A Zero-Budget Christmas
Part 7: Thoughtful gift ideas for your entire tribe
Wouldn’t it be lovely if you only had to think about Christmas gifts for one or two people? You could focus more time, attention, and resources on giving thoughtfully to those you care about the most.
But most of us have Christmas shopping lists that include family, friends, the kids’ teachers and coaches, employees or clients, the random gift exchange at the office and the ornament exchange at church and…and…and…pretty soon our Christmas budget has flitted away, $10 at a time.
In this part of our Zero-Budget Christmas series, we’ll be tackling that giant gift-giving list. How can you give thoughtfully when your list is bigger than your budget?
First, pare down your shopping list. Most of us buy gifts for too many people. Take an honest look at your gift list and carefully consider eliminating your spending on any recipients who are there because of obligation. If you do not want to give a gift to someone, chances are, you shouldn’t.
Consider also eliminating obligatory spending at social events. Those “bring a $10 gift to exchange” events really add up, especially if you have kids who are asked to bring gifts to their events. The great thing is, you do not have to participate! You don’t need another random $10 item in your house, and neither do they. So, stir the punch but sit the gift exchange out.
However, if paring down your shopping list is not an option, use some of the strategies we’ve already talked about in this series to do it on a zero-budget. Need more ideas? Read on.
Give an experience. If you normally buy for lots of relatives, why not organize a family event instead? This can be as simple or elaborate as you desire—anything from ice skating to a weekend away. The beauty of this plan is that no one has to purchase gifts for each other. The entire family decides, instead, to use their dollars to spend the day together making memories. Everyone pays his or her own way, which makes it do-able for everyone.
Give time. Time is our most precious commodity, and yet the most underutilized! A gift of time can be whatever your recipient needs it to be. That is the key—think about a way you can bless the recipient. You can give an afternoon of helping her organize her cupboards, doing fix-it projects around the house, babysitting the kiddos, or planting flowers. Tell Dad you’ll power wash the deck or deep-clean the garage. It doesn’t matter what you do, the gift of time is ageless, free, and eternally significant. Plus, it equally benefits both the giver and the recipient because you get to be together.
Give an heirloom. One year, my grandmother gave each of my girl cousins and me a piece of hand-painted china that had been her mother’s. It was profoundly special to receive a gift that was a part of my family history, especially since I had my grandma right there to tell me all about it. It was so much more meaningful to receive a family treasure with a story than a trinket of little lasting value.
So often, family heirlooms are divided up after our loved ones are gone. I remember going through my great-grandmother’s attic with all of my distant aunts and uncles and cousins, putting her things in piles for everyone to take home. How much nicer it would have been if she had been able to give those things away to each one of us herself.
We all have meaningful things we can begin to give now. I have rings I plan to give to each of my daughters when they turn 18. My husband has been parsing out his knife collection to our nephews and boys as soon as they are old enough to care for them. Of course, these things have value, but they are even more significant because of the story, and choosing to give those things away while we’re still alive means we can share the story–not just the thing–with another generation.
Give words. My elderly neighbor took the time one year to write down her life story, from living in Norway during the German occupation to the sudden death of her young husband. She included family pictures with notes under each one, bound it, and gave it to her grandson.
She gave a copy to us, too, and it is one of our most treasured possessions.
Even if you are not a writer or do not have the time to pen your entire life story, you can give the gift of words. Simply take the time to write a special letter to each of your children, siblings, parents, or anyone who is important to you. Tell that person how you feel about them, and why. That will be the gift they treasure forever.
Give to something bigger. Maybe your budget doesn’t stretch very far in this country, but in most of the rest of the world, your money is life. $25 in the United States buys a trinket someone doesn’t want or need. But $25 in Africa feeds a street mother and her children for a month.
This year, make your budget work harder by giving to an organization that provides help and hope to people in need.
After you’ve donated, simply make a card for each person on your gift list telling them that a contribution was made on his or her behalf to the organization you have chosen. You don’t need to list the amount, but you might want to share a little bit about the people their gift has helped.
You can donate any amount in lieu of purchasing gifts and that money will work harder and do more good than anything you could buy with it in our country.
It would be impossible to list all the wonderful organizations you could support, but one of my favorites is Mercy House Global. Rather than just giving charity, they rescue pregnant and very young mothers and teach them a skill so these women can have the dignity of providing for their children on their own.
You can donate to Mercy House or go the extra mile and purchase the hand goods these women have made directly from their store. Either way, women and children are rescued and given new hope because of your gift.
Anyone on your list would be thrilled to be a part of something like that, even though you did it on a (nearly) zero-budget.
*To begin reading A Zero-Budget Christmas from the beginning, start here.
**During this series, affiliate links may be included for your convenience.