Between now and the end of the year, we've got five family birthdays plus Christmas. Every year, we go back and forth about what to do for gifts. As for me- gifts are not my Love Language, and I'd prefer some sort of experience or something practical to some thing I have to store in my house. We do like getting gifts for our nephews though- but they all have so many toys that we try to find some non-toy thing to get them, and the ideas are running thin. As for our adult siblings and parents, we want to do something, but have trouble thinking up what that something ought to be.
Alternatives to traditional Christmas gifts have popped up over the last few years. These alternatives sometimes save money and sometimes don't, but almost always reduce the environmental impact of the gift and sometimes work toward justice, too!
- Buy nothing - This is the most obvious way to save money during the shopping season- just don't shop. This is a hard decision for us to make, because we do like showing others love by giving them gifts, and we're not sure how we'd explain it to people. There's a whole organization that advocates a Buy Nothing Christmas: "Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative started by Canadian Mennonites who offer a prophetic "no" to the patterns of over-consumption of middle-class North Americans. They are inviting Christians (and others) all over Canada to join a movement to de-commercialize Christmas and re-design a Christian lifestyle that is richer in meaning, smaller in impact upon the earth, and greater in giving to people less-privileged."
- Support a cause in the name of the gift-receiver - I think it'd be fun to find causes that I know are near and dear to my loved ones' hearts, and donate to the cause in their name, rather than buying them stuff. Giving the loved one a choice on how to donate by getting a gift certificate to Kiva, DonorsChoose.org or World Vision would make it more fun, because the recipient could choose what project the gift goes toward. The catch: Some of our family does have the love-language of Gifts, and I'm afraid they wouldn't "get" this donation-gift. They rather have a thing, in hand. Curtis is making his birthday list by asking for donations for a trip to Haiti. Bonus: gifts made this way are tax-deductible!
- Do good with a gift - A step from donation-as-a-gift is a gift that also supports a cause. An example of this would be buying a fair-trade toy or purse, or TOMS Shoes as a gift. This would both give the recipient something they can use, and know that, with the purchase, Good is being done by supporting the poor elsewhere.
- Buy handmade - Crunchy Chicken is suggesting this strategy- buying all handmade gifts. Why handmade? The handmade items, along with being works of art and more meaningful, weren't made in sweatshops and produced on a mass scale. Depending on where you find them, they may even be "local", cutting down on the miles they had to travel to get to you.
- Give the intangible - Like I said, I have a hard time thinking up any more stuff that I want as a gift, taking up space and requiring upkeep. An idea we had this weekend was giving intangible things- experiences rather than objects. Museum tickets. Tickets to a show. A "date night" package. Certificate to a locally-owned restaurant. Experience-gifts don't have to be stored or repaired, don't need batteries or assembly- they just give us time with loved ones, which IS my love language. We're leaning toward this gift-strategy this year, but are on the fence about it. Good thing we have a little time to think about it!