Win a Copy of "Unplug The Christmas Machine"

by Katy on December 6, 2009 · 83 comments

Looking for inspiration in your quest to de-commercialize the holiday season? Then look no further than Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli’s classic book, UnplugThe Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into The Season.

Here’s a short excerpt from the book:

The one concern that united virtually all the people we’ve talked to is a yearning for a simpler, less commercial, more soul-satisfying celebration. There is a universal wish to end the year with a festival of renewal that rekindles our faith, brings us closer to the people we care about, and brings lights and laughter to the dark days of winter. We want to ward off the commercial excesses of the season and create an authentic, joyful celebration in tune with our unique needs and desires.

Unlike other book contests, where I have given away a brand new book mailed to me from the publisher, this book was skillfully procured from my local Goodwill thrift shop!  I was actually reading this as a library book when I came across the Goodwill copy, and thought to myself that it would make the perfect Non-Consumer Advocate giveaway. It even has a hand written note in the front from the original owner!

To enter the contest, just write in the comments section about what you’re doing to de-commercialize the holidays. The winner will be chosen at random, please enter only once. The contest ends on December 9th at 12 A.M., Pacific time zone. Good luck!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 81 comments… read them below or add one }

Caroline in NH December 6, 2009 at 11:32 am

Sounds like a great book! I would love to win this! Saw the announcement on Twitter.


Anne December 6, 2009 at 11:41 am

No guilt whatsoever about small budgets for children. Each of my grandchildren gets only $25 spent on them. That is PLENTY of money for a nice gift for a five year old. How much stuff do they need? The nine year old is getting a special (read cheap) pizza lunch with the grandparents, then $25 spent on him at the bookstore. He loves to read.


Kris-ND December 6, 2009 at 1:12 pm

My son had a car accident last weekend I believe it was…..Deer 1, my son 0 ;). Had he and his friend not been wearing their seatbelts, this would have been a very different Christmas.

His accident really had us re-evaluate which side of Christmas we wanted to be on. Did we want to be on the “stuff” frenzy, or did we want to go back to the Christmases our grandparents had? We decided to get back to our “roots” if you will.

We stopped any more gift buying. What we have purchased already is more than enough, so what is left on the list will stay in the stores 😉

We went back to some things we did when they were small and stopped for some reason; the bible reading of the birth of Christ, popcorn strings, construction paper chain for each day of Christmas, writing a nice, small thing to do secretly, etc.

Taking the money from the gifts we are not going to buy, and buying Christmas for someone my husband works with. She is a single mom with twins and is always struggling. Just have to figure out a way to deliver gifts and the fixin’s for dinner w/o her seeing us…lol

Driving through neighborhoods looking at the lights, just all the things that we got away from as the kids got older. Takes the focus off the gifts and puts it back on doing for others and the family


Jessica December 6, 2009 at 1:38 pm

We always like to buy items for families in need. We get what we need and want all throughout the year. We try not to add to the madness of the holiday season by consuming.


Krista@CommitmentisLiberating December 6, 2009 at 1:56 pm

I am giving experiences for gifts this year – dinners, massages, movie tickets, etc.!


k. December 6, 2009 at 2:04 pm

this year the boy and i have decided to scale back drastically on gifts. were giving each other only small items that can be placed in the stockings we made last year.

we’re skipping the expensive christmas tree & making most of the gifts were giving our family & friends (knitted goods, mixed tapes, tasty treats)


Divine Bird Jenny December 6, 2009 at 2:34 pm

I have always had a small budget for Christmas. I am an accomplished knitter and sewer, so I make a lot of my gifts throughout the year. I also never, ever give a gift unless it really is something I think the recipient will love and use. I would rather give a card than give a gift out of some sense of obligation.

Kids in our family get small gifts or experience gifts from us. Last year, our oldest niece’s gift was a trip to the local Renaissance faire, something she wanted very much. SO much better than giving a plastic toy that will soon be forgotten!


Holly December 6, 2009 at 2:59 pm

My fiance and I always consider our present to each other is the fact that we don’t have to go out and buy each other presents. Instead, we enjoy each others company as we make the 5 hour trek from his family’s house to mine on Christmas Day. It gives us time to spend some of the holiday just the two of us, while still seeing both of our families.


