Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 Holidays on a $1 a day! Start now!

I’ve finally hobbled down the stairs this morning. I realized I'm packaged in my favorite vintage $3 mohair wrap from Neiman’s, handmade sheep-skin lined and hand painted mukluks from Black Dog Rise (bought new for $10 retailing $350), along with several vintage hankies in hand - all from Goodwill. Down with the flu for three days, I’ve been scheming. Time to lay down the gauntlet. Ready?

I challenge readers to spend NO MORE than $365 on the holidays in 2011. Celebrate the holidays for a dollar a day. Consider this a new holiday diet, a consumer diet.

For some this challenge might be an insult because it’s so easy. But I’ll bet for majority of Americans, taking on Everest blindfolded in thigh-high platform stiletto boots seems more likely.

It seems to me no one really knows how much the average American spends on the holidays. Many of us would rather stick our heads in the sand than face the hard sting of holiday expenses. Ever get hit with a snowball in the ear or face? Yikes. A cold, seasonally appropriate dope slap.

I've read figures from $600 to as high as $900, most of which is is slapped on mounting credit card debt. But, I suspect it's more than we think, especially when people are giving pricey electronic gadgets. $900 barely covers the cost of a state of the art television or laptop. Are we to assume the average American gives one gift?

Most of us have good intentions of starting out with a small budget. But the "unexpected" and last minute guilt of not giving enough gifts inevitably invites the credit card danger zone. Toss in the sleight-of-hand retail tricks retailers conjure with “buy three get the fourth 50% off” or purchases made because the shopper is just plain sick of shopping and will buy anything to end the suffering of listening to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” played to a beat that might be more appropriate at a rave. (I think that song that has the most annoying renditions. Well, that and the “Little Drummer Boy”.)

Do such figures include decorating, additional grocery expenses, packaging, and mailing fees aside from the standard gift cost? They certainly count, and it all adds up. Does the average American factor in the purchase of a holiday tree? Some trees easily sell for over $100. How about the cookie press we had to buy to make those classroom cookies? Oops! Did we bust up another mixer trying to slog through 10 pounds of cookie dough? A cookie or two on the sheet happens.

Weigh in the full cost of the holidays, and it’s no nickel and dime affair.

The sad thing about American holidays is that it’s so closely tied to the economy. Shopping figures become nightly news. Retailers plan out their year on a gland slam in the ninth. C’mon! Is that really smart? Put all your bets into just a month or two of the year?

Wouldn’t we all be better off if we invested a little more time in slowly stocking up? Wouldn’t that help build more anticipation? Would having more time to shop make for wiser purchases and result in fewer returns? Wouldn't purchases, spread throughout the year be more sustainable, both to merchants and buyers?

It’s disturbing how returning items has become accepted holiday ritual. Isn't this like re-gifting a retail item back to a store because it's nothing we want or need, especially if so little thought was put into the giving anyway?

We are, en masse, accepting the notion of paid waste during the holidays. What? Why someone would buy a “gift” knowing that it will most likely be returned makes no sense to me. But, it’s a common retail practice and many gift recipients take no offense if they receive a gift that is so unlike them it’s going back to the retailer the next day. This is a waste of time for both giver and recipient, and often a complete waste of money and the resources both natural and unnatural to make the unwanted product.

So think about the challenge. Compare it to your usual modus operandi. If you like, please refer to one of our first posts, “The 2009 Thrifting Gift Guide, A Resolution Revolution”. Perhaps then scan through “Wow! This is so… You! What’s happened to the art of giving?

Of course it should go without saying my challenge might involve multiple treasure expeditions to thrift stores. If you need advice on converting from conventional retail to the re-use market please refer to a series of post on How to Thrift in the left column. Invest three months in a new thrifting routine, and you'll earn a pair of Snake Eyes discover your personal Flinch Point and happily say sayonara to the long lines at The Monolith Mall.

You don't need buckets of money to make the holidays enchanting. All you really need is a little shift in the way you view time, and some forethought. If you start planning for 2011 now, chances are you will spend less money and enjoy the holidays much more. If you're done before the infamous Black Friday, you'll know you've arrived, and will be much less susceptible to impulse and guilt-induced spending.

Just try think about a dollar a day holidays for now. Should you choose this economic holiday diet, you just might find it's life changing.

We'll talk logistics later.

I'll be coming up my Top Five Thrift Finds of 2010 soon.


Marilyn said...

Amen! I know I don't spend what most think one should...never have purchased electronic toys and never will. My daughter and I enjoy thrifting and finding treasures together. I'll try your challenge! Happy New Year. ♥♫

Mary said...

