Alternative to the Holiday Madness

My husband and I started talking about gifts this weekend.

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!
What are some creative money-saving or justice-supporting gift-giving strategies you've come up with? How have they worked?

4 pennies for thoughts:

Kacie said...

Gifts aren't our love languages either, thankfully.

My son's birthday is Dec. 20. We will ideally be in Indiana for that (and Christmas) so long as the weather holds up.

He doesn't care about toys now, and I doubt he'll care about them in three months. We probably won't get him much. Maybe one thing this year. I know the grandparents will give him things, anyway.

We'll have to figure out what we'll do for his 2nd birthday and Christmas and beyond. I do hope we keep Christmas Christ-focused.

Joanna said...

I know all about birthdays around Christmas- my sister's is a week before Christmas, and mine's a week after. We'd just make one "gift list" and some things would come for our birthday, and others for Christmas... and nothing the rest of the year.

For our kids, they'll be spoiled by my parents & my husband's large family, so we're going to have to be diligent about keeping the gift numbers down, to avoid having our house taken over by toys.

B said...

Joanna - you may like this idea my sister did for her kids when they were young. They got 3 gifts; same as baby Jesus who got one gift from each of the three kings. My nieces and nephews gifts were from Mom, Dad, and Santa -- yes, this crosses both the secular and non-secular. In addition the three larger gifts, the kids also had a full stocking with smaller games and treats. As the kids have gotten older this tradition has been fading, but it really did a nice job of keeping the little ones understanding the Christmas connection and focus on baby Jesus.

Heather said...

Disclaimer to all: The gifts in the picture don't all belong to my son :)
We too are starting to look at gifts differently, but the reasoning is due to us trying to budget and get out of debt. My boys definitely would enjoy alone time with you two,doing something fun, just as much as they would receiving a gift. We get so busy that I think the gift of 1 on 1 time from anyone would be awesome. We need to do a better job of having regular extended family time. I know we just gave Treyson the birthday gift of bowling (time yet to be arranged). Mandi didn't want more toys to store/move.
Every year our kids give away a few of their gently used toys to kids who wouldn't have gotten any toys for Christmas. This helps to lighten the toy room and remind them of others less fortunate.
We are happy to call a gift giving truce between the 4 of us as adults. I am all for less shopping/stress. We like going out to dinner with everyone, but it is very hard to visit with everyone at a long table.
Don't worry, when you have kids we'll get them a card and a cardboard box. Until they are about 3, they will be fascinated purely by those 2 items!

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