Stop buying so many Christmas presents…you’ll be much happier

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Stop buying Christmas presents, you'll be much happier

If you want to save money, save time, save the planet, do your friends a favour and reduce your stress levels…there’s one mega-helpful thing you can do…stop buying Christmas presents. You’ll be much happier.

Deep down, you know you want to, so what’s stopping you?

Most Christmas presents are not only costly but utterly pointless and do more harm than good. They damage your bank balance, damage your mental health and may even be damaging the people you give them too, especially children.

They’re also playing a big part in global warming and plastic pollution.

It’s time we all got a grip of ourselves and took action.

Before I get accused of being a miserable Scrooge let me explain.

I love Christmas. I look forward to it every year when all the family get together and reconnect. It’s a wonderful happy festival to blast away the gloom of the deep midwinter.

The only thing that spoils it is the need to give and receive presents. Be honest; of all the presents you received last Christmas, how many did you really want? Did you get any use out of them? Or are they stuffed away somewhere gathering dust and cluttering up your home.

Isn’t it likely that most of the presents you bought for other people suffered a similar fate?

It wasn’t always like this. In the nineteen sixties, people only gave presents to their children and grandchildren. Husbands and wives didn’t get presents for each other, nor for brothers and sisters, or for friends and certainly not for work colleagues.

The result was that people only had to choose presents for their children, which was fine because it’s nice to treat your kids and see the excitement in their eyes…but anything beyond that is a chore. People were happier for not having the stress of having to buy for dozens of people, some quite distant.

It all started to change in the 1970s when the present giving circle started to extend.

Things got much worse in the materialistic 80s and continued to gather pace right up today when we really have reached Christmas present madness. The money we spend each year is astronomical.

In 2020, Americans spent a total of seven hundred and ninety billion dollars on Christmas. To put that in perspective, it’s slightly more than the US spent on its military. It would be enough to fund for eight years the one hundred billion dollars industrialised nations have pledged to help developing countries tackle climate change for the good of us all.

The figures are similarly eye-watering in the UK, throughout Europe and most economically developed countries.

The number of presents we buy for our children has also skyrocketed. Back in the 60s, kids would get one big present like a bike or something equally valuable, plus a stocking with a few nick nacks and a chocolate bar or two.

By the 1980s, that had grown to at least a dozen presents from grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends.

As children got more presents, each one mattered less, the excitement waned a little each time and quickly reached a point where children lost all sense of wonder. I remember feeling strangely saddened as I watched my children opening 12 or 15 presents each on Christmas morning. Eventually, they got bored, tossed most of the presents aside and even left some to be opened later.

Instead, of enriching their lives, the surfeit or presents were instead impoverishing them. Their sense of wonder and excitement had been diminished.

Most games given as presents go unplayed.

Most books go unread and lie gathering dust on the shelf alongside last year’s unread presents.

And what effect does all this giving and receiving of unwanted gifts have on us. Well, I’m sure it impoverishes our children by robbing them of the excitement that one or two good Christmas gifts can provide.

It also damages adults who face the stress of finding the right gift for someone, even though they already have just about everything they need. This seems particularly stressful for women on whom the burden of present buying mainly falls.

And women are victims of their own conscientiousness. Whereas most men may go to the shop, find something that looks half reasonable and say, this will do…women are struck by the need to put lots of thought into it. It must be something that would be appreciated by the person receiving the gift, something they’ve talked about.

This leaves women racking their brains for something appropriate. No one should be forced to put so much thought into something so unnecessary. Who needs the stress?

There’s another element to this, perhaps more important than all the others put together.

All these unwanted presents have to be manufactured. That takes up massive amounts of the earth’s resources both in raw materials and energy. Most of that energy is from fossil fuels, which means the emission of carbon dioxide and all the problems that brings with climate change.

Most of these products are made in China and the Far East, which means they have to transported half way round the world, adding even more to the carbon footprint.

And the craziest thing of all is that we don’t even want most of this stuff. Lots of it ends in landfill or as plastic pollution poisoning our seas.

The whole excessive Christmas present ritual is a kind of collective global madness. It’s time to call a halt.

Do yourself and the planet a favour. Cut down on the Christmas presents this year. Restrict them to your children and grandchildren. They’re the most important people. Both you and the planet will be better off for it.

Now please have a Happy Christmas…one blessed with love and not burdened with presents.

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