Yesterday I shared why I, personally, no longer give Christmas presents. Today, I'd like to share with you some ideas for how to change your own Christmas giving - moving to giving differently, giving less, or giving up on presents altogether.
I would like to note that I am not advocating for all people everywhere to give up Christmas presents. I still think they are a magical element of Christmas for children (though I think there are arguments to be made about giving far less than many people do these days.) I also understand that there are those for whom giving or receiving gifts is one of their love languages - and in those instances, when a gift is freely given, with joy, and with great meaning, it is wonderful.
Rather I am speaking to that great overwhelming dreadful obligation people often feel towards Christmas presents. I am speaking to those who have voiced a desire to skip Christmas altogether because they just don't want to deal with buying presents for everyone anymore. I am speaking to those who want to change how they give and change the impact it has on their health - emotionally, spiritually, and financially.
1. Start the conversation
For many people, I imagine, the obligation to give gifts is unspoken - no one has ever really said you have to buy a gift for every single niece and nephew, or each co-worker, or whomever, rather you just feel like you have to. It's something you've always done and therefore feel you will always have to do. If you start the conversation, however, you might find that you are not the only one who wants to move away from this particular holiday tradition. Perhaps others would also like to change how things are done, just no one has had the courage to raise the subject before. I would encourage you to, after Christmas this year, start the conversation with the appropriate parties.
2. Secret Santa is your friend
If you want to move to spending less money on gifts, starting a Secret Santa between groups of friends, co-workers, or even extended families is a great way to go. This way each person is only obliged to give one gift to one other person and receive only one as well. I think this style of giving works best when two extra steps are taken. First, a spending limit should be set so the gifts end up fairly equal in value. Second, when people put their name in to be drawn, they should also include suggestions for items they want or general categories of things they like (favorite candy, type of movie/music, list of hobbies, etc.) That way the gift-givers have a place to start which will hopefully lead them to a gift the receiver actually wants.
3. Give the gift of giving
The first church I worked at as a pastor held what they called an "Alternative Gift Market" every year. At this market, instead of buying trinkets and tchotchkes galore, people could donate to various charities and causes in someone's name. The gift would come with a card that described the charity receiving a donation in their name, so people would know what their gift supported. This is easy enough to do even if you don't have an official event that promotes it. Simply choose a charity that is important to the person you are gifting to, donate in their name, then come up with a creative way of sharing with them that the donation is their gift - make a card, print off information about the charity, etc. I think there was once a Seinfeld episode that derided this type of holiday giving as ridiculous and hated by the receiver, but most people I know would treasure this kind of gift. Another way of going about it would be to tell the person the amount you would like to donate in their name, then let them choose the charity and you can make the donation together!
4. Give experiences
If part of your motivation for giving differently is that you just want to contribute less to "stuff" in the world, a great way to give is through experiences. Instead of gifting items that easily become clutter, gift someone movie theater tickets, cooking classes, or skydiving lessons. The possibilities with this are really endless - think about hobbies the person has or things you know they want to try, and I'm sure the ideas will come!
5. Give the present of presence
I know, I know, it's an obvious play on words. But truly, how much time do you spend with the people you love? So often we get caught up in the everyday busy-ness of our lives, and forget about actually spending time with each other. I spoke to someone a while ago who lamented that she hadn't spent the holidays with her family in over 10 years because they "couldn't afford" to fly home at Christmas, yet when she added up how much she spent on presents for family, and shipping those presents every year, it would have gone a long way towards paying for an in-person visit. I can almost guarantee you that if someone in your life is important enough to give a gift to, you are important enough to that person that they would appreciate your presence most of all. Even when it comes to people you see every day - your spouse or your children, you can still give the gift of intentional, focused time together rather than stuff.
6. Go cold turkey next year
Sometimes you just have to draw a line in the sand. You can start the conversation, give your reasons for wanting to give differently, or less, but if you want to move to no Christmas presents at all, you might have to take a cue from Nike and just do it. Just rip off the band-aid and stop the insanity. When people question you, share your reasoning - you want to focus on the reason for the season, you want to be more minimalist, you want to be more responsible financially. Whatever your reason is for changing your gift-giving is, hopefully, those who would receive from you will understand. This doesn't mean cutting yourself off from people - rather it means you are likely freed up to spend more time with them (how much time will you have if you aren't running around the mall looking for gifts or stuck in the guest room trying to wrap them all?)
I think we could all have a different kind of Christmas if we change the way we approach Christmas presents. I encourage you to find the approach that works for you, rather than just falling into patterns from previous years out of habit. Especially if you find yourself dissatisfied, harried, frustrated, or overwhelmed this season, know that you have the power to change the season for yourself.