Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The November & December Challenge: A Buy Nothing Christmas

This monthly challenge is a big one. So big that we're going to spend 2 months on it.  For November and December we are going to gear up for a Buy Nothing Christmas.  Will you join us?

Before you call me a Grinch and run away screaming, please watch this video.


I think we all get a little disillusioned with Christmas sometimes. We know it's not about the stuff.  We know that even if we strip away the gifts and the wrapping paper and the decorations that we can't strip away the meaning and the joy of the season.

But we don't shop as if we believe that, do we?

And so many of us have tried before to have a simpler Christmas, but somehow we get off track and end up giving in to the pressure to give the perfect gift or to have everything just right so that our kids can really soak up the magic of the season.  As if all the right stuff will create that warm fuzzy feeling we get at the end of It's A Wonderful Life.

So this year I am daring us all to rethink Christmas. And to do something that is very radical in our culture: to opt out of the empty,commercialized, stuff-based version of Christmas by choosing not to buy more stuff for people who are already drowning in too much.  To not cheapen our love for other people by giving it in the form of a made-in-china trinket.  To practice an environmentally and socially sustainable Christmas by not buying, giving, and hoping for things we don't need.

The best thing about a Buy Nothing Christmas?  You make the rules. You can choose not to buy anything except the materials for homemade gifts, or choose not to buy any gifts except for second hand items in good repair (it is absolutely okay to give someone a thrifted gift!)  Or to only buy local, or to really truly buy nothing at all except the bare necessities and give all the money you save to the poor. You decide how deep you will dive in.

For our family, this is what our Buy Nothing Christmas will look like:

What we will buy: 
  • Materials for homemade gifts. 
  • Second hand items for upcycled gifts.
  •  Local, natural elements like a live potted Christmas tree (more on that to come). 
  • And actual necessities, like food and soap.

What we won't buy:
  • Gift wrap.  
  • Cards.  
  • Christmas gifts. 
  • Any new consumer goods that aren't a) actual necessities or b) materials with which to make handmade gifts. 
  • Fancy new Christmas outfits for the kids.  
  • Baubles/Tinsel/Mugs with little snowflakes on them.  
  • Clutter.
I've made a button you can share on your own blog if you are joining in on the challenge.  Just copy and paste the  code below:


<a href="http://theyearofless.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-november-december-challenge-buy.html"target="”_blank”"><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-tQEINJJ3k9M/UJHVB5Lq8_I/AAAAAAAAFsQ/Sy6dtflo54I/s300/buynothingchristmasbanner1.jpg" /></a>

Check out BuyNothingChristmas.org for some ideas on alternative ways to celebrate Christmas. And stay tuned to the blog because I plan to share some ideas for homemade gifts (even if you aren't particularly crafty) and some ways to enjoy a simpler, greener, more intentional Christmas this year.

We are doing one small thing (almost) every day for a year to create a simpler, greener, more intentional life. Take a moment to read all About Us, check out The Rules of our year long project and sign up for our RSS feed or "like" us on facebook so that you can follow our journey to radical simplicity!

57 comments:

  1. You made me stay up late ;)! While we can't go in "whole hog" due to family obligations, but I am SO on board!

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  2. I've done your monthly challenges before (loved your eat your pantry month!), but I'll have to sit this one out. You're very brave! Maybe I'll do this for the extended family, but I can't pull the trigger for my immediate family! Good luck!

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  3. Hooray! I was hoping you would do this. I need to talk more with my husband, but this is definitely where I am leaning!! Now if I could just convince everyone else to make it a buy US nothing Christmas, I'd really be thrilled!

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  4. I am in.

