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Out of Our Minds
Monday, November 28, 2005 3:55 PM
Shop Less, Be More
Kate Yandoh on Culture

Kevin's post on holiday consumer madness has definitely touched a chord. If the images and events of the past year don't make you feel a little less willing to storm the stores at dawn in order to score more stuff to give to people who, relatively speaking, already have everything, it's hard to imagine what would.

What are some ways that sanity and real spirit could be brought back to the table? Here are a few to start:

1) Forget the presents, remember the experiences. Instead of buying, take a kid, friend or family member somewhere outside of a shopping mall. Go to the skating rink, aquarium, chocolate factory, farm, wherever fancy and budget will allow. Or invite everyone you'd normally 'gift' over for a potluck.

2) Make it=mandatory. Declare all presents must originate in the hands and brains of you and yours and latch on to the craft trend at the same time. Subversive needlepoint, short stories, snazzy scarves, your imagination's the limit. Yes, it will take some time, but so does mall crawling.

3) Shop smarter. Instead of chasing dubious bargains, put your dollars to work closer to where your ethics are: search out the socially responsible using sources such as responsibleshopper.org.

4) Bargain-price it. Set a price limit for what the entire crew can spend, either as a group or individually. Channel your inner cheapskate and perhaps send the difference between the low-priced presents and your usual binge to the worthy cause of your choice.

5) Swap, don't shop. Invite a group of your friends to gather and bring along a few nice gifts they've gotten, but don't really like or use, along with the year's mis-purchases (the overpriced sweater that doesn't really fit, the too-trendy bag, the gadget that isn't as cool as you'd hoped.) Present each item individually and allow 'bids' to redistribute.

Added bonus: for all of the above, Christmas carols are absolutely optional.

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