Live and Let Live. Portugal.
Christmas is nearly here and people are frantically shopping for gifts . . .
According to new research from the Money Advice Service in Britain, Christmas spending is expected to hit £29bn this year. UK adults expect to spend an average of just under £592 in total on Christmas this year.
And according to reports in the online papers this weekend, people in the UK were expected to spend £5 billion in just one day’s shopping.
I for one enjoy seeking out and buying and wrapping presents for those I care about. But even though our approach to the festive season is much more modest than the average, we are questioning how we spend our money, and whether buying more presents for people is wise.
Moving to Portugal has reminded me of the level of real need there is in the world. Whether it is disabled people begging in the streets of Lisbon, homeless people, the elderly in cold homes without heating; or the many abandoned and homeless dogs and cats who are without food and shelter.
Money spent on gifts for people who have no real material need for them, and whose homes are probably already overflowing with clutter, and if they have children, piles of plastic toys, could help a homeless person, other people in need, or animal shelters.
People want to buy presents for those they love and care for, it’s one of the ways we can show we care. But the pressure now in the UK and other countries is huge. There is a quantity over quality mania that will see many people unwrapping gifts probably made in factories with poor working conditions. Gifts that often have a novelty value, and as well as being a waste of money are a drain on the world’s natural resources. Gifts that the receiver will put to one side and forget, rather than treasure. Gifts that go straight in the bin or to the charity shop. Apparently 15 million people in the UK throw gifts straight in the bin. Think of the packaging. Think of the landfill. Think of the waste.
Take time to think about about how we spend our time, our money and ultimately the world’s resources. How we express our appreciation and love for others. We can relate to others on a personal level and give people time and love and good memories; rather than simply buying the latest gadget, a last-minute gift, or more plastic toys.
Leo Barbauta explores this in his blog post below:
It’s easy to go and buy presents, at the shop, or online, a click of the button and it’s done, you can even get it wrapped! But behind every item is a back-story full of resource use and waste, before the item even reaches the shops. In this short video
Annie Leonard explains what goes into making the stuff, and also that half a year later only 1% of this stuff is still in use. Do you really want to waste your money on stuff?
If you have money to spare, there are many charities, both here in Portugal, in the UK and everywhere else in the world, that are desperate for even small amounts of cash that would really make a HUGE difference to the lives of other people and animals. In fact it could be the difference between life and death.
The festive season is a time of joy, catching up with friends and family, sharing good times together and creating happy memories. Try to break the gift-giving habit. Instead give of yourself – your time, your skills, your love. And enjoy the company of the people you’re with!