children only -- A television producer
in Detroit says her family has stopped exchanging
gifts among adults. The kids exchange names with
one another. She buys a savings bond for each
child to teach them the importance of saving,
and also buys them a small gift like a book. Then
the adults all get baby sitters and do a dinner
Jim Pool in Florida agrees, "We
adults only exchange cards, or perhaps a token
gift, between ourselves. That leaves the majority
of our expendable dollars for the ones who really
look forward to the holiday season."
in others' names -- A number of nonprofits
have become very creative with this process. You
can buy someone a flock of ducks or a goat through
the Heifer Project. Basically you have donated
the cost of buying one of these things for a family
in the developing world to help them become more
self-sufficient. But you can say you bought your
brother a water buffalo, or tell your annoying
boss you bought him a pig -- for charity! (At
Heifer, you can even buy part of a larger animal
if you can't swing the cost of a whole one.)
"Last year we made the break from
commercialism," says April Lidinsky in South Bend,
Ind. "We give gifts to kids only, and then to
grown-ups we give Heifer cards that note we donated
money in their name. We also gave everyone a very
small handmade thingy from our local eco-products
store. We were the hit of the holidays."
Carol Sardinha, a health care executive
from Washington, D.C., says she e-mailed her co-workers
last year telling them she had made a donation
in their names to an agency devoted to providing
medical care to a homeless person. This approach,
she says, "establishes the appropriate expectations
regarding gifts, avoids the awkwardness that can
occur in either giving or receiving a gift that
is not reciprocated, avoid making people feel
obligated to spend money and clearly fits in with
the idea of being generous to people most in need."
Limit spending -- Sounds simple enough: Everyone agrees to limit the price spent on gifts to a certain dollar amount. But to make it more interesting, create a new "theme" each year. You could have a puzzle-and-game year, or a year in which all the gifts have to be made in your home state.
|Other ideas for theme gifts:
||Favorite things. Find items in a certain price range that are your favorites. This puts the emphasis on things you love or things that work very well that you share with people you care about and not on how much money is being spent.
||Family movie night. Make up gift baskets with a well selected DVD or even a gift card to a video store. Pack it with tubs of popcorn, popcorn seasonings and movie-style candy. Wrap it in cellophane and top it off with a homemade gift tag.
||Gag gifts. Probably best reserved for adults, it can provide a day or evening of hilarity while the children are opening their more traditional gifts.