I’ve never been a big fan of shopping, whether window shopping, grocery shopping, or holiday shopping. It’s always been a chore and a tug of war between my minimalist urgings and my desire for nice things.
In the midst of the shopping drama I’ve managed to find peace by looking for ways to spend frugally in a way that benefits the local economy, the environment, and my conscience.
Here are a few ideas for being a smart shopper
and for some memorable gifts:
- Before you even head out of the house, be sure to grab some of those canvas bags that you’ve been hiding in your closet and underneath your bed. Canvas bags not only make you a more responsible shopper but when you pack your bags at the mall or at the store, your canvas bags will “hide” what you purchased, making you less of a target for holiday thieves.
- Plan your shopping days and make it a fun day with your family members and your friends and carpool together, take public transit together or ride your bikes together. It will be much more fun and since you are surrounded by friends and family, all of you will be safer from being mugged.
- Buy from local merchants and buy American Made. You will help boost the economy, you’ll discover great merchants, and you’ll make some great friends with creative people who are responsible for the local economy.
- Think outside the box when shopping for presents. There are traditional gifts that meet basic needs but take a few extra moments to look for a gift that makes a statement or is a bit of a surprise. How about something handmade by a crafter at Etsy or a bamboo GoWear utensil set. A gift that comes with a sustainability commitment meets a basic need and goes on to inspire others!starts a lot of conversations!
- Make someone happy and at the same time do good for the world. Invest in presents that support non-profits, activist groups, local theatres, and in organizations that do good. Check out Ethical Ocean that lists good gifts online.
- Gift a membership to a local Museum, a Film Festival, Gallery, Theatre, or Concert Hall.
Some gift ideas:
- Bike Education classes through Sustainable Streets.
- Support Bikeside, LA’s only 501(c)4 advocacy group, via PayPal.
- Buy a membership to the bike share/bike storage facility. They’re good for the local community and they are great for cyclists. Visit the local Bike Center (Santa Monica, Chicago and Cincinnati), Bike Station (Long Beach and Covina),Bike Stop (Burbank – contact Cory for membership). The Santa Monica Bike Center just opened and their monthly passes start at only $15, $25 with locker. Annual pass starts at only $99. Your cycling family members and friends will love this gift.
- Buy a gift certificate from the local Bike Co-op. It’s good for the non-profit and its a great way to get a friend on a bike. The Bicycle Kitchen, Bikerowave, Bike Oven, Bike Angels and Bikery will help cyclists build a bike from scratch as well as lend tools and teach classes so cyclists can maintain their bike.
- Organize a CERT training class (Community Emergency Response Team program through the Los Angeles Fire Department) in your neighborhood and get all your family members and neighbors to participate. Make personalized holiday cards that have an invitation to the upcoming CERT classes that you organized and pass it out during the holidays to anybody you come across.
- Get METRO passes for your commuter family members. They are as low as $20 for the weekly and $75 for the monthly pass and they are valid on the first TAP, which means, they can start using the pass any time of the month and keep it valid for 30 days. These new passes no longer expire on the 30th of each month.
- Plant a tree in someones name. This is a fantastic program through TreePeople and when I ride by the tree that was named after me, I always have a big smile on my face. You can also gift trees through the John Muir Society. Good for the planet, good for the soul!
These are just a few ideas and if you have more, please share them with me. I’d love to post them on my local blog and share your ideas with my facebook and twitter community.
I wish you all a very Happy and Safe Holiday Season!
This article appeared in the on-line magazine for actors The Networker, in December 2012.