Save. Spend. Splurge.

Minimalist Gifts for the Holiday Season

I’m really not a fan of gifts.

I didn’t have a baby shower, I don’t celebrate my birthday with gifts from others, and while I do like giving gifts, it is only if I see something that really suits someone that I buy it, regardless of the occasion.

I’m only a huge fan of the “Just Because” gifts, and only if they’re practical and going to actually be used & cherished by that person; otherwise I tend not to buy anything that is NOT a consumable unless I know they’re going to actually appreciate it and enjoy using it on a regular basis.

Every holiday specifically however, I don’t exchange gifts nor give them.

We have a great Christmas dinner and as Baby Bun grows older, we will buy him a special gift if he could use it, but we don’t want to make it the primary focus of the holiday season.

I want him to focus and come to the same conclusion as we have, that the end of the year is to celebrate what has happened that year and to welcome the new one; and it’s really just a date to remind all of us to think about what has happened in the past year.

With that said, I KNOW it is hard for all of you to avoid all of this gift giving frenzy that will be upon us soon in December whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or maybe (like me) just reveling in the good cheer & holiday spirit of closing out a beautiful year.

Not all of you will be able to get everyone on the No-Gift Minimalist Bandwagon if you so wish to do so.


So, here are some of my tried & true minimalist gifts and they all fall under 2 major categories:

Experiences and Funds.


I classify anything under here as an “experience” as long as it doesn’t involve a physical product that you will hold and keep.

I’m talking about vacations (or paying part of one), or maybe setting up a scavenger hunt that ends at a concert they have been DYING to go to.

Speaking of eating, how about a great night out with a meal at a coveted 3-star Michelin (or otherwise all-around awesome place) with someone?

…or buying classes for someone who is an avid cook or baker but wants to improve.

This is a gift I’ve done — I bought baking classes for my mom one year at a local college & she went every Tuesday and Thursday to learn how to make pies, cakes, etc. She LOVED it.

You could also set up something where you match up a great amateur chef in your life with someone who would love to learn, and find a way to compensate the amateur chef in taking the time to teach and pass on specialized skills.

They may even do it for free, like my great-aunt who is an excellent cook & spent the day teaching my mother how to make special dishes as a gift she could cherish for life.

Or how about subscriptions, or app purchases to help people better their life?

I can recommend the ToDo App by Appigo (I have switched from AwesomeNotes to ToDo), or maybe a gift certificate for iTunes for the video / music lover.

You can also create little coupons that say: Good for One Round At The Mini Golf Course, and they can redeem it whenever they want (within reason).

Lastly you can also offer your own skills as a gift if you are good at something. Why not?


Setting aside money for others or donating in the name of others is always another nice gesture.

I’m totally all for cash in all forms and I know some people find it impersonal but I beg to differ.

I think it is a great way to give something without cluttering up their life, and unless you KNOW that they REALLY want THAT specific pair of grey suede loafer pointy shoes in a size 37 (*cough*M.Gemi Tuta shoes*cough*) don’t buy them anything they won’t want / love / covet & use.

You are basically wasting your money and you aren’t meeting what they need / want in their current life.


I’m ALL for giving money to a child to set aside in their RESP.

They may not appreciate it now and want that doll or truck instead, but their education is important and they may very well appreciate you funding it in some small way.

I recently gave this cash gift to one of my good friends who just gave birth and while I specified I would like it to fund their RESP, I also left it open to interpretation for her to take the cash and buy whatever the child needed at the moment.


Or how about donating to charities on their behalf?

I recently donated to the World Wildlife Fund on behalf of my nephew who turned 6 this year and absolutely ADORES animals (he is even thinking of going vegetarian and working towards it).

To recap here are all the ideas in bullet form:


  • Museum visit
  • Concerts / Movies
  • Season Tickets (Sports / Theatre / Music)
  • Classes (Cooking, Yoga, Sports)
  • Subscriptions (Gym memberships)
  • Apps online
  • E-Books / E-Music / E-Videos gift certificates
  • Restaurant Meal
  • Offer your own time / skills to help them – Construction, Gardening, Chauffeur
  • Coupons for a day out at the bowling alley, mini golf course, etc


  • Gifting to their registered education funds – RESP, 529 Plan (U.S.)
  • Donating to a charity on their behalf
  • Straight-up cash to buy what they want


  • Corianne

    I like to get gift certificates and so on. I usually end up giving away or selling gifts I don’t like.

