Rethinking Gift-Giving

Photo by hlkljgk
Having heard the music in the malls and seen the decorations in the windows (since November 1st!), I know that the stores are trying to tell me Christmas is just around the corner. Even though the weather's warm for this time of year, I can see the date on my calendar. As a kid, it was a pretty exciting time, filled with crafts and food and gifts. As an adult, I know it can be pretty stressful and honestly, I tend to ignore it until it's staring me in the face. 

So, in my guest for ultimate awesomeness, I've compiled some helpful tips for making my holidays fun, cheap, eco-friendly, and less stressful. This is the first of three parts.

Part 1: Rethinking Gift-Giving

The first step to revamping the gifting tradition is to realize what the essential elements of it are for you and your kin, then go from there. First, figure out who you're including in the tradition. Why? Really think about where you do and don't want to place your effort and money. Discuss with the those close to you to find out how they feel about gift-giving, what the budget is, what it means for them, and what they and you want.  

For me (and probably most people), the idea is to be thoughtful and give something the other person can use (needs or wants). Keeping this and the discussion in mind, make a list of potential presents and go for it. In years past, I've found it challenging, but there are a few options I do and will use for cutting back on cash and/or clutter. I think the tips are useful, not just for the holidays, but any other present-giving situation you find yourself in.
  • Recycle. Why not? If you have something good or find something second-hand that the other person will like, why not give it to them. Most of my favourite clothes (household items, books) have been given to me or bought second hand.

Photo by lydiashiningbrightly

  • Give Experiences. If your beef with the tradition is the mass of stuff that accumulates, why not give experience? These could be as simple as a dinner out, a cooking lesson, a day of pampering, or savings representing the first leg of a tour across Canada. You could even trade personal tours of favourite places in the city.

  • Do it yourself.  Have you got a special talent? Why not use it to better the life of one around you? You could host or create a great dinner, a painting, a dress, do taxes. Just be sure that you know what the person wants and that you really do have a talent for it. With those two keys, the gift will surely be appreciated. 

  • Change the ratio. Why not have a secret santa? Rather than everyone buying gifts for everyone, each person is only responsible for one other member in the group. Another way- why not give one gift to many people? Host a gathering (potluck, outing, or otherwise) as your contribution to the cheer. My family generally does group gifts, with everyone getting one or a few small presents that fit within a budget. It helps to be able to have cohorts in the gift planning and cuts down on the amount of gift expenses overall.
    Image by Bernhardt Soccer

  • You may also decide to Eliminate the gift-giving all together. This might mean a gift to a charity in the person or family's name, a simple hug, a card, or whatever you want it to mean.

If you're stuck for ideas and still want to buy, opt to give gift-certificates rather than something the person can't use. Some think it's impersonal, but I think it's practical, and you can always add a special note to it. Remember to save time and stress in the stores by trying to go during non-peak hours and setting a limit on time and options. 

If you've got that great idea and it's do-able, go for it.  Whatever you do, keep in mind your goal. Giving a gift should be a good experience for the giftee and the giver; don't stress yourself out.

What's your go-to plan for gift-giving? Any great tips or ideas for presents? Leave a comment, I'd love to hear them. 

Don't forget to subscribe for the rest of this holiday series and more posts. Up next: The greeting card, holiday dinner, and asking for help.


  1. I like giving & getting homemade gifts. Every year my mom writes me a christmas memory from when she was little. I know she has fun writing them and I have fun reading them. And I have this one friend that I always make gifts for instead of buying. She's super artsy and I know she appreciates a homemade gift more than a store bought one.
    I really like your idea of "give experiences". I never thought of giving tours as a gift. That's a perfect gift idea for out of town friends :)

  2. @Dee
    That's such a beautiful thought Dee, thanks for sharing it. It sounds like a wonderful tradition that you and your Mom have. (It make me want to write one funny memory that I share with the recipient of any card, gift-tag, or letter I send.)

    I love getting experiences. There are a few physical things I ask for, but especially as I try to de-clutter my space, I realize how much more time spent well is worth.

    I hope you had a wonderful holiday and a happy new year! :)


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