Black Friday is almost here - a day of shopping madness, and for many the beginning of the festive season. Abi Aldridge shares our 3 tips to beat the Black Friday blues and crazy Christmas consumption.

We spend more money at Christmas than we do any other family holiday, even when we can’t afford it. 1 in 4 UK parents go into debt to pay for Christmas, and worse yet? The presents don't even make us happy! 1 in 3 women say they feel more stressed at Christmas than at other times of the year, and research shows that stuff itself isn't making us happy (see our report on Our Relationship with Stuff). 

The good news is that doesn't have to be this way… it is possible to have a happy, loved filled Christmas without spending ridiculous amounts of money and getting stressed, Here are our 3 top tips for avoiding the Black Friday blues and Christmas craziness.

1. Create memories not till receipts

A great gift doesn’t have to cost the Earth, or indeed cost very much at all. Over half of UK millennials would rather spend money on an experience rather than a possession – be that a meal out, a picnic with friends or trip to the seaside! People are increasingly valuing experiences and time with loved ones over ‘stuff’.

Our #ElflessActs campaign is an easy way to give the gift of your time this Christmas instead of a present (because let’s face it – your Nan doesn’t need another rose scented candle, and she’d much rather have a cup of tea and natter with you!). Why not give an Elfless Act this year and build precious memories rather than piles of unwanted junk?

2. Give gifts with a difference

What if there was a way we could give our loved ones a gift and make a difference? There is! Charity shops are full of second hand gems you could gift your loved ones - from homeware, to DVDs, games or clothing - there's so much you find. If stuff isn't your cup of tea, loads of charities offer sponsorship gift ideas at Christmas - from adopting a snow leopard for a year, to paying for homeless people to have a Christmas dinner.

The great thing about charitable gifts is that not only can you make yourself feel a bit better for doing your bit for charity, but can also pass on that happiness to your loved ones!

3. Buy stuff that lasts

We throw out 99% of the stuff we buy within 6 months - that''s a lot of unwanted, broken stuff ending up in landfill! Not everyone is into experiences or charity shop steals, and sometimes stuff is the only option, but if you are buying presents make sure they're high quality, ethical presents that won't end up in landfill.

  1. The first trick to this is to buy what people actually want, not what you think they want! Encourage present lists or gift registries, and find out what would really add value to someone's life.
  2. Once you've got the list, try and buy the products in the most sustainable, ethical way. You want to buy stuff that will last (not fall apart after 3 months) and that you know has been sourced in the most responsible way. Look to buy from local artists, craftsmen or businesses, or from ethical brands or stores such as Ethical Superstore.  

Sometimes the stuff people want costs more than we would expect our families to pay - but there are solutions to this such as gift registry site Patchwork (read our interview with Patchwork founder Olivia Knight). 

The festive period is a time to spend time with our loved ones, be thankful, reflect on the past year and look forward to the next - it shouldn't be about presents. If you'd like to know more about how to have a stuff and stress free Christmas this year to www.elflessacts.org.uk or check out our list of ideas for more fun, less stuff presents!