Today, I have an article written by my sister-in-law and editor, Ariel Gardner. You may remember her from the article How Saying “No” to Money is Saving Me Money. This is a topic that we feel strongly about, so I was happy to publish her article when she offered to write about it. Enjoy her article below!
I love the holiday season, spending more time with friends and family, getting cozy under a blanket with a movie, and of course the food.
But, every year, I am overwhelmed with the gift giving.
I really do love buying gifts for those I care about, and I love thinking about the thought and time put into the gifts given to me. However, I can’t help but wonder if there is a different way to approach the holiday gift giving season. This isn’t a new feeling, and every year it’s made me think more and more about changing my holiday spending and the ways I can be giving back for the holidays.
A recent NerdWallet Harris poll found that the average family with children will spend nearly $600 on holiday gifts. If you’re like my family, some of these gifts go unused. I actually still have an unopened fondue set given to me five years ago! It might not be a fondue set, but I’m probably not alone on this.
This has me thinking about all of the stuff I’ve given in the past years. I’m sure some of it is still unused, unopened, or maybe even re-gifted.
So, what if instead of spending hundreds of dollars on things that may just add to someone else’s clutter, we tried to find new ways to approach gift giving and holiday spending?
When I stop and think about the holidays and why they are important, I find that it’s because this is the season for reflecting on the year and thinking about what I am grateful for. Often, the way we express this gratitude is by giving gifts, and I’ll be the first to say that I love opening presents. But, this year, I want to focus more on finding ways to make the gifts I give more meaningful than ever, spending more time with those I love, and giving back to those in need.
If you’re feeling frustrated with holiday spending and wanting to find new ways to celebrate the holidays, while still giving to those you love, here are 8 ways you can change your holiday spending and start giving back for the holidays:
1- Adopt a family for the holidays.
Leading up to the holidays, our school posts an anonymous list of area families that are in need, including ages and sizes for clothing and toys. If you are looking for a very direct way of helping those in your community, adopting a family, or buying for one, is a great way to focus on giving back for the holidays.
To find families in need, you can reach out to schools in your area, check the newspaper, or contact the United Way. These families have needs that extend far beyond just toys, which you are also encouraged to give if you want. Most of the time, these families are in need of the basics, like clothing, winter jackets, and shoes.
If you have children, adopting a family can be a great way to instill charitable giving and encourage empathy at a young age.
2- Give a handmade gift.
I know what many of you are going to say, “I’m just not crafty enough!” Fortunately, Pinterest exists for a reason. And, really, you don’t have to be crafty to give a handmade gift.
I am a knitter, so this is the area I kind of excel in, but yarn can cost more than you think, and it’s really time consuming.There a lot of different ways to make holiday gifts, and many of them don’t take nearly as much time as it does to knit a hat! Again, Pinterest is your friend for handmade gift ideas.
You can do something simple like putting a dry baking mix together with instructions on how to finish. Or, one of the things we like to do is to print a family photo and put it in a nice frame.
If you have children, this can be a fun way for them to get hands on by making paintings, drawing pictures, writing stories, and more. With this, you are also teaching your child that they can be involved in the process.
Handmade gifts don’t have to be fancy or elaborate because they show your loved one you care through your time and thoughtfulness.
3- Go on a holiday outing.
This is a new thing for our family, and it’s been a really fun way to spend time with one another. When we do our holiday spending budget, we take a portion of that and set it aside for outings.
For a family, this can be something like driving through a light display, going out for ice cream, doing a cooking class together, going to the movies, etc.
For friends, try a fancy dinner out, a painting class, or a day at a climbing gym.
Life gets busy, and it’s hard to see everyone during the holidays, so planning a holiday outing is giving the gift of time and memories to those you care about.
4- Donate to a charity.
Charitable giving is different for everyone because finding the right charity takes into consideration the values of each person. Many of you may give throughout the year, but donating as a gift is a meaningful way of expressing your gratitude for what you have, while focusing on the values and interests of those you care about.
