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3 ways to make your holidays green while saving some too

It’s the same complaint every year:

The Holidays are too commercialized.  Everything is about buying, buying, buying under the mask of “giving.”  Why is the Holiday Spirit now all about consumerism?

holiday-spendingProbably because our whole society and culture has become centered on consumerism.  I talk about that in my booklet,The Sustainability Factor (linked at left).  Luckily, many of us are bucking that consumerist trend, especially in today’s economic climate with most people looking at some challenging financial times.

Here are three things that will make your holiday more green while also keeping more green in your wallet.  Before we get into that, though, let me give you one piece of unsolicited financial advice: leave your credit cards at home this season and purchase your gifts and goodies with only the cash you can spare to do so with.  Debt is enslavement and should be reserved only for those essentials you must have and cannot avoid, like housing.  Going into debt so that you can have a huge holiday meal, buy meaningless gadgets or jewelry as gifts, etc. is just stupidity.

Now, here’s some more unsolicited advice to make your holiday green:

1) Serve simple, healthy foods in abundance and make the occasion all about the gathering and camaraderie of family and friends instead of about the food and entertainments.  Make meals pot luck, buffet-style, or serve it in courses with smaller portions per course.

holidaymealpotluckIf you have a family full of cooks, then pot luck allows everyone to get involved.  Grandma’s awesome pie recipe?  Yep, she brought it and gets to bask in the credit for the great dessert.  Aunt Madge’s savory gravy?  Ya, that’s what coats the turkey, people, so eat up.

Buffet-style is very suitable to pot luck and makes for easier serving and more interaction amongst the participants.  A natural line forms and those who can’t stand in it can be served by those who can.  Serving in courses is also a favorite way to make sure everyone knows who made what and to better organize portions and sizes, so that everyone gets some of everything.

2) Use and re-use and be creative with how you decorate, furnish, and so forth for the big gathering.  Why spend $2,000 on a new table and dining set when you can put several tables together with matching cloths or spread out holiday_childrensmaller tables, restaurant style?  What do you need all that decorative lighting for when you could just use the beads and small dcorations you would otherwise be putting on a dead tree?

In fact, a fun activity if your family gathering will include a lot of children is to make the decorating part of their activities during the event so they’re kept busy and entertained.  Provide string and beads ($10 at a craft store means gallons of beads) and let the kids make decorative things to hang from curtain rods, tree branches, or whatever.  Scrap paper, scissors, and crayons make for great additions to this activity.

Use an artificial tree or decorate a live tree in the yard instead of cutting one down (or paying a bunch of money for one at a lot).  Dead trees in your home are a fire hazard, are messy, and, well, you just killed a tree so you can decorate it to look like it’s not really dead.  Isn’t that kind of dumb?

3) Gifts can be simple, mean something, or be exchanged thoughtfully instead of being all about who spent the most money.  For the adults, set up a gift exchange so that everyone gets something, instead of everyone showing up with a huge pile of presents for all comers.  This saves everyone money, makes for special connections between the “Secret Santa” (which in my experience is rarely “secret”) and the recipient.

holiday-card-couponHome-made gifts or gifts that have a lot of sentiment behind them are best.  They’re also usually the cheapest.  Instead of expensive jewelry, useless gadgets, or lame, generic movies or books, why not try for something more meaningful?

If you’re Secret Santa for cousin Chip, maybe you can give him a painted rock in a frame with a picture and on the card to go with it, a note that says, “Remember when we were kids and we threw rocks at each other?  Well, this one’s for you, pal.”  Not only will it get a good laugh when presented, but  I guarantee that picture will go on the wall or desk and be remembered much more fondly than the lame pocket organizer or book about cars you were going to spend money on instead.

Spending twenty minutes instead of twenty bucks on a gift always ends up making for a better gift.

Those are three basic tips for greening up your holidays and your wallet.  These work for most holidays, but specifically for Thanksgiving and Christmas or whatever your culture’s equivalent is.