    Of course, it's easier because Husband and I decided a month ago to do a Buy Nothing/Homemade Christmas. We have been downsizing our home since August, and I've gotten out of the habit, but a few lists and one master schedule should get me back on track - 50% of the toys leave the house this week! As for Christmas, we are hand making gifts. We are buying stocking stuffers (the kids have small stockings for stuff like duckie soaps and new toothbrushes) and one educational toy for each child. The kids are getting mommy-made gifts like cloth diapers for their dolls, new aprons, mittens, and one stuffed toy each. Adults in our lives are getting covered journals, mug rugs, or original art. Looking forward to saving money and living simple this holiday - I'm very sure that we'll enjoy People more than we enjoy Things this year.

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  5. yeah, i have to say i'm out on this one to. we don't spend tons, hubby and i don't exchange gifts, but i do enjoy giving gifts to the people i love. its the rush i get finding just the right gift for each person, making sure its not the gift that goes into the closet never to be seen again. i also love to hand out hostes gifts but i'm just not handy enough or have the time to craft something.
    promise i'll do your next challenge. this one is just to hard for me.

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  6. My hubby and I have been working in this concept . . . We actually already made all the nieces and nephews toy fishing sets for christmas and I'm working on homemade dolls and doll clothes for my girls . . . Other than making vanilla for the adults that are getting gifts and possibly buying the bottles to put three vanilla in we are done with our christmas shopping. . . Already! It's exciting to already be done with the holiday shopping!

    StephieN
    SimplyBEEcause.blogspot.com

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    1. Oh and I totally agree with Amber about the convincing others not to buy us anything would ber great with one notable exception, kids clothes. My mom buys my kids clothes every year and those clothes last my kid through the next season! That is kinda nice a we really don't have money to buy term clothes as fast as they grow out of them!

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  7. I'm so glad you are doing this! My husband and I have made our Christmas gifts for several years now and LOVE it and everyone loves our home made gifts that we make sure is personalized and practical. I must admit though that I still buy my husband a gift every year but it's always a practical gift....usually a tool he needs (we are building our house), or DVD player when our broke, etc. We also always adopt at least 1 family and we also do the Operation Christmas Child shoe box at my church.

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  8. Great we have practiced minimal christmas for years we dont ever buy gifts for any family members. No one needs anyhting and definately not yule themed socks, smellies etc. my children do get one lego they have chosen, but no massive Harry Potter Hogwarts castles, generally a small vehicle! Lego is the only thing they play with now so all the other outgrown toys go to the toddler group at church. They also get a book and some chocolate from teh grannys but that is it and on christmas morning they are thrilled to get exactly what they wanted. They build their little lego enjoy playing with it go to church enjoy a family meal and go the park. The onus is on enjoying the day together not on stuff. I do send some cards still but less every year and generally to elderly relatives. We also enjoy doing the operation christmas child shoe box at church too where you fill a shoe box with things that get sent to children who would otherwise get nothing

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  9. I knew it, I KNEW it! :) I thought Nov.challenge was going to be either "get totally ready for Christmas by the end of Nov" or this.
    Well.
    My first reaction is NOOO! Not that we go all out, but still.
    So I'll have a think. I might do some things like not buying wrapping paper.
    But I also want to say, home made gifts are not always a reality/possibility if we have other things going on in our lives at the moment (long commutes, long hours at work, getting sick, etc.).
    I so look forward to this new series and seeing what you come up with, and I know that I will be thinking "greener, kinder" as I get ready for this Christmas.
    Ieva
    PS By the way, my Grandpa always recycles his cut Christmas tree by shaking off the needles and plonking the tree down in his garden, then sowing sweet pea seeds around it in spring. So beautiful and smart :)

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  10. I sat and thought about this one, I was already half way there, my Dad died earlier this year and my much loved Mum in Law late last year, Last Christmas without her and with Dad so poorly was hard and then the thought of this year with Dad gone too, almost unbearable.

    We had already decided as a family that Christmas this year would not be about tinsel and trees and consumerism, now this slips into the space so well.

    I am totally on board and as we have already agreed on no gifts we have the concept in motion.

    I have placed the badge and a link to this post on my Blog, and I will do a post about it too, hopefully a few of my many followers will be over for a read.

