Gina Jacobs November 21, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Alternative Gift Guide: Less “Stuff” Edition

Over the past decade, an increasing number of my loved ones have pointedly shared – with everyone who would listen – that they just don’t want any more holiday gifts. Why? Because they simply don’t have room for more “stuff.”

Before I proceed, let me just say that I 100% get this sentiment. The struggle to tame “the sprawl,” especially in a household with a growing kiddo, is real. But I also feel incredibly guilty not acknowledging people at the holidays – and not giving gifts isn’t much fun. So the ongoing quest to give alternative, “non-stuff” presents that will be well received on Christmas morning endures. Below are a few recommendations, the first two from recipient experience:

Give a class

Many moons ago, I was gifted a pre-paid ticket to a gourmet cookie baking class, along with my mom and aunt. We had a great time baking extra fancy cookies we’d never heard of before, much less made, along with a few new friends we made that day. The best part is that we got to take the cookie recipes home with us, plus the samples we baked. There were some clear winners – and one major flop – but it was a wonderful afternoon of cookie (and memory) making.

So, if someone on your list loves to learn, consider gifting them a class on a topic that they’d like to explore, such as photography, flower arranging, gardening, cooking, woodworking, cake decorating, beer brewing, yoga, dance, and much, much more. If you’re looking for inspiration, check your local Parks and Recreation department for tons of affordable class options.

Give an experience

Last year, my in-laws gave my husband and I two tickets to Mystique, a fine dining experience in Folsom. The gift came with babysitting, so we could enjoy a date night out. I thought that was an AWESOME gift because we very rarely enjoy date nights – or dinner theatre. It was such a treat to get out and do something new together without it impacting our monthly budget. (We had a great time, btw.)

Along the same lines, consider gifting movie, concert, or theatre tickets. If someone has been EXTRA good this year, season tickets or ticket subscriptions are a fantastic option.

Give a donation to a charity they feel strongly about

I recently read that the “most non-material gift is a gift for a good cause.” With that in mind, if you believe that someone on your list would much prefer your holiday dollars go to charity, trust that instinct.

Not only is charitable giving a thoughtful, feel-good option, it’s also easy. Simply pick an organization the “recipient” would happily support and give the amount you would’ve spent on them to that organization. Most charities send some sort of notification letting the “recipient” know a donation was made in their honor.

Need help selecting a charity? Charity Navigator – a charity in itself – is a great place to start. And, if you feel compelled to wrap something, you can always print out the donation confirmation and present it with a nice bow on it, like a scroll.

Give your time

If you poke around on Pinterest, you’ll find countless options for “coupon books,” date night jars, and other items that essentially package the gift of time. The beauty of these types of gifts is that the presentation can be as simple or elaborate as you want – and the actual gift can be tailored to your skillset.

Looking for somewhere to start? The basics include cooking, cleaning, or babysitting for family and friends. If you’re especially handy, you can fix things around their house (perhaps paired with a Home Depot gift card, though that can be interpreted as “stuff”). Or, going back to the charity option, you can volunteer for an organization the recipient is passionate about. After all, there is nothing more precious you can give than your time.

I hope these options inspire you to, quite literally, think outside the box this holiday season. And, as always, if you have a comment or suggestion, please share it below. 


Gina Jacobs

Gina Jacobs loves to write – which is why she’s been doing it professionally for more than a decade. As the work team lead of the SAFE Credit Union communications team, she helps shapes all internal and external marketing efforts. She spends her free time chasing after her rambunctious toddler and Shih Tzu. Her husband of seven years also keeps her on her toes.