I first have to say up-front that I don’t come from a family that is huge on the December holidays. Everyone I’m related to celebrates something different. Some of my family celebrates Hanukkah (which occasionally falls in November), and I like to celebrate with them. Some of my family celebrates Christmas (and I went to Catholic school), so I enjoy getting into the Christmas spirit. And some of my family is Indian, and doesn’t really celebrate either, but lights candles for Diwali, which I can also get behind. The moral of the story is that there isn’t a lot of pressure when it comes to gift giving, and that’s what enables me to not spend exorbitant amounts over the holidays. There is no gift price maximum I have to hit — it’s great to give something, but it’s also just amazing to spend time with each other, and make turkey, or latkes, or duck, or whatever it is we’re making.
This year, I am traveling to my dad’s house for Thanksgiving, but then won’t see him or my stepmom until long after Christmas, which forced me to get my holiday shopping done early. Because I tend to spend fairly little on my gifts (I capped it at about $20 per person because I can really only afford a present for one night of Hanukkah), I try to make sure there is a personal, intriguing element to each gift I give. This season, I tried to pick out LA-centric presents (and no, I’m not giving anyone green juice). But I wanted to find products that were made by local west coast artisans, because I’m the only one in my family on this side of the country.
This buy local challenge means that I’m not going to be hitting Black Friday — neither online, nor in stores — which, I have to say, I’m very excited about. According to Forbes, a huge number of millennials will be hitting the stores the weekend after Thanksgiving. While over 50% of the population plans to shop this weekend, over 70% of millennials will be buying, according to the National Retail Federation survey Forbes mentions. An even greater portion of millennials will shop online — 88.7% of 18-24 year olds and 90.9% of 25-34 year olds will take part in Cyber Monday. I am absolutely not opposed to the weekend after Thanksgiving craze. I prefer not to go to the mall on Black Friday, because I’m a very short person and have a very real fear of angry shoppers trampling me, but I’ve occasionally bought something online on Cyber Monday (like a true millennial).
But as someone who was raised to support local businesses, I am excited by the #buylocal experiment I decided to try this year. Both of my parents have owned their own businesses at one point in their life. When we went on vacation with my dad, we had a rule that we weren’t allowed to go to chain restaurants, we had to try the local food instead. While I don’t love the bougie localized health stores of LA, mainly because they make me feel bad about my inferior diet, I am a big fan of browsing the local shops. I was taught that sometimes it’s worth it to spend the extra dollar to give your money to the proprietors who need our help to stay in business.
All this to say, I did my shopping at a farmer’s market, at a few local shops I love, and from friends who side hustle by making amazing crafts, and other fancy things that I wouldn’t know how to make. Here are some ideas, if you’re interested in a buy local holiday challenge:
1. For cards, I went to my favorite local paper shop.
The way I feel about buying a nice card from a paper store, instead of from a pharmacy chain, is similar to how I am slowly learning to approach fast fashion. Yes, it is more expensive to buy a card from a local paper shop. So, in order to account for the difference, I am buying fewer cards, because I’m buying things at a higher price point. I completely acknowledge that for some people, this just isn’t possible. If you come from a family and friend group that is huge on the holidays, and have 20 people on your list, it’s hard to change the nature of the way you give gifts. In my case, I only got cards for a few people — I got cards people would appreciate, and want to Instagram (I like ‘grammable cards, sue me) and hang on their wall. My favorite little LA paper store is Shout and About in Echo Park, and the cards I chose are by Little Arrow Shop, based in Oregon.
2. I also bought a few food items that travel well.
My only other rule for giving gifts was that there needs to be some utility to whatever I’m giving. I don’t just want to get people trinkets that will sit on their bureau, I want to get them things they’ll be able to put to use. My dad is constantly trying to find granola without coconut (which is harder than you’d think), so I got him a supply from a local California vendor I found at the farmer’s market. Also, I can’t travel with liquids, but as someone who used to work at a local winery, I’m obligated to mention that buying from a local brewery or winery is also a great gift idea.
3. I talked to my friends selling their work.
My close friend, Jen, hand makes infinity scarves and pottery, and is considering starting to sell at her local craft fair in North Carolina. As soon as I need another infinity scarf, I know where I’m commissioning one. On the same note, Stephanie Georgopulos, a friend I know from TFD, makes her own tinctures, which are liquid extracts made from herbs, that you can take orally with water or tea. I have her de-stressed sorceress tincture, and every time I use it, I think about how much my mom needs one. So I’m supporting a friend, and getting my mom a well-suited gift.
Stephanie Georgopulos (firstname.lastname@example.org)
4. I took advantage of online ordering.
Unfortunately, not everyone has a farmer’s market within arm’s reach, but now you can reach out to vendors anywhere in the country, and get their product shipped. (Though for the LA readers, I found several of these buys at the Sunday Hollywood farmer’s market.) While talking to one vendor, he mentioned that often tourists will try his product, but not be able to carry them back home in their luggage, which is one of the ways they encourage online patronage. When my uncle came to visit LA, he tried what he still calls the world’s best dates. The dates are grown in Mecca, California, and will ship anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. The proprietor gave us his website, and for $25 you can buy a three-pound bag of dates, and support a local California farmer. (I’m trying to get a discounted two-pound bag to keep it under $20.)
And that’s how I took all of my shopping to a local level this year. If you are from a family that spends a lot on the holidays, I understand that you don’t necessarily want to bring down the gift-giving train by buying things for under $20. When you have traditions set in place, it’s hard to break them. However, if your family or friend group ever wants to try a buy local holiday challenge, I think it would be a really fun experiment to impose a $20 (or whatever you choose) cap on gifts, and require everyone to buy from a local shop. In some families, people compete for the best secret santa gift. This would be a similar competition — who can find the best goods, and gifts that perfectly suit the receiver — from a local shop?
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