Updated on 12.20.10

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Christmas Thoughts Edition

Trent Hamm

This week, I went through the archives of several of my favorite personal productivity and personal finance blogs and found some of my favorite articles they had written about the Christmas season. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

A Non-Consumer Christmas: Simple Gifts for Kids and Grown-Ups Our biggest challenge, honestly, is limiting who we give gifts to. We have deeply enjoyed giving our homemade gifts to neighbors, people who provide services for us, and countless others this year. (@ get rich slowly)

What to do with holiday cards? Recycle! I’m going to save a pile of this year’s cards for use in 2011. (@ unclutterer)

Happiness is…a Beautiful Scent: Fireplace, Baby Powder, Christmas Tree. This absolutely hits a home run in terms of expressing why I love real trees at Christmas instead of artificial ones. It’s the aroma. (@ happiness project)

Holiday Safety Tips for Home and Away I really advocate for people asking their police department for a “vacation watch.” (@ frugal dad)

5 Ways To Deal With Holiday Stress & Battle The Christmas Blues My biggest problem is a mild case of seasonal affective disorder that I seem to get each winter no matter what I do to try to prevent it. (@ the digerati life)

What Christmas Is NOT About The reason I write about Christmas so much is because it’s the best opportunity I have during the year to reconnect with a lot of people in my life and show them that they’re appreciated. There are many, many friends and family members whose schedules make it difficult for us to meet up, but almost all of us have time off at Christmas for each other. (@ man vs. debt)

The Case Against Buying Christmas Presents Absolutely. Make some instead. (@ zen habits)

35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget Even better, these are gifts you can give your children all throughout the year. (@ becoming minimalist)

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  1. Michelle says:

    Do police actually offer that service? Because when I called to ask our local police, they actually laughed at me. Then suggested timers and having a neighbor pick up the mail.

  2. Johanna says:

    Some of the anti-consumerist sentiments in these articles are really blown out of proportion.

    Too much waste involved in wrapping presents? I used less paper for gift wrap this year than I receive in junk mail on a single day. Too much fuel wasted in Christmas shopping? I’ll be using far more fuel when I travel tomorrow to see my family. Children are starving in Africa? There’s no reason you can’t give some money to help them *and* buy gifts for your loved ones. People don’t like/use/appreciate/remember the gifts you give? That’s probably the easiest one of all: Think for a few minutes, then give gifts that they *will* like/use/appreciate/remember.

    “It’s the thought that counts” is one of a few phrases in the English language that is almost always used to mean the exact opposite of what it says. (Some others that I know of are “no pun intended” and “I don’t mean to interrupt.”) Usually when people say “it’s the thought that counts,” they’re trying to justify giving any old present that, most likely, is completely inappropriate for the recipient – that is, something thoughtless. Maybe the “thought” that they think should count is the fact that they thought to give you a present at all.

    But the truly thoughtful gifts I’ve received, I do use and appreciate often. A few of them have even changed the course of my life. I’m really glad that the people who gave me those gifts didn’t hop on the “gifts are all useless junk” bandwagon.

  3. Katie says:

    I agree, Johanna. I mean, I’m all for not giving “useless consumerist junk” but I avoid that by . . . giving thoughtful presents most of which, yes, are consumer products because we live in a specialized society which means that other people can make most items I would give as a present better than I can (unless someone wants a really killer legal brief for Christmas; give me a call). This idea of “consumerism is terrible – just give charitable donations/nothing/a rock you find on the street!” strikes me as throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The fact that gift giving can become an obligation or be taken too far (and the fact that charitable giving is a wonderful thing) doesn’t mean that giving loved ones thoughtful presents, store bought or handmade, isn’t also a wonderful thing. In fact, gift giving is cross-cultural and is one of the very basics of human society – see The Gift by Marcel Mauss.

  4. Cheryl says:

    Our small community has a police check service. They come by once a week and check around your property. It’s not staffed by police officers, though, but by trained volunteers.

