You’re probably getting bombarded with a lot of these types of posts right now… “how to save money during the holidays.” This one, though, this isn’t going to be like the rest of them. This one is about creative Christmas gifts that work no matter what winter holiday you are celebrating. This one is also about giving gifts that don’t fall under traditional holiday spending while keeping your budget in mind.
I wanted to talk about non-traditional gift-giving because I absolutely hate the system of holiday consumerism. I don’t want to be told what to buy and when to buy it. I love giving gifts, but I’d rather give meaningful Christmas gifts than something that I feel pressured to buy because I saw it on a commercial.
But like most millennials, I get sucked into the holiday consumerism mode, whether I want to be or not. That pressure to spend big on gifts is more intense than ever, but I wish we could start approaching the holidays in a more financially friendly way.
We should be able to prioritize our financial goals, like debt pay off and saving, while still giving meaningful Christmas gifts. Can’t we stop listening to what others say we should be buying this holiday season and give gifts that really mean something to those we love?
But how do you disrupt holiday consumerism while focusing on meaningful holiday gifts? Don’t worry fam, I’ve got you covered.
Some of the ideas I’ve got for you are a little more extreme than others, but the point today is to help you take part in whatever holiday you celebrate while avoiding the unnecessary stress of debt and needless spending.
Thrift it up
With an upswing of blogs focused on frugality and minimalism, thrift and secondhand stores are having a moment, and they are great places to find holiday gifts. I know some of you might be saying, “But gifts have to be new things!” But, do they?
No, there isn’t a rule book on holiday spending.
And if you haven’t visited your local Goodwill in a while, you might be surprised to learn that they actually do sell brand new items as well as used ones. I’m talking about products from Target and other stores that have been donated to Goodwill and are sold with deep discounts. I’m talking clothes, household items, etc.
What I love about finding these donated new goods is that they still have the price tags on them which basically tells you how much you are saving. It makes you second guess having ever started your shopping at Target in the first place.
In all honesty, no one is going to know that you bought a gift from a thrift store, unless you tell them.
Use those old gift cards
So maybe gift cards aren’t the most meaningful Christmas gifts, but they sure do make things easy, and sometimes that’s what you need.
We have a drawer in our house that we keep all of the gift cards we’ve collected throughout the year, and I’m guessing that you probably have a few lying around as well. If you haven’t used those gift cards yet, why not use them to buy gifts?
Or, you could even save yourself some time and just give the gift card as a gift. Again, there is no rule book on holiday gifting. There’s probably some Miss Manners type manual that says this is a very bad thing, you know I’m not reading that. So throw that pre-gifted gift card in with a nice card, and BAM!– you’ve got yourself a gift.
Pro tip: maybe avoid giving the same gift card back to the person who gave it to you in the first place. Or do! Maybe they got it from someone the year before.
It would be hilarious to find out years later that you and your friends had basically been giving the same few gift cards back and forth.
I would seriously love that.
I am not a particularly creative guy. Sure, I come up with these blog posts, but that’s the limit of my abilities. Fortunately for those of us without that “maker” gene, we can look to Pinterest for creative Christmas gifts.
I just did a quick search for “DIY holiday gifts” and came up with a bunch of gift ideas that I legitimately think even I could make:
- Plywood wreath
- Slime in a jar for kids
- Mason jar cocktail mixers
- Infused Oils
I can’t knit, I have no idea how soap is made, and I’m not about to sew something, but I could actually make those things I listed above. My family and friends would be blown away if I made something for them, and there’s something kind of cool about that.
Buy discounted gift cards
We’ve already discussed second-hand stores and using gift cards for holiday shopping. So why not merge those two things together and buy discounted gift cards? This kind of thing probably really does throw off traditional consumerism because it’s taking money out of the hands of large corporations and putting it into the hands of real people.
There are tons of websites out there for buying discounted gift cards, like Raise, CardPool, GiftCardRescue, Gift Card Granny, etc.
