Saturday, November 17, 2012

What My Christmas List Says About Me

Every year, as the holiday season nears, my family starts asking for Andrea and I to put together a Christmas list. Its never a simple task, so this year I started early to make sure I had something put together before I was asked. I've been thinking about what my list, and my problems with putting one together, say about me and my priorities. I also thought it would be interesting to compare this year's list to those from previous years.

There are two reasons that it is difficult for me to put together a Christmas list. The first is that there really aren't that many things that I want that I don't already have. As I've simplified my life, and become less focused on material possessions, the result has been that there are less things that I want. At the same time, when there is something that I want, or need, I normally buy it for myself. In our household budget we set aside a certain amount of money each month for free spending. Since I don't buy things often, I usually have several hundred dollars set aside for anything that does come up that I want.

The other reason that I find it difficult to put together a Christmas list is that I generally have very specific things in mind that I want. I do a great deal of research before buying most items, and like to choose products that can be expected to last for many years. I have found that its very unlikely that I'll receive a gift that is exactly what I'm looking for. Of course I appreciate the gift, and that the gift giver has attempted to give me what I want, but I hate to know that they spent their money on something that may end up being quickly replaced. The other difficulty is that there are some product brands that I avoid due to activity by the maker that I disagree with. This prevented me from putting a log chain on my Christmas list this year. Normally this would be a perfect item for a Christmas list, as I could specify exactly what I wanted, such as "3/8 inch log chain - 14' or longer". The problem, however, is that the store where my family would most likely shop for this type of item primarily sells chains manufactured by Koch Industries, which is a company that I have chosen not to do business with. I decided that I would rather buy myself a chain, than risk the likelihood that receiving one as a gift would mean it would be a Koch Industries product.

As I compared my Christmas list from this year to those from the past two years I was surprised at the similarities. I had expected that the lists would show a clear progression of my attempts at simplifying my life. This year my list contains tools, and a request for an Amazon gift card. In the past I've created an Amazon wish list with books that I want, but decided it would be easier to ask for a gift card instead. My list from 2011 was very similar, except I did provide a link to my Amazon wish list, which has been changed so I don't know what was on it. I suspect that in addition to books, there were several photography items, as, until recently, I was dabbling with photography as a hobby. In 2010, my Amazon wish list did contain several photography items, along with various books. The rest of the list was tools, like this year.

The lack of photography items on the list this year is really the only major difference. I think this is a good indication of a change in priorities. This year my priorities are focused on homesteading and simple living. Maybe the change has nothing to do with simplifying my life. Maybe it is simply the result of being an adult.


  1. My family is slowly changing over to nonlinear gift-giving, which I find fits much better into my philosophy. Rather than giving everyone a present for Christmas, we give random people gifts at random times of the year that feel right. For example, my sister recently started painting again after 10 years, so I gave her a bunch of art supplies. I didn't expect anything in return because I didn't need anything right then.

    I think that the regular type of Christmas (and birthday) gifting is really tough to match up with simple living. I've struggled with it for years, and the best solution I've come up with is ignoring it entirely. :-)

    1. It would be fantastic if my family would support the idea of ignoring it completely. I'm starting to think that the best solution may be to ask for donations to specific charities instead of them buying me gifts.

  2. It has been years since Jonathan and I have exchanged gifts. Christmas is our largest gift giving endevor, mostly because we celebrate it with so many people and so many times.
    Christmas Eve 1- Jonathan's Dad's Mom and Stepdad's House
    Three younger cousins that get small gifts
    Two grandparents
    The men and women each do a gift exchange game with a $10 gift
    Christmas Eve 2- Jonathan's Mom's Mom's House (these two houses are less than 1/8 of a mile apart)
    11 younger cousins to get small gifts
    1 grandmother
    We draw names with the adults, a $35 dollar gift. We have drawn names for years, but Jonathan's aunts and uncles still give us gifts since they get them for the rest of their nephews. However, I consider that once you decide to draw names you forfeit your other gifts, and so 5 of his cousins are not getting gifts from us for the first time this year.
    Christmas Morning - We wake up at Jonathan's parents house. We exchange presents with them.
    Christmas Afternoon - My Mom's house
    My mom, two nephews, and one niece, and a lot of toys. The boys are getting older and now it is video games, but still everything here is store bought, except for small things I sneak in. My sister and I don't exchange presents, I told her when she had the kids that I was going to start buying for them, not for her :)
    Christmas Evening - My Mom's Dad's and Stepmother's House
    3 more cousins
    2 grandparents
    1 great aunt
    1 great uncle
    We draw names with the adults, a $50 gift. Unlike Jonathan's family, my family agrees with my policy of no gifts once you start drawing names. Actually, in my family it is closer to trading money than gift giving, except for the little kids.
    Other than the exceptions noted above, all of the gifts are handmade by me. I enjoy doing it and I feel better about giving things I have made than store-bought stuff.