“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things- not the great occasions- that give off the greatest glow of happiness.” –Bob Hope
I am often asked for thoughts and advice on celebrating Christmas as a minimalist. And when I am, I always share that my minimalist holiday philosophy is simple, straight-forward, and easy to manage: Give more than you receive, look for ways to exchange talents and experiences first, and for every else, give holiday cheer.
But even with this in mind, I’m always mindful to respect gift-giving as a love language, in so much as that I do not want to rob my family members and friends of that simple, time-honored joy. While I prefer experiences over consumerism when it comes to holiday gift giving, I still hold steadfast to the idea that even as minimalists, we own it to others to be a gracious, humble, appreciative person, who is full of good cheer, or at the very least, a person who can provide a gift wish-list suitable for the simpler palette.
Now when it comes to the kiddos and holiday gifts, I always revert back to my grandmother’s one-in-and-one-out rule, which stipulates that for every gift that comes into our home another you already own must be removed. I love this idea as it can help you to not only reevaluate your toy boxes and closet space in the months leading up the holiday season but to also help promote a seasonal mindset of giving.
While I am not the first to write about enjoying a simpler Christmas. In fact, there are countless articles, posts, guides, and blogs that can help you enjoy a more simple, stress-free Christmas. But I still know there are still others who will want to exchange gifts this season, so in an effort to create a valuable resource for myself and others I’ve put together a list of 9 Minimalist Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas that can help you make the most of this current season of giving.
Pick a Secret Santa. This game is a classic. I mean, who doesn’t love a Secret Santa? I know my husband looks forward to his Secret Santa week at school each year. So why not move this tradition from the corporate world to the comfort of your own home and institute a minimalist, budget-friendly family Secret Santa exchange. By only giving one gift to a family member, and stipulating an amount that can be spent on each person, you can focus more on the gift-giving experience rather than spend money on several gifts that may or may not hit the mark with your loved ones.
Looking for an extra cool twist? Up the ante by asking family members to leave secret notes and treats for the person whose name they’ve drawn during the month of December!
Make a coupon book for family members. I love this idea because it’s personalized and can be a lot of fun depending on how creative you get. Think digital and personalized. Go for coupons like “Making Your Bed for a Week,” “Doing the Dishes for 1 Week,” or “Letting You Pick the TV Show We Watch on Saturday afternoons for a month.” Choose simple things that can make other family member’s life a little easier or a little more fun in the new year!
Set gift expectations early. It’s important to set gift expectation for kids early on. Let them know that even if they have a long wish list, only a few presents will show up under the tree. This can be made into a learning exercise by having your children prioritize which gifts they really want, even as part of a 4-Gift Christmas. Also, consider asking your kids to choose an equal amount of toys to donate as they are asking for during the holiday season. This will help instill a sense of charity in your kids and help keep clutter in their rooms and playrooms as bay.
Take a family trip. Instead of spending money on everyone’s presents, consider pooling your family resources and using the money to go on an outing, a staycation for the week before New Year’s Day, or even a small weekend trip away. Plus you’ll even be able to find some good deals during the week between Christmas and New Year’s while the kids are still on vacation from school. Even if you just travel to a nearby town or a local park, it’s the act of getting away as a family that matters.
Let your kids do the shopping. If your kiddos are old enough to safely shop on their own, or in pairs, give your kids a set amount of cash, and allow them time to search for deals and coupons online, and then let them shop for their own family gifts. This will get your kids geared towards the not so distant days in the future when they will need to plan for their own holiday spending. It’s never too early to gear kids into utilizing the cash-only holiday mindset!
Give back as a family. You can sponsor a family in need by making donation boxes as a family through your local Salvation Army, Families First, Operation Christmas Child, Operation Shoebox, or Soldiers’ Angels, It’s a wonderful way to feel the real meaning of the holidays and do something budget-friendly as a family!
Trade favorite recipes. For extended family, have everyone make their favorite dish or dessert and attach hand-written recipe cards, one for every member of the family, when they bring their dishes to your home as part of a family meal swap in the week’s leading up Christmas. This can help everyone in the family can build their own family recipe book and have a few fewer meals to prepare too!
Share a family photo collage. Photos are one of the least expensive and most treasured gifts you can give. So why not build a family photo album together? Have each member of your family print up to 10 of their favorite photos from that year for each person in your family. Then, share your memories while enjoying time together. You can also have each family member bring an empty photo album with them to fill with the photos they receive so they can look back on their wonderful holiday experience next year. Looking for a more
Looking for a more zero-waste collage tradition? Have your family members create free collages online through Canva or Pic Monkey, and send to friends and family to give them an awesome digital photo keepsake or personalized holiday screen saver!
Create a family gratitude journal. Grab a beautiful journal or inexpensive notebook and set it in a public place where every member of the family has access to it. Starting on December 1, each person will write one thing they’re thankful for in the journal each day. At the end of the following year, and during your next holiday season, you can all look back on your thankful messages together!
So, everyone, those are my 9 Minimalist Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas. I hope you will all find them helpful as you plan for your remaining holiday shopping trips in the weeks to come. Now I have to ask, do you have any special or memorable Christmas Gift Exchange Ideas you would like to share? I’d love to hear about them below!