    Brilliant little film, it spells things out so perfectly.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

    Sue xx
    Our New Life in the Country

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  11. what a great reminder - last year our family gave $$$ equal to a stable - full of animals {cow, goat, pigs, chickens} to a family in a 3rd world country through Compassion Canada - we were beyond blessed to help someone else!!
    people need to be reminded of this regularly
    thank you!
    Anita

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  12. We planned to do this a month or two ago :) I'm so excited for you too!
    Thank you for the resource as well!



    A Young Family's Pursuit to a Life of Simplicity & Contentment
    www.ourfrontporchview.blogspot.com

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    1. I just thought of this - how will this affect your initial giving plan this Christmas? (for every dollar you spend - you give a dollar)?

      Just apply that to what's spent on food/thrift finds/supplies?
      I'd still like to apply that too.

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  13. WOW! That video really makes you think! I have been limiting my children's gifts the last few years. Last year I had it down to $25 and three gifts each! I like the three gift rule because the Magi gave Jesus three gifts. My 12yo is asking me to make him a pack basket this year. My daughter has formed a club at school and they are going to to a school-wide fundraiser starting in a few weeks to buy a goat for a third-world country. I think we might be making some progress!

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    1. I got away with this concept for a couple of years until the eldest DD cottoned on to the story that the shepherds brought a lamb for the baby Jesus, so we had to up the gifts to four...we are still doing it ten years later and the girls are happy with that. If it is good enough for the King of Kings, it is surely good enough for us!

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  14. I am so overjoyed that you are enacting a No Buy Christmas! My family did this last year and honestly I don't think we will ever go back to a traditional consumerist holiday. We were able to enjoy the season with less stress about money, rushing around and seeking the perfect gift. The most difficult part, I agree, is getting others on board to stop buying you junk!
    I look forward to seeing the ideas your family comes up with.

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  15. I know this sounds horrible given that Christmas is still two months away, but I want to work up to this for next Christmas. My husband doesn't like the idea, and so we've been already shopping/preparing for Christmas. But we're definitely paring things down! And I've decided I won't buy any decorations or gift wrap anymore! (When we were kids, my mom made a bunch of gift bags from Christmas fabric and fancy ribbon. I want to do that again.)

    I think the worst part of buying, buying, buying gifts is that you are searching for 'the perfect gift', but if it's perfect, it would just jump out at you as you see it. Getting someone something just because you're supposed to isn't really that nice if you ask me. Lots of good food for thought today. Thanks!

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  16. Great idea. My parents have been asking what they can get the kids and I've given them practical suggestions like clothing or a new bookcase - stuff they need, not just toys that add to the clutter. I'd love to see your ideas of handmade and upcycled gifts too since I haven't done Christmas shopping this year yet, and everyone I buy for has so much already, I don't want to add to the clutter. Thanks so much for doing this.

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  17. I need to get my hubby on board with this, but I honestly don't think that will be an issue. Why does it seem so HARD to tell family members this? And how do you tackle the 'guilt' when they give you something and you don't give in return? Not that guilt motivates me but you know that weird feeling I'm talking about...right??

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    1. We aren't buying anything this Christmas.. but we are still giving to our family members - homemade gifts :)

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    2. That's our plan, too! Our kids get enough as it is...even with the limits we try to place on stuff. We don't get them gifts, not because we don't love them, but because we plan other times to gift them with things they want/need. Extended family doesn't share our view points, and might be turned off to spiritual things if we didn't give them anything, so we are making heart-felt gifts for them.

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    3. We struggled for years with getting gifts for our extended family.
      It was always painful finding any acceptable gift, let alone the "perfect" one. And every year i vowed that next year we weren't going to do it anymore, but never had the courage to say anything. About 5 years ago one of my sisters-in-law said that they had decided to only buy gifts for the nieces and nephews from now on, not for the siblings/spouses. Honestly we were all relieved as we had all been wanting to do the same but never spoke up. So you might be pleasantly surprised if you take the plunge and make the announcement......

