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December 22, 2013
by LuAnn Pierce, LCSW

How to Escape the Commercialism and "I wants" of Children and Adults at Christmas

December 22, 2013 04:55 by LuAnn Pierce, LCSW  [About the Author]

Many of us are tired – really tired – of the hassle, senseless greed and ever-increasing debt of  commercialism – at Christmas and in daily life. Ten years ago, people who dropped-out or opted-out of mainstream life were considered fairly radical. In the last decade we have seen a recession, a depression and a housing crisis to rival any in our history.

Normal, mainstream people have responded by joining occupy movements across the nation and the world, pouring money and effort into alternative energy sources, creating out-of-the-box housing options (like tiny houses that are more efficient, less expensive and environmentally friendly) and rising up en mass to grow their own food. ‘Living off the grid’ is no longer just for Unabombers and cults.

Today, choosing to drop-out or at least cut back on commercialism doesn’t seem quite so radical. In fact, there seems to be a shift in that direction in mainstream culture – at least among many city dwellers.

Take Back Your Life by Living Your Values

Whatever the reason(s) you are considering ways to avoid commercialism at Christmas, it can be done. It is easier to follow through with your efforts if you are very clear in your own mind about why this is important to you.

Perhaps it is simply that you can no longer afford the expense – that is a legitimate reason. Maybe you have decided to reevaluate your priorities, and prefer to use that money elsewhere. Or, you have concerns about the impact on the environment (all the wrapping paper!) – the message it sends to  your children to spend money on gifts for things they do not need or use – lining the pockets of huge corporations that have a negative impact on our society or treat their workers poorly – loss of religious meaning in the season. Regardless of the reason(s), it helps to be clear about them, as you will probably have to remind yourself and explain your decision to others, particularly if you have children.

Dealing with Reality in a Materialistic Society

Now that the philosophical issues have been addressed, you still have to work with your family and friends to implement your plan. Consider this a time to begin some new traditions during the holiday season. You may want to have a family meeting to discuss alternate plans for Christmas. Allow the kids to have input about what you might do together, a brief trip you might take together or ways to spend the holiday so that people aren’t just sitting around feeling miserable because you are not following the previous traditions of the holiday season.

The truth is, your children may be really distressed about these changes. It may behoove you to keep them focused on something they/your family enjoys. Perhaps instead of no gifts, you have everyone choose one special item they need and will use – again it depends on why you want to avoid the commercialism of Christmas. This might help with the ‘I wants’ of kids and adults.

·         If you want to ease into these changes – start by reducing your budget for Christmas gifts by 50% the first year and repeat for subsequent years.

·         Challenge family members to narrow down their list to 1-2 things within a specific dollar amount.

·         Encourage the family to pool your resources and adopt a tiger, lion or bear at the Wild Animal Sanctuary or local zoo for a year (or other non-profit of your choice) in lieu of gifts

·         If you go for no gifts, make the day special by planning activities together as a family.

·         Start new traditions or incorporate the old sans the gifts.

·         Perhaps you have a tree and make gifts for each other to exchange on Christmas morning.

·         Maybe you each choose a poem or artwork for other family members and talk about why it seemed relevant when you give the gift.

·         Maybe you each tell a story or play a game on Christmas morning.

·         If you want to keep the holiday dinner as a tradition, focus your energy on that. Maybe you try a new non-traditional meal each year and spend the day making new recipes.

·         If you want to start a new tradition, consider going out for a holiday dinner – you will probably spend the same amount for a nice buffet as you would shopping for a home cooked meal (depending on where you live and choose to dine).

·         If you go on a one or two day trip, plan activities instead of sitting around feeling bad that you have no gifts.

·         Ask friends to give baked or canned foods that you will use, donate to a charity in the name of the family or to simply follow your no gift rule.

Whatever you choose to do, try to remember that focusing your energy on making the new traditions successful will minimize the pain of making changes. If you can begin talking about the new Christmas traditions early in the year, everyone will have more time to adapt to the reality. Try not to be overly rigid about things – it might be a good idea to ease into the changes.

And remember, it will get easier. The first year may be difficult, but each subsequent year should be easier as people adjust to the new way of being. Good luck!



Richards, Heidi. "The Splurge Mentality: Why We Go Crazy at Christmas." WE Magazine for Women. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.

About the Author

LuAnn Pierce, LCSW LuAnn Pierce, LCSW

I am a clinical social worker, therapist and writer. Currently, I offer online therapy and coaching services to people in Colorado and Wyoming. As a provider for the CO Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and the National MS Society, my expertise in counseling people who have disabilities and chronic illness is considerable. I have written for,,,, and contribute to several other online health and mental health sites.

Office Location:
19th & Dahlia
Denver, Colorado
United States
Phone: 303-910-2425
Contact LuAnn Pierce, LCSW

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