Why I’m Never Buying Gifts for Anyone Ever Again
This year, the holidays will be a more subdued affair for most of us. There will be fewer parties to attend, and family get-togethers won’t be as large. While the pandemic has strained every facet of our lives — including budgets — maybe there are some lessons we can take away, too, like finding creative ways to share in the holiday spirit without putting undue stress on ourselves.
I’m an avowed minimalist, but I’m not a Scrooge. I’ve just learned over the years how to make the holidays be less about material gift giving and more about joy giving. This mindset came about as a result of living in a small apartment in New York City for over a decade. When my son was a toddler, relatives in other parts of the country — who didn't quite understand what living in a 600-square-foot city apartment entails — would send toys for presents. Not just tiny toys, but toys that take up precious real estate in our small quarters: battery-powered cars, giant bouncy balls, stuffed animals that double as a bean bag.
"I’m an avowed minimalist, but I’m not a Scrooge."
The stress this brought into our lives — not just over the holidays but year-round as we tried to figure out what to do with stuff — was sometimes overwhelming. This culminated in the year my parents sent us a giant box of presents. One of the items inside was an enormous animatronic Santa Claus dressed in a Hawaiian shirt singing “Blue Christmas,” Elvis Presley-style. It was cute, but before the song was even over, my first thought was, “Where in the world are we going to store this?”
That year, I vowed that I would do Christmas differently moving forward. I didn’t want to burden people with things they may or may not like — sure, I was a thoughtful gift giver, but wasn’t there always a chance that the present we give to someone may not be to their liking and will just end up being re-gifted or donated? The hours and money we spend in this endeavor and the pressure we put on ourselves is simply unsustainable and completely unnecessary.
Let's Do Away with Presents Altogether!
So I decided that I would never buy anyone anything ever again. The only kind of present I now give is something I make myself, which can be consumed or takes up minimal space, and requires just a little bit of planning. I make fruit jams, cookies, candy, and other baked goods to gift to people. (And this year, I can add a new item to the list: sourdough bread, which I learned how to make in the early days of the pandemic.)
In other years, I’ve made homemade soap, bottled vanilla and herb-infused olive oils, and knitted small items like gloves and hats to give as gifts. Over the years, I’ve even convinced family members to do away with exchanging presents altogether and just enjoy each other’s company, while eating freshly made cinnamon rolls.
The holidays, in its most joyful expression, is a time to be with our loved ones — singing songs, sharing stories, eating good food. We may not be able to celebrate with friends and family this year, but maybe we can feel closer by giving them something we made ourselves. It need not cost a lot of money, and the thought will surely be appreciated.