Holiday giving to others beyond your close family and friends

During the holidays, I would love to give something to everyone in my book club, my knitting guild, my neighborhood, my co-workers, etc.–but that just isn’t a possibility. See, I do not have bank accounts overflowing with cash like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, so I can’t always give as much as I would like to give. When it comes to giving gifts beyond my close family and friends, I’ve discovered many ways to give that continue the generous spirit:

  • Baked goods. Easy to make, inexpensive, fun, consumable.
  • Secret Santa. Group members draw names and then buy gifts for only the person whose name has been drawn.
  • Homemade, useful, themed gifts. Book club members get homemade bookmarks, co-workers get homemade velcro cord ties to curb cable clutter, etc.
  • Group charity. Instead of everyone bringing gifts for each other, the group sponsors a needy family or gives a needed item to a local charity.

The list of ideas is seemingly endless. I’m identifying these ideas just to get your creative juices flowing. You’ll notice that I don’t suggest “white elephant” type gift exchanges because often they produce unwanted clutter. If you don’t want the singing, plastic, wall-mounted fish, it’s pretty likely your friends or co-workers don’t want it either.

Please feel welcome to post additional ideas in the comments!

16 Comments for “Holiday giving to others beyond your close family and friends”

  1. posted by Emma on

    Could also offer to help with a task for close friends. Like watching children, painting a room, cooking a meal…

  2. posted by Andamom on

    On the charity note – One idea is to pool resources to buy something like an Ark from ($5K) … Or you can pool your time together and volunteer to rebuild your community, help a soup kitchen, or even visit a shelter for animals to help out…

    Another suggestion too is to have a pot luck where everyone brings one dish. Holidays are about (or at least they can be about) sharing 🙂

  3. posted by Regina on

    For my co-workers, Go to the $ store and purchase packages of tissues, and place in small gift bags . Also, hand santizer, hand cream, works well.

    This works for male or female, it thoughtful and very pratical.

  4. posted by sillahee on

    Zen Habits also has a great post that is similar to this today:

  5. posted by Kate on

    I do think white elephant exchanges can be good, though, because it rids one person of the guilt of ridding themselves of something useless but with memories attached, and therefore someone unburdened can ditch it, and everyone gets a laugh out of it.

  6. posted by Marie on

    BILLY THE BIG-MOUTH BASS! How can you not love Billy?

  7. posted by Ruby on

    I don’t enjoy Secret Santa gift exchanges, so no more gag gifts, soap, candles or boxes of candy for me. This year, we’re doing something different and I am so-o-o-o excited. It starts like a Secret Santa exchange: draw names, keep it secret, gather to celebrate and exchange gifts. Here’s the twist — the Secret Santa gift is a toy that reflects the life and interests of the recipient. So my friend the artist might get a coloring book and crayons and my friend who travels for work might get a toy airplane. Be as silly and creative as you dare. Once the presents are open and the party’s over, the presents go to a local organization that collects toys for children. (Most of them don’t want the toys to be wrapped anyway.)

    Everyone wins. The gifts are personal, inexpensive and fun, and best of all, they end up in the hands of a child who will love them. Way better than soap, candles or golf balls. I hope you’ll spread this new tradition to your friends. Merry Christmas!

  8. posted by katie on

    our neighborhood has a little get-together. everyone brings a treat and instead of giving gifts to eachother we donate to a charity. this year the money went to a family who recently had 3 deaths and to buy coats for a bunch of kids. i love that i don’t have to worry about which neighbors i should give to and what random gift to give. and i don’t have a house full of popcorn balls and fudge.

  9. posted by John Kelly on

    We tried to solve the gift problem by making presents children only plus a candle and christmas decoration per family. Obviously the candle can be burnt and the christmas decoration will be stored with the other decorations. Simple and clutter free.

  10. posted by Jenny on

    Weird, looks like my comment got eaten? Anyway, on Get Rich Slowly (which is on my daily reading along with Unclutterer) I saw a link to an article that goes into more depth on these suggestions for those interested:

  11. posted by Jenny on

    Hmm, I think my script blocker was killing my comments. Let’s try again! Found an article that goes into these ideas in more depth via Get Rich Slowly:

  12. posted by Jenny on

    Argh, last try before I give up! Article that goes into more depth on these ideas, found via Get Rich Slowly:

  13. posted by Ruth on

    Kate has a point about white elephant exchanges letting you get rid of things you don’t want without the guilt. I also think the biggest point of a white elephant exchange (especially of the steal-a-gift variety) is the fun of doing it! One of the annual parties I go to is a white elephant exchange. It’s lots of fun, and there’s almost never anything I want, so whatever I end up with, I just donate or give away to someone else.

  14. posted by Aegir on

    A few years ago I decided that I wasn’t going to ‘do’ Christmas in any way. I thought it would be difficult to explain this to my family, but in the end it was fine – they decided to mostly follow suit. Uncluttering is more than ridding yourself of burdensome, useless possessions, to me it’s also ridding yourself of burdensome, useless activities and responsibilities. Our family now focusses on birthdays, where a genuine effort can be made to give someone something they want or make their day special. Christmas is hell!

  15. posted by Alishia on

    I like these ideas and I especially like the one about sponsoring a family in need. The only problem I foresee, however, is how people sometimes respond–with a tinge of chagrin. As if you’re this goody-two-shoes who wants to make everyone else feel bad for suggesting a Secret Santa or White Elephant or something. I thought of giving gifts through one year but, unfortunately, I changed my mind. I could just see the looks on the faces of my family. Not that they want or need something so desperately but just that they might feel somewhat shanghaied by my gift. Anyone concur?

  16. posted by RalphLeon on

    Anyone heard of “What would Jesus Buy?”

    Morgan Spurlock Interview[treehugger]

    It’s by the gentleman that brought you “Supersize Me” and seems to be about over-purchasing during the christmas season (in a humorous fashion).

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