Lisa December 6, 2009 at 3:16 pm

My Christmas budget is non-existent this year (as it has been many other years). So gifts will be homemade or second-hand. My brother’s family and ours will get together for a holiday feast and exchange of gifts. Last year my sister in law gave us a used food processor. 🙂 It has been a godsend especially at harvest time and is used almost daily. I gave them a quilt top that my mom and I had put together years ago. There are no small children in our family. We big “kids” can have just as much fun without the hassles of crowded stores and forced good cheer.


Dana December 6, 2009 at 3:41 pm

I check this book out of the library every year! I’d love to actually own a copy of it!

Having said that, this year I’m making our girls presents instead of buying new. (I did buy them a jumprope, but I’ve seen a used one.) We are also spending more time at home just being together instead of being busy all the time.



Renee December 6, 2009 at 3:43 pm

We bought some of my sons presents used and shortened our list of people we buy presents for. Instead we are making Husbands work people a meal. We also donate gifts to children in need.


Alison December 6, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I’d love some inspiration on de-commercializing Christmas! I’ve been putting a lot more thought into my gift-giving this year. The majority of gifts I’ve bought so far this year are still new, but I’m very conscious about buying from local stores and vendors and selecting non-commercial toys that either double as works of art or are unique in some way to hold the child’s interest over time. I’m also looking for gift certificates for unique experiences – yoga classes, kayak trips, restaurants and even one for a small wine store that I know my brother-in-law will love. Aside from the gift-giving, I’m also conscious of teaching my children “the reason for the season.” We have a creche, a Jesse Tree (that the kids made) and an advent wreath, which remind us of the religious reasons behind our celebrating.


blackgirlinmaine December 6, 2009 at 5:03 pm

We are not really giving gifts to the adults just the 4 yo and have decided to do a gift a day for several days to take away from the expectation of a huge pile of gifts on one day. My almost 18 yo said he didn’t want a gift but simply time with the family, so this year is about together time as a family.


katie December 6, 2009 at 5:51 pm

I am only buying presents that people really need and can use. For my husband a class at the community college, my mom a trip to the ballet. I’m actually possibly spending slightly more but i know these gifts will be fulfilling, enriching and won’t clutter up the house with useless things. They will love them.


Lindean December 6, 2009 at 6:01 pm

We’re giving multiple “alternative gifts” to parents and inlaws – donating money to causes we believe in in honor of those we love. Somewhere in the world a child will have access to an education and a family will be able to eat… And no gift wrap required!!


AnnMarie December 6, 2009 at 6:09 pm

I’m watching a tv show about Xmas and I realized I haven’t been in a holiday crush at the mall in over 5 years possibly longer. We are going to buy dinner at a local fish shop maybe even direct from the fisher–I can’t wait for our fisrt Maine xmas dinner!


sammyssecrets December 6, 2009 at 6:17 pm

We are adopting residents at the Senior Center. Many of them have no families – if it wasnt for the center, they would be completely homeless. Its a place that helps regardless of ability to pay, so there are some very very poor people in there. We are providing basic toiletries + some fun gifts. A couple of the residents have hard to shop for clothes sizes, and they have never been “adopted”. We are making it a point to get them exactly what they want this year.


Maddy December 6, 2009 at 6:33 pm

My family will be attending a puppet show, going on a sleigh ride, visiting a special exhibit at the museum…instead of all the shopping, wrapping, unwrapping and wasting! My three year old will have some presents under the tree still…like a box full of thrift store scarves for dancing and dress-up.


Dynelle December 6, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Most of our gifts to other people are “consumable,” – wine, phone cards, homemade goodies, etc. Nobody I know needs more “stuff.” The kids will get one or two toys from us and books. Generally we look for educational toys that will hold their interest for more than 2 days. In the past I have put together “craft boxes” full of felt, feathers, pipe cleaners, etc and dress up boxes full of second hand finds. I did not have time for that this year, but gifts like that are always their favorites.


Tara Morrison December 6, 2009 at 6:36 pm

We are very active in our Church and have children and husband participating in music, live nativity and caroling. I will be donating time and pecans to make holiday pies with our youth group as a fundraiser for a mission trip they will be taking. Other than that we are just spending time together, singing songs and enjoying things like hot chocolate, hot cider and basically any hot beverage!


Miss Blueberry December 6, 2009 at 6:38 pm

I’m with Krista… we’re looking for the “experience” gift. Our daughter really wanted to play club volleyball, so that’s her gift. I told her every time she served the ball, she should tell herself “Merry Christmas.” Our foreign exchange student can’t haul lots of stuff home, so we’re giving her tickets to the ballet in the spring before she returns to Germany. None of the kids could remember what their gifts were even one year back. Experiences together will be more meaningful… they’ll create memories to last forever.


