Eliminate the Stuff: 5 Alternatives to Holiday Gift-Giving

Alternatives to Holiday Gift-Giving

Try these 5 alternatives to holiday gift-giving to give your holiday season a facelift, and to concentrate more on mindful, warmhearted living.

I have the truest love-hate relationship with the holidays.  Honestly.  They’re beautiful, full of warmth and joy and wonder, especially for my little punks.  And they’re stressful, full of packed shopping malls and anxiety, and stress, especially for the people trying to create the GREATEST HOLIDAY EVAH for the little punks.  But, the real dig is that, the older I get, the less I care about receiving stuff during the holiday season.  I’ll see your Apple TV and raise you a clean kitchen and time for my hot yoga class any day of the week.  What I mean is, the things I truly care about aren’t things.  And I bet most of you feel the same way.  It can be hard to change the status-quo, but I’ve come up with 5 alternatives to holiday gift-giving, at least the way we currently know and define it. These types of gifts are full of care and love and an innate knowledge of the giftee, and I would love to see each of them sitting under my tree this year (wink, wink, nudge).

This post is part of Important Media’s “More About the Love, Less About the Stuff” holiday series. This year, we’re talking all about redefining holiday traditions to focus on compassion over just more stuff.

5 Alternatives to Holiday Gift-Giving

1) The gift of time: Am I the only one who would love a whole Saturday to herself?  I mean, seriously, I am 1.5 hours from a Trader Joe’s and I would just luxuriate in the idea of being able to take the time to make that trip.  Give your partner some free time to do exactly what he or she would like for any amount of time you can spare.  You might also offer to babysit for a friend to give them the opportunity to relax or even just to run some errands.  A hearty, delicious, warm meal is always a good gift, and it comes with the unspoken understanding that the recipient doesn’t have to take the time to prepare it (that’s a two-fer).  No one has time for anything these days; we overbook, over-analyze, and overachieve.  Give your loved one the true extravagance of some additional time.

2) The gift of a consumable: This alternative to holiday gift-giving can cost a little cash, but will result in 0 stuff.  My son, much like any red-blooded human being, absolutely adores a trip to a restaurant.  Typically I take him for tacos at our favorite neighborhood place and it’s the best treat in the world for him.  Consumables are a real luxury for a lot of people because they are so representative of the one thing we don’t want to admit we like: ourselves.  Take your kid out to eat.  Or your partner.  Or your mom.  Buy your loved one a great bottle of wine.  Take the time to make your loved one a favorite meal.  This one makes my husband the happiest of campers every time, no questions asked.

3) The gift of necessity: This is a no-brainer, folks.  Give.  Give to charity.  Give to a food pantry or to your favorite health-related organization.  Give to the people who can’t give to themselves or to their own loved ones.  And just to pass the love around a little more, consider giving to charity on behalf of your loved ones in lieu of a physical gift. This one, much like #4, while a wonderful alternative to holiday gift-giving, is also just a really good habit.

4) The gift of rest: This one is a lot like the gift of time, but instead of allotting a great expanse of time, do some specific work for someone you love (hint: this also completely eliminates the possibility that your loved one will spend your “gift of time” mopping the kitchen floor or something ridiculous and predictable like that).  Do a chore your partner does pretty consistently, and that you know he or she does not care for, do a chore for your mom or dad (parents work super-hard around the holidays, no matter their age), shovel your neighbor’s snow-covered sidewalk or driveway or even rake their leaves.  I’ll admit, these are less “gift alternatives” and more “ways of life,” but don’t they sound like nice gestures either way?

5) The gift of knowledge: Pay for a loved one to learn.  As Becky mentions in her wonderful post on experience gifts, there’s a real customized element to giving the gift of classes.  Does your loved one have a real interest in something that has always seemed like it would take too much time or money to learn?  Does your loved one require a specific skill in order to do something new and interesting?

As far as the actual presenting of one of these alternatives, I think a handmade coupon or sweet card with a personal message is always a good way to go.

Image credit: Woman shovelingwoman relaxing, and bottle of wine photos via Shutterstock.


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About the Author

lives and works in Iowa City, Iowa. She has a film degree from the University of Iowa, and her interests include: watching & writing about film, chasing her kids around, childbirth, healthy cooking & living, and DIY body & baby products. Find me on Google+.
  • Becky Striepe

    Oh my gosh, I would take the gift of rest ANY DAY.