if we use during the holidays a little bit of common sense if it comes to gifts

Dear Bloggers,

We just celebrated Sinterklaas something similar to Christmas only thing that I still don't understand is that parent's want to buy off their guilt feelings with bigger and bigger presents. They better should be worried by the future and our planet. We absolutely could live with less stuff as long a gift comes from the heart.

If Christmas is about presents, then in 2014, my little family and I will have no more Christmas. I mean, we love the caroling and the uncle playing the piano and the cousins running around with my ten year old, daughter and the grandfather trying to get her to sit on his lap and en joying all the good food.
We have, in other words, an amazingly good time.

What we didn’t have, though, was the average €500 hole in our bank accounts, gouged out by Sinterklaaspresent spending. 
(In the Netherlands we celebrate Sinterklaas like Christmas on the 5th of December) This year we did things a bit different. Nor did we have the credit limit like other years. No, this year only our youngest got something extra but the rest of us got only a few useful items and none of those gifts were what we didn’t really want. We only had one stressful rush of last-minute crowds at the mall.

Without the big presents, you see, we didn’t have the sensation that I, at least, normally associated with Sinterklaas, the stress. And without stress or presents, it’s not Sinterklaas, right? But of course it was. To me it was the best of Sinterklaas, the part that, research shows, makes people happiest. It was all the upside without the downside.

Let me back this up.

From November 2012 to November 2013, I and my little family, one wife, one teen girl, one minor child and two cat’s embarked on a lifestyle experiment in which we tried to live with a lower environmental impact. Among other measures, the experiment included not buying trash and not buying new gadgets that appear later on to be useless anyway.

This may sound like a lot of meaningless self-deprivation, but the question that we wanted to answer was this: Does consuming a fewer resources actually make you feel like deprivation, or is it possible that consuming less opens up another way of life that provides a more enduring satisfaction? Or let me put it another way, can we find a win-win way of life that might be happier both for us and for the whole planet? All big things will start somewhere small in my opinion!

My wife drives the family vehicle. In my little world, cars are a big item I drive a nearly 20 year old environmental unfriendly Peugeot. There are others and it is time to find a newer car with less carbon emission. No, I cannot afford to drive a newer emission free model as I have no financial resources for that, no carbon emissions. Like going by push bike is not an option for me as my work is more than 30 kilometers away unfortunately. 

On the other hand, eating and shopping local and riding bikes instead of driving cars when possible allowed us to lose the so called spare tires around our guts, cure ourselves of longstanding skin problems and insomnia and become generally healthier.

Our experiences illustrated that some uses of planetary resources improve quality of life and some may not. Indeed, we could go a long way toward dealing with the crisis in our planetary habitat.
But as Sinterklaas approached this year, the more pressing question for us was, did the season’s huge consumption of resources add something to the Sinterklaas experience or not? Since one-sixth of all retail sales occurs during the holiday season, it’s a question worth asking.

Despite the fact that people spend relatively large portions of their income on gifts, as well as time shopping for and wrapping them, such behavior apparently contributes little to holiday joy.
I’ve already told you enough to let you guess how my little family’s experience played out, but you may be surprised to learn that our findings are backed up by bona fide psychological research.

Of course, this makes perfect sense. We all know in our hearts that treasuring meaningful experiences and spending time in valued relationships at Sinterklaas, Christmas or any other part of the year make us happier than getting more stuff.

But try telling that to the grandparents at Sinterklaas or Christmas time!
The trick to a happy, sustainable, non-consumptive Sinterklaas was not, we discovered, to ignore the expectations of the people we celebrated with. We didn’t want our loved ones to feel bad. Those who expected presents should get them, we decided. Gifts, after all, are associated with the exchange of love.
Still, my wife, worried very much that it would be hard for the kids if all the cousins had presents to open and they didn’t. Try saying, “The research says you’ll be happier with less.” to a ten year old. 

So we got her some toys and contributed some toys that she had outgrown, to the poor and we wrapped them for Sinterklaas as she had not even unpacked them.
When present-opening time came, my eldest daughter didn’t care whether the present that she was opening was for her or not. Much to our surprise, she didn’t even nag about the fact that she got less this year than her little sister. What was important to her was what turned out to be important to us: the singing, the poems, the laughter, the time spent with family, and of course, the celebration.

Here I gathered some adorable gift ideas that will be affordable, adorable, and festive.

Gifts for Teachers & Tutors
Truly great teachers deserve some special recognition for their hard work and dedication. Show your appreciation at any time with a homemade cookie jar. Simply choose a glass jar with lid and fill it with your choice of ready to eat cookies or layered cookie mix. Attach a label that says, “You are one smart cookie!” and tie a festive ribbon around the neck of the jar. This is also a wonderful gift for someone in a nursing home, although a plastic jar is recommended for safety reasons. 

Gifts for Bus Drivers & Postal Workers
These hard working definitely deserve a nice gift to remind them how much we appreciate their dedication and efforts. For a great gift with almost no fuss, buy a six pack beer and affix a big ribbon and homemade gift tag with the words, “You’re an awesome Bus Driver” or whichever title fits your needs. Finish the gift by attaching a delicious bag of candies and viola… a wonderful and inexpensive gift. This gift is also wonderful for your child’s best friend.

Gifts for Beauticians and Housekeepers
This is a wonderful gift idea for those on your list whose hands and nails could use a little spoiling. Choose an attractive glass jar and fill it with lotion, nail polish, cotton balls, nail polish remover, emery boards, and all the goodies necessary for a luxurious manicure. Tie festive ribbon around the neck and affix a special bow for the top for a sweet treat - a Manicure in a Jar.
Christmas or Sinterklaas is an opportunity to be creative and discover new ways to save money while appreciating everyone who makes life just a bit more enjoyable. These gifts can be altered to suit just about anyone on your Holiday list. 

A gift that is given from the heart is more beautiful. I would say try it and stay on the budget it is more fun to give love than what money can buy.

The Old Sailor, 


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