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$1 Billion in unwanted Christmas gifts

by fervreditor

Christmas is coming…

It’s December. It is about this time of year that I plan for the weeks ahead and try and put together some form of something that resembles a budget in attempt to gain a clear picture of what the season will bring. Yet in reality I know that as December approaches I will simply dive in to the “silly season” with arms and legs thrashing wildly as I try to keep my head above water and hope to come out the other side somewhat intact physically, mentally and financially.

Christmas is a special time. A time where the church unites in celebration of the birth of our Lord and the life made possible for us through his life here on earth. A time where families come together and share in the joy of the festive season.

How much do we spend at Christmas?

We live in a society that places enormous expectations on us in the realm of giving at Christmas. These unrealistic expectations can lead to remorse on the part of the parent who simply cannot afford the gifts that society deem as normal expenditure, or ongoing financial burden for families who spend the majority of the following year paying off credit card debt as a result.

Research in 2010 revealed that Australian parents, on average, spent $235.18 on each child at Christmas last year, which was up from $227.72 the previous year. Overall average gift-giving per Aussie was $662 to buy 12.7 gifts, a total spend of $8.5 billion on Christmas gifts in Australia.

Yet despite the generosity of our gift-giving, ebay reports that, if the last couple of years are anything to go by, come early 2012 there will be upwards of $1 billion in unwanted gifts resold on their website alone.

Some better gift ideas

It is at this point that I feel I must stop and reflect on the point of all this gift-giving madness. Will I be buying presents for my friends and family this year? Absolutely, no doubt about it. But what if I spent less on the “must have” gifts that will quickly be forgotten or outdated, and put more of my budgeted funds into gifts that will make a life-changing difference to families across the globe. Families who, rather than having the worry of “will I get a carpark”, and “I hope I make it to the shops before they all sell out”, have the worry of, “will I be able to feed my family today?” 

Instead of being caught up in the throes of consumerism this Christmas, maybe it’s time to shift the way we think and get back to the roots of what “giving” should be about.

Charity gifts at Christmas are a way of not only avoiding the chaos of shopping centres and post-Christmas financial hangovers; but also gives individuals and families the knowledge that their gift buying will continue to make a difference long after the flourish of Christmas passes us by.

The prospect of giving a gift of charity to family and friends often raises eyebrows and questions. “Is it my place to say where a charitable donation should go to on someone else’s behalf?” Yet in comparison to the knitted cardigan three sizes too big that sits permanently in the back of the wardrobe, the opportunity to give a family ongoing income generation or resources that allow children to attend school, is a far greater cause no matter which organisation facilitates the gift.

Aussies don’t have to dedicate their entire budget to charitable gift-giving, in fact if one third of a family’s gift-giving budget was to go to a gift of charity this year thousands of families lives would be changed forever.

How you can help

Many not-for-profit organisations such as TEAR, Compassion, and World Vision produce catalogues at Christmas that allow you the opportunity to purchase a gift which will translate into much needed purchases for families in countries all over the world. For example, Compassion have just launched their 2011 Gifts of Compassion Catalogue. Compassion’s Gifts of Compassion catalogue offers practical gifts like mosquito nets, chickens, tools and toilets for you to give to a family burdened by the effects of the poverty that engulfs them. For $16 you can purchase the gift of a chicken which means a source of income, manure for the veggie garden and an ongoing supply of eggs for an entire family.

Charitable gifts are both simple to purchase and inexpensive. It gives the gift-giver the knowledge that the gift they are buying is desperately needed and appreciated beyond measure, and the gift-recipient will receive a gift that they can be truly grateful for.

It may even save them the hassle of returns queues and eBay sales come January.

Written by Hannah Wellham


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