Most of us are generally taught to center the holidays around gift giving. but for so many reasons, you should not feel bad for not buying presents for a single human this year. There are a few reasons you might not be feeling the gift giving vibe this year. For one, gifts are expensive, and not everyone has loads of cash or steady jobs that make budgeting for the holidays easy. It’s especially tough when there are kids around, because you want to make the holidays as magical as you possibly can, but that doesn’t always mean bringing Santa’s entire toy shop home.
A survey of parents at Parenting.com found that moms plan to spend, on average, almost $300 per kid for the holidays. One in ten moms planned on spending at least $500. When you think about it, that makes complete sense for even lower income families. A new bike and a gaming console alone could put you over $500 per kid. Of course, even non-parents end up spending a ton of cash on people around the holidays. You want to buy things for your immediate family, S.O., and all four of your besties.
But once you start making your list, it just mysteriously gets longer every time you look at it, simply because you don’t want a friend or random cousin to feel left out when you all huddle around the tree. And you obviously can’t forget about grandma, even though she’s never even happy with what you get her. So why bother?
You can spend tons of money that is better off being saved or used to pay some bills on holiday gifts. And you don’t run the risk of getting gift-giving anxiety.
Your loved ones wouldn’t want to know that you’re going broke just to have something to wrap up for them. And anyone who is upset with you or mocks your decision to skip shopping this year is someone who doesn’t deserve one anyway. That doesn’t make you a Scrooge — it makes you responsible and logical and no less filled with love for your loved ones. You should probably tell your friends and family that you’re not doing gifts this year, so that they know they’re not getting anything in return for whatever they might be getting you.
Some people will almost certainly be real jerks about this, but they should be reminded that the holidays really aren’t about collecting new perfumes and toys and that the whole point of a gift is to feel good while you give it — not to get something back. At least within your squad, there should be relief that there’s no shopping to be done.
Even if you can afford gifts, there are so many other better ways to spend your money that’s better for other people and the environment. (Seriously, just thinking about the amount of plastic and unwanted gifts that ends up in landfills should be reason enough to skip gifts.)
Not buying presents also forces people to think about the fact that the holidays are supposed to be a fun time to celebrate with people you love, and create new traditions. There are so many better ways to show some love than dropping $500 at the mall on a bunch of crap that people might not need or want anyway. Honestly, how many winter scarves do you need?
Here are a few ideas to serve as alternatives to traditional gift giving:
1Host a little fundraiser.
Instead of doing a White Elephant party or Secret Santa with your squad, call a local woman’s shelter or food bank and see what kind of things they need. Have everyone bring a box of tampons and face wipes or some canned goods and then organize a drop-off. Sure, you won’t get a new pair of earrings you’ll likely never wear, but you’ll be super fuzzy and warm inside.
2Go straight to cash.
When people ask you what you want this year, tell them that you’re not doing gifts, so just their presence at the family dinner is enough. If they insist (these people are often the worst), tell them they can make a donation in your name to a charity of your choice and that you’ll do the same for them. You’re not being a Debbie Downer — helping those less fortunate or giving to organizations that are working overtime these days is actually what the holiday spirit means.
Just because you aren’t buying gifts doesn’t mean you can’t exchange things. Spending a weekend making cookies, or whatever your forte is, and divvying them up into cute containers to give to your friends is a fun, traditionally Christmas-y thing to do. (Please be careful about allergies and make sure they taste good, obvs.) Make your sisters a DIY face mask, complete with a customized label in those cute little jars they sell at craft stores you never have a reason to buy. There are lots of things you can do for the people you love that will be cheaper, eco-friendly, and still show how much you love them.
You can also get sentimental and family videos and pictures for your parents and siblings so everyone has a copy or frame that epic photo from college for your BFFs that amazingly are still your BFFs.
4Get together instead.
Instead of wasting money on gifts, pool all your dough for some bubbly and fancy cheese and invite all your friends over for a classy AF holiday party. You can have a cookie exchange or all pick a day to volunteer together. If your family is all grown up, Christmas morning is likely not what it used to be anyway. Skip the gifts and cook an awesome breakfast with your parents, go for a hike together, or some other activity that usually only happens in Nancy Meyer movies. The memories and selfies will last way longer than any gift you could buy.