To help you celebrate your BNC (from the Buy Nothing Christmas website), some alternatives to expensive store bought gifts. Not all strictly adhering to buying nothing, but all creative, thoughtful and low cost.
|From a recent news story:
Giving More by Giving Less
It takes only a bit of creative thinking to come up with alternatives to excessive consumerism. Some ideas:
* Students at Trinity Western University [Langley, BC, Canada] set up a free store, bringing things they didn’t need and trading with each other.
* One family does a “make or bake” among siblings, exchanging names and producing one homemade gift each.
* Some families now include sponsoring a child overseas or providing a goat or chickens for a micro-enterprise as a means of teaching their children to reach out to others. Or they help out at a soup kitchen or deliver Christmas hampers together.
* Time is often a bigger gift than money. Creating coupons that offer free babysitting or housecleaning, a neck massage or a special treat can mean more than a stocking stuffer.
* Offer to teach someone a skill you have.
* Write a poem, tell a story, draw a picture or take a photograph and present it in a creative way.
* Give fairly traded coffee, tea or chocolate, get beautiful items at garage sales or buy gifts from shops that support artisans in poorer countries.
* Make your own cards from recycled paper.
* Avoid commercial wrapping paper, ribbons, bows and tape, which are not recyclable, and opt for gift bags, tea towels or nice boxes, which are eco-friendly.
- A hand made recipe book would be a good idea. A compilation of old family recipes from your family, and your friends’ families. Start collecting them in the summer and take your time and edit and make them real nice and sturdy (to withstand the heavy use!) – Brittany
- Books on tape – this is great if you have two or three people on your list that will enjoy the same book, it only costs time! A compilation CD of the choir my husband and I sing in. Make a puppet theater – paint a white sheet, cut a hole out for the stage, and hang in hall/door with a tension rod). If I get ambitious, I’m thinking of producing a video for distant family members of our kids’ exploits in the past year. My husband is a composer, and he is planning to compose theme songs for some of our family members. – Noelle
- Adopting a polar bear, snow leopard or giant panda in the name of all my friends and family members from World Wildlife Fund. – Matt
- One year I made mini loaves of quick bread. I think it was pumpkin bread. One could make cranberry or whatever you like. I wrapped the loaves and placed them in small baskets that I picked up at yard sales over the summer months. I added packets of instant spiced cider, cocoa, or tea, and festive napkins. I then tied it up with a raffia bow along with a recipe card for the bread. Another year I made key chains out of beads that matched the color of each persons car. – Lisa Wilson
- Well, our buy-nothing circle spread just a little wider this Christmas, and I’d like to share a few highlights. They include some “transition” gift ideas too, for those who can’t handle BNC just yet:
- One friend saved us a lot of money by simply handing us some RAM for our PC. He knew we needed it and he had extra. It was great!
- Two family members got creative and made by hand an “action figure” of my husband and a marionette of me! Of course, this wouldn’t work if the individuals didn’t happen to be so artistically talented, but what unique and personal gifts!
- Another friend who makes pottery simply gave us a lovely bowl more special than anything we could have bought.
- Parents bought us necessities that we would have had to buy anyway.
- We made writing paper with hand-drawn silly little doodles and hand-folded envelopes for some friends.
- For most of those who weren’t ready to move to a buy-nothing Christmas, we bought organic herbal teas and fair-trade coffees… they don’t add to the clutter because they’re enjoyed and gone, and they support sustainable businesses!
