A Despender December

A pile of presents
A heap of unnecessary presents

Ripping excitement

The noisy clatter of feet, skipping down the stairs, almost two at a time. The squeals of delight, followed by the sound of your carefully selected paper, tearing and scrunching urgently, as its one, shiny, aesthetic purpose in life is fulfilled.  

Each ripping apart of one parcel and greedy lunge at another, is chaotically choreographed, as it sends deafeningly silent messages through to those unable to hear. 

“There’s more to Christmas”, the voice of conscience whispers.

“This is obscene” rasps another.  Some adults are desperately straining to hear but they are frightened. Fearful of the backlash from their children. Concerned they’ll be ostracized by their friends.

All that is left… are the tatters of mental health

No second glance at the huge quantities of waste wrapping paper, taking the next stage of its life cycle from gift wrap to rubbish sack. No regard given to whether it could be reused or even refused in the first place. The squabbles, the tears and the dismay when all that is left of the anticipation and the excitement that was (apparently) Christmas, are the tatters of mental health, packages, wrappings, foil bows and boxes.  All strewn without care, as if Hurricane Edna had just landed and the occupants left hurriedly to seek safety.  

Child carrying a lion soft toy walks across a disaster zone with a city background
How many people feel like they are walking away from a disaster zone on Christmas Day?

How hard it is to avoid spending money in this consumer-driven month of December.  Breaking the mould and rejecting the societal expectations of the incessant giving and giving and yet more giving of superfluous stuff is tough.

Is this a deliberate amnesia of our crises?

Plastic hits landfill or oceans. Paper leaches inks and sizing chemicals into the soil, which makes its way into the water system. Sparkly paper, containing foils and plastic that does not break down.  At what point I wonder, will we abandon our seemingly deliberate amnesia of the multiple crises surrounding us and instead, allow our environmental awareness, climate emergency and knowledge of childhood development kick into play? 

Gifts given, simply for the joy of an unnecessary and almost addictive fix of an unwrapping experience, is nothing short of a hollow present with damaging consequences for both child and planet. Useful items that are thoughtfully given is of course acceptable and I’m certainly not suggesting we should become a community of Scrooges. My thoughts steer more towards the immense courage required to refuse, or at least adapt the current traditions of giving unessentially. But brave we must be.  

Old fashioned wartime poster stereotypical of encouraging the women to roll up their sleeves and work the land
Men and women alike need to be courageous
in instigating these gifting changes

Hold less importance in the season’s shopportunities

Unless families begin to hold less importance in the season’s shopportunity and more weight in the opportunity of experiences, how can we ever expect our children to value what is rightfully important in their lives and within our world?  Children will rarely remember all those gifts bestowed upon them. They will remember however, where they were, who shared the experience with them and how they were feeling that year. That is precious, particularly if the event was a positive affair.

A family looking up out of an open top car, having fun
Family outings, walks or game days will be both fun and memorable for everyone

Why not try giving the gift of experiences instead this year?  Make a new family tradition where each year they look forward to going somewhere special, with those who mean a great deal to them. Adopting a new stance will save a heap of money, the parents and the kids will be happier for it and so will the planet. The experiences don’t always have to be costly trips to admission-based venues if money is an issue. A simple forest or beach walk with winter volleyball or a scavenger hunt thrown in for some family fun would work as a memory maker. Take some time to think creatively, in a way that does not feel onerous.

A radical, yet simple approach

It is a hard direction to take but it’s my aim, along with my family, to have a go at spending less and enjoying more. That’s what Despender is all about. The season of good will; for me is about being there for others, smiling, laughing, making and capturing memories – and coming out the other side knowing my bank balance remains healthy. In addition, I am certain for those embracing this radical yet simple approach will reach the same time next year, looking forward to the occasion; not dreading it. There’s more to Christmas.

Will you make yours a Despender December?

A blackboard with the words 'Enjoy today' written on in white chalk
Spend less and enjoy Christmas; spend less and enjoy birthdays, spend less and enjoy today


  1. Lorna F
    December 1, 2019 / 8:20 am

    Well said. We don’t have kids, so that probably makes it a bit easier but we haven’t done presents for a long-time. My mother-in-law found it uncomfortable to start with so I pointed her in the direction of something I would like from good giving such as a toilet in Africa. She still think i’m a bit weird – but then I took on her son so can’t be entirely normal. Good luck with Despender.

    • HeadRightOut
      December 1, 2019 / 9:02 am

      Thanks for reading Lorna. Glad you connected with my thoughts too. It IS hard and I’m definitely not going to manage a full refusal on buying gifts (and actually wouldn’t want to) but just want to make it so much more manageable, sensible and practical for us and the planet.

      Tied into my #100ScaryDays challenge, posting this was hard. It was equally as hard giving it to my 86-year old mother to read. I was relieved when it was received actually quite positively!

      Glad to hear someone else has adopted a similar attitude. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

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