Unfortunately family dynamics and dysfunction make this impossible ... however I do take heart that even though we spend a lot on Christmas (enough to make me absolutely loathe the holiday personally), the gifts were purchased, wrapped AND paid for before the 25th rolled around.

If I could mass convert the entire lot to lowered expectations and a more thrift-conscious holiday, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Great challenge!

Anonymous said...

Great article, and quite a challenge!
::Nicole W.

Shopping Golightly said...


The beauty of it is that your family, unless it's all high-end, latest version electronics, might not need to lower expectations.

I suggest you might consider jewelry. For example I bought a new sterling key necklace from Tiffany's at Goodwill for $7.

Goodwill also sells high end purses like the Coach purse I bought 50% off for less than $10. It still had the tags and the new leather smell perfectly spotless lining.

If you purchase books as presents many new or vintage treasures pop up. I bought an entire hardback Beatrix Potter set for less that $10 and a vintage Beatrix Potter hardback in French for 50 cents. Winne the Pooh in latin. Numerous best sellers.

Try shopping Goodwill online
and see what pops up.

It truly is eye popping what Americans toss and what they keep.

Good luck in your efforts of fighting consumer dysfunction.

Thought, time and patience make the best gifts.

Good luck.

JunkyJen said...

Love this idea and your blog. I have actually bought a few things at GW the last few days and put in my next year's Christmas box!! (and they were brand new with tags!!) I will have to begin my tally sheet to keep up with what I am spending!!

Anonymous said...

The budget limit probably won't be practical for me -- but the concept is. I give each 20-something daughter a gift certificate or two (based on their wish lists). I also gift exchange with friends. I will, however, accept the spirit of the challenge which are to set parameters and plan. Most gifts to friends stayed well below $20 this year. In 2011, I'll half that figure or more by making (sewing) some very special items. By starting this month, my gifts will be ready long before the rush sets in in the fall. Like last year, I'll visit thrifts and rummage/garage sales ROUTINELY. Tho' I felt it was slim pickins' this year, I still found a few extremely special items -- all for under $1!!! I've also decided to suggest to my girls that we exchange at least one homemade or thrifted gift. (I've already got mine in mind as well as several charming stocking stuffers.) My goals, then, are to have my gifts ready by early fall, to have a substantial portion of them handmade or thrifted, and to be really savvy about obtaining (or creating) quality items at 75% off retail or better.

Shopping Golightly said...


About logistics, it's fun to keep a column for what you would have spent on these items. The new items are obvious. Ebay is a great place for items that are vintage or re-used. I've had holidays where I've spent something like %5 of what I would have spent in conventional retail or ebay.

Shopping Golightly said...


How I wish I knew how to sew. Reframe the thrift store and it's paradise for a seamstress. Wait for half-price sales and buy up moth eaten cashmere to recycle into something else - a plush animal for a child. Also many stores have a sewing area with batches sometimes yards of quality fabric. Or go pull a Scarlet O'Hara and use fine curtains.

Knitters too. I've purchases skeins of vintage pink Italian mohair.

Anonymous said...

Some of the loveliest (and most useful) items to sew require little more than the ability to thread a machine and sew a straight seam. A decorator friend still uses a Singer from the 1940s to turn out gorgeous, one-of-a-kind pillows and custom throws for her clients. "Sew vintage" and similiar search terms will turn up titles you can order through your local library that will inspire you in no time.

Shopping Golightly said...


Funny you mention vintage sewing machines. I've two dear friends who do sew and one uses a vintage machine. Both friends attest that vintage machines, tho they might not zig-zag or monogram, are faithful workhorses compared to today's low to average new machine.

Little Pie received a vintage machine and will learn to sew on it this year. Perhaps I will learn with her.

KDbeads said...

HAH! Beat you to it! My total this year for family and friends was a total of about $250. This includes 12 quilting ladies, the vet, the post office peoples, the city employees (really small town here) and 4 family members. Most of it was grown in my garden or bought on sale and pickled, jellied or jammed myself with jars swapped for fresh eggs or bought at junk shops for dirt cheap. I found enough fabric and unused batting at the thrift stores and reduced bins to make 4 king sized quilts. I swapped eggs and novels for 30 kids educational books for a friend of mine's son.
But this is par for the course for me, if I can't make it, swap for it or the like, I don't normally bother.
Go get that sewing machine and learn ;) the doors it opens up are fabulous. And OMG the fabric you can get for practically nothing!!!!

Shopping Golightly said...


See all? It can be done. Even for less!

I'm not certain of the actual price of the Golightly's 2010 holiday. Normally I keep rigid tallies. But this year I went to my secret gift stash, built up for birthdays, house warming gifts when I find a steal.

I'd say with the exception of the girl's "big" presents, I was well under an average of $5 a gift.

Nice show Ms Beads!