Small steps … but in the right direction. - Sara Parks Ricker
- Brilliant website and ideas. You get my full support. As an another idea, try www.oxfamunwrapped.com. It allows you to send a gift to the 3rd World and depending on your budget you can buy chickens, blankets, radios, right up to a travelling theatre! Our 10 year old son has ‘traded in’ some store gift vouchers to buy a goat. We have sent friends and families christmas ‘gifts’from this site. Best wishes - Chris, Nottingham, UK
- At our house, we try to make all Christmas gifts. That means that December is a flurry of activity as our children make salt dough ornamments and then paint them to give to teachers and other adult friends. Last year, one boy made playdough, and one made a crayon ball to give to the other. For our friends, we’ve painted white candles with Christian symbols; these have become tradition. For our extended families, we made books with old pictures and memories. Our children especially love hand-made gifts; in this age where everything is plastic, they relish the idea of love in a sweater. – Molly
- I have been going down to my local recycling centre to see what’s on offer. To my surprise, I found 10 glass coffee containers. Which are now glassed painted and filled with goodies for kids. - Sophia
- A couple of years ago I did a calendar for the family with everyone’s photos and birthdays. That was a big hit. – Karin
- Last year we had a cookie exchange instead of a big party for work. Everyone brought cookies or treats – whatever their specialty was (one person made tree ornaments instead). We RSVP’d so we knew how many cookies to make, one for each person because we had so many people. We all went home with piles of cookies and treats. It was great, and so much fun. – Annika Sangster
- What about bumper stickers? I’d love to puchase some of these posters in bumper sticker format. Available? - schrills
Editors response:Hmm… I’m already feeling like we have too much stuff on our website. Would we sell the bumper stickers on the Buy Nothing Christmas website? Maybe start off with a colour printout of your favourite poster, laminate it and then glue it on your bumper. I know, sounds dumb, and like a lot of work. But the more time you spend creating your own world, your own messages, the more alive you become. I can help with re-formatting graphics or text for printouts. Let me know how it goes. If you have some success with bumper stickers, let me know and I’ll try to spread the word. Best, Aiden.
- I’m going to give my art this Christmas. It gave me the motivation to finish the production of a demo CD. The first copies will go to my family and friends. —Gabriel
- Give Linux for Christmas! It’s free and it works like a charm! These days, distributions include not only the operation system that runs your computer, but applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, picture and sound editing, etc. And give a hand installing it. It’s not that it’s too difficult, but some people’s tech-savvyness is rather limited. —Gilles Pelletier
- We have just launched a new scheme in the UK called Wedding List Giving Ltd. It allows the prospective bride and groom to choose a charity and ask guests to donate towards the “gifts of their choice.” Hannah Crouch [Editor's note: the site includes charities like the Alzheimers Society, Amnesty International, Cancer Research UK, Children's Express, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Oxfam, Tearfund and others.]
- Just try make a spiritual gift, not material, not an object. I prefer doing something – singing a song, writing a poem – for a person. Plus a little beatiful card, because most people want to “have something in the hands,” it’s just a habit. —Matania, Russia
- Great site, lovely idea. Some friends of mine have a jumble exchange; it works like this. Everyone brings clothes, books, ornaments or toys that they don’t really use any more. It all gets laid out on tables or a tarpaulin in the garden (or in the house if you have room). Everyone picks out what they want (no money changes hands). At the end there’s a “grand holding up” where everyone is shown what is left. If no-one wants it, it goes to a charity shop (thrift store). Usually there are three or four big bags left over to go to the charity shop. Another idea is to write out some nice poetry in calligraphy style and frame it. To avoid buying the frame, you could make it out of driftwood or broken china mosaic, or pebbles. —Yvonne Aburrow
- We bought wax and made homemade candles. My husband carved stamps, we made our own paper and made greeting cards on recycled paper. Most of all, we vow to get the Christmas spending craziness under control and pay attention to our families and each other instead of the mall! If you still want to give a gift, there are so many more worthy causes than supporting the manufacture of plastic toys. I work for a nonprofit organization that supports grassroots groups working to live sustainably, preserve biodiversity, and gain a voice in their future. See www.greengrants.org. Other groups doing similar work include www.globalfundforwomen.org, www.globalfundforchildren.org. For more information on global giving in general, see www.gwob.org —Erika Carlson
- For your husband: Go to your favourite market or second hand shop and get a nice frame. With your most creative writing, write your wedding vows. — Maud Ray
- I usually make fudge (it helps to find a really good recipe) and put it in tins. I also buy old frames for cards, etc., I think the person would enjoy. I don’t buy for anyone that is not either my child or parents/inlaws. And other than for the kids, I refuse to pay a lot. The cheaper it is the more personal it is sometimes.— Shelley, Prince Edward Island, Canada
- For me, environment and peace issues are interrelated, inseparable even. Some gift purchases help the environment and peace: Give people CFL bulbs to save energy. Give Fair Trade coffee, tea and chocolate made in people-friendly and earth-friendly ways. Buy recycled paper for people. If possible pay someone to buy clean electricity which is still more expensive than dirty electricity. And one of our special concerns: Purchase a Peace Bond from the Nonviolent Peaceforce which even now has peace teams in Sri Lanka. “Upon Maturity the Bearer will See a Large International Team Trained for Nonviolent Conflict Intervention Around the World”. Go to NonviolentPeaceforce.org to learn more. Keep up the good work. — A. Palmer, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
- Perhaps an alternative to department stores is Ten Thousand Villages which provides vital, fair income to Third World artisans by marketing their handicrafts and telling their stories in North America. This alternative emphasizes the fair distribution of wealth while still in a consumerism context. — Shalom, Carl
- Make a sweater from yarn found at goodwill/used clothing store.— Kristina Giggz
- Look through your (and your kids’) old clothes, cut out squares of fabrics they will remember, and make a little wall hanging or pillow or stuffed toy or whatever. Pick a nice quote or scripture verse and write it up in calligraphy or a nice handwriting. — Gwenyth
- When i was little my parents always recorded a tape of me singing christmas caroles and/or reading stories for my grandparents and other family that lived far away. When i got older i started to make little comics for my friends, that were about us and things we had done. always with an added twist and some inside humour. This is totally fun to do- even if you’re drawings are crappy. i think that this year i will write stories for my friends and family telling them why i love them! — T.B.
