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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Radical Gift-Giving Idea or Plain Common Sense? | 12-22-2012
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Commentary by Jennifer Fischer
| Saturday, Dec 22, 2012

JenniferFischerSomewhere along the way, when I was either in high school or just started college, my family started a radical, new Christmas tradition: thrift store-resale or garage sale-yard sale gifts only. Yes, I said “only.”

Even without being a wealthy family – my father was a minister and my mother was a teacher-turned-hearing healthcare provider – you reach a point when most people have more or less what they want and need – even with kids who are struggling college students or artists.

The obsession with material goods and the holiday push to buy, buy, buy had come to feel all wrong to us. It was simply too much. So we started our thrift store-resale-garage sale-only rule.

You might think this Christmas tradition is absurd and that my family is nuts. We might be. Or you might think it is pure genius. Either way, you are pretty much right. When I was a struggling college kid, the rule was a relief; I could afford to buy my family members gifts. But it also gave new meaning to holiday giving. Hunting at a thrift store or hoping to catch a great garage sale is a completely different type of shopping than fighting the crowds at a giant mall or box store.

It feels a bit like being a detective. Plus, at the time, my parents lived in a town that had several cool thrift stores, so coming home for Christmas break and spending time driving all over town with my brother to each store became another fun holiday tradition.

It also requires a lot of thought and insight regarding your family members and often keeps you thinking of them all year long, since even in March you can find yourself at a thrift store thinking that maybe you will find that perfect gift for your loved one for Christmas – because at a thrift store timing can be everything.

There is the added benefit that most of the time, an item at a thrift store will cost much less than an item at the mall (except the year my brother and I discovered an amazing antique sewing machine and badgered my dad and pooled our money to get it for my mom).

What I also embraced about this tradition was that our money would go back into the community – to a cause, be it Goodwill and the work opportunities and job training it provides, or the Salvation Army, Humane Society, Assistance League (which provides free clothing and school supplies for kids in need) or whatever other charity the store supports.

In short, this Christmas tradition, which might sound crazy, is pretty great. I know it is not entirely possible for everyone, especially those with kids of certain ages. I also know, though, that some of the favorite gifts my 3-year-old received for his birthday this year were thrift-store purchases – the brand new-looking Thomas the Train backpack my mom got him for his third birthday, the (unused) Thomas the Train sticker book I bought him with 700 (all 700) stickers and coloring pages (not a single mark on them), the monster truck for his sandbox and the bucket and shovel – all bought at either Goodwill or garage sales – as well as the amazing Ralph Lauren black dress I got for myself. (In Santa Clarita, my favorite thrift stores tend to be the Assistance League thrift store in Newhall, particularly for stuff for my kids, and the Goodwill store in Stevenson Ranch – although the Thomas items were scored at Goodwill in Canyon Country).

So I want to know: What is your take? Crazy or genius? Would you ever consider doing something like this with your family?

I completely get that this is not for everyone, and I encourage you to do what you need to do for your family, while also remembering that retail employees work hard at this time of year, so be kind if you are out there getting last-minute gifts.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

 

Jennifer Fischer is co-founder of the SCV Film Festival, a mom of two, an independent filmmaker and owner of Think Ten Media Group, whose Generation Arts division offers programs for SCV youth. She writes about her parenting journey on her blog, The Good Long Road. Her commentary is published Saturdays on SCVNews.com.

 

 

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