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It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.
November 26, 2008 4:45 AM   Subscribe

"This year, Americans are planning to spend over $400 on Christmas gifts. Instead of buying things we can’t afford, here’s a way to do something more meaningful." Via
posted by jbickers (42 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Only $400? That seems pretty frugal already. It's only about $.000001 per person, which isn't even enough to pay for the bandwidth to steal a single CD.
posted by DU at 4:55 AM on November 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


What a lovely and festive e-mail harvester.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:04 AM on November 26, 2008 [17 favorites]


Why do they hate America?
posted by cavalier at 5:06 AM on November 26, 2008


I'm kinda surprised that this is apparently a project of I will teach you to be rich. I generally like that blog but this seems pretty lame.

Something I'd like to do this year is instead of buying generic crap from stores, I'm scouring Etsy. Much more personal, crafty, cool crap and at least the money is going to fellow crafters.
posted by like_neon at 5:15 AM on November 26, 2008


If you aren't going to give someone a present but you feel like you have to explain it, the least you could do is explain it with a personal note. You send an electronic form letter to people you hate.
posted by pracowity at 5:20 AM on November 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


Only $400? That seems pretty frugal already.

That actually is pretty frugal. We spend $500-600 for our family of 5, as a hard limit every year no matter how well we're doing, so no more than $125 per person.
posted by spirit72 at 5:29 AM on November 26, 2008


More like 400 Average Ticket Price. I hope. For anyone buying for me.
posted by spicynuts at 5:32 AM on November 26, 2008


Only $400? That seems pretty frugal already.

No, no, they said over $400. That could be $401 or it could be $400 billion.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:39 AM on November 26, 2008


That could be $401 or it could be $400 billion.

Congress is currently debating a bailout of my Amazon wishlist to stimulate the economy.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:53 AM on November 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


While I agree with the "reduce material surrogate for emotional attachment" sentiments, this site strikes me as a bit superior and smug, in addition to being a blah design. I mean, "learn a magic trick" as an alternative to the holidays? That pretty much says it all. All it needed was a "Holiday Gift Giving -- something I personally wouldn't understand because I refuse to have a TV" tagline.

(Full disclosure: I have twice in the last decade brought up the idea of stopping or reducing gift giving among the adults in my extended family ((retired parents, two adults sisters and their families)) and both times I have been met with shock and how-could-you-suggest-such-a-thing reactions. If you think reducing materialism among your more mainstream loved ones is as simple as a form email, you're kidding yourself. And for those about to reply "The site is just a joke" -- after reading over the site a few times, I don't think it is, actually. But I do think its mentality is more "gift giving among my 20- and 30-something friend cohort" rather than for family.)

pracowity: You send an electronic form letter to people you hate.

Well, Santa is giving the recipient the finger in the one image choice.
posted by aught at 6:02 AM on November 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


I take it the gifts we can't afford language is a reference to the current economic hardships. Ironically, though, the conventional macroeconomic wisdom says that in a down-cycle, we should go ahead and spend money we don't have, and certainly not save out of anticipation of hard times ahead. In hard times people will tend to spend less because they're worried things will stay bad, but collectively this can have a self-fulfilling effect.

This is why government "stimulus packages" are supposed to be a good idea.

I've never been very good at this stuff and this is only a sketchy layman's summary, but it's why the savings ideas that are popping up seem ironic to me.
posted by grobstein at 6:21 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm scouring Etsy. Much more personal, crafty, cool crap and at least the money is going to fellow crafters.

And while you're there, don't forget to check out Metsy, the MetaFilter Etsy team.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:23 AM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm making/cooking gifts this year & got some great answers from folks via AskMe.
posted by i_cola at 6:39 AM on November 26, 2008


Ironically, though, the conventional macroeconomic wisdom says that in a down-cycle, we should go ahead and spend money we don't have, and certainly not save out of anticipation of hard times ahead.
[...]
This is why government "stimulus packages" are supposed to be a good idea.


Wow. Yikes. Really? Really? Still?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:40 AM on November 26, 2008


Canada wins.
posted by gman at 6:42 AM on November 26, 2008


Money's tight,
Times are hard,
So all you're getting,
is this homemade card.
posted by 445supermag at 6:55 AM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is why government "stimulus packages" are supposed to be a good idea.

