Mariah is the Program Manager of End Slavery Now. Currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio, she graduated from the University of Cincinnati's DAAP program with a degree in Digital Design. Check out her work at www.mariahacord.com
Yes I realize it is only October, but I am already talking about holiday gift shopping. I am against premature holiday decorating as much as the next person, but I think we need to plan where we are going to get our gifts in order to get the best slave free options. Just like meal planning prevents us from making impulsive, unhealthy food decisions, gift planning can help prevent last minute, convenient gift buying. This last minute gift buying normally leaves us in the situation of having no idea where our presents came from or how they were made. I am writing this post to share my new holiday shopping plan with you. Last year, I found myself a couple days before Christmas with no gifts and no idea what to get anyone. I hurried down to the nearest mall and bought all my unthoughtful gifts. This year is going to be different.
Before we get excited about Cyber Monday deals, we need to figure out who we are getting gifts for this year. Sit down with a piece of paper or a Google doc to write out who you are buying for this holiday season. My list includes friends and family (shocker) and has a grand total of 14 people on it. I know that I have $500 budgeted for all my Christmas shopping, so that leaves me with about $35 a person. This allotment can obviously change if you find cheaper gifts and need to shift some money around, but it is a good starting point.
View the spreadsheet I made to keep track of my gifts. (To download go to File -> Download as)
Now we need to figure out what we are going to get each person. I like to put my gifts into three categories: experiences, handmade and mainstream.
Experiences are things like cooking classes, tickets to a show or a hotel room for a vacation. These are awesome because they get your loved ones to try something they wouldn’t otherwise do because it’s already paid for. I find ideas for these on places like Groupon or Living Social. You can also check Airbnb for road trip destinations. Last year, I purchased a chocolate making class for my brother and his girlfriend which they loved! Did I ask where the chocolate came from for that class? No, but I should have. This year, it's important to consider both the experiences of the people I'm giving gifts to as well as the people behind the products and services.
Handmade includes locally made items or goods made by someone crafty like those on Etsy. Supporting local artisans or artists on sites like Etsy helps grow small businesses. You can also have direct contact with the craftsman, so you can ask where he or she sourced the materials for their product. But if you are thinking about getting a handmade gift, it is always good to plan ahead because it often takes weeks to make your gift, leaving little room for last minute requests. During our trip to Romania last year I found some awesome handcrafted wooden spoons with smiley faces carved into them, which everyone in my family received for Christmas.
Mainstream gifts are products that I purchase elsewhere. This category is where most of the online research to vet companies comes into play. Most of the time I have no idea what I want to get, but in the process of researching companies I see products that make me think of people on my gift list. Now that I know more about great companies fighting slave labor in their supply chains, I can be more intentional about which brands I buy and which ones I avoid.
So, this year, list out potential slavery-free companies and what you want to get each person on your list. By doing this ahead of time, you can be more mindful of where you can get specific gifts and have extra time to consider what you actually want to buy.
Now, we are at the part of researching gifts made without forced, child or slave labor. You can start with the gift in mind or the company. We have spotlighted a number of different slave free companies to get you started. We also have Pinterest boards for a variety of gift giving scenarios. If you have to do your own research on a company, look for the following:
Once you find the product you want, wait for the holiday sales to roll in! Since you have planned your gifts in advance, you know exactly where to look when Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts are being advertised. This way you can get your slave free gifts and benefit from some promotional sales! Also be sure to check discounts for first time email sign ups. A lot of times companies will give you 10-30% off your first order if you give them your email.
If you have been asked this question before, you need to make a plan. Yes, we also have to plan for what other people can purchase for us. Knowing what you want helps others avoid getting you things you don’t want/need or from giving you slave-made goods. After all my gift research, I found some items that I would love to have and collected them on a Pinterest board that I can send when I am asked this question. If you are someone who doesn’t want/need any more material items, consider some experiences you would like to try or a charity you want to support. Last year, my brother–in–law donated the money he would’ve spent on a gift to my favorite non-profit, which was incredibly thoughtful! This year, I want to ask my family to serve together as part of my gift because that will mean more to me than any pair of jeans or other material object.
August 10th is unofficially National Smores Day in the U.S. Help celebrate the holiday by making smores with fair trade chocolate.
Engage in a career that means so much more than an income. Join a social enterprise, become your own boss, and help bring freedom to others.