Doing some last-minute holiday shopping? The urge to spend is almost irresistible. Saving money might be the furthest thing from your mind. But around holiday time, I try to focus on what really matters: spending time with family and friends.
Still, expectations are hard to change. Old habits are hard to break.
Show up at a friend’s or aunt’s house without a present to prove you’re not giving into consumerism? You run the risk that your good intentions get overlooked. In other words, they think you’re cheap.
The trick to alternative gift giving is to focus on creating a great experience for the person getting the gift. It’s not about getting them more stuff.
You can still spend money on these gifts, but the real focus is making memories.
Give the gift of a good meal
“We should get together soon” are famous last parting words with a friend that you don’t often see. Are they on your Christmas list? Are you reasonably competent in the kitchen? Then make good on your promise by giving them a card with a promise of home cooked meal. If your friend subsists on ramen and peanut butter sandwiches, then this might just be best gift they get this year.
Give them a few date options. Nail that date down at the time you give the card. That way, this does not drag into next July and seem like an empty promise.
Give the gift of knowledge
Your friend has been talking for years about how they would love to learn to dancethe salsa, cook, speak Spanish, sculpt with clay, or make their own robots (yes, that’s a thing, now)… but they just never get around to it. They want to do it, but they just never make the time to do it.
Well, now is the time to give them that push to be all they can be. Sign up for a class at your local community centre, workshop, meetup group, maker lab, etc. You don’t have to pay a year’s tuition in advance to just take a few classes for just about anything.
Maybe the thing that’s been holding them back is that they had no one to go with them. Well, now you can be that person who helped them pursue their passion!
Make a gift bundle
A group of items sold as a gift package can sometimes cost two to three times what it would normally cost for you to buy each individually.
But it’s easy to make your own gift bundle. A cutting board, a block of cheese and a knife on their own may be boring and unexciting presents. Put them together. Maybe even add a bottle of wine. or make today’s version of an old-fashioned mix tape by purchasing a selection of songs on iTunes or some other app. Do they own a dog? Get some inexpensive yet (presumably) tasty pet treats and toys for their furry friend.
Be creative and put together ordinary items that add up to more than the sum of their parts.
Mobilize for movie night
With Star Wars out in the theatres, it is a great year to give a friend a pair of movie tickets. Suggest the movie, time and date you can go together.
This can turn into a great experience. Don’t just go home right after, either. If you just spent the last two hours in a dark theatre not sharing a word, you’re not really making memories together. Talk about the movie and enjoy a real conversation with your friend.
If the convenience of Netflix has killed your craving for the big screen, no problem. Instead, tell your friend that they (finally) get to pick the movie and make that happen. You’ll bring the popcorn and refreshments!
Bake some holiday goodies
You’ll probably want to have some baking skills to try this option But if you’re OK with following a recipe, then you might be OK (When cooking, follow your passion. Baking, not so much).
Try out your famous recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, maybe a batch of almond biscotti, for example, wrapped up in some cellophane with a nice bow.
Baking skills a bit more limited. Buy a ginger bread house kit for some holiday sweetness. You pretty much skip most of the baking part and add frosting for decoration. It’s creative, it’s fun and in a pinch, you get to eat the house. Just remember to take an Instagram of it before you take a bite!
Holiday gift giving 101
Whatever you do, aim to create experiences and not just give ‘stuff’. In the end not only will you be giving better gifts, but you might save some money in the long run as well.