Tips for Minimalist Gift Giving


The average consumer spends nearly $1,000 dollars on gifts over the winter holidays. Not surprisingly, the holidays also generate more waste than any other time of year — as much as six million extra tons.

Many families have grown tired of holiday gift giving, saying that it’s wasteful, stressful and insincere to shop for a sizeable gift pile each year. But is it really possible to celebrate the winter holidays without giving gifts? According to some, yes — shifting the focus away from presents actually makes the holidays more enjoyable. Instead of spending money on gifts that are forgotten in a few weeks and eventually end up in a landfill, more families are choosing to spend their time and money on valuable experiences.

Here are some ideas on how to cut back on gifting without cutting back on sharing joy, appreciation and quality time with your loved ones:

  • Eliminate gift giving for adults entirely, and allow only small, reasonable gifts for children.
  • Make sure any physical gifts are useful, whether that means school and art supplies or consumable items such as food.
  • Use gifts (or the holidays themselves) as an opportunity to create an experience, whether that’s a home-cooked meal, tickets to a special event, a hiking trip, traveling or some other form of quality time. Massages, heartfelt letters, craft projects and group adventures are also good ways to do this.
  • Consider giving back to your community. Instead of spending a day opening presents, why not volunteer at a nearby soup kitchen? If you have children, have them pick out old toys to give to families in need so they can make room for their new toys.

Inviting friends or family over?

When you call or write out invitations, try saying, “Your presence is your present; no additional gifts are needed.” Or you might try something along the lines of, “No gifts, please, but cards are welcome.”

If you feel too uncomfortable eliminating gift-giving entirely, establish a gift exchange. If each person only brings and receives one gift, not only does it reduce the number of gifts overall, but it also gives each person more time and energy to invest in making the gift thoughtful. This way, the focus is less on quantity and more on quality. A gift exchange can also move the spotlight away from presents all together and direct it towards the time spent together instead. For inspiration on how to plan your own gift exchange, check out Real Simple’s list of 28 gift exchange ideas.

What if I still need to buy gifts?

If you are going to buy gifts, consider these questions:

  • Why am I giving this particular gift?
  • What value will the recipient find in my gift?
  • Does the recipient need this gift?
  • Is there a way that I could make the gift more meaningful for both of us?

When you take the time to answer these questions, you will use gifts to connect to those around you instead of to keep up appearances.

Shopping for fewer physical gifts each year can save you from spending time stressing over the latest presents and help you cut back on excess waste. It can also give you more energy to spend creating priceless memories with your loved ones.