4 Rules for Simple Holiday Gift-Giving

Running out of time to pick out that perfect present? No need to fret!

Posted Dec 20, 2017

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The holidays are officially upon us and for those celebrating Christmas, the days left in the shopping season are quickly dwindling. Some of us may be cursing ourselves for not getting with the program in a more timely manner and others are still debating between the plethora of options out there. It is no wonder why the holidays quickly become stressful, expensive and an all-around headache—basically the complete opposite of what holidays are meant to be about. However, with a few simple rules and focusing the holiday back on what matters most, gift-giving can truly be about a small thoughtful gesture and not about the latest and greatest gizmo out there.

Consider Going Homemade

There is nothing like a homemade treat and sweet card to show you care. In these days of Pinterest and lifestyle bloggers galore, there is an abundance of ideas for simple gifts you can create in your own home. Granola, breads, cookies, and all sorts of mason jar treats can be easy, quick and cost-effective, not to mention far healthier than other alternatives. If you want to step it up a notch, you can actually make homemade candles; or if you have some facility with knitting needles or crochet hooks, you might whip up some scarves and mittens for friends and family. Think about what comes naturally to you and go from there. Although I love the idea of learning to knit one day, it is exceedingly unlikely I will master the art in enough time to make scarves for all- so keep it reasonable! I know granola comes easily to me, so spoiler-alert to friends and family- this might be on your doorstep soon.

Treasured Books

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a sucker for a good book. While I lean toward inspirational non-fiction reads, fun lighthearted fiction is also a nice change of pace. Whatever the read though, a book that is meaningful to you can be a simple gift to pay forward to others. This season I’m gifting three of the books I’ve personally read and loved and am looking forward to sharing these reads with loved ones. You can also peruse a bookstore and find a book that speaks to someone’s special hobbies or interests. They will undoubtedly appreciate the thoughtful gesture. One of the best things about books (and homemade gifts) is also their sustainability; they are not another knickknack to collect dust or end up in a donation pile later on. They fit snugly on your bookshelf (or can be eaten!) and show you care.


Although not as popular as they could be, donations made in someone’s name can be a powerful way of transforming holiday gift-giving. So many of us are fortunate to have more than we need in our lives. The latest gadget truly won’t change our lives the way a donation to the less fortunate can. Maybe you donate to protect our forests, or perhaps children in a third-world country. But take a moment and count your blessings and see if you can resist the urge to frivolously spend on trinkets when so many in the world possess so little.

Annual Traditions (PJs, ornaments, etc.)

For those who may genuinely struggle to wrap their head around not purchasing anything, small annual gifts can also be meaningful. Many families have traditions of Christmas pjs, socks, or a special ornament. One family once told me about a tradition of chocolate-covered cherries which was very sweet. It doesn’t have to be big! In fact, when I talk to therapy clients about gift-giving traditions, many look forward to grandma’s annual gift of pjs to wear on Christmas morning. They aren’t talking about the new phone or gizmo they need.   

So keep it simple this holiday season and focus on what truly matters—expressing your love and gratitude to family and friends. Add a thoughtful card where you can really share your feelings. Instead of running around panicked and tapped out emotionally and financially this year, bask in the holiday warmth of the season knowing you have given the gifts that matter the most.