7 Questions to Make You a More Mindful Shopper This Holiday Season

Public Domain. MaxPixel – Mall in Hamburg, Germany, is decorated for Christmas

Use these questions to kickstart a tough conversation with family about how to handle holiday gifts.

One of my favorite finance bloggers is a Canadian woman named Cait Flanders. She recently shut down her blog, but still maintains her website and sends out a lengthy, thought-provoking newsletter every few weeks. Some readers may know her name from her book, The Joy of Less, published last year. (Read my review here.)

Flanders' latest newsletter arrived in my email inbox at a perfect time. I've been mulling over how to handle Christmas presents this year with my extended family, wondering if we should draw names out of a hat, do a second-hand Christmas, a handmade Christmas, a plastic-free Christmas, or just put a strict price limit on gifts. I realize, though, that it's not all up to me. I have to sit down and talk with the family about what everyone else wants, too – and that's a bit daunting.

Enter Flanders' timely newsletter, titled "20 Questions to Spark Conversations About Being a Mindful Consumer During the Holidays." It offers ways to ease into those blunt discussions that need to be had with family members in order to establish new and more fulfilling holiday traditions. She writes that having tough conversations is "the most danced around topic in any blog post about how to change your life".

"I understand why: it's not easy to start tough conversations. It feels even more difficult during the holidays, when perhaps some of the things you want to change have been traditions passed down for years or even generations. Nobody wants to tell their parents or grandparents that they want to opt out."

But these conversations are necessary if there's to be any change, and that's where Flanders' questions can be helpful. She offers 20 in total, but these are the ones pertaining most closely to gift shopping.

1. What role do gifts play in your current holiday traditions? Is there anything you want to change about that this year?
2. What are the stories you have told yourself about why you should buy X many gifts or spend Y amount of money on gifts? Are those stories still true for you today? Which ones do you want to rewrite?
3. How do you feel about money right now? How do you want to feel about money at the end of this holiday season?
4. How do you feel about your health right now? How do you want to feel about it at the end of this holiday season?
5. What could you/we physically live without during the holidays?
6. What do you want to consume less of during the holidays — and in 2019?
7. What do you want giving to look like during the holidays — and all year?

Who knows, your tough family conversation might turn out to be the most memorable one of the year. Even if the majority doesn't agree to change up the holiday gift-giving tradition, at the very least it will get them thinking about other ways of doing things and to examine their motives and behaviors – and what more could you want for the holidays than that?