Giving and receiving gifts is an undeniably fun part of the holidays, but it can also be very stressful. Gone are the days when, as a child, I used to judge the success of each Christmas based on how many gifts I received. Now I sort of dread having to choose and buy presents. Not only do I fret about the Visa bill, but I also resent the sheer volume of stuff that enters the house. Then there’s all the waste, from plastic packaging to wrapping materials. This is why I’m always on the lookout for alternative solutions – ways of sharing the holiday spirit and showing generosity and love without buying into the shopping frenzy.
1. Make a one-gift policy per household. Especially when there are grandkids, people go a little crazy with buying toys. I’ve told relatives that, if they choose to get a gift for my boys, please keep it to a single item from the entire household. The same rule could apply to adults.
2. Draw names from a hat. Do this in advance, perhaps at Thanksgiving, if you’re all together. Put family members’ names in a hat and each person draws one. That is the only person you shop for, which allows you to put more thought and effort into that gift.
3. Stick to a single gift per person. I was surprised when a friend told me he’d bought “first and second” gifts already. “How many do you give?” I asked, surprised. “Three or four,” he said. I don’t think that’s necessary. One really nice, carefully selected gift can be sufficient.
4. Give gift cards instead of things. This way, the recipient can choose whatever they need or like, instead of you guessing and potentially giving them something useless.
5. Avoid gifts that require batteries, or give rechargeable batteries and a charger along with it. As a parent, it’s annoying when my boys receive a new battery-powered gift (especially when it comes with no batteries). Then I’m scrambling to buy, replace, and recycle batteries on a regular basis.
6. Shop well in advance. There’s something thrilling about finding the perfect gift for someone, but it’s hard to do that under pressure. By keeping an eye out all year long, you can put greater thought into buying something that’s perfect.
7. Give an experience instead of a thing. I’ll never forget the Christmas when my mother arranged a surprise horse-and-sleigh ride through the forest, complete with a campfire and hot cider. By contrast, I don’t remember what gifts I received that year. The point is, memories last a lot longer than things, so they’re worth investing in.
8. Consider a “living gift.” Many charitable organizations offer living gifts as opportunities to help less fortunate people. For instance, you can buy a goat, chicken, or cow, or build a well for a family in a developing country, and then give a certificate explaining it to the person you’re buying for.
9. Have a buy-nothing Christmas. Be radical and opt for a gift-free holiday season. Sit around the fireplace, sip hot chocolate, sing some carols, go for a hike, and have a potluck dinner. Believe me, it’s fun.
10. Have an all-homemade Christmas. If you want the whole family to participate, be sure to establish this well in advance, since it takes time to make gifts. I’ve learned from experience that it’s impossible to knit scarves and mittens for the entire family in December – or maybe I’m just a slow knitter. Get some DIY gift inspiration here.
Do you have any tips for avoiding the gift frenzy?