Top 10 Alternatives to Traditional Gift Giving

November 29, 2021
"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." — Winston Churchill

Giving is part of the joy of the holidays, and you do not have to spend a lot or go into debt to deliver a meaningful gift to everyone from your closest friends and family to the postal carrier or other service providers you’d like to acknowledge at this time of year. 

And for those who are struggling with clutter, receiving more traditional gifts can cause more stress than holiday joy. 

Last week we discussed being thankful for our clutter in order to speed up the decluttering process which is a great tie into these 10 alternatives to traditional gift-giving. 

10. DIY Gifts

Do it yourself gifts can cost little to Nothing for you to make here and can be priceless to the receiver. 

Even if you do not consider yourself crafty or artistic, you can find an abundance of easy, DIY gift ideas floating around the internet. 

For example, creating custom kits for activities or yummy treats such as Hot Cocoa, Spa Days, or Candle Making is a great way to offer a fun present that everyone can enjoy. 

For more DIY gift ideas, look at this list of 101+ inexpensive handmade gifts for the holiday season or this article with 80 DIY holiday presents.

9. Food & Baked Goods

If you are talented in the kitchen, then you may want to create traditional holiday treats such as freshly baked bread, holiday pies, fresh jams or jelly, or iced cookies to give as gifts. 

But you do not need to be a professional chef or even an experienced cook to create affordable, delicious food-based presents for everyone on your list. 

Anyone with a sweet tooth will find it hard to resist easy-to-make treats such as Sweet & Salty Holiday Toffee, S'mores Bark, Chocolate Toffee, or Pretzel M&M Hugs wrapped in a decorative holiday container. 

And for those craving savory dishes …

And if cooking or baking still feels beyond your skill level, then creating gifts of themed spices, infused vinegars or oils, or even syrups are also simple options. 

For more inspiration, check out these 50-holiday food gifts for everyone on your list.

8. Shared Experiences

Contrary to what consumer-driven messaging tells us over and over, particularly at this time of year, gifts do not need to be physical objects that you purchase—they can also be experiences. 

The average person spends around $1000 per year on holiday gifts. Instead of purchasing individual presents for the family this year, consider investing that money in a group activity or adventure that you can all do together as an alternative. 

For example, if your family enjoys going to local theme parks, sporting events, museums, a gym, or National Parks, consider buying a season pass for each member or a family pass you can all use together. 

7. Gift Swap Games

Whether you call it Yankee Swap, White Elephant, Dirty Santa (!) or something else, coordinating a group gift swapping game is an excellent way of including everyone without breaking the bank. 

Instead of purchasing a gift for every attendee, each guest just brings one wrapped gift to play. Some gift exchange games focus on gag gifts while others require a more serious gift, but almost all of them specify a spending limit to keep the gifts all within a certain monetary range. 

To drill down a bit deeper, here is a list of 12 gift swap exchange ideas

6. Secret Santa

Another way to avoid overspending on individual gifts for large gatherings or within a large family is doing a Secret Santa drawing. 

Traditionally Secret Santa gift exchanges are done through an in-person number draw. But in this digital age, it is easy to use a digital drawing through a Secret Santa generator

5. Custom Coupon Books

Custom coupon books are a fun way to give a creative, customized gift from your heart that keeps on giving. 

Spend a few minutes thinking about what the person you are creating the coupons for really needs. For example, if you are making a book for parents with younger kids, they would probably enjoy a night out on the town without the little ones—so a babysitting coupon would likely be a welcome gift. 

For more ideas and a fun template, here are some free printable coupon gift templates.

4. Donate To A Charity On Someone's Behalf

What do you give the person with a kind heart who has everything? The gift of helping others in need. 

Donating to a charity that is meaningful to someone you care about is a thoughtful way to show you care while doing good for others. 

The most crucial step to donating in another person's name is to select the right charity to match the recipient's passions. 

Pick up or create a lovely card for them explaining why you chose to give to the charity you selected in their honor. 

This article on How to Make A Charity Donation Instead of a Christmas Gift has some great tips. 

3. Sponsor A Family Or Child In Need

If you’re comfortable at home, meaning the essentials are never at risk, consider leveraging your financial stability to help others. There are many charity organizations that will match your family with a recipient in need and some will even match your gift with other in-kind goods.

If this sounds appealing, check out this link to find out more about sponsoring a child or disadvantaged family for the holidays

Once they match your family with a child or family in need, the charity will provide specifics like gender, age, and requested gifts. 

Shopping for your sponsored child can be a great holiday experience that teaches your children valuable life lessons and strengthens your own bonds as a family. 

2. Virtual & Digital Gifts 

Giving gifts that will not add extra clutter to someone’s home may be the best gift of all. 

With all of the shipping delays, backlogged shipping ports and other challenges from supply chain interruptions this year, there are many reasons digital gifts are a great alternative to traditional gift-giving this year.  

Here is a list of 5 digital gifts to consider this holiday season:

- Audiobooks

- Video Game Downloads

- Meal Subscription Services

- Celebrity Cameos

- Virtual Education Classes ( The Unstuff Your Life System® is a great option for anyone who wants to get organized & stay organized.)

1. Travel 

The past few years have kept most of the world close to home, so this year consider giving your family the gift of creating memories a bit further away from your postal code. 

Pre-planning and booking a trip during the holiday season for travel the following year gives the entire family a chance to explore the world and develop their curiosity about other cultures and people. 

If there is a specific destination your family has always wanted to visit, a surprise trip already planned may be the way to go. And if the thought of airports or a road trip still seems a bit cumbersome, make planning out the vacation together a group activity and a way to share the joy. 

Traditional gifts will inevitably break or fail or fall apart … but nothing can alter the lasting memories you all gather when you take off on a fantastic adventure with your loved ones. 


When you think back on holidays past, do you remember the specific gifts you got or was it more the way you felt when you were surrounded by people who love and care for you?

With the exception of a few incredible gifts or something loaded with a lot of sentimental value, it is probably the latter. 

So don’t get caught up in the tradition of overspending this holiday season.

Whether you can afford the bills when they come in or you’re filled with silent remorse and regret when you start opening those credit card statements, consider how you can create an even greater impact this year AND grow closer to those people you really care about. 

Try out any of these less traditional gift ideas and you will be sure to make this holiday season one to remember—for you and for them. 

And to give the perfect, clutter-free gift to yourself or someone else in your life who is ready to get organized … for a limited time you can save $60 off your choice of any of the $97 Unstuff U coursesjust use code UUBF21 when checking out!

Declutter Your Life Podcast by Andrew Mellen. Available on iTunes!