It’s the time of year many of us dread. The thought of exchanging gifts without getting caught up in the spending hype is a challenge.

There are clear reasons why cutting down – or cutting out – our holiday gift-giving is a present to ourselves and others. Four solid reasons, excluding the cost, include not contributing to excess consumerism, restoring the season’s true meaning, reducing the impact on the environment, and reducing stress. After riding the pandemic wave these last eighteen months, we all need less stress in our lives. Worrying about what to buy the kids, whether your sister would prefer a gift card or a sweater, and how you’re going to pay for it, seems out of place in our new reality.

As entrepreneurs, we solve problems and think up new approaches and ways of accomplishing things. It’s why we start businesses. Let’s use that same innovation and creativity to make this year different. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Have a family meeting to talk about reducing the amount and type of gifts exchanged. One small step is to ask for an agreement that no new plastic comes into the house. You might be surprised at how your children readily accept this idea. A colleague recently gave her grandson a box of Lego she had saved from her son’s childhood. The pieces are identical to those manufactured thirty years later. Secretly, she expected her grandson to be awed at the idea he’d be playing with something his father had enjoyed at the same age. Her grandson’s reaction was, “Wow, plastic really does last forever – I’m glad you saved it from the landfill. I think I have enough now.” Kids are aware. It’s the adults who are often stuck in the same patterns.
  • Consider a twist on the tradition where names are drawn, and each family member is responsible for giving only one other gift. This year, expand the concept so that only regifted or handmade items are involved – no new goods.  Check out local markets for beautiful, handcrafted items made by local artisans who will appreciate your support. Or learn a new skill yourself and make something! Working with your hands is a recognized way to reduce stress and increase satisfaction. And shop at home for treasures your recipient admires and would love to receive.
  • Many communities across Canada run popular “Buy Nothing” groups. Members build community by posting things they no longer need, usually via a closed FaceBook group. Items up for grabs can include pretty much anything except alcohol, drugs, and prescription medication. Furniture, games, sports equipment, extra baking, and offers of service are a small sample of the gifts offered. No money is involved – everything must be freely given, with no strings attached. Those interested in an item comment on the post, and a lucky recipient is chosen by random selection by the item owner. Postal codes define group membership, so you know the circulation of items stays in your community. Find out more about Buy Nothing and consider starting a local group by becoming an administrator. Read how one person reduced her environmental footprint through Buy Nothing.
  • A gift of your time and organizational skills can result in an event that will lift spirits and be appreciated well past the holiday season. We’ve had plenty of time to reflect on what’s truly important since March 2020: family, friends, and community. Talk with your nearest and dearest about holding a neighbourhood get-together to celebrate the season and gratitude for one another. Be inclusive and reach out to community members who could use your support right now.
  • Many of us have been fortunate to survive the pandemic financially and, in some cases, even thrive as we changed courses to protect our businesses and income. This is the perfect time to become hyper-aware that not everyone is in the same position. Check with local agencies and find out who needs a helping hand. Then act. Be generous with your smiles, kind words, time, and patience – not just your cash.

We’d love to hear what you do to find balance in your gift-giving and welcome your thoughts and ideas.

Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.

Tony Robbins