Celebrate the holidays without spending money


You’re materialistic.

You’re ruining the holidays and forgetting their meanings by emptying your wallets for every single one.

Sure, the old-timey name for Halloween is All Hallow’s Eve, but what most people know about the holiday’s origins stop there—and for good reason. All you need to know about Halloween in the US is that kids will come to your door expecting free candy. But nothing’s free. Someone has to buy it–and by someone I mean every homeowner across the country.

Companies make commercials and specials to encourage you to buy from them, and it works. According to the National Retail Foundation, (NRF), Americans spent a combination of $6.9 billion on Halloween in 2013. It doesn’t matter that Oct. 31 is the eve of “Samhain”, or that it’s the night we must hide from the ghosts that roam free. Instead, it has become an excuse to buy and sell spooky paraphernalia.

Halloween isn’t even our biggest problem. The NRF also says in 2013 Americans spent $602.1 billion (billion!) during the winter holidays. Yet nowhere in the base of any holiday that I’m aware of does it say “buy everyone you know a gift. The closer they are to you, the more they need.” Somehow, though, this is the universal understanding.

We’re confusing buying items with celebrating holidays. Valentine’s is supposed to be about love, Mother’s Day is about appreciation, religious holidays are about religion, and Halloween is about fear. None of these entail going to a store or spending money.

Now, buying and receiving gifts or holiday-related items can be a fun and rewarding process. Some can hardly wait for the holiday season and fully embrace the spirit, but for others, the holidays can lead to trouble. People overspend or feel ashamed that they can’t buy the gifts their friends “deserve” or that their kids beg for.

The best part of giving is when you find something you know your best friend would love, or watching someone’s face light up when they open a gift. These scenes can happen at the holidays in late December, but why not in mid-March? We shouldn’t expect the times of gift buying and giving to be the holiday season. Sometimes that doesn’t work financially or practically.

Imagine how much more personal a gift would be if it was given randomly, a way to say “I was thinking of you” out of the blue instead of the obligatory fuzzy socks and hot cocoa packets during the holidays. Plus, there are always birthdays to look forward to, which is a more personal sort of celebration than the massive corporate ploys for sales that come with the holidays.

So maybe not buying a candy bowl to please trick-or-treaters at your door could cause more tears than it’s worth, but throughout holidays to come, give your wallet a break.