Ten Ideas for Minimalist Gift-Giving

Confession: I don’t like giving Christmas presents.

Though I understand and appreciate the symbolism, I often rack my brain trying to think of something to give so-and-so.  Finally I give up and get something general that they neither wanted nor needed.

I’ve been on the receiving end of that, too.  Sorry, but a girl can only use so many bottles of scented lotion.

Rather, if I’m out and see something and immediately think, “Oh!  This is perfect for so-and-so!” I like to buy it and give it to so-and-so then.  It shows that I’m thinking about that person at times other than Christmas when I “have to” give them a present.

Several times in the past few years I’ve tried to tell people, “Don’t get me anything!”  I promise, I wasn’t trying to sound noble; I just didn’t need any more STUFF.  And even my wants were not so great that I wanted the baggage that goes with having more stuff.

With my impending international travel, I’m struck even more this holiday season by how I don’t want to bring any more bobbles into my home that I may have to get rid of in a few months.

Maybe you’re in my shoes, or maybe you just want to consume less.  Or are tired of giving “filler” gifts to make the space under that tree look full.  So, I present to you my

Ten Ideas for Minimalist Gift-Giving


Ways you can show you care without cluttering the recipient’s world.

1. Food – Seriously, who doesn’t like homemade goodies?  My default gift for any occasion is fudge, and I haven’t heard complaints yet.  You say you can’t cook?  Gift card to a restaurant they like.  I was so happy once when I was feeling poor before payday and found a BJ’s gift card in my wallet so I could treat myself to a yummy meal.

2. Subscriptions – Movie buff?  Pay for a month or two of their Netflix subscription.  Athletics buff?  Chip in toward their gym membership fees.

3. E-Media – It’s not just music you can get with a iTunes card, but also movies and apps.  And if your friend is staunchly anti-Apple you can get gift certificates to Amazon, too, which offers instant music and movie downloads (in addition to just about anything you could ever want to buy).

4. Tickets – Athletic events, culture events, museum admission, a speaker on a topic they enjoy, lots of options in this category.  I’d love to take the ski train through the Moffat tunnel, or a scenic train ride through Glenwood Canyon, as well as any opportunity to see Phantom of the Opera when it’s in town.  Last year my sister and I paid for my family to go see a comedy show.

5. Experiences – Similar to tickets, but sometimes these can be free.  I told a friend who recently asked me what I wanted for Christmas: “I want to go on a tour of the mint.  Figure out how, set it up, and maybe buy me lunch afterward.  I’ll be tickled pink.”

6.  Freedom – Pay for something they have to pay for so that they have the money to spend it on something else.  One Christmas my mom gave me a check for $201.44, exactly the amount of my monthly car payment.

7. Services – What can you do that they need help with, and maybe take it a step up?  Offer to check out their computer to make sure it’s virus-free and purchase a subscription to an antivirus product for them.  If you’re handy, offer to pay for and replace that leaky faucet.  Change the oil in their car, and bring all the supplies.  If you’re not handy with anything but know how to not kill people, there’s always baby sitting.

8. Charities – Make a donation in their name.  While most people will appreciate the thought, try to make an extra effort to find a specific organization that they’re passionate about – rather than a generic donation to the NYC ballet.

9. Cash – Hey, we can all find a use for this, right?

10.  That thing they mentioned / you know they need – Yeah, it’s “stuff” but there is some stuff that we need.  That said, it’s much better to give someone something that they truly want and will use.  Like that coat they’ve been admiring to replace the one that’s stained and threadbare.

It’s time to say NO to scented lotion, people!  Unless you are certain that the recipient is enamored with that cinnamon-peach-blush body butter.

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