FAVORITES: Non-material gifts for the holidays

OK, one more round of favorites before the holidays are in full swing and I start my year end wrap up…

The thought of adding any more STUFF to our already very full house makes me feel a little anxious. We are about to cram five people into our fairly small home. So today I’m writing about a few things that have been or currently are on our holiday gift list in case anyone else out there is trying to be “minimalish” for the holidays and focus on gifts that don’t take up space! Bonus- this also means you don’t have to dust them/tell your kids to pick them up…

ZOO membership bonus: Discounted ZooLights tickets, one of our favorite holiday traditions…

*Zoo/Museum memberships: One of my favorite gifts we’ve had for the last few years has been a family zoo membership. It’s such an easy place to meet up with friends spread throughout the valley when the weather is nice and it is super family friendly since it lets you bring food and drinks in, etc. We’ve also done a children’s museum membership in the past, but with a new little on the way I don’t anticipate us being at the museum much until the summer so we may hold off this year until summer time or just wait altogether are reassess if we want a membership again next Christmas.
*Gift cards for movies or favorite places to eat: This is great because it can be an easy stocking stuffer or a simpler gift- it can be as little as a $5 gift card to give the experience of a special drink at Starbucks or an ice cream treat!
*Tickets to shows or special events: My son is at the age where he is ready to sit through a show and he absolutely loves it. Be it a movie, a theatrical performance, or a special event like a fair or festival, he loves soaking up new experiences and telling us all about them for weeks to come.
*Athletic hobbies/extra curriculars: Extra curricular are expensive! And I think it is reasonable that they aren’t just expected expenses in our household. Last year, we gave our son a semester of yoga lessons at his school as one of his gifts. I anticipate doing something similar this year unless the grandparents want to tackle this gift. If you are already invested in an extra-curricular for a kid in your life, asking for additional lessons, new uniforms, etc. would be a great way to remind your kid that these opportunities are truly a gift that enriches their lives and that they should enjoy! This isn’t just for kids either, for adults this could include studio classes, gym membership or private training, and I might put a race registration on my wish list if I can find one that falls between being cleared to work out again and the weather getting too hot!
*Charitable donations: I have felt so joyful both giving and receiving this at different christmases. The key here is to give a donation that will mean something to the person you are gifting, not just adding on to your usual charitable donations. I had a close friend tell me how inspired she was by Malala Yousafzai so I donated to Malala’s charity one year in her name. I was so touched by the gifts I got toward my World Vision fundraising last year. If you have access to the internet and you are reading this (likely from a computer or phone or other electronic device that you personally own!) then odds are you fall into the same group as me- there are very few things we actually need, and it might feel better to get the gift of giving instead of receiving.
*Disney+/hulu/spotify plus: This is one of the top things on our family wishlist this year. Knowing that will spend a lot of early 2020 nursing a newborn means I want easy entertainment options because we probably won’t get out of the house quite as much. Disney plus and hulu has options for adults and kids, especially since we cut cable out of our lives and I don’t let my kids watch YouTube. I’ll probably have Spotify Plus on my birthday wish list because I’m hoping by then I’ll be back to training on the road or at the gym and commercial free music can make a big difference in the quality of my workout!
*Family photo shoot/photo books: OK, the kids probably won’t look at this as a great gift, but the parents will! What is better than preserving memories of your family right now or the memories you’ve had in the past year? I use Project Life and I know my mom always makes my stepdad one of those Shutterfly calendars with photos from throughout the year and it is always a favorite gift.
*Find out how to give the gift of quality time: One of my husband’s favorite gifts to receive is the promise of babysitting so he and I can get away for a date night without spending 3/4 of our date budget on booking a babysitter. One of my kids’ favorite gifts to receive is anything that includes special 1 on 1 time with us- even something as simple as a coupon to stay up past bedtime for a special hot chocolate date or game night without a sibling sharing the time (to be fair, they do a LOT of sharing.) My siblings and I are skipping gifts this year in favor of going out for a low-key meal together to catch up and spend time. I’d love to go serve together with friends or family or experience an event together- something as simple as a hike that takes a little more time and planning could be great (ok, maybe not this year, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be huge by Christmas.)

All of these don’t bring any more items into your home and can’t be broken five seconds after your kids get them out of the box! But it is still fun to open actual items on Christmas Day or to pull things our of your stocking which is why I’ve created this last section:

Honorable mention:
*Consumables: Things that go away when they are used like bath bombs, art supplies you may be out of and don’t take up much space (aka my kids go through stickers like CRAZY, and I go through stationary and postcards all the time) or consumable subscription boxes- some favorite ones I’ve gifted in the past include Atlas Coffee, Bean Box, Love with Food, and a wine of the month club. (Some of these companies only ship to the US so just a heads up to my international readers!) Just be sure you choose things that are easily consumable. Back when I was a Birchbox member I ended up with more products than I ever went through in one month and soon I had a whole drawer full of barely used samples! You know you and the person you are buying for best, so maybe a makeup or hair accessory box would be perfect for someone you know, but for me and my family food and drink definitely top this list!
*Clothing: My kids are always outgrowing their clothes so PJs and socks are basically always on their list (and what’s more stereotypical Christmas than having socks thrown in amidst the presents?!) but if you or another family member have a specific clothing item you need Christmas is a great time for this (or gift cards for those after Christmas sales…) For example, I see a need for new running shoes in my future… just probably not until I’m really building up mileage again next fall!
*Upgrades or Replacements: In the same vein of my kids tearing or outgrowing clothing… if you are going to get something material, you can keep your impact minimal by upgrading or replacing something you already used or needed. This makes the “one in one out” rule SO easy to maintain and it will likely be something focused on what you know you need or at the very least use often. These are actually usually the most needed but also most expensive items on my own Christmas list. Some of the items are almost joylessly adult (I’m looking at you new dishwasher…) but you know what’s even more joyless? The time it takes to hand wash every single dish for a family of five who rarely goes out to eat. And some of these items are the truly biggest surprises and splurges like an upgraded piece of technology or jewelry…


I hope this list gives you an idea of some ways to keep the holidays from overfilling your house with stuff! I know some of these ideas are more budget friendly than others, but I think that all of them can help your sanity in the new year!



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