"Peace on Earth
Good Will to Men"
I don't know about you, but I don't see anything about shopping in that statement. I'm also opposed to buying things for people just because we're conditioned to do so. I mean, I love to give people presents -- what they need, when they need it, or something they'd love, when I see it -- but just because the calendar says so? I think not. (I make an exception here for kids, especially at this season, for a few reasons. First, seeing their faces light up. Second, Santa Klaus/Kris Kringle/Saint Nicolas did traditionally give kids small gifts, as well as stories of the three wise men bringing gifts to baby Jesus, so there is long tradition here.)
That said, I have to say that I'm lucky, in that my extended family either feels the same way, or at least understands that I do, and doesn't insist on a huge gift exchange. I don't remember when that shift happened, as I think the gift giving just sort of faded away.
What do you do if your family does insist? Here are a few ideas:
- Talk to other family members about your preferences
- Suggest that each family member draw the name of one other family member out of a hat, and then only get a gift for that one person.
- Suggest a 'white elephant' gift exchange, where each person brings something they have but don't want or need to give to a name drawn out of a hat at a gathering. People can trade gifts after the official exchange.
- Agree upon a dollar limit to each gift.
- Instead of gifts, make coupons for your services:
- Are you a great cook? Offer to make a meal for the recipient.
- Are you handy? Offer a few hours of 'fix-it' services.
- Does someone have small kids? Offer a few hours of babysitting.
- Make a gift of food.
- If you have a baking specialty, make that (my sister-in-law makes the world's best baklava, and there are small plates of it, cut into small squares and wrapped in paper frills, all over her kitchen, destined for many, many people -- apparently one pan feeds a crowd).
- There are a bunch of simple recipes here.
- Even if you can't bake, you can mix up a batch of soup mix (here's the recipe) and package it, along with the other things needed to make soup. When your recipient makes the soup, she/he will think of you fondly. Who doesn't like soup?
- Give your own art and/or crafts.
- Use your photos to make calendars -- there are lots of online services that will do this. Everyone needs a calendar -- and what's better than photos that are meaningful to the recipient? You could recent family photos, vacation photos, and old family photos scanned into digital form. You can also personalize the calendars to include family birth dates or other significant events.
- If you aren't creative at all, and you still must give presents, here are a couple of ideas:
- Give a service (massage, psychic reading, etc. -- yes, call me at 888-446-5547 to set that up)
- Give something made in America --www.etsy.com has lots of things made by crafters right here in the US (but you do have to look, not everything is made here)