Ever thought about how much you spend on holiday gifts each year? Given that the average American spends as much as $650 per year on gifts for friends, family, and coworkers, according to the National Retail Federation, the real question is: How much could you be saving around this time of year by avoiding a few holiday gift exchanges?
The holiday season is one of the most expensive times of the year. This time around, my husband and I are going to change that.
We plan on buying our first home soon, which is naturally a costly process, and time is of the essence. Instead of making November, December, and January our most expensive months of the year, we’re focusing on saving and increasing our down-payment fund.
So we won’t be exchanging gifts with relatives or friends or neighbors. We’re just getting a few things for each other and our son — that’s it. It will probably be our smallest Christmas yet, and I’m pretty excited.
Of course, saving for future goals around Christmas doesn’t sound too promising. It may even lead to extreme FOMO (fear of missing out). So here’s what we plan to do to spread holiday cheer, even though we plan to celebrate Christmas without a ton of gifts.
1. Giving Our Time and Talents
We will skip buying meaningless and costly Christmas gifts for everyone. Instead, we’re going to focus on giving our time and talents.
I want to spend more time with family around the holidays instead of wasting time standing in line at the mall and hunting down deals.
I haven’t been able to talk to some family members in a long time, and would much rather give them a call or do a favor for a friend. Small favors can mean the world to someone who needs help, especially in uncertain times like these.
If you’re too busy around the holidays, or find you’ve spread yourself too thin, you can always give the gift of future time. Simply draw up a handwritten gift certificate specifying your services, and let your friends or family redeem them once you’re able to safely meet in-person again.
For example, last year, my friend’s daughter had a birthday around Christmas, and I volunteered to prepare a dish for the party because I enjoy cooking and know how stressful it can be to plan a child’s birthday party.
This year, you could offer to send them a cake or your friend’s favorite meal. It can mean a great deal to your friend, while also not putting your health — or your budget — at risk.
2. Family Charity Gift
We’re also looking forward to doing some volunteer work, either for a local organization or for an international one like Feed My Starving Children.
The World Vision Gift Catalog is a great way to get your children involved in caring for others and giving back during the holiday season. Also, helping deliver toys to less fortunate families will drive those ideals home.
Alternatively, if you would rather give to charity without giving up on gifts, you might want to check out Greater Good. It has online gift shops that put proceeds toward causes like ending hunger and rescuing animals.
If you’re tired of the incessant consumption associated with the holiday season, take some time out to give back to the community in a safe and socially distanced manner:
- Create the Good has a search bar that allows you to find volunteering options near you.
- Call your local United Way and ask for a list of homeless shelters or soup kitchens where you could help out.
- Contact the Salvation Army for opportunities near you, too.
- Volunteer Match will help you find an organization that perfectly matches your interests and passions.
- Ask your local hospital if you can make some get-well cards for patients spending the holidays there.
- Inquire at the local prison about the same thing; everyone can use a bit of holiday cheer.
- Ask senior-care facilities in your area if they need volunteers or visitors to help residents cope with the pandemic, or look for opportunities showcased by the National Council on Aging.
- Have a book drive for your local library (but make sure the library accepts public book donations first).
- Donate blood at your local Red Cross.
3. Holiday Parties and Quality Time
We still plan on attending Zoom holiday parties and enjoying the company of family and friends — just without exchanging gifts. I don’t want to miss out on watching movies, playing games, and enjoying good conversation with my family during the holidays.
I will set expectations ahead of time by being honest with everyone about our goal to save more money and focus on the often-overlooked aspects of Christmas like being thankful for loved ones, while shifting our focus away from gift-giving.
4. Embracing Frugal Traditions
My family and I have a lot of frugal holiday traditions, and we don’t plan to pass up on any of them this year. For example, we like to set up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and watch movies.
We also like to build a gingerbread house, check out the free Christmas tree-lighting ceremony here in Chicago, drive around to look at holiday lights, and go sledding and ice-skating.
Though some traditions may not be possible this year, there are always accommodations you can make to account for the pandemic.
Rather than watch the tree-lighting ceremony in-person, you can watch a livestream and get all of the fun without any of the risks.
This is definitely the best way to celebrate the holiday season.
Your loved ones already know that you love them, and they love you, so gifts aren’t needed to show it. Remember that the season is about spending time together — not spending money — no matter what the big corporations would have you believe.
How Much Can You Save By Celebrating Christmas Without Gifts?
All in all, we plan to stash away an extra $3,000 by the end of the year.
Of course, that doesn’t mean spending $3,000 just on Christmas. We usually end up spending around $1,000 on Christmas each year (give or take), but we figured out that we can set aside $1,500 in November and December through a combination of abstaining from gift buying, being frugal, and earning extra money.
Without having to run out every weekend and shop for gifts that our friends and family might not even want (and probably won’t even remember in a year or two), we can focus our time and energy on earning extra money and being with our loved ones.