Intentional Holiday Gift Giving

Ah, the holiday season. A time filled with festive gatherings and amazing food. A time of giving and celebrations. And gifts! So many gifts.

Unfortunately, it’s also very easy for it to become a time where many people blow their budgets and get swept away in consumerism. Many (thought not all) of us were brought up in this kind of culture.

As a child, I got so many  gifts for Christmas. I didn’t come from a wealthy family by any means. But on Christmas morning, the entire side of our living room would be stacked with gifts. Often you could barely see the Christmas tree behind them.

After all the gifts were open (it took literal hours), my parents took a photo of each child surrounded by their pile of gifts, holding up the ones they were most excited about.

Now don’t get me wrong, at the time, like any child would, I loved it. What kid wouldn’t?

Now that I have my own children, I can look back from a different perspective.  My parents spent a small fortune each Christmas on all of our gifts, but within a few weeks, it was as if it hadn’t even happened. The new toys had been shoved into a toybox mixed with the old ones.

All I can think of now when I recall these early times, is how much waste was present: financial as well as literal waste (packaging, wrapping paper, etc).

Since becoming a mother I’ve tried to be very intentional with giving my kids gifts.  My husband and I sit down and discuss a few ideas before narrowing it down on what we think they would value most, what would get the most use, and what they really need.

At this point I will raise my hand and say YES, I know my kids are still young and I have it easy when it comes to giving them gifts. They don’t REALLY know what they want yet. For example, last year my son wanted a cloud for Christmas. A cloud. And he said it over and over, whenever you asked him what he wanted. As they grow up I do expect their wishes to transform into more tangible items.

[I ended up sewing him a stuffed cloud that year. Santa is magic you guys!]


Generally, we try to stay within the wonderful minimalist approach to holiday gift giving for kids:

  • Something they want.
  • Something they need.
  • Something to wear.
  • Something to read.
  • Plus a stocking of small cars, play-doh, art supplies, flashcards etc.

I really love this approach. It keeps gift giving simple and minimal, and encourages you to really think about and focus on each category. If you plan it out this way, it’s pretty hard to get carried away!

A few other ways to cut down on waste and excess during holiday gift giving for everyone:
  • Ditch the wrapping paper. Or at least reuse it. Yes it’s beautiful, I know. But just think about all the paper! I had hung on to a beautiful large piece of thick wrapping paper and I finally reused it on a homemade wedding gift for a friend… Thankfully she thought it was hilarious that it was the same piece she wrapped my son’s birthday gift with a year earlier. And once my Costco sized roll of Santa wrapping paper is finally gone, I don’t intend to purchase this ever again. I’ve been so eager to use it up I wrapped my sister’s baby shower gift in candy cane stripes and Santa faces… Sorry Crystal! So what will I use instead? Literally anything… fabric I have, newspaper (my late grandmother is doing a fist pump right now, I swear), you name it.

  • Buy used items. Where is this unwritten rule that all gifts must be purchased new? I don’t get it… A book or toy that’s been read or enjoyed before isn’t good enough to be gifted again? Give the item a second chance and save some money while you’re at it.

  • Do It Yourself. Wherever possible, we try to make gifts ourselves: This year’s plans include dream catchers for both the boys (made by me), and magical gnome house doors for the boys to find fastened to a few trees on the property (made by my husband), so far. In the past I’ve quilted a bedspread, put together a photo album, and made body scrubs and bath salts.

  • Be intentional. Don’t just buy an item to gift because you feel like you need to pick something. Take the time to plan it out, which brings me to my next point…

  • Give experiences. Movie and museum passes, tickets to sporting events or concerts, or even plan a small getaway.

As a side note: why not try foraging for home decorations this year? Cedar branches, pinecones, all those things the stores sell fake in the holiday aisle… you can find outside. Give it a try!
Happy Holidays everyone!


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