In our affluent society, so many of us have everything we need or want. In fact we have so much that we are often trying to simplify by reducing “stuff.”
Here are some ideas for valuable gifts that don’t create clutter and don’t have to be expensive.
Give an Experience
Research shows that people appreciate memorable experiences more than material possessions, reports Money magazine.
Create Memories Together
What about going together to a musical, play or concert? A day at the basketball or football game? What about giving someone a subscription to the opera season, giving you the excuse to get together every few months? Discounts can be found if you plan ahead or don’t mind sitting farther back.
Children are so easy in this regard. They appreciate almost anything (age-appropriate), and they don’t have complicated schedules to work around.
To pump up the anticipation, wrap up a program, CD, souvenir or t-shirt and include a promise for the tickets (or the tickets themselves). (The Playbill Store has memorabilia for a wide variety of stage shows.)
Permission to Pamper
Treat someone to a manicure, massage, or facial. A foot massage is an economical alternative to a back massage and you’ll feel just as fabulous. Bump up the special by including a coupon for a chore-free day or breakfast in bed.
Develop Skills & Hobbies
If a ballet class is not in the budget, maybe it is in the holiday gift budget (especially if relatives want to chip in). What about classes for:
- ice skating
Have an accessory or essential tool wrapped and under the tree to create a sense of excitement.
For more ideas on experiential presents, see Get Rich Slowly’s Anti-Stuff Holiday Gift Guide.
Give Your Time and Effort
In a poll by the Center for a New American Dream, 82% of Americans said they would rather receive a photo album of memories than a store-bought gift.
Assemble Photo Books
Choosing, uploading and arranging photos can be time-consuming, but it’s hard to find a more treasured gift. Most grandparents are at the point in life when they have all the things they need: their families are what really matter.
Professional-looking albums are relatively easy to make these days with digital cameras and services like Shutterfly, Snapfish and iPhoto. If you have a Mac, iPhoto’s seamless interface with Apple’s printing services can’t be beat. For other platforms, TopTenReviews rates 10 photo book programs.
Memorialize Children’s Creative Work
The same concept can be applied to kids’ drawings, stories or poems. The easiest and least-expensive method would be to make your own book using card stock for the covers and ribbon for binding.
Make Coupon Books for Kids
Tim Kasser, author of the High Price of Materialism, says the most memorable gifts in his family are coupons for favors. On Christmas Eve, he and his wife create tickets with colored pencils for things such as:
- Get to skip fruit or vegetable (and still eat dessert)
- Stop everything and play a game with me (or read me a story)
- Get to stay up 15 minutes later
- Be excused from cleaning up mess after playing
He says that he and his wife have even received coupons in return for back massages, taking out the compost or no fighting all day.
For more creative and meaningful ideas, see the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s 2009 Guide to Commercial-Free Holidays and Tips for Resisting Holiday Hype.
The beauty of food is that it disappears after it’s been enjoyed. To save money in addition to clutter, you could give batches of homemade cookies, frozen pasta sauces, or spreads and jams.
If you live close by, what about a promise to come over and cook once a week or once a month? If you’re far away, how about a care package that repeats itself over the year, with a different theme each month.
If you’d like something a little less labor-intensive, you could give mixes for making scones, muffins, soups or pancakes. King Arthur Flour in Vermont, a respected resource for home and professional bakers, is offeringfree shipping on Cyber Monday (Nov. 30) on their gift baskets.
Gourmet Food & Organic Produce
What about chocolate and decorated cookies, or pesticide-free nuts and fruit? As I reported in my article for Buttoned Up, Organic Bouquet is offering free shipping plus 10% off on Cyber Monday, like this flowering tea set, where blossoms slowly expand into dramatic flowers as the tea steeps.
Food-Related Gift Certificates
Many people — from college students to busy moms — would appreciate a gift card to a coffee shop. What about a free pass to indulge at a gourmet food store that would normally be off-limits? A gift certificate to a meal assembly service like Let’s Dish? See this nationwide directory of easy meal preparation kitchens — where you can quickly assemble dinners from prepared ingredients into freezable portions.
Still Want Something Tangible?
In my article for Buttoned Up, I found some special discount codes for unique, unusual and hard-to-find gifts in a variety of price ranges. Most of the sales are related to Cyber Monday, which is this Monday, Nov. 30. Sometimes a real present is in order — for a colleague, uncle or child — and these gifts range from eco-friendly to silly to handmade.
These are just a few ways to celebrate the holidays without creating more “stuff” or spending a lot of money. I’d love to hear your ideas!