When you hear someone talk about a recycled Christmas, I bet you think of that awful sweater Aunt Pam got you that you took to the office gift exchange or the adorable baby sleeper you rewrapped for a baby shower because your well-meaning cousin was a about 10 sizes off!

While I have been there many times, I am talking about a completely different concept.

A few years ago, a month before Christmas, I was struggling with an unexpected downsizing from a company from which I thought I would retire. My income wasn’t "just extra", it was vital to our lifestyle (which was comfortable but by no means extravagant).

With the Christmas countdown well under way, I knew there was no way we were going to be able to afford to fill the tree with tons of presents this year. While our kids never got hung up on gifts or the latest must have items, they still loved Christmas morning, as did I.

I didn’t want to let that go ... I wanted to see their eyes light up when they saw a pile of presents around the tree. I knew I had to find a way to spend less and buy more. It seemed like a lose-lose situation. Just when I was about to surrender ... ready to purchase one gift (the best we could do) and call it a day, I noticed the online garage sale frenzy taking over my Facebook. At the time it was like a light bulb came on!

I didn’t even take time to over analyze it. For a fraction of what we typically spent on the kids Christmas gifts, I was able to buy twice the amount of gently used items.

I am sure many people question this concept ... thinking they HAVE to buy the newest and shiniest toys to show how much they care, but let me ask you what is most important? That your kids are happy and know that you love them! Turn off that little voice in your head saying "oh no, you can’t do THAT", because yes you most certainly can! I did it and you know what? My kids LOVED the toys they got that year! It has become a tradition I look forward to each year. I plan to continue to have a recycled Christmas even after we no longer need to financially. I know I'm helping other moms and dads put presents under their trees.

This year however, I have deeper motivations. Giving my kids recycled Christmas gifts lightens my waste on the world. It means a few less toys are made...a few less cardboard boxes....a few less toys added to the landfill.

Yes I know my impact is small, but if we all lightened our waste just a little imagine the collective effect. The amount of effort and thought that goes into purchasing gifts is the same whether you are in Walmart or buying gently loved toys from a single mom. If you are struggling to fill your shopping cart this year or if you just want to save a few trees, why not rethink your shopping list and consider giving a few recycled Christmas gifts instead?