Monday, December 01, 2008

What are you giving this year?

Now more than ever, people seem to be giving greater thought to what they buy and give as holiday presents this year. Budgetary concerns, ethical concerns, safety concerns, and environmental concerns all factor in to gift giving decisions. Given the state of world affairs, it's difficult to just go out and buy the first thing you see. Especially on-line, I see people being a lot more concerned and conscientious about what they buy.

There are a lot of options besides going down to the local big box store or mall and paying for mass-produced, imported goods. But what is the right option for you? Buy American? Shop Local? Buy Handmade? Buy Green? Make it all yourself?

With many of our nation's jobs being outsourced, and much of our goods being produced overseas, Buy American may hold a lot of attraction for you. Of course, the fact of the matter is that there are somethings that simply aren't made in America. If you want to buy beads, for instance, you're limited to artist beads and a few lines of findings and charms.

If you see quirky little stores closing down all around your neighborhood, Shop Local is probably the best choice. We all want to keep our favorite shops in business, and in this declining economy, small stores need all the help they can get. Of course, if times are really tough in your town, you may not have many cool places left to choose from.

If you like one of a kind presents, Buy Handmade is a good choice to make. As an added bonus, you're often buying directly from the artist, and helping them put food on the table. The difficulty with this one is that some people are remarkably hard to find handmade items for. I don't know who's harder to buy for: the relatives who already dabble in all sorts of arts and crafts and can make almost everything themselves, or the ones who are too straight-laced to be into the kind of off-beat items that I like to buy at craft fairs and on Etsy.

Environmental awareness is big right now, and a lot of companies are capitalizing on this by going green. You may want to Buy Green if you're concerned about issues like global warming and overflowing landfills. You have a variety of options along this theme, ranging from upcycled crafts to items made from recycled materials to reusable items that replace disposables. Just make certain that you're still buying something that the receiver will enjoy, and not just using your gift to push an agenda.

If you're an artist, artisan, or crafter, making everything yourself is often a good way to go. You can personalize the gifts, save some money, and have fun doing it. The only drawbacks are that it takes a greater investment of time than just shopping, and there's always the risk of having one person who doesn't understand the work that goes into a handmade gift and belittles it, making you feel like dirt.

To get super bonus double karma points, you should buy handmade, recycled supplies from an American artist and turn them into personalized gifts for your friends and family. And in fact, if you can do that, I give you extreme kudos and I'd love it if you could post in the comments section and let me know exactly what you're doing.

As for myself, I find that it's impossible to adhere to any one gift-giving trend. I'm trying to be more conscientious about what I buy, but different things are appropriate for different people. It's up to each of us to take a look at our budgets and our concerns, and decide what is best for each of us to do. There is no One True Answer to politcally-correct gift purchasing, and chasing after that false ideal just adds unnecessary stress to what should be a joyous time of the year.


  1. Interesting essay! I don't normally buy Christmas gifts, although I've been known to give Solstice or New Year gifts (just depends on whether you follow the planets or a dead king), but I am going to buy something to send to my brother and his family and it almost certainly meets none of your options. When they were here in the spring, we ate at Red Robin and my SIL bought a bottle of their seasoning. When they were here recently, my brother told me they really like it and use it in almost everything. So I'm going to get them another bottle and send it down.

  2. Well, my Dad's present and a couple of Chris's don't really fit any of those options, either! I bought them before I decided that I wanted to buy Handmade as much as possible this year.

    I'm having a lot of trouble getting Chris to pick out presents for his family, too. I found some cool things on Etsy and he didn't like any of them for anyone, except the felted faerie doll for his niece. My guess is that once again, we'll end up at B&N buying random books for everyone.

  3. Random books, huh? Maybe they can trade them around and get what they want!

  4. LOL, not that random. He does try to get things that he thinks people will like.