circular economy consumption eco minimalism

Let’s Talk About Re-gifting

Since I’m the queen of list-making every year, I make Christmas and birthdays wish lists. I do it purely for practicality because I know pretty well what my wants and needs are at that time. All my life, I’ve loved practical gifts. However, since I immersed myself in the sustainability and financial independence movements, my push towards practicality while giving or receiving gifts has grown even further.

Photo by Nina Mercado on Unsplash

It doesn’t mean that the kids or I never receive gifts that aren’t practical for us. Of course, we do, and I’m always grateful that someone thought about me and cared enough to give me a gift. However, I always try to find a second home for those presents that we won’t be able to enjoy as much. I know that someone else would be able to make better use of those gifts than us. I’m very comfortable re-gifting and don’t attach shame to that activity. 

Since the Holiday season is approaching fast and the craziness of buying gifts is already kicking in, I would like to share some statistics with you and ideas that perhaps you could think of implementing, instead of just buying random gifts for your family and friends. See if that works for you and agrees with your values.

  1. Before you decide to buy anything, think hard about that gift’s practicality. Is the person you are buying the gift for going to use it? How big is it? Can they even fit it in their space? (People often live in small places in large cities, so size does matter for us, city dwellers.)
  2. Just ask your family and friends if there is anything they would like to receive. This will help you save money and time.
  3. Don’t necessarily buy gifts that you would want for yourself. It’s not for you after all.
  4. Don’t buy small home deco gifts. Those are often impractical dust gatherers, and if people have no space, they won’t use them. Also, if their taste is different than yours… it’s not going to work.
  5. Unless you are specifically asked, don’t buy big-boxed DVD or CD collections. 
  6. Don’t buy cheaply made kitchen stuff. The quality of those items is awful, and they often fall apart after the first use. 
  7. Pens, pencils, and crayons with plastic animal heads on them; they do get beheaded almost instantly. Gifts like that massively add to the landfill pollution. 
  8. Sweet-looking outfits for kids that can’t be worn anywhere or are impossible to put on. 
  9. Clothes unless people specifically asked for them.
  10. Don’t buy vouchers for activities you aren’t sure people will enjoy or vouchers that need topping up in order to be used. 
  11. Cheap jewellery. If you want to buy jewellery, go to a charity shop, where you can find really lovely and original pieces for a fantastic price.  

Good gifts ideas can save you time and money and make your friends and family happy in the process. Think of below:

  1. First of all, ask what people need and want. If they give you a list of things they would like to get, your job is nearly done. You just have to pick something from that list.
  2. Vouchers that can be used in different shops. I know it’s impersonal, but that kind of gift offers flexibility and people like flexibility.
  3. Handmade stuff, preferably that you made yourself, but you can also get many beautiful handmade things from markets or find on Etsy (make sure you aren’t buying the mass-produced stuff, which also found its way to Etsy). It can be something small and simple or a larger project like a hat or a scarf. 
  4. Cosmetics and beauty products, as long as they don’t come wrapped up in a tone of plastic. You have to be mindful of that type of seasonal gift. Often the container size is smaller than the standard one, and a lot of plastic wrapping is used to get all those small-sized bottles inside. 
  5. I believe in practical gifts, so if you know that someone needs something, you should always buy this above anything fancy and expensive that will be of no, or little, use.  

A few statistics that may absolutely shock you and you will never look at your Christmas shopping the same way:

  1. One billion Christmas cards are sold in the UK alone every year.
  2. The UK spends around £700 million on unwanted gifts!!! 
  3. The average person in the UK spends £330 on Christmas gifts.  
  4. The UK creates 30% more waste during the Christmas season than usual. 
  5. 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away over the Christmas season. Most wrapping paper can be recycled as long as it doesn’t have glitter on it. 
  6. The estimates from 2017 predicted that 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging weren’t recycled during Christmas.
  7. 300,000 tonnes of card packaging are used over the Christmas season.

Next time you buy gifts, think about the environmental footprint of that gifts and whether the person you are buying the gift for would appreciate it. If you happen to receive a gift that you don’t want, need or like, re-gifting is the right solution. Remember that charity shops are overwhelmed with goods that won’t sell. Passing a gift onto someone else is a better first choice solution.

Being part of the solution should be what we are all aiming for. Instead of adding to the environmental crisis that is clearly getting out of control, we can find creative solutions to giving, and re-gifting is definitely one of them.