One of my favorite approaches to charitable giving is through organizations like Heifer International and Kiva. Both of these organizations are nonprofit groups that focus on sustainable efforts to end poverty.
Heifer International’s mission is through a “teach a man to fish” philosophy that works to end worldwide poverty and hunger. For 70 years, they have focused on projects in women’s empowerment, sustainable farming, basic needs, and more.
One of the most popular ways to give through Heifer is by buying a full or partial share of an animal that goes to a family, often in a third world country, that will use that animal to sustain their family, with a promise to pass offspring to others.
On their website, Heifer describes this as, “Giving an animal is like giving someone a small business, providing, wool, milk, eggs, and more. Animal donations can provide families a hand up, increasing access to medicine, school, food and a sustainable livelihood.”
Kiva is an international organization that also does work in the US, and their focus is on loans to individuals and/or families in need.. They describe their missions as creating an “opportunity to play a special part in someone else’s story.” Those working with Kiva have funded over $1 billion on loans for things in areas like agriculture, education, food, arts, etc. These are crowd funded projects that pay back the loans at a 97.1% repayment rate. You can find out more about the loan application process and repayment on their website.
To give the gift of a loan through Kiva, you can search through their easy to use database to find projects that are important to those you care about. It’s similar to crowdfunding websites, but the idea is that your monetary gift is a loan, which they encourage you to reinvest upon repayment.
5- Volunteer as giving back for the holidays.
Beyond money, giving our time is one of greatest and most valuable gifts we can give. Often, spending money can be substitute for time, which can be a difficult thing to digest as we live in a world that is busier than ever. And, if you think about it, spending money is often easier than giving your time.
During the holidays, there are always places in need of volunteers, like animal shelters, food pantries, etc. Doing volunteer work may be something you already do, but if not, the holidays are a special time to share this charitable work with those you love.
If you want to volunteer during the holidays, contact local nonprofits to see if they need extra help during the holidays. This can be making meals, reading to dogs (our local animal shelter has a program like this for children), or visiting seniors in retirement homes.
This would also be a great holiday outing to do with family or friends.
6- Rule of 4 for kids.
I read this online a couple of years ago, and ever since, it has been the way we buy holiday gifts for our kids. It’s pretty simple and easy to remember, buy something they want, something they need, something they’ll wear, and something they’ll read.
Not only does this make those giants lists your kids give you more manageable, it helps you make sure you aren’t overspending this holiday season.
7- Host a gift exchange.
A gift exchange is a good way to ease out of buying so many holidays gifts, especially if you have a rather large list of those to buy for. Gift exchanges are great for families (large or small), friends, and coworkers.
Several years ago, my husband’s family decided to start doing this instead of buying individual gifts for all of the adults. We draw names and only give a present to the person whose name we drew. We also have a set spending limit, which I suggest you do for all holiday spending.
I’ve found that when I don’t have a huge list of people to buy for, I can be more thoughtful of the gifts I do buy. I can also spend more time finding just the right thing- in most cases, not a fondue set.
8- Shop small and local.
In 2010, American Express began promoting what they call Small Business Saturday in response to the Black Friday sales at big box stores. This nationwide promotion has taken off and focuses on supporting brick and mortar businesses in your community.
If you didn’t participate in Small Business Saturday, you can still make an impact by buying gifts at small, area businesses as a way to focus on giving back for the holidays.
In my state, over 47% of all employees are working at small businesses, and those small business make up about 99% of all businesses in my state. By shopping local, you are giving back to your community through taxes and jobs.
Small businesses may not always be able to meet the prices of online and big box stores,but that extra bit of money (it’s usually a very small amount, if any) goes directly to those in your community. It’s a way to invest in your area, a hope for a thriving future, and a great way to learn more about your community.
Are you frustrated with holiday spending? If so, how are you giving back for the holidays?