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  18. Kelly, I love this. I had a feeling this was going to be your big reveal! I was in from the word go! I was sitting here, thinking about what you presented here, and it is amazing. Why, why do we get so lost? I am as guilty as the next person. I thought back on the best gift I have ever given someone. It was to my husband. I made him a photo slide show, of our love story, set to music, on my laptop. It even included the "happily ever after" portion of us with the kids. I worked on it for days, and poured my heart and my love for him into it. On our anniversary I presented it to him, we sat and watched it together, and it made both of us cry tears of joy. Now, how can I think that buying him a sweater for Christmas can compare. Yet I have done it. Thank you for your inspiration to always be changing the way we are living.

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  19. We've done homemade gifts for everyone but our kids since I was laid off a couple of years ago. I'll admit that I still enjoy buying toys for my kids but this year I have so much less guilt about doing so because their toy collection has been pared down so much. The toys that they're getting will be loved and played with daily. I like doing the handmade gifts because it forces you to put more thought into what people would actually like instead of just buying something random for them in a shopping frenzy.
    I don't know that I can give up my beloved wrapping paper but last year all the gifts except the ones from Santa were wrapped in brown craft paper that my older daughter had stamped with Christmas cookie cutters and paint.

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  20. Thank you for posting this. This video validates my feelings towards the expensive Christmas gifts for Christmas. Usually we spend up to $50 a person on gifts. I love GIVING to other people and sometimes get carried away. I have been on maternity leave for about a month, and have already started crafting my Merry Handmade Christmas and have only spent about $10 per person (a lot of the things I already have in my craft cabinet). Love following both your blogs<3

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  21. I am in! Last year was the final straw for me as we were searching for a last minute gift for an impossible to shop for brother-in-law! We over spent and he doesn't use the gift. It was the last of a long list of examples of why we needed to change. I did break down awhile ago and bought my daughter a few Duplos that I put away for Christmas, but that is the only commercial type gift - everything for family and friends is homemade and being packaged in recycled jars, boxes, papers, etc. I have never been more excited for Christmas and I am thrilled to have at least my siblings on board! (we will keep working on hubby's family!)

    Thank you for this post and challenge!

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  22. I un-plugged from the "buy-buy-buy-rush-rush-rush-spend-spend-spend-stress-stress-stress" marketing and media-hype Christmas-season mentality over 15 years ago! It is so liberating if you just let go.

    What I enjoy is the get-togethers with friends and the laughter.

    Your challenge encourages creativity and spending time with each other - those are precious gifts we can give each other ALL year from our hearts.

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  23. I love this challenge, I haven't been doing your challenges so far just because I couldn't see how it would work for my family, although I have been thinking more and more about how to eat my pantry. This one though I am all in for! The last month or so as I have been looking at our bank accounts and dreading this Christmas season as I end up buying all my gifts as well as my husbands gifts for both families, I broke and wanted to run from Christmas which wouldn't be fair to either of my kids. So I decided 'I am at home on mat leave and I have some extra time that I can fill with things that I love like sewing. I am going to make everyone's gifts this year'. I told my mom that this is what we will be doing and she had also come to the same conclusion and we put the message out to my family that they can also do this or they can still buy our gifts it is up to them. I have to admit I haven't been this excited for Christmas since I was a kid I think. For the first time in my adult life I am more excited for Christmas than Halloween and I find my self wanting to break my no tree before December 1 rule and to put up all of our decorations that are sitting in the garage and to put on Christmas music and make ornaments with my 3 year old. I think that everyone should do this if they can.

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  24. i am in! Best thing for Christmas is love and not stuff xxx

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  25. thank you for this very timely reminder!

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  26. I've accepted the challenge and will blog about it on my 11/2 post.