TracyB. December 6, 2009 at 6:39 pm

I would love to win this book. I love books…maybe to much. My family and I are trying to slow down the Christmas machine. My kids are fine with it. I have problems with the rest of the extended family. Mostly, we give gift cards. So many things are on clearance after the new year and they are able to shop and get double for their money / gift card. Thanks for keeping this blog going. I really enjoy it.
Tracy B.


Tara Morrison December 6, 2009 at 6:39 pm

Oh and on the gift giving front, truffles, luffas( thanks Compacter Theresa) and homemade infused bath salts. What could be better than lying in a bath infused with ginger and lemongrass and eating truffles…


Kris-ND December 6, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Best gifts ever! lol My grandmother gave me an old hardtop suitcase when my daughter was 5. I put in her flower girl dress from my brother’s wedding, a Disney princess dress my mom bought her, and then I hit the thrift store. I bought high heel shoes, the gaudiest jewelry on the planet, scarves, etc.

That was her Christmas gift and she absolutely loved it. When she outgrew all of the clothes, I passed it all on to a neighbor.


Patricia December 6, 2009 at 6:47 pm

I am giving gifts this year that give to others, like certificates for $25 loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries from . The loans are (nearly always) paid back, and it is great to see the photo and story of someone lifting himself or herself out of poverty. Another gift I am giving is Galapagos Islands calendars for which 100% of the price benefits people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) in Ecuador, available here: .


Lori December 6, 2009 at 6:48 pm

it seems that each year our family looks at new ways to decommercialize and put the focus on time w/ family and helping those in need. Last year, we decided to donate to good causes in lieu of gifts to several families we had exchanged gifts with for many years. This year, my husband and I will do a few stocking stuffers for eachother (already picked up a used, like-new wallet and a couple of second (or third or fourth) hand books that relate to a trip we’re taking next year). Other than that, we each agreed that we’d give each other an “experience”, with the less $ spent, the better. I’m thinking of a hike somewhere new.. bringing along some hot coffee and scones.

For our nearly 10 year old, it’s always a bit of a struggle w/ all the hype of the season… there always seems to be a twinge of disappointment after it’s all over. We try hard to simplify and continually emphasize togetherness and gratitude. This year, my husband is working on the 25th, which has never been the case. I’m thinking of suggesting that she and I take some of our Christmas $ and make sack lunches and go around to deliver them to those asking for food/$ off highway exits, etc.


Lori December 6, 2009 at 7:20 pm

We are giving each gifts that we have already enjoyed and want to share with others – like a book that we have already read. Or candlestick holders that we no longer use. And this year I am committed to buying no giftwrap. I’ll just have to be creative.


Lucia December 6, 2009 at 7:28 pm

This year we have cut back drastically in all areas, and I am making a lot of the gifts we are giving. I’m making homemade candy for all the people at work, and for the neighbors, because I feel like I need to acknowledge all the things they do to help us. I want this to be a spiritual this, not a commerical one.


Judy December 6, 2009 at 7:35 pm

We are focusing on a lot of family nights-popping popcorn, watching movies, just spending time together plus we plan to go to a lot of the free things, concerts at church, riding around looking at the lights, etc. We want to put Christ back into Christmas.


Rebecca December 6, 2009 at 7:46 pm

This year I am giving care packages and homemade gifts to my family. I customize each box to the recipients taste – my sister’s box has almonds in it and my brother’s box has olives in addition to the other items. I also knitted a scarf and some dish cloths to give the packages an extra personal touch.


Julie December 6, 2009 at 7:49 pm

This year we are skipping the shopping and over-decorating and sticking with just candles and greenery cut from local shrubs. We will participate in church and school activities and then head for our favorite historic place to enjoy a Colonial Christmas.


M Nelson December 6, 2009 at 7:56 pm

I love this blog! It’s been so great to read as I have been trying to but back on my own spending. This year, we have cut down our budget for gifts by half, and so I’ve had to be creative. I’ve used paperbackswap to get several books (for the price of shipping) for loved ones. They are books that are in perfectly good shape, but for the fact that they’ve had another owner. (I’m not telling if you don’t.) I also have focused on what my family needs, as opposed to what they want, and selected my gifts based upon those (in several cases from Goodwill.) Finally, as a family, we are giving our time to a local faith based program that allows families to pick out gifts and get the fixings for a holiday meal at a “Christmas shop”. My family is donating time to set up the shop, making cookies for the meal, and will help to wrap the donated gifts.


