While driving around the local mall’s parking lot in search of a space during the final weekends before Christmas, you may find yourself wondering if the gift-purchasing and giving hasn’t gotten out of hand.

It all depends on what you consider excessive. Surveys don’t always agree on how much we spend, but the number is in the several hundred dollar range. Overspending can have a considerable cost to individuals, and consumers may find themselves carrying increased debt in January as a result.

If some Canadians have their way, that average — and related debt and shopping madness — may start to move downwards. Since 2001, the Canadian movement titled Buy Nothing Christmas has been gaining momentum. That’s the year that a small group of Mennonites decided to go public with their invitation to Canadians, as they say on their website, “to join a movement to de-commercialize Christmas and re-design a Christian [or non-Christian] lifestyle that is richer in meaning, smaller in impact upon the earth, and greater in giving to people less-privileged.”

Related Post: Alone for the Holidays

The concept behind BuyNothing Christmas seems simple enough: reduce or eliminate spending on new, store-bought gifts, and instead emphasize family and enjoy the more ethereal aspects of the season. And indeed, reading through some of the personal stories on the website it seems many people have taken the advice to spend money differently. Andi writes:

My husband and I have decided we are going to start taking all the money we would have spent on Christmas[sic] and use it to take a trip to a warm place in December. No gift giving, no decorations, just us and any extended family member that wishes to come along.

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Jennifer Gruden