    Thank you for posting!

    thriftshopcommando.blogspot.com

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  27. I have been working hard to tone down Christmas for years now and finally have it so that it's just a few small gifts for the kids and dinner/brunch with extended family. Everyone else gets homemade seasoning mixes in a jar which (we do the same for 'teacher gifts' at other times of the year) and they have said they much prefer fajita seasoning they can use for months than yet ANOTHER box of chocolate. I do hundreds of seasoning mixes on my blog, they are pretty good to eat yourself too! http://mixitupcookbook.blogspot.ca/2011/12/mix-it-up-christmas-gifts.html

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  28. The other day my 3-yr-old asked what Jesus wanted for His birthday. I told her that He wanted us to give Christmas gifts to people who don't have all of the things we do. I'm not exactly sure what our Christmas will look like, but I need to remember what JESUS wants for Christmas.

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  29. I love this idea! Definitely want to do it--hope we aren't disqualified since we already purchased a few gifts early :)

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  30. Oh I LOVE LOVE LOVE this idea! For several years now I've been thinking we should move towards this idea, but of course no one in my family is on board. Last year, my husband and I did cut back on gifts for everyone, but not much. He's hard to reign in! I hate that we spend so much time focusing on gift giving that we lose sight of the TRUE meaning of CHRISTmas. And since our child will only be 2 at Christmas, she hasn't yet learned that its "normal" to get a ton of presents, so we have the perfect opportunity to change. Some of the people we buy gifts for we only see a few times a year, so you know what we buy them is not meaningful, just a "thing." I hate that. I'd much rather DO stuff together and forget the presents! Maybe this will be the year I finally convince everyone to get on this bandwagon.

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  31. Wow! This challenge is totally blowing my mind right now. I'm contemplating how this will fit into our family. I'm eager to do it (honestly, I've enjoyed reading your blog but never had the guts to do any of the challenges - except Oct. Sermon on the Mount). Thanks for encouraging me to think more about the season and Jesus.

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  32. Kelly, I was curious about how you felt when addressing friends/family that want to buy YOU a present. I think my family would be fine if WE didn't buy THEM something. But alot of them still want to shop for unecessary items for us and our kids. Thanks again for an inspiring post!

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    1. Hey Shawna! A few people have mentioned that and I plan to do a post on that very soon.

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    2. OH good! Looking forward to that!

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  33. The best Christmas I ever had was the year we lived in Ohio(I was 10). My dad was no longer in the military and working two jobs. They got us four kids some clothes and a few toys. My best toy? A ballerina doll. I loved that poor thing to death!!! Instead of the usual candy in our stockings, we got oranges and thought that was the best. My folks felt sooooooooooooooo bad that they could not afford wrapping paper (I thought my dad was going to cry when he told us) and HAD to use the funny pages from the newspaper. We kids loved our "fancy wrapping" paper. At 50, it is still the best Christmas ever.

    I will be on board with you. Many people think it is hard when they can afford to buy gifts. But then feel bad when money is tight. The challenge is to experience it at least once when finances do not force you into this. One year I announced I was not going to buy for anyone but my son (I was a single Mom). Everyone was shocked, but the next year we made it just for the kids.

    I admire you and your husband for doing something that is so "anti-Christmas".
    blessings, jill

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  34. I would love to say that I am on board but have already started shopping, though I have cut WAY back..I am buying things that my neices and nephews can DO. We don't exchange gifts on my husbands side, but my side still insist on doing something...it irritates me. I told them not to buy me any 'stuff' that I have to find room for,I have decluttered and will not put stuff out to make anyone happy. It's a dilemma.

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  35. [ watched the video ]
    just wondering, but why don't those peoples goverments do something about the lack of clean water, there is always enough money for wars guns to kill each other with, just saying,
    and you are talking about a no spend christmas,[ great idea ] but the adds on your page say quick order, beyonces perfume is only £46

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    1. The ads on my page are google ads...they are targeted to the viewer based on their own browsing and shopping history. So the ads I see are generally for things like water filters, energy efficient lighting, and kids clothes. The ads you see are different from mine based on your own browsing habits.