[New Jersey] I've got a stimulus package that would be a great idea for the down-cycle. It's right 'ere. [/New Jersey]
posted by Pollomacho at 6:55 AM on November 26, 2008


None of your guys are getting anything from me. You're ruining Christmas!
posted by cjorgensen at 7:07 AM on November 26, 2008


My family is going to do a secret-santa charity thing. Everyone's name and charity choice goes into the hat. You draw a name and donate what you would have spent on gifts to the person's charity.

Less consumerism and you don't need to learn any magic tricks.
posted by revgeorge at 7:09 AM on November 26, 2008


400 bucks does not buy as much crack nor as many hookers as it used to.
posted by Mister_A at 7:26 AM on November 26, 2008


Ironically, though, the conventional macroeconomic wisdom says that in a down-cycle, we should go ahead and spend money we don't have, and certainly not save out of anticipation of hard times ahead.

Um, no. The government is supposed to spend money it doesn't have; that's how you get out of recessions. That doesn't mean it's a good idea for Joe the Recently Unemployed to do the same thing.
posted by EarBucket at 7:29 AM on November 26, 2008


Funny, I'd always heard it as:

Money's tight,
Times are hard,
Here's your fucking
Christmas card.
posted by bwg at 7:38 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll admit, I have one of those "shock and how-could-you-suggest-such-a-thing" reactions that aught mentioned. $400 is a relatively small fraction of what I spend each month. Some of those expenses are fixed, but at least half are discretionary, and a lot of that is frankly lazy spending. Is Starbucks really that much better than the free swill from the office coffeemaker? Do I really need to go to the sandwich shop for lunch rather than brown-bagging it? Unless that $400 is really going to go to what I need rather than what I want, it strikes me as a bit selfish.

With good lists, Christmas should be a wash. Ask for things that you would otherwise get yourself, and get other people what they would otherwise get themselves. At the end of the day, everyone is materially in the same place that they would be otherwise, except that you all get to do nice things for each other. I have a hard time seeing this as some sort of dire, insidious consumerist crapfest.
posted by bjrubble at 7:46 AM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ask for things that you would otherwise get yourself, and get other people what they would otherwise get themselves.

Honey, I got you this gift certificate for wheel balancing. Yeah, sure, I know you wanted a Wii, but this is so much better because it keeps us from being part of some dire, insidious consumerist crapfest. Honey?
posted by Pollomacho at 8:01 AM on November 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Um, no. The government is supposed to spend money it doesn't have; that's how you get out of recessions.

I don't know where you think "the government" gets its money. Deficit spending creates financial obligations (or reduces surpluses, lol) that the public pays for.

In macro terms it's the same anyway. The reason policy calls for government spending is just that individuals don't want to spend.
posted by grobstein at 8:10 AM on November 26, 2008


Am I the only one who is tired of getting this sort of guilt trip every Christmas? Seriously, perhaps I enjoy spending money on my loved ones. The joy I get from seeing the smiles on their faces often reminds me of why I bother dragging my ass out of bed on a cold morning to do a thankless job.
posted by scarello at 8:14 AM on November 26, 2008 [13 favorites]


I like Christmas AND I'M NOT EVEN A CHRISTIAN. I also like telling ribald tales about Jesus and faux virgins and the discovery of impostures...
posted by Mister_A at 8:16 AM on November 26, 2008


*drinks virtual egg nog with scarello*
posted by Mister_A at 8:18 AM on November 26, 2008


I understand wanting to get commercialism out of Christmas, but removing presents altogether? Bullshit!

There are plenty of ways to save money and still be awesome. Make presents for people. Hold a secret Santa among your circle of friends, so that everyone only needs to get each other one gift. Do the same at work if work gift-giving happens. Set realistic limits.

And finally: spend more time than money on gift selection. The perfect $15 gift is much better than the $100 gift that misses the mark completely.

Also don't give clothing to kids in general. It's a shitty gift for creatures who prefer to be nude.
posted by explosion at 8:22 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


FWIW I only buy things I can afford. I wanted this, but settled for this.
posted by Mister_A at 8:28 AM on November 26, 2008


this.
posted by Mister_A at 8:29 AM on November 26, 2008


I also like telling ribald tales about Jesus and faux virgins and the discovery of impostures...

They sure as hell better contain some side-saddle ass-riding. Oh, and myrrh.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:04 AM on November 26, 2008


My brother always made the joke of "Why don't we just buy presents for ourselves? It would work out to be the same in the end."

