Saving Money

Be Money Smart: Ditch Holiday Gift Giving

What if you didn’t give material gifts this year?

While there are happy elves out there who love to shop for holiday gifts and have the bottomless wallets to support that effort, many of us are watching our every dollar just to make ends meet. Think of the time and money you’d save by not shopping.

The average American consumer plans to spend more than $460 on holiday gifts this year, just on family members alone, according to a poll by the National Retail Federation. Nerdwallet says that budget number goes up to $600 for Americans who have children.

Imagine what you could do with an extra $600, or whatever amount you budget (or overspend) on holiday gifts. You probably don’t need any more stuff that contributes to household clutter. In fact, skipping the gift-giving could have other positive benefits like more quality time with family and making those holiday memories.

Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about becoming a holiday Grinch. It’s looking at the alternatives.

A few years ago, my cousin and I agreed to stop sending gifts across the country to each other’s children, focusing instead on the good times we all spend together during family visits. We both benefited, because we didn’t have to return non-fitting garments, or pick up the pieces of toys that our sons broke within two days of receiving them. We each appreciated one less errand and a little more time and money back in our lives.

What if everyone embraced this idea?

So this holiday season, ditch the gifts to…

  • Put the cash towards paying down debt, starting a college fund or saving for that down payment
  • Help those in need. Giving Tuesday is December 1. Support your favorite charity or help someone you know that could use a pick-me-up with extra groceries, babysitting or meal prep. The gift of time and talent is precious.
  • Spend time together! I know, it’s hard to put down that mobile phone. Heed the advice of REI and opt outside or have a gathering at your home. Whatever you do, make memories, not material things, last a lifetime.

In addition to saving money and limiting the stuff in your home, skipping the gift giving can also help the environment. Americans throw away a staggering 25 percent more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year. And holiday cards? 2.6 billion of them are sold every year in the U.S.

We know that ditching gift giving can be easier said than done, but consider ways to be smart with your money while focusing on your “presence” versus “presents.”

Kim Tracy Prince is a freelance writer in Los Angeles and a mother of two.