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  36. I love this idea so much. I'm not a Christian, but I believe in the power of human relationships changing lives.

    My depression means I'm unable to work at the moment, and have very little money, but I'm finding that baking, arts and crafts heal me and fulfil me. I'd already decided to make my own gifts this year, but being part of a community all doing it would be even better.

    Let's bring it on! :-)

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  37. Hi - Firstly, I should say that I am a Buddhist, not a Christian and so for me I celebrate Christmas in a non-religious way (if that doesn't sound too silly). For me its a time for peace, love and family. I used to love the magic of Christmas when I was a child and my Mam, Dad and Grandparents made it magic. As an adult however, I just can't re-create the magic because I always feel swamped by the consumerism and the huge amounts of to-do list pressures I put on myself. I end up missing advent in the frantic attempt to prepare for one day where I am usually too exhausted and grumpy to have any fun or even be emotionally 'present'. I really wish I could opt out of the consumerism but honestly I don't think I can because my little boy is so used to Christmas being a certain way that he would be really disenchanted if I opted for a scaled-down version. Maybe I can change all the other pressures surrounding Christmas though. Lily. xxx

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  38. We are sort of onboard. We have been moving and shifting our lives with a very similar purpose and goal to your own. We have decided this year there will be one 'new store bought' present for each of our children, but only after I sell, give away, or throw out a lot of things. My goal was to shift at least 100 items. I've sold 138, but my real goal is to make 3 times what I will spend on my children, then they can donate the rest to help others. We are making a lot of our gifts, but most items this year that will be beneath our tree this year will be focusing on practical luxuries, like home made slippers.

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  39. What a beautiful idea! We will be mostly on board. There are a few things I already know we're going to buy (ie, movies for our cinophile family) but we'll be making as much as we can!

    Love Letters 7.10
    http://loveletters710.com

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  40. i'm in. we dont buy for extended family anyways. so it's just my kids (x4) hehe...

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  41. Hi - I'm seeing your idea all round my blogging friends, and I've come to have a look again! I think I'll be able to join you - we have been busy making presents for a month or so now and there may be some shopping for books or handmade goodies to suppliment what we make, but in general, we're aiming for a Christmas that looks a lot like yours. Last year I wrapped all the gifts in vintage fabric and lace, which the recipients kindly gave back to me afterwards! Haven't thought about what to use this year... Thanks for organising this event and inspiring/encouraging us.

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  42. The more of us who get involved, the better!!
    And responsible stewardship/thrift/whatever you call it, it is NOT being mean!

    love, joy, peace and hope are the best gifts to give at Christmas, and you cannot buy them in the stores [or online!]

    blessings xx

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  43. Isn't it rather odd to post this alongside 2 eyecatching ads for stocking fillers and hampers?? I'm assuming you will be receiving revenue for this - as is your due, but still I think it's odd to have them here......

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  44. Hi there, I came across your button on frugal queen's blog and just wanted to leave a little comment to say welldone and keep at it! I completely follow this way of living and especially at xmas! I agree whole-heartedly that you can't "buy" xmas! I have a xmas tradition with friends where our presents can only be free, found, homemade, recycled or less than £5 for a good cause; charity shop, book sale etc. Every year we each get amazing heartfelt gifts and usually don't have to spend a penny! So bring on the home baked ginger bread and mince pies, free things from "magicfreebies" and home made trinkets!

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    1. p.s. i'm new to the whole "blogging thing" and need followers other than myself, if you could follow or subscribe to my blog I would forever be grateful!Many thanks

      http://anewchallengeiswhatineed.blogspot.co.uk/

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  45. Is it a no blog month too?

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  46. Count me in ! I found you via Frugal Queen and that video says it all!

    San

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