    For one friend’s children, my gift is to make the birthday cakes. I made 24 cupcakes and a big cake for the last birthday. I love doing it and she has custom-made cakes 🙂 I do buy gifts, but only if I know the other person would love it. Otherwise, a certificate or money is the way to go.

  • Karen

    We tried doing a gift exchange with my immediate side of the family, but my parents just ended up giving gifts, which ended up being $. Lol. I am also a huge fan of cash gifts, gift cards for experiences/classes/things they need. I am not a huge fan of knick knacks/things that just sit there, occupy space and collect dust- unless it’s really sentimental or a work of art.

    I’m going to try and do most of my holiday shopping online and get it done before December…wish me luck!

  • anon

    I finished my Christmas shopping in July/august. I bought from sales all year long. Except for the Cake (which I will bake) and the ham I have all the extra food we need too. Christmas has cost me $300 this year, I bought about 30 gifts.

    I have money saved from coupon rebates to cover the cost of the ham, cake ingredients.

  • save. spend. splurge.

    I’d agree with that for sure. My parents stopped at 10 (a little early), but I don’t think gifts are evil.. I just wonder if we need 50 toys every Christmas.

  • Sense

    Yeah, I have slowly gravitated toward not giving gifts unless I am really inspired and have thought of the perfect thing for the person.

    I make gifts extremely personal and put so much effort into them, I just can’t do it every year!! This means that most of the time my friends/family do not get gifts from me, but when they do…they love them. For example, one year I spent about a month making my best friend a crafted wall hanging / photo collage of our times together and it also sort of describes her lovely qualities via magazine clippings. It turned out wonderfully. She has it hanging by her bed and says it’s the first thing she looks at when she wakes up and the last thing she sees before going to sleep.

    I also love giving experiences.

    Personally, I am always appreciative of gifts, of course, but find it very telling–what does this person think I’m into? How well do they know me? It’s psychologically very interesting.

    I do send very personalised cards including heartfelt or cute messages and theme-relevant pictures to my mom and dad on their birthdays and mother’s/father’s days, though. I can’t thank them or be more appreciative of them and want them to know it.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      That is so COOL that you spend so much time on gifts that they end up being so cherished.

      I always think of things to send to people as long as I know they will love it & will use it. Otherwise, I don’t just gift things for the sake of it.

  • Ramona

    I’m not too ‘spendy’ when it comes to the holidays either, so we’ll keep it pretty short. We’ll have a small tree for our almost 2 year old daughter and some presents for her. That’s it. I already have saved up almost all the money we’ll need, so it won’t make a dent in our December budget either.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Exactly what we’ll be doing too. A nice big delicious meal, and as Baby Bun gets older we will have a small present for him as well but nothing extravagant..

      That is not to say that we won’t buy him big gifts like a bike or other things like that, but it won’t be specifically at Christmas that he gets those things. We’ll buy it in the summer as he needs it…

  • raluca

    We have a very small pool of gifts that suit nearly all occasions: wine, chocolate, flowers, specialist coffee/tea. You might have noticed, these are all consumables, which means people don’t have to keep them in their home afterwards.
    We just buy really good quality stuff and hope for the best. It’s really cut down on our shopping stress.

  • Clarisse @ Reach Financial Independence

    A few weeks to go, it will be my younger sister’s 20th birthday. I’m planning to give her a “lechon baboy” roasted pig as a gift.

  • Erika

    I really enjoy giving gifts that involve experiences, though I’ve had mixed results in doing so. I once gave my younger brothers gift cards for a white water rafting trip, that they never used. Another time my sister gave my mother and me a gift card to the spa. Unfortunately, my mom doesn’t live in the same town and the spa was booked the few times I tried to make an appointment before the coupons expired. Typically though, I’ve had good results with giving experiences even though they tend to cost more than tangible items. I took my parents to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas for their birthdays one year and I’ve also given them tickets to NBA games that they really enjoyed attending. My suggestion is to gift experiences very thoughtfully.

  • Revanche


    Normally I wholeheartedly agree with you but there are definitely things around the house that make me fondly think of the giver (hello wonderful tea tin and tea things). But I think that falls under your caveat of knowing your recipient 🙂

    I’m a fan of doing money gifts in most cases, unless I know with 100% certainty that the selected gift would be welcomed. Sometimes I’m taking a little risk but it’s rare since I don’t take chances most of the time 🙂

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Exactly. 🙂 I know you! That’s why I gave you the tardis robe, teas and Samurai graphic novels because I know you’d appreciate them.

      Otherwise, I would not have given you stuff per se if I did not know you well…. xoxo

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *