Put Down Your Holiday List, and Slowly Back Away

So here it is upon us again, the music, the decorations, the lists and sales and wrapping paper, tis the season. I love the idea of Christmas, er the holidays, actually this is my blog, so I’m just going to say Christmas, since that’s what I celebrate, but you know what I mean. Anyway, back to my original point, the idea of Christmas: spending time with family, having good food, the snow and smell of pine, its fantastic. And then there are the presents. As I’ve gotten older, and instead of wiser, I’m going to go with less selfish, I’ve realized that I really don’t need anything. Most of us are stuck in this cycle, as things become more commercialized, and everyone wants more and more it snowballs from there.

According to the American Research Group, in 2010 the average American will spend $658 on holiday presents. That’s an increase of 58% over 2009, when the vast majority of us were feeling the glut of the recession. Now, from 2000 to 2007 that average was $968, a lot of cash to spend on a lot of frivolous items.

So, this year, I’m for trying something new, spending less but giving more meaning. I have complied the list below to illustrate how this year, you can enjoy the best Christmas ever.

Helping Others
Nothing can actually make a person feel as good as helping out someone else, come on, admit it. Look at the picture below, oooh yes pretty colors, and each one of those colors illustrates the percentage of that countries population which lives on less than $1 a day.

% Living on less than $1 a day

How does that $600, $700, $800 look now, but, you might say ‘waaa I deserve to have the newest Ed Hardy velour tracksuit for Christmas,’ yea, well, maybe not. But what you can do is start small, donate in a person’s name, this year I took some of the money I was going to spend on my sister and bought a flock of chicks in her name with Heifer International, one of her favorite charities. OK, make it about yourself if you want, donate to a program in a country you plan on visiting, then go see your difference for yourself. I love tangible things.

Give Experiences
What I have come to appreciate more often is the experience of something. Oftentimes, the memories and pictures will carry you a lot longer than that sweater from Banana Republic your girlfriend shelled out $98 for. There are experiences out there for the mariner who wants to sail the Caribbean one day, to the meditator, who has been dying to take a spiritual trip to India. Someone on your list desperate to go to Germany, pick a day and go on a German bar crawl, drink German beers, eat some brats, just the idea of it all will get them pumped (and maybe even be some inspiration) to get on the plane and head to Munich.

Get Back to School
I know not everyone out there is a geek like me, but pretending you are, take a class. I love to cook, and I’m not a pro by any stretch of the imagination, but signed up for a one day pasta making class at the local culinary school. It was short money and I had a great time, learned how to make pasta from scratch, and stuffed myself to oblivion during the tasting portion. I can’t wait to get back to Italy and compare my new found skills. What I have learned is that there is a school out there for anything, got a budding nature photographer on your hands, sign them up for a photography class and then take them on a hike to practice.

When All Else Fails…
Yes, you are allowed to buy actual presents, the point I want to be taken away from this is to think. National Park junkies might be down for a year long pass, which gives them and three guests free entrance to the entire park system. Even simpler, buy a gift card, many of the airlines and hotels offer cards for purchase, and let’s face it, when you are planning a trip, every little bit helps. Last year for Christmas I got a free trip to England, my dad travels a ton on business and has literally millions of points, so he used some to send me on Luftansa to Manchester to visit a good friend for a week, Merry Christmas.

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