The Gift-Free Holiday

Gift-Free ChristmasIf you’re scrambling to get your holiday shopping done in these last few days before Christmas, you may want to consider a radical idea: A holiday without presents.  It may sound dismal at first, but consider that it would also be debt-free, stress-free and waste-free.  What would that be like?

You’ll still get the holiday songs, family togetherness, great food, and cheer.  Plus, if you have a new baby she’ll never know the difference and won’t remember either way.

If you’re not willing to give up presents entirely or if you have older kids that would protest the shift, it is nice to at least reduce the gift hullabaloo.  In our extended family we simply draw names for nieces and nephews and skip gifts for adults.  The price limit for children’s gifts is just ten dollars so we have to be thoughtful and work within a small budget.  It has made the holidays so much more relaxing for all of us!

Families who really love gift giving can experiment with homemade presents or perhaps give gifts of experience such as children’s museum memberships or tickets to a children’s concert so that you gather memories instead of stuff.

Does your family have any strategies for limiting the gift giving craziness?  Do you find that it’s tricky to reduce holiday gifts when you have older children?  We’d love to hear how you manage it!


  1. My husband’s family decided to draw names this year–each couple drew the name of one other couple to buy gifts for, and set a budget of $50. It’s really cut down on the stress and the financial strain.

    There aren’t any little ones in the family yet (our first arrives in January), but I’m sure that will change things a bit!

  2. We decided last year that we needed to start some traditions around the holidays that make sense, I mean, why do we do the present thing anyway? We want to be able to buy/make gifts all year long when something inspires us!!! We aren’t giving gifts and we are going to the mountains for a few days over the holiday to spend family time sledding and snow shoeing.

  3. My son was born a week before Christmas last year. We had a tree, and my family visited and prepared our traditional foods, but we had no gifts, and that was fine with everyone! The baby was the best gift to everyone in the family. It turned out to be an especially meaningful holiday without the distraction of presents.

  4. My husband and I made a pact to give up gifts for this Christmas and future ones. We will donate any money we would have spent on each other to the organizations we can get behind.

    I do have a hard time giving up giving gifts COMPLETELY. So one idea I have is for our future children (and this will only work for the Christians out there) is limiting the number of gifts they will get to three—the idea being that Jesus only received three gifts from the Wise Men. Hopefully that will simplify things somewhat.

    I also really like the idea of giving gifts that also help others…so shopping on places like the Hunger Site, etc. Or giving gifts to charities in a persons name is a great idea for the person who doesn’t need anything. And I NEVER think giving handmade is a bad idea…whether you buy from someone or make it yourself.

    But I really like the idea above about about giving gifts that are more about going to do something then just getting another object. We had that idea for birthdays…to not make them about presents but asking our children what they would like to do on their birthday instead.
    It doesn’t matter to me exactly which direction everyone decides to take it. What I’m really proud to know is that there are people working to counteract all that Christmas has become in recent history (ie. ridiculous consumerism), regardless of whether or not you are religious, this is SUCH a good thing for us as a society.
    Merry Christmas everyone!

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