Each year thousands of dollars are spent during the holiday season. But to top off that, millions of waste are also accumulated during the busy holiday months. With advertising for sales starting as early as October, it’s no wonder that we get pressured to BUY, BUY, BUY. As I get older, I try to remind myself that it’s okay if I can’t appease everyone on my Christmas shopping list. Saving money by spending wisely is in essence one of the most peaceful ways of celebrating the holidays. We become less stressed next January when our credit card bills aren’t breaking our savings account and we can actually spend our money on more meaningful things in life. With saving money for the holidays it inevitably leads to being more green for the holidays. We end up buying less and producing less waste. So, in the long run, it is a win-win situation for everyone (and for the planet).
Being “green” this holiday season isn’t an impossible feat. If you plan ahead and decide that it is the right thing to do, then you’ll come up with some pretty good ideas. Below I’ve listed ways you can save both monetarily and environmentally for this holiday season.
– You don’t really need to buy new decorations every year. Sure they are pretty to look at and they seem to be on sale everywhere, but your old ones that you’ve had for years work just fine. If you feel the need to buy some new decorations, replace ones that are broken or torn or add a few pieces to mix in with your holiday theme. DYI decorations are one of the best ways to save money and to be creative.
– Repurpose old unusable colored bulbs by using them as table decorations.
-Have your children draw their favorite things along with holiday themes on colored paper and use them as decorations for the tree.
-Take old plastic wreaths and break them down to make several different wreaths to disperse throughout the house.
– Swap decorations with your friends each year and decide beforehand if you want to keep your decorations or donate them to your friends.
– Buy LED holiday string lights. They use 70% less energy than non-LED lights. Be sure to check with your local recycling center if they take unusable string lights.
– Perhaps one of the biggest pitfalls of the holiday season is to feel obligated to buy gifts. While it’s tradition to exchange gifts during the holidays, it isn’t truly necessary. Sure, kids may still prefer the time-honored tradition and that’s okay, but stay with a short list this season and buy only what they truly deserve. Yes, that may seem hard to do, but it’s also a great time to teach children the benefits of receiving only a couple of gifts instead of a truckload of toys that they’ll probably never play with or get bored with a few weeks later. This also applies to buying gifts for others. Find out what the recipients really need and decide on either a big ticket gift or a few small ones that they will use throughout the year. This will save you money and save them the energy of not being able to use the gifts they receive.
– Holidays bring forth the goodwill of donations. In the real world donating year round is ideal, but we don’t all have the money or resources to do that. So during the holiday season, don’t forget to make donations to charities. If you are on a tight budget, you can always bring homemade presents or re-gift something that was never opened but you just couldn’t bear to give away. Remember that if you don’t use it, it’s just sitting there in your closet or garage collecting dust while someone else may find it as a treasure.
– Homemade gifts to those you don’t know what to buy. Have your children help you bake a plethora of cookies and sweets, package them in pretty boxes and give them as gifts. If you are crafty, make something for the recipient that he/she will be able to use. To save money and the environment, buy materials that are locally sourced or fair trade certified. Usually fair trade materials and products cost less to produce and locally sourced materials produce less carbon footprints in the production and transportation.
– Holiday cards. We all enjoying seeing our nieces and nephews on those adorable holiday cards. I used to keep the photo cards for many years until they started piling up and creating more stress in keeping them. These kids will grow up and look different every year, so if you feel the need to keep the photo cards, hold onto them for 2 years only, or take photos of the cards and keep them on a flash drive or SD card. Sending e-cards is probably the most cost efficient and environmental way to go. However, not everyone reads their emails and even then they can get lost in cyberspace. If you can, dedicate e-cards to those who are tech savvy and send paper cards to those who still like to open their mail. Better yet, if you are sending those photo cards, send them as regular snapshots in either wallet size or traditional 4×6 so that your recipients can just keep the photos instead of the entire card.
– Tons of paper are wasted each year on gift wrapping alone. I have to admit that when I see something prettily packaged, it makes me more excited because I expect the gift inside to be something wonderful. Ah, but there’s the trick, because a pretty package doesn’t necessarily mean a great gift is inside it. So, if you do buy something spectacular for your recipients, wrap them in simple yet adorable, un-dyed craft paper you can find in craft stores. They are the ones that are a caramel color where you can use any colored ribbons to jazz up with. If you did save those old holiday cards from previous years, use them as gift tags for the presents.
– An old trick is to use newspapers as wrapping paper. Find ones that match the gifts or the interests of your recipients. Use the comics page for a funny gift or a comical recipient. Use the car sales section for someone who loves cars. Use the arts section for someone who’s very artsy and crafty. You get the general idea.
– Measure carefully when wrapping presents so that you don’t end up wasting wrapping paper. We all inevitably have left over scraps that just aren’t big enough to wrap the next present. Always allow at least 3 inches top and bottom on the sides of the wrapping paper so that you don’t end up with more scraps. If you do have scraps, save them as gift tags so that they both match. Cut and trim the extra scraps into holiday themed shapes to make the gift tags extra unique.
In the end, when we truly think about the holiday season, it isn’t just about who gets the latest gadgets or the trendiest clothes. It’s about thinking of that particular reason you are celebrating the season. Someone may have come from a harder background and will need more than others or the richest person in the world could be the saddest one of all. If we retain the mantra that valuing what truly is important to us, then the holiday season won’t seem like such a stressful thing or a blur that whizzed past us in a blink of an eye. And when we give back to our precious Earth, she too will teach us and honor us with lifelong joys in life.
Have a safe and happy Holiday season and a very peaceful New Year!