Lorna December 6, 2009 at 8:05 pm

I would love to read that book for ideas and inspiration. Both my grandchildren’s gifts are mostly from Goodwill or handmade gifts like knitted hats, mittens, etc. All my children are grown now, but I know that the Christmas they remember the very best was the year we asked for donated gifts and food from local businesses for a family who’s husband/Dad had recently committed suicide. They didn’t have the money to have their road plowed so on Christmas Eve we piled all the gifts and food and firewood on an old car hood with a rope in the front and took it down the snowy road to their house. The looks on their faces (4 children and Mom) was all the only Christmas present we needed. My grown kids still talk about how wonderful it was.
I’m also giving out homemade coupons for babysitting and for special dinners at our home.


Judith in Ky December 6, 2009 at 8:19 pm

I have just moved a homeless person into the workshop on my garage. We have been gleaning things from the woods behind me and thru the (trash?) bins to get stuff to decorate his (our?) place. And to homeify a rather barren room.We have a working electric skillet, and roomy cooler,working crock pot and coffeemaker.. Of course we have a bed and plenty of quilts!. Best of all we were able to connect my cablevision out to the work shop and hookup and old tv. .We have also acquired some small gifts for him to refurbish and give for Christmas. Christmas is about giving no matter how poor you are. And believe me am poor but I will share what I have.


Marie-Josée December 6, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Simplifying Christmas is a work in progress for us. The first step we took was deciding that neither my husband nor I would get gifts for one another. We convinced our parents and siblings to abandon the exchange as well. My in-laws invite us to celebrate Christmas with them, and as a token of appreciation we invite them for lunch on Christmas day in a nice restaurant in Quebec City which is 45 minutes from their home. We always take a walk in the older part of the city, which is my favorite part of this activity. The atmosphere is truly magical with the Château Frontenac, the snow and the view of the St-Lawrence river. We still purchase gifts for our two adult children who are in college and university respectively, and they give us small gifts as well. When they will both be working, I will suggest that we drop the gifts and simply enjoy the holidays by spending time together and perhaps keeping the Christmas day restaurant tradition. I am participating in a cookie exchange at work, where I will bake and give three dozen cookies and receive three dozen in return. These will be my gifts to my two bosses. The other exception is my granny. She is 85 and living in a nursing home, and each passing year she is becoming more excited about her Christmas gifts. My children have offered her very comfortable and warm pj’s these past two years and she just loves them. Macular degeneration is slowly robbing her of her eyesight and she has an increasingly hard time seeing the time on her current clock which really frustrates her…so we want to get her a huge clock that they sell at IKEA. I think it is about two feet wide and I’m sure she will be thrilled. It is such a treat to see her excited. We will also be bringing her a warm meal, something she enjoys, like chinese food or a really good pizza. Something they don’t serve at the nursing home.


Eva December 6, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Our kids are 4 and 3 and we simply don’t talk about what we “want” for Kristmas but rather what we want to give someone else for Kristmas. We do buy gifts for them but only at a local, non-chain toystore and gifts for grownups in attendance on Kristmas morning are either used books or handmade items I knit or I purchased at a holiday bazaar. This time of year is magical for so many reasons and none of that magic comes with a receipt.


BarbS December 6, 2009 at 8:34 pm

My family only gives gifts for the kids. But there’s never any pressure to pick something or get “the right thing” — if uncle so-and-so doesn’t send a present, no one gets upset. It’s mostly that we like to pick fun things (not expensive) for the kids. Since we have 8 nights of Chanukkah, the gifts are spread out throughout the week. This helps the kids stop and enjoy each gift, and also gives them a chance to properly thank each giver.

For one of the nights of Chanukkah, rather than gifts for the kids, they get to choose a charity. They are particularly fond of Heifer International, where they can choose to give ducks, rabbits, etc. to a family in need.

We also work in the homeless shelter on Xmas day, giving the regular team a chance to be home with their families on the holiday. Working there (my kids do too) really puts everything else in perspective.


