Giving: how you can give more with less

Twinkling lights, the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg, snow drifting softly on a cold night.

We all love the warm fuzzies we get when the holiday season rolls around. But panic sets in when we realize we haven’t finished our shopping. Suddenly, the “season of giving” becomes the season of spending, excess, and waste. We spend weeks searching for the perfect gifts, even though we know that they will someday end up in the trash.

There must be a better way to celebrate the holidays. What can we change to save our sanity, save our money, and save the planet? 

It’s time to rethink the holidays and reconsider what “giving” can mean.

Easy, inexpensive, and much appreciated

We have spent two years in a pandemic. Two years of lockdowns and solitude. For some, loneliness has been overwhelming.

Life is not yet back to normal, but with restrictions loosening, we can finally start seeing our loved ones again. The simplest, and possibly the most valued gift you can offer, is that of your company.

Why not join Great Aunt Myrtle for a cup of tea and a game of checkers? Have an old-fashioned sleepover with your former university roommate and reminisce about all the fun you had back then. By taking some time to visit your most isolated friends and family, you could brighten their whole week*.

Give your time: Use your skills

Not everyone is handy. Some of us can’t even hold a hammer without bruising ourselves. Some of us burn water in our attempts to cook. Whether you have a natural talent or an acquired skill, you may have something to offer those you care about most.

You could help dad straighten out his picture frames–finally. Is your niece in the middle of exams? A week of meal prep could keep her nourished while she studies. 

Unfortunately,  we don’t always have the time or expertise to offer our own skills. If you have the means, consider hiring someone to get a job done. You could schedule a housecleaner for someone who has lamented about never having the time. Maybe book a babysitter for a set of frazzled parents who need a night to themselves. The possibilities are endless, and they don’t have to be expensive. 

Give Green: Sustainable Gifts

Let’s not kid ourselves–as much as we may hate the expense and waste, it is still fun to give and receive gifts. For those times where you just need to give something, think hard about what is important to you and your loved one. 

Consider experiences. When you think back on your life, what do you remember the most? Do you remember what you got for your tenth birthday? Or do you remember the fun you had playing with your friends at your party? Experiences are what makes life worthwhile, not things. The cinephile in your life would love tickets to the local film festival. Season passes to a theme park can cost nearly the same as a single-day pass, and they provide a whole summer of fun. 

For physical gifts, don’t be afraid to shop secondhand. It may take a bit longer to find exactly what you want, but you can often get a great deal on something that is practically brand new. This is especially true with children’s products. Kids grow so quickly that they often don’t have time to cause wear and tear to their toys and clothes. 

A gift exchange is another opportunity to give new life to an item. Think about a traditional white elephant gift exchange: Everyone brings a gift to add to the pile in the centre of the room. The first person selects a gift. The second person can pick a gift from the pile or steal the first person’s gift. Any gift can only be “stolen” twice, and the game ends when everyone has a present. This year, instead of buying new, cheap gifts to exchange, try a white elephant exchange consisting of good quality used items.

Give on a larger scale

Giving does not have to take place on an individual level. You can give on a much larger scale by volunteering or financially contributing to a charity of your choice. What causes are you passionate about? Food banks always need donations. Join a community Snow Angel group to shovel walkways for seniors. Volunteer at a shelter to keep the less-fortunate safe from the elements. Seeing the impact you can make could turn this gift into a year-round contribution.

Donate your wrapping paper, get out of the mall, and rethink giving to make a lasting, valuable difference for your family, friends, and the planet.

*Please follow all Covid-19 guidelines and restrictions

By Shauna MacKenzie