  5. Jackie says:

    Am I the only one that finds it funny that a blog called “unclutterer” inspires someone to save a stack of junk for a year in order to save a few dollars.
    I like the idea of making gift tags out of cards, but I also like it in the context of 1. You don’t already have a box of gift tags, 2. Use them immediately, not save for next year. If I didn’t have a box of gift tags from YEARS ago that still isn’t empty, I’d be cutting up my xmas cards right now, after all they’re just CLUTTERING up my mantle.

  6. David says:

    Our community has much the same thing – people who come by once a week and check around your property. They are known as “burglars”.

    If more paper is used for junk mail than for gift wrap, this does not mean that gift wrap is not a waste. It means only that gift wrap is less of a waste than junk mail. By the same token, if you use more fuel to visit your family than to do the shopping, this does not mean that the fuel you use to do the shopping is not wasted.

    But I have the message. Next year I resolve to move next door to my closest relatives, make them something for Christmas out of tin cans and potatoes, and not wrap it up. That way I can feel almost as insufferably smug when reading these blogs as the authors did when writing them.

  7. Another Katie says:

    MutantSuperModel wrote an excellent response to the “What Christmas is Not About” blog post. I also appreciate the comments of the posters who agree that exchanging gifts does not have to be meaningless, frustrating, ruin your budget,…

    I am also tired of the suggestion to give “meaningful” homemade gifts instead of store bought. How meaningful a gift is depends on the thought and effort that went into giving someone a gift they would enjoy, not where it was made. I have received thoughtful and thoughtless gifts from both categories. A homemade gift can be just as thoughtless as something picked up at the store at the last minute. And, a store bought gift can be very meaningful and useful gift.

  8. Interested Reader says:

    Donna Freedman over at Surviving and Thriving had a great post about how people should volunteer and make donations throughout the year and not just because it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving.

    I get really frustrated with anti consumerist and anti tv people who seem to think only in extremes. Somehow people can ONLY give meaningful gifts if they are homemade, buying Christmas gifts ALWAYS means going into debt and being stressed out, if you enjoy it, then obivously it’s feeling a hole of emptiness in your life. And of course people can’t go out and buy gifts AND volunteer AND make donations AND spend quality time with their families.

    The tv issue I have is so many people act like anyone who watches a commercial turns into a mindless zombie heading to the nearest mall moaning “Buy buy BUUUUUUUUUUUUY” and maxing out their credit cards.

    I love buying Christmas presents, not because I’m a shopaholic who goes into debt, but because I like finding neat gifts for people. I suck at homemade gifts making them is not enjoyable for me.

    What I do like is coming up with cool gifts. This year my brother wanted a wok (we’ve already done Christmas). So I got him a wok, and for his stocking a set of chopsticks. I also picked up some seasonings (at places like Marshalls) and a stif fry cook book, plus some prep bowls. It’s a whole theme I ran with and he loved it.

    I know so many people who stay within their budget, buy awesome gifts their family will love, spend quality time with their families and don’t feel anything is wrong.

    Obviously if there is stuff out of whack and there are problems it needs to be fixed. But this whole idea that all people are slaves to consumerism is just ridiculous.

  9. Marle says:

    I hate the waste of wrapping paper. When I go to Christmas at my dad’s house, there’s always a huuuuuge pile of wrapping paper and tissue paper for my stepmom to deal with. She’s ok with it, but it always drives me nuts. So when my husband and I started doing Christmas together, I took shoeboxes and wrapped the boxes and the lids separately. So now we just put the present in the box, then tie a ribbon on it to keep the lid on. Christmas morning, the only waste is ribbon, if that, and we put all the boxes in one big box in the basement for next year. It’s frugal and timesaving, as we have not bought wrapping paper since we got married, and we don’t have to worry about having gift boxes for shirts and other gifts without boxes.

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