The Holiday "Non-Gift" Guide
OK, so I have to confess it's not truly a "non-gift" guide. Everything I list in today's post is technically a gift. It's just not in the traditional format we're used to. Let me explain myself...
I read a great post a couple of days ago about holiday gift giving, how it evolved in the U.S., and the current dilemma it's caused among consumers. So much of the article resonated with me that I felt I needed to respond. What do you buy for someone who has everything they need and want? What happens to all of the novelty gifts once the season has passed? Why do we feel the pressure to wait in lines wrapped around stores on Black Friday to buy the "perfect gift."
Do these questions sound familiar? The truth is most of the "stuff" we gift and receive either ends up being returned/exchanged or sits in a closet until we find it a year later. Or worse, it ends up in a landfill somewhere. There has to be a better way... and there is. Instead of spending money on things we aren't even sure people want or need, we could make a commitment to use our resources for causes or individuals who are in need of gifts such as clothing, food, and other basic necessities. Even if you do love the craziness of holiday shopping, doing it for a great cause could make it feel all that much better!
I still plan to participate in a white elephant gift exchange with family this year, but I'm hoping to start a tradition going forward, where the emphasis is on giving gifts that are needed versus ones out of obligation. Traditionally, I've never given gifts this way, but I'd love to start now. I've done some research and compiled a list of "non-gift" ideas, organizations, and/or events which can help those in need below, if you'd like to see...
1. Build Someone a House
It doesn't get anymore direct than that. Helping to give families or individuals shelter is probably one of the greatest gifts around. You have the option of being hands on or you can donate directly to the organization. Habitat for Humanity is the most well known, but there are also places like Mercy Housing and Building Homes for Heroes. If you're interest is more globally focused, you might want to check out Builders Without Borders. The Housing Assistance Council is also a wealth of information if you're wanting to learn more about this kind of work.
2. Feed a Family
For every dollar spent, there are an additional 11 meals which could potentially be given to people in need. Think of all the full bellies there would be if everyone committed to donating just ONE DOLLAR during this holiday season. We could end hunger in America! Wouldn't that be something. Feeding America is a great place to look up your local food bank volunteer opportunities or you can donate directly and help support their nationwide network of banks. Personally, we will be supporting the San Antonio Food Bank this year.
3. Participate as a Christmas Elf
Here in San Antonio we have a program called the Elf Louise Christmas Project, where local volunteers wrap and deliver toys to children in need. However there are many national organizations such as Toys for Tots and Christmas Toy Drive. If you love shopping this is the perfect type of charity to be a part of. You can get your shopping fix and then drive to one of the many toy drops located throughout the city to donate items. You can also visit Santa Search or read this article for more information on where to find a local toy drive.
4. Shop online with Goodsearch
This is perfect for online shoppers and people who are committed to buying gifts for friends and family, regardless of need versus want. Goodsearch is a search engine, similar to Bing or Google, but with the added bonus that half of all ad revenue goes to support the charities of your choice. Whether you are searching for the perfect online deal or looking up recipes for upcoming family meals, using this service makes giving effortless... which is pretty cool.
5. Purchase Fair Trade Gifts
If there is no way around traditional gift giving, consider shopping through Fair Trade organizations such as Ten Thousand Villages or Novica. What is Fair Trade? It's essentially a guarantee that the money from your purchase will support fair wages and prices for producers in developing countries. You can also visit Fair Trade USA to learn more and to find products that meet fair trade standards.
Hopefully, as the years go on I can keep growing this list. If you're new to this process like me, a great article by MakeUseOf has a quick and easy breakdown of charities that you can support. It was a great starting point when I began compiling this list.
Gift giving aside... Most Importantly, I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday season with friends and family! <3
Also, what do you think about this idea? Are there any alternative gift giving practices you celebrate in your family?