Worried About Holiday Spending? A How-To Guide To Go Gift-Less This Christmas

Snowflake Bow Gift Boxes Before we know it, Christmas will be upon us.  For those of you hardcore frugal-ers, you might be already armed with coupons, a gift stash and a budget tailored down to the last penny for your holiday shopping.   Some frugal folks don’t advocate for buying on a budget, they might not be buying at all!  So, could you handle a gift-less Christmas?

To save money in the past, I have gifted homemade knitted wares, hand baked goodies and purchased pre-made edibles that are cost effective and cover more gift-giving ground.  This year I wondered-  what if we just don’t give gifts at all?

My problem is- I love giving gifts but as costs rise and travel eats up most of my budget, how can I afford to make the holiday special and give a meaningful gift to everyone I love without going into credit card debt?  

Going gift-less doesn’t have to be horrible, but dedicate some brain space to whipping up creative ways on transforming your holiday season into “memories” not just “things.”   The holiday season is notoriously an out of control spending orgy that leaves too many of us paying off credit cards well into springtime- don’t let that be you!  

 I’ve done some pondering and have come up with a way to make going gift-less suck-less!

For me, I typically don’t stress out about gifts or buy for anyone out of obligation.  I like to put together thoughtful, personalized gifts that make the people in my life feel special and appreciated (since they are!)  What do you do when you’re broke and surrounded by great people who all deserve a lil somethin’ somethin’ for being fabulous all year long?   How far does the gift-giving circle extend?  Coworkers?  Neighbors? Roomies?  The people who you dog sit for?  It adds up quickly!


If you want to celebrate the holidays without going into debt over a gift exchange, change your focus from gifts you buy to gifts you truly GIVE.  Focusing on philanthropy exchanges time for gifts of the heart and is nearly free.  


I’m on a tight budget this year and have toyed with the idea of going gift-less.  Not giving and not receiving could really relieve tight finances for not only myself, but for those loved ones who are also tight on cash.  By not worrying about gifts, wrapping, shipping and the expense, what will it *feel* like?  As much as I’d love to say that getting back to the Christmas spirit and just “being together” would be enough, won’t it feel a little boring without the buildup of the gift exchange on Christmas day?

Also, how does one explain to relatives and friends that, “NO, really, I REALLY don’t find it necessary to exchange gifts this year” when you know not everyone is comfortable with a gift-less holiday season?

How To Get Family/Friends On Board:

Get the word out EARLY.  People shop for gifts super early, so send your Christmas cards out ASAP with a note about your plan, or simply shoot an email to those you normally buy gifts for around the holidays.

Don’t want to feel tacky? Say it like this:  “This year we are focusing on the holiday spirit by giving back and instead of exchanging gifts we will be dedicating our time and energy to supporting local families in need.  If you would like to contribute we ask that all “gifts” be in non-perishable food items or toys to be donated!”

By shifting the focus away from “no gifts” and thus towards helping others, people are less likely to see you as a Scrooge and more as a good samaritan who is thinking outside the gift box this holiday season.


How To Make Gift-Less Suck-Less:

  • Spend the time normally dedicated to shopping  volunteering at your favorite charity.
  • Adopt a cat or dog from a shelter instead of gifts.  Pets are expensive, so with that extra money you save from going gift-less to get Fido fixed and Fluffy some catnip!  Anyone that does want to “bring something,” to your holiday gathering can chip in a goodie for the new member of the family!
  • Do a food drive instead of a gift exchange.  The post-holiday season is usually rough for foodbanks.  Create a family event out of finding your favorite foods, unique foods or something scrumptious for a family in need.
  • Adopt a family in need and shop for them instead of yourself.  A friend of mine went giftless a few years ago and still remembers how her family came together to be a family’s “Santa.”  Christmas morning she got to pile up the gifts on the front porch and spy as the kids came out to see what Santa left them, what a unique memory!
  •  Tell a story about your gift-less Christmas.   Send out cards instead of gifts that can read:  “This year we will be dedicating our holiday season to accumulating gifts of the heart and donating our money and time towards relieving poverty in our local area.   Thank you for being in our life and supporting our efforts to make the holiday season brighter for people in need!”   Plenty of non-profits also offer holiday cards that you can use which generate funds for charity.
  • Work on creating memories, not clutter.  Keep the family busy with activities that will distract from the consumerism withdrawl you might experience.  Baking cookies, crafting ornaments, or putting together a video slideshow of your year will pass time and curb the consumerist cravings!  Take LOTS and lots of pictures.
  • Use your gift budget to fix problems in your life.  You know there’s something that’s been bugging you all flippin’ year-  a crack in the wall, a broken dresser drawer,  a disgusting oven….the list goes on and on!     Dedicate your holiday season (and your money) to fixing what you’ve been putting off instead of getting distracted by mounds of tinsel and cluttered decorations.

The better you fill your time with activities, new experiences and a goal of simplifying your life away from just “stuff” the easier it will be to transition towards “gift-less,” and it will be easier to see you can have plenty of other “gifts” without spending a cent!

So- could you go gift-less this Christmas or have you thought of other ways to make the holiday season more fun without overspending?  Please share your tips!


  1. says

    My wife and I use our American Express points every year at Christmas to buy gift certificates to restaurants for our friends. It is an easy way to buy gifts for our friends.

  2. Summer says

    Love it Shannon!! I have actually been considering adopting a military family instead of buying for hubbys family. My reasoning is more selfish though. I go out of my way as always and put lots of time and thought into gifts and don't even get a simple 'Thank You" because they don't even bother to see who got them the gift so I would much rather have my money, time, and effort go to someone whom is much more

  3. says

    I love this. 🙂 Last year I tried to go gift-less, I told my honey that instead of presents, I wanted to use the money to get stuff to donate. He said no. 🙁 He really likes to get presents; personally, I never really want anything for Christmas and end up using mine to give my honey more. Too bad I can't talk him into it.


  4. says

    I love this idea! We always adopt a family in need at Christmas and it's always amazing that the kids usually ask for things they need (jeans, sweater, etc), versus things they want like an iPod, etc.

  5. says

    These are great ideas! I wish that my family would agree to do something along these lines. I feel like sometimes we're scrambling for ideas just to have stuff under the tree. My in-laws go over the top for Christams and, sadly, there's no changing that. And although I know it won't work for Christmas…maybe we can do it for Hanukkah!

  6. says

    This year is definitely tight on our budget. I am thinking of just baking some cookies & knitting some gifts from the stash I've gathered over years [some of the yarn was a gift for a special occasion]. I seriously could car less about the gifts I get [would really be happy with nothing but quality time with my close family], but I love to give gifts to my loved ones. Not sure I could go totally gift-less.

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