Are you the type who loves the gift-giving season, or does Christmas time fill you with dread?
For many of us, the idea of spoiling those we care about in the wake of long lockdowns (and a very long year indeed) feels like the perfect solution to a rather torturous year.
And according to the experts, we’re expected to splash even more cash this season.
“Christmas time can be daunting, but what we’re seeing is a little more excitement this year,” says Eloise Zoppos, a retail and consumer behaviour expert.
“There’s a buzz in the air.”
But not everyone’s feeling it.
As consumer psychology expert Jana Bowen says, many of us associate the silly season with stressful to-do lists and chores.
“We are flooded with advertising … telling us what we should buy, why we should buy it and where we should buy it from,” says Jana, who’s also a professor of marketing at Macquarie University.
“We cringe at the thought of lining up at the supermarket to order our Christmas family meals. We are overwhelmed at the sheer thought of the day.”
So whether you’re a lover or a hater of the Christmas shopping season, we’ve got five gift-giving ideas that should appeal to anyone.
And many of them won’t break your budget.
You could buy local
Small businesses struggled big time through the pandemic.
So it’s a no-brainer to put your money where your community is, and buy something special (and often unique) from a business near you.
“The benefits to the consumer is just feeling good about what they’re buying. It can be a really well thought out and personal gift,” says Eloise, who is also a principal consultant at the Australian Consumer and Retails Studies research centre.
“You’ve taken the time to go to a smaller store and think about what you’re buying. You can actually slow down and put thought into that gift.
“Seeing someone open a gift they’re not getting from anyone else is a great feeling as well.”
And another bonus? It’ll often save you time and effort driving into the bigger centres or waiting for packages to arrive in the mail.
You could make something yourself
Now this one has the potential to divide us all.
Is it a bit cheap to skip the shops and put something together yourself?
No way, according to Eloise.
“I think it’s really thoughtful and meaningful, particularly baking something this year,” she says.
“Maybe it’s a family recipe, or a recipe that the gift-giver will really enjoy.
“I think having that personal touch would be really lovely for Christmas this year. It adds real meaning.”
Jana also has a few good ideas for us all.
“Even repurposing something, regifting something or buying second-hand and recycling or upcycling are on-trend gift ideas for the 2021 festive season,” she explains.
The important thing to consider is what it is that you would enjoy making or regifting, and what the recipient would actually want to receive.
Remember: a kiln-fired ashtray or a hand-knitted teapot cosy isn’t for everyone.
What about cash, vouchers and experiences?
This one’s always been a great option for the person with everything. Or the person with not very much at all.
How can you go wrong when gifting a voucher from someone’s favourite store, yoga studio or cafe?
And cash is even more open-ended.
For anyone struggling right now, either option would likely be welcome.
But many people argue it’s not personal enough, or means the gift-giver hasn’t bothered to put in the effort.
If you’re in that camp, perhaps gifting an experience is the way to go.
“It could be anything related to travel, or hotels or luggage,” Eloise says.
“They’re always welcomed as the gift receiver. And a relatively easy purchase, too.”
Ethical and conscious gifts are trendy
Jana says the big question will be how much of a shift we see away from material consumption and towards meaningful consumption this year.
“We are collectively emerging from two years of anxiety, tension and stress. COVID-19 really did take away our sense of control and our sense of freedom,” she says.
“Consumers… want to get their lives back, enjoy a little normality, and just find a way to forget about what they have been through even if only for a moment or two.”
Ethical and conscious gifting requires consideration for the environment, purchasing from ethical brands or companies, or perhaps donating to a charity under the recipient’s name.
A slower and more ethically conscious Christmas could be just the antidote, she says, but would a charity donation cut it as a gift this year?
Eloise thinks so.
“It is quite simple in that it just makes people feel really good,” she explains.
“Maybe they don’t need anything or don’t have room in their house, but a charity gift always makes people feel really good about what they’re doing. And they’re still celebrating the joy of Christmas.”
Or, hear us out, buy nothing at all
Many of us feel compelled to purchase something for our family, loved ones — and even colleagues — every year without fail.
“Gifts are symbolic tokens of appreciation, friendship, love and power. They create and strengthen social relationships and with that often comes social pressure,” Jana says.
In fact, research indicates that very few people are choosing to buy nothing at all this year, with many of us finding joy in the idea of spending (given everything we’ve been through!).
But does it have to be this way?
Well, there are shortcuts.
You could lean into the Christmas tradition of “Secret Santa”, where everyone in your circle of family or friends buys for just one person.
But if that’s not something you’re comfortable with or can afford, Eloise says the very best gift you can give is to spend quality time with the people you care about.
It sounds simple and corny, but more than ever it’s going to matter to those around us — particularly anyone finding this holiday a lonely one (think older neighbours or those without families).
“It’s really about slowing down this Christmas and enjoying the get-togethers and visiting people,” Eloise adds.