7 Alternatives to Holiday Gift Exchanges

If the holiday season can feel a bit too materialistic for your liking, rest assured that youre not alone. Dont feel pressured to head to the nearest mall just because other people expect you to. There are many other meaningful ways you can share with others that dont involve directly exchanging material gifts.

1. Volunteer

This is great to do in groups. Spending quality time together can be a precious opportunity, especially in the busyness of the holiday season.

Try volunteering for a few hours with your family or friends at a favorite local charity. You can prepare meals at a soup kitchen, help out at an animal shelter or teach a fun class at a school or retirement home.

Another option is to create your own project. Check if anyone you know needs a shed built, some painting done or help organizing their basement. Set up a time and invite your loved ones over to take part.

And dont forget your workplace. Volunteering as a group can also make a great holiday office party. Try checking out VolunteerMatch.org for options available near you.

2. Donate

Many organizations that are working to improve our world need our support. Giving money to charities can make a much greater difference in the world compared to buying another short-lived stocking stuffer.

You can donate to an organization that you know a person on your list would support, then give them a card to let them know you were thinking of them.

Check if any charities where you live have adopt a family programs where you can sponsor a family in need for the holidays. A local Salvation Army will typically have programs like this.

3. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Suggest to family and friends that you all agree to give away items you no longer want rather than acquiring more this year.

It can also be helpful to organize a group swap in order to do something with all that extra stuff. Ask each person to bring a number of items they no longer want to the swap. Lay out all the items in the middle of a room and invite everyone to take something new home with them. If theres anything left at the end, simply box it up and take it to a local charity.

4. Travel

A group trip with family and/or friends can be a great way to enjoy each others company for the holidays without the material burden.

You can all decide to go on a long, international trip together if thats the consensus. But a small-scale trip, such as a day out to a neighboring town, can be just as fun.

And if youd prefer not to travel at all, you can always host a potluck at your place. Ask people not to bring any gifts, just their favorite dish and their wonderful company.

5. Host a Cookie Swap

Try hosting an old-fashioned cookie exchange, where each person brings a few dozen of their best cookies or other holiday baking.

It can be stepped up a notch by making it a packing party. Everyone can bring tins, plastic boxes or other containers, as well as packing materials. Once youve all swapped goodies, you can pack them up to send to out-of-town family and friends.

6. Book Exchange

Let friends and family know youd like to trade books this year. Ask them to share a book they really enjoyed with you and youll do the same.

You can also get together and start a Little Free Library project. This is an organization that helps people around the world to build their own little libraries, which are usually small wooden structures near peoples homes filled with books. Their slogan is take a book, leave a book, and everyone in the community is welcome to participate. Their website has lots of details on getting started.

7. Share Yourself

Instead of a material gift, you can share something personal. Sing your family a song at the dinner table, write a poem for a friend or offer to give a relaxing massage.

If you have a particular skill youd like to share, consider offering a lesson or a class for the people in your life.

Do you and your loved ones have any alternative traditions for holiday giving? Feel free to post any of your ideas in the comments!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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7 Alternatives to Holiday Gift Exchanges

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