I love presents. I love getting them, I love giving them. I love both in a very genuine, joyful way. But I do tire of the consumerism, impress-me-with-your-ability-to-buy mindset that comes with the holidays. I like making things for people. I like buying things other people have made.

This year, everyone on the extended list is getting consumables -- food or whatever -- and I'm going to try to minimize packaging (probably going to try to do thrift-store finds, if I can). There's a couple of people who are getting other things, but I'm definitely trying to keep my costs down. Last year, I spent $30 total, but I made everything (and while that was fun, I'm not doing it again). This year, I'm probably going to end up spending a bit more than that, but that's OK. It's still going to be under $100 total

It does seem to me, though, that most people aren't feeling Christmas this year. I think that's because a lot of us have no money to spend, but I think a lot of it is that there's some of us that feel we're not getting out of this mess by spending more money.

(I definitely think a day somewhere special can be a "present" as can sharing knowledge or cooking people a meal. Not too sure about going to the library, though.)
posted by darksong at 9:24 AM on November 26, 2008


Working on converting the entire fam to charity gifts -- cfhi (note: donation CIDA-matched!), Heifer International, World Vision, and for those who must have some kind of "stuff", Oxfam.

It's slow going. People are attached to traditional gifts more than I realized. But a few takers this year and hopefully more next year. I really, really do not need more stuff.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:55 AM on November 26, 2008


They assume I actually LIKE the people I'm sending gifts to??
posted by matty at 10:02 AM on November 26, 2008


400 bucks does not buy as much crack nor as many hookers as it used to.

As the recession continues to bite, I fully expect the retail price of hookers and crack to reach pre-1998 levels before the new year.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:04 AM on November 26, 2008


Everybody on my Christmas list is getting a Circuit City gift card. That's how I say "I hate you." But this site sounds like a good alternative.
posted by rusty at 10:50 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I appreciate the good intentions behind a no-presents holiday, but my problem is, I don't see the point of the holiday as "consumerism" or "things you can't afford." I think of specific other persons in my life who are wonderful and deserve to be remembered, by means of a gift selected or handcrafted for them and festively presented.

Unless it's personally tailored to the recipient's interests, a charity donation gift runs the risk of telling the recipient: "My chief concern this holiday is that our society is too spoiled and selfish for any of its individual cogs to deserve actual presents. This card represents your share in my expiatory donation to a worthier cause. Merry Christmas!"

Gift-giving is a real and human ritual, filling a genuine social need. Because lots of people do it badly is no reason not to do it at all.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:12 PM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of the smug “100 things to say to someone instead of smoking dope.”
...probably get your ass kicked same way.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:57 PM on November 26, 2008


a charity donation gift runs the risk of telling the recipient: "My chief concern this holiday is that our society is too spoiled and selfish for any of its individual cogs to deserve actual presents

This is true, but since the whole industry of "charity gifts" has sprung up, it can be rather personalized. An unrestricted donation would probably be most worthwhile, and of course no money would be spent on a card, or picture, etc, but for that reason it doesn't really fill the gift niche. However, my niece (who is on board) will no doubt think it's super cute that she's "getting" four goslings. My aunt, the gardener, I suspect will be tickled by the seeds for villagers' gardens. Meanwhile, I'm sure there will be plenty of scarves, socks, mugs, and coffee samplers passed between the others. We must own forty mugs. But hey, have to give something, right?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:02 PM on November 26, 2008


I have a hard time reconciling the delighted look on my mom's face when she opens her present and finds something that shows that the person who bought it cares enough to pay attention to her likes and dislikes, with crass consumerism. It doesn't even have to be expensive--but then, if the person you love has wanted something that they can't afford for a long time, and you can afford it for them, then that can be meaningful too.

Just because money's involved doesn't make it a meaningless tradition.

I don't care when people decide to do something different, but I do get annoyed when people attack it as if no one should participate.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:06 AM on November 27, 2008


But hey, have to give something, right?

Sure, and if your niece loves the goslings, that makes the best gift. I myself have given bees from HI. Possibly the best of both worlds is to get gifts from cooperatives that train and employ underserved populations, the way my aunt does. I get Thistle Farms products from her for occasions, and they're lovely.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:46 AM on November 27, 2008


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