you're shopping for look for a DSW free shipping code on shoes or great cooking supplies with Williams Sonoma free shipping. 

6. Spend time learning about Christmas Day.
If you've been indulgent to your children in the past and want to scale back, don't make the big reveal Christmas morning.  Spend several weeks ahead of time studying the reason for the season and help the kids reach a reasonable conclusion about the proper place for family gifts.

7. Suggest a secret Santa gift swap.
Rather than purchase twelve tiny gifts for immediate family, initiate a gift swap.  This frees up a lot of cash to purchase one nice gift rather than a bunch of junk.  Set a price limit on the swap to avoid huge discrepancies in gifts.

If you scoff at going against the "holiday" grain, it may be because you are lazy.  You'd rather procrastinate a thoughtful gesture until five days before Christmas only to find yourself racing through the mall during extended hours spending far too much on the credit card.  Participating in a meaningful Christmas celebration will take more preparation up front.  Enjoy Christmas responsibly, and keep it in its right place.

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