In 2018 I have taken a long hard look at my shopping habits, particularly in the wake of last Christmas. I have been disappointed that I don’t always follow my own ideals, for no other reason than sheer laziness. I found myself picking up whatever would fill a gap on the list. It’s easy to go into Lush or John Lewis and pick up whatever seems suitable for someone. But it always felt like a cop out, a waste of money, a lazy response when you’re supposed to buy with care for your nearest and dearest.
I also noticed the repetition. Of course the things I buy for people are useful but it was largely the same things every year, something you could get in pretty much any shop in any town. My approach is generally practical. I like to give something that is needed, asked for or at least will be used. This year I really need frying pans so that’s on my list. I am not demanding.
When you’re gifting to people who don’t need anything or have the money to buy whatever they want and aren’t alien to buying their own treats, it’s a lot harder to make good choices, especially when you need to spend your money carefully. Yes I know it’s supposed to be the thought that counts. But how much thought is there really, pushing your trolley through a store and just grabbing anything that ticks a box. I have the advantage over everyone I am buying for this year, of being able to find very unusual, unique and genuinely handmade gifts, right down to the cards I am sending. I can buy things noone else will be able to find.
This year I have had an extremely tight budget so I’ve shopped mindfully as if I was shopping for myself. Given the choice I would have followed Martin Lewis’s advice and saved myself the financial stress by not buying anything, but I also knew I had an opportunity to do something good with my money – putting it back into genuine businesses that appreciate my support.
I have opted for handmade, local and independent shops this year because I am able to get things I know receivers will not find elsewhere. I have bought from friends who are crafters, handmade businesses I have found recommended on the internet, and Etsy sellers around the UK. Where I have run out of cash, I have made things. Knowing that I paid an independent to help them stay in business gives my money that extra feel good factor, which I wouldn’t have found trawling through Boots or TKMaxx. I can follow the companies I bought from and see them grow and develop in better ways than reading about big company profit margins on the news.
Being a small business myself, I know how valuable customers are and how gratefully received those transactions will be. I am not helping to pay a CEO his bonus next year. I am helping to put food on people’s tables, pay rent, to fund the next set of creations.
How is that not better than shopping with faceless corporations whose bottom line is profit margins rather than a secure existence?