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The 2021 Holiday No-Gift Guide, Pt 2

  • November 8, 2021

In Part 1 of this No-Gift Guide (sent exclusively to XO, MU subscribers), I talked about why I decided not give or receive gifts at Christmas anymore, how I set and held that boundary with my family more than a decade ago, how they responded, and how you can get on the no-gift train too, if that’s what you want.

However, I recognize that zero gifts isn’t for everyone. There is certainly pleasure in finding something special for the people you love and seeing the expression of joy in their eyes when they open it. If picking out just the right present, wrapping it with care, and watching your friends and family open them on Christmas morning is your jam, then by all means, I want you to keep enjoying that experience!

And also… I know some of you are thinking, “Could we tone it down a bit this year?” As in, maybe we can experience the joy of gift giving and receiving in a way that doesn’t break the bank, stretch thin already crammed schedules, and pile more stress upon an already stressful time. A Harvard study reported 62% of people described their stress levels going up just because of the holidays, and that research was done before the time of COVID and social distancing.

So for those who want to maintain the tradition of gifts with friends and family while also being thoughtful, conscientious consumers and practicing self-care before and during the holidays, here are a few ideas.

What to gift:

Institute a price limit; something reasonable like $10-$15. This will force people to be creative while being respectful of your budget.

Combine a physical present with your time. Give your coffee-loving friend a cute mug with a note that says, “Let’s have a Zoom coffee date every Sunday morning in January,” or send a cookbook with a plan to meal prep together once a month.

Give the gift of your time. Cook dinner for your parents or deliver a hand-made meal, go snowshoeing with your best friend, offer to babysit for your sibling, or take a road trip with your significant other.’

Limit your gift-giving circle; exchange only with immediate family or just the kids, and send cards to everyone else.

Set up a “White Elephant” or “Secret Santa” where you’re only expected to purchase one gift, but you still get to watch everyone open their presents.’’

Buy practically—something you know they can use, especially this year. A membership to Thrive Market, a Sprouts gift certificate, or cold, hard cash. We have this idea that cash isn’t “trying hard enough” but right now, it may be the most meaningful gift of all.

Where to shop:

Above all else right now,shop locally and support your community’s businesses. They’ve been struggling throughout COVID, so spending thoughtfully in your own neighborhood will mean a lot.

Prioritize Black-owned businesses, whether in person or online. Markets like Etsy or Thrive Market have Black-owned business filters, and your local community likely has lists circulating as well. (Whole30 has a list of Black-owned bookstores on our Books website page.)’

“Shop” with a charity of your gift recipients’ choice. Tell everyone you are making a donation in their name, and to please select where they would like their goodwill to go.

Shop nowhere, and make your own gifts! Prepare mason jars of bone broth or jam, soap or candles, gluten-free sugar cookies, or photo books of your kid, and give the same gift to everyone.

Thrift it! Buy second hand, and recycle something already in existence.

Regift it. Honestly, I could find ten things (books, candles, a lavender bath gift set, a small framed print, a four-pack of Whole30 House Ranch) just lying around the house that someone else would truly love.

Instead of shopping, plan a home project with those in your household, then kick in funds to make it happen and DIY-it together. Redesigning the family room, creating a backyard “movie theater,” or cleaning out the garage so you have a space to work out is the gift that keeps on giving.

Set expectations:

This is going to be the most complicated holiday season we’ve ever seen in terms of supply chain and shipping thanks to COVID. As if the holidays aren’t already a lot, with divorced families requiring face-time, both your parents and in-laws wanting time with the kids on Christmas day,  and driving frantically from household to household to make everyone happy. (Sounds like some boundaries are needed? We’ll talk about that soon.)

So please, for the sake of your sanity, set expectations around when gifts are received or exchanged. Tell your family, “I don’t want anyone spending extra to overnight ship, so please don’t stress about gifts arriving by Christmas day. If they’re a week or two late, it just extends the celebration for us!” (This also reduces the pressure to order off Amazon to score Prime shipping instead of buying from the cute local shop like you wanted to.)

The first year I asked my family not to get me a gift, my mom struggled the most. She felt like she had to get me something, but really wanted to honor my request. She came up with the perfect compromise—every year, she chooses to make a donation to a charity that is meaningful to me, in lieu of spending that money on a gift. And rather than ask where I’d like the donation to go, she stalks my Instagram and newsletters to find a cause that I’ve mentioned in the past, which makes the gift a joyous surprise. (Last year, it was Glennon Doyle’s charity, Together Rising. This year, I suspect it’s the Chad 1000X foundation, to benefit veteran suicide prevention and mental health programs.)

However, you choose to handle gifts this year—and I hope this two-part series from my own experience has helped—please remember one thing. The best things about this (and every) holiday season are free—like the laughter, traditions, warm feelings, gratitude, and memories you make with those you love.’

Sending you and yours all of my warmest wishes and gratitude this year. XO, MU

Made by Whole30 Secret Sauce Dressing and Dip