6 Alternatives To Traditional Gift-Giving This Holiday Season

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It’s no secret that money is tight for a lot of consumers. A new GOBankingRates survey found that 33% of Americans are buying fewer gifts this year due to the economy and budget concerns.

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If the thought of having to buy gifts for a long list of people seems like an impossibility this year, give yourself a break. It’s absolutely OK to forgo buying, wrapping and giving what seems like countless individual gifts in favor of options that are more budget-friendly.

Whether you want to have a fun shared activity, exercise your creativity or give the gift of yourself — there’s an option for everyone. To help get you started, consider these six alternatives to traditional gift-giving this holiday season.

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Secret Santa

Secret Santa requires all participants to draw a name and purchase a gift for that one person. You don’t reveal whose name you drew — hence the name Secret Santa.

“Then when gifts are exchanged, they’re typically put into a pile and each recipient picks theirs up and opens it in front of everyone,” said consumer analyst Julie Ramhold with DealNews.

She continued, “Sometimes groups like to have an element of guessing as part of their game, in which each recipient tries to guess who their Secret Santa is, but it’s not required by any means. This is another game that often sets a cost limit on gifts or even requires a DIY gift, so it’s definitely an interesting — and sometimes challenging — way to give a gift without spending a ton of money. And because you’re only swapping with one person, you don’t have to worry about buying more than one gift.”

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Give Your Time

Consumer finance expert Tanya Peterson, vice president of brand with Achieve, said that because people are extremely busy these days, giving the gift of time might be the best gift of all. 

“Really think about what your giftee needs and could use, and what you can do,” said Peterson. “Maybe it’s offering to help with house maintenance/handyman work, housecleaning, window cleaning, snow shoveling over the next few months or yard work in the spring. Older people often have a hard time eating healthy on a consistent basis, so consider making a few meals for someone. For the younger set, you might be able to plan an outdoor afternoon for kids in the neighborhood.”

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Recipe Swap

“These are especially fun when it comes to things like cookies and candies, but you can also swap cocktail recipes if you want,” said Ramhold. “If you’re making cookies and candies, it’s best to make a batch of your goodie and then attach a recipe card so that your recipients can eat their treat and then make their own.

“If you’re having it as a party, consider making a big batch and printing off recipe cards for all the guests so everyone can take one. If you’re going the cocktail route, you could consider purchasing the tiny travel-size bottles of different ingredients or even buy in bulk from a place like Costco and funnel the ingredients into smaller bottles and jars.”

Ramhold said if you choose to go the cocktail route, make it a rule to keep recipes simple. For example, don’t choose something that has a lot of ingredients or ingredients that are hard to find.

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Give Experiences

Peterson said that going this route is a good way to give someone an enjoyable experience at a price you can afford. 

“It could be an online or in-person class (cooking, beer making, language, fitness), a subscription box, or sports, art or music lessons. You can give one lesson, more than one, a group lesson or a private lesson. Activities offered by local rec centers, community centers and adult education organizations are often extremely reasonable.”

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Cobweb Party

Ramhold said that this idea is especially fun if you have a larger group because it will make for a more complicated web. 

“Basically everyone brings a gift to the party, and you designate a particular room or area for the gifts,” said Ramhold. “Then simply tie a thread to each gift and run out the length. Be sure to kind of mix them around for added fun. Then each guest will pick up a random end of string and follow it back to the gift it’s tied to in order to claim their prize. 

“This could be fun for kids as well, but it’ll probably work better with adults who can be trusted to not mess with the setup. This is another one that’s pretty budget-friendly as you only have to buy one gift, and you can also set cost limits to make sure no one guest spends too much while everyone else takes a more affordable route.”

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Put Technology to Use

“For friends or family who live elsewhere, enlist kids to use phones and put together a fun video,” suggested Peterson. 

You (or your children) could record bits and pieces of the various activities your family engages in over holiday break — such as making snow angels, baking holiday treats, ice skating, decorating, singing in a choir, participating in a play or reading a favorite holiday story. If you have a techie in your family, have them combine the video clips together. There are plenty of apps available to download that can help with this task.

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