Give everyone the same thing
Okay, this isn’t going to work for everyone, and they might not be the most meaningful Christmas gifts, but it sure would save you some time and money if you just bought some stuff in bulk and gave it out for the holidays.
These could be things like handing out a bunch of iTunes gift cards for the teens in your life, Starbucks cards for your co-workers, or buying a case of wine and giving a bottle to each of your friends (around the holidays, this one could go down particularly well).
Give your skills and/or time
With more and more millennials freelancing, we can quantify the exact cost of one working hour. Depending on what you do, that will vary a bit, but time is money for all of us. That being said, the most meaningful Christmas gifts you can give are the ones that take your time.
This could be offering up some babysitting services for your friends with young children, planning a day out with your parents, or teaching someone something. While giving traditional gifts is a way to show people you care, there is no substitute for your time.
Agree to a no-gift holiday
This might be the most disruptive thing you can do this holiday season, but what if you just made an agreement with your friends to forgo holiday gifts altogether?
If you’re the average millennial dealing with student loan debt, credit card debt, etc., then your friends are probably feeling the strain of holiday spending just like you are. I’m not saying you don’t have to do something for the holidays, but that something doesn’t have to involve buying more stuff.
Think about the things you and your friends like to do together. Going to see a game, seeing movies, board games, whatever… Why not just do that? If you’re a busy person like I am, then spending time with the important people in your life is way more valuable than any gift could be.
A no gift holiday isn’t going to break Christmas, because meaningful Christmas gifts don’t have to be tangible goods.
Last year I came across this article in Forbes about how millennials are more cause-driven than any other previous generation, yet we often lack the action behind those beliefs, whether they are political, religious, humanitarian, etc.
Whatever holiday you celebrate, I think we can all agree that there is more of a reason to the season than just needless consumer spending. This means that volunteering to the causes that you and your family and friends care about can be a great way to gift this holiday season.
Your meaningful Christmas gifts could be just gathering a group of friends together and spending time at an animal shelter, serving meals at a homeless shelter, or whatever form of volunteering means most to you.
Go green, as in give a plant
I should start this one out by saying that if you gave me a plant, I would probably kill it in a matter of days. It isn’t because I don’t care about you, it’s just because I can’t keep a plant alive to save my life. But I’m special, and I bet most of the people you know are a lot better at plants than I am.
Despite being plant-challenged, I actually love them, and I feel like most people probably do too. Plants are cool. They have flowers, remind you of warmer weather, etc.
What’s cool about giving a plant is that, if they live longer than a week or two, they serve as a long-term reminder of the person who gave it to you. This doesn’t actually have to be a potted plant either, it can be a packet of seeds and a nice pot to plant them in or a bouquet of flowers.
You’re not shaking up the system too much here, but drawing names will cut down on the amount of holiday spending you’re going to do. There’s also something kind of fun about the whole Secret Santa game.
If you have 700 nieces and nephews as we do, or just a large group of friends to buy for, drawing names can cut down on your holiday spending. Rather than spending $20 bucks on 10 different people, you can spend $40 on one person and you’ve saved $160.
The other reason I love drawing names is that you can actually give more meaningful Christmas gifts when you are able to focus your energy on one person. Buying gifts for people is hard work, beyond just the financial obligations. When you are able to focus that energy on one person, you save money, time, and energy.
Framed photos for family
You know what your mom, grandparents, or aunt and uncle want more than anything? They want a photo of you to show off to their friends. Older generations love this sort of thing, and I get it. Photos are nice to have around your house, so why not give them as gifts?
Framed photos can be really meaningful Christmas gifts. I actually see a lot of my friends on Facebook having professional photos done this time of the year, and I really hope that many of them are planning to give those as gifts.
The framed photos you give don’t have to be professional ones either. Frame a selfie you and your spouse took on vacation. Frame a picture you took of your toddler covered in spaghetti. You could even frame a picture of your parent’s granddog. That might be what I’m giving our parents, and I’m sure they’ll love it.