- Make pillows or stuffed animals. Cut out soft pieces of felt and hot glue them on to the pillow to personalize them with messages or make cute faces. — Kaitlin
- Give something you don’t use any more. A sweater that you only wore once; a set of drinking glasses you forgot you owned. Clean them up and give them as gifts. I have found all sorts of things in my apartment that I have no need for, but know someone who would appreciate and enjoy it! — Jessica
- When someone asks what I want for Christmas I tell them, “Peace on Earth. Goodwill for all”. If they explore the idea further (usually with, “No, really. What do you want?”) I tell them to pick a charity and give to them whatever they would have spent on me. It makes me feel good that someone who really needs it is getting something. And … It always fits! — Bill Budenholzer
- Babysitting coupons for the new parents. Grow your own veggies, can or freeze them and give them away at Christmas/Solstice. Spend more time with your family and friends…when you’re dead you won’t be able to. Decide as a family to work less hours, spend less and have more time together. Shovel the sidewalk for your neighbour. Plant trees. — Lee
- Make a small drawing of your select person’s living room or other room in their house and give it to them.
— Julian van Mossel-Forrester
- I have been giving more gifts that consist of certificates of gift from the Heifer Project. This year the only exception is my 9 year old granddaughter. — Paul Shankland
- I am making several batches of biscuits (“cookies” your side of the pond!) and boxes from some lovely dark red recycled card. — Alice Crawford
- Plant plants, now, to give for Christmas. Herbs, in particular. This is one way to always be present in your loved one’s days for a while to come. — jeela
- Buy a used book and in the inside cover explain why you chose the book for that person.
- Make tree ornaments out of old CDs.
- Purchase gifts at a fair-trade shop, garage sale or thrift shop.
- Make hand-made soap or candles.
- If you are skilled in a particular area, offer a lesson or class.
- Make a birdseed ball.
- Make a soothing, herb pillow filled with lavender, rose, etc.
- Collect quotes that make you think of someone.
- Stamp and address postcards for family members.
- For the elderly people in your life, research newspaper and magazine articles from their youth and present in a creative fashion.
- Make a calendar with pictures of family members and/or scenery.
- Wrap gifts in newspaper, maps, scarves or interesting clothing.
- Fill an old trunk or suitcase with fun clothing, hats and gaudy jewelry for your children to play dress-up.
- Make a puppet from a sock.
- Give away a valued possession.
- Frame a piece of your artwork.
- Fill a basket with home-made goodies.
- Bake your favourite holiday treat and pack in a recycled tin.
- Paint an empty wine bottle with non-toxic paint and fill with olive oil. Top with an oil pour spout that can be found at a gourmet cooking shop.
- Videotape and interview your elderly parents about childhood memories, how they met, etc., and give to siblings or children.
- Compile a list of memories and arrange them in a creative fashion.
- Do something exciting and challenging together (e.g., long walk, bike ride, hike, art course).
- Knit a stocking, hat, socks, etc.
- Write and illustrate a book for the young people in your life.
- Collect meaningful photos for the gift recipient, make colour photocopies and create a collage.
- Create a menu of various culinary delights (e.g., Tantalizing Thai, Mexican Fiesta, etc.) and have the gift recipient choose one of the options.
- Create coupons for a massage, spring cleaning, child-minding, manicure, etc.