Kristin December 6, 2009 at 8:51 pm

I have been rebelling against the commercial aspect of Christmas for the past 6 years or so. I do enjoy the holiday trees and lights as well as the music and customs of this time of year when we have so little daylight and it’s getting cold outside. I have opted out of gift exchanges with my family and at work for the past few years and haven’t missed the gift aspect of Christmas one bit…it’s such a pleasure to not be running around the stores agonizing over what gifts to get for people. I am divorced and don’t have children so of course it’s easier for me to choose this option. I enjoy the gatherings with family and friends to savor food and each other’s company more than anything else. We have enjoyed singing Christmas carols each year which is a custom we never did in our family until recent years when my sister and I introduced it by providing printed song lyrics for everyone to follow, as most everyone knows the tunes. That is a lot of fun and a nice tradition for my niece and nephew to grow up with. My sister also started the tradition of waiting until Christmas Eve to decorate the tree with her children, that is one of their special rituals and that way everyone isn’t “burned out” on looking at the Christmas tree for 3 weeks before the actual day. I look forward to sharing the tree trimming with them this year.


Jenny December 6, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Looks like a wonderful book; would love to read it!

We majorly simplified our gift-giving this year; everyone is getting the same thing and it’s all homemade consumables. I love that I’ll be covering gifts for ten people with one trip to the grocery store, about $50 in supplies, and one day in the kitchen, and have found that I’ve been much calmer this holiday season without the burden of finding gifts for everyone.


Angela December 6, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Since I’m on The Compact, all my gifts are either handmade, used, or experiential. I expect to be able to enjoy the things about the holidays I enjoy: baking, music, and spending time with friends.


Jeni - Frugality Virgin December 6, 2009 at 9:05 pm

I am doing a lot of baking this year. I am going to give goodies instead of stuff.


Alisa December 6, 2009 at 9:37 pm

I was inspired by Katy’s $100 gift challenge but will be spending $300 this Christmas. Maybe next year I’ll try $100. However, the $300 is for gifts for two sets of grandparents, three great grandmothers, four aunts, two kids and a husband and some friends. I think that’s pretty good!


Alisa December 6, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Btw, I checked out Unplug the Christmas Machine from my library last year. It’s a great book.


Bonnie December 6, 2009 at 9:39 pm

My husband and I no longer purchase Christmas gifts for each other. For the last five years, we’ve agreed to make little gifts instead. I always make spumoni for him and write a silly poem to go with it (last year, it was “Thirteen Ways of Looking for a Spumoni” in honor of Wallace Stevens :-). He always makes fudge for me as well as something electronic like a Web page with a collection of links to cat videos, a DVD family album, a CD of silly Christmas songs, etc. We spend very little money and get a lot of love in return.


Con December 6, 2009 at 9:48 pm

Sounds like a great book! I come from a very large family so for the last several years we have celebrated “Re-Giftmas” as I named it on Dec 21. We all get together and give each other things we already have that we think the person may use/like more than we do. We also put a big donation box by the door so you can put your re-gift there if you don’t think you’ll use it.

For our own little family of four, the kids get gifts made by us and my husband and I just do stockings. We always get a living tree (in a pot) and plant it afterward or give it to someone who has land to plant a tree (The Christmas tree from 1980 stands about 50 fit high at my Mums house, it is so cool to see it and know at one point it was our little Christmas tree!


Christopher December 6, 2009 at 10:53 pm

I almost bought a copy of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” book at the thrift store this morning. I’m not even waiting for Christmas though; I found two CD’s that I knew friends of mine would love & got ’em and gave ’em away already (just because)–now there’s the spirit. Also, when I went to check out, the guy at the counter asked me to wait to make my purchase and come back in a few minutes…at noon, when their 50% off sale started.


Sherry December 6, 2009 at 11:10 pm

I have 2 new daughter in laws that I will be hand making cook books for. These cook books will contain family favorite recipes, photos and stories of their husbands growing up.


Lisa P December 6, 2009 at 11:31 pm

We keep it pretty simple – I’ve been using a wreath I found on 90% off clearance for several years and will find some goodies for hubby’s and my mom’s stockings… that’ll about do it. Merry Christmas!


lynda t December 7, 2009 at 2:08 am

i have really tried to be more lowkey this kids and us get a stocking from santa and this just 3 gifts from us (just like jesus and the wise men).i read someone say that if jesus only had 3 gifts so should we and i really agree.a lot of our gifts are used – lots of books and stocking stuffers from charity shops also a top each new but bought from charity shop.i will be knitting a scarf or gloves for everyone if i finish in time and i may make cookies in a tin (used tin of course).for stocking wrapping i use christmassy pages from magazines and i try to recycle or reuse all my paper and cards.


365Girl December 7, 2009 at 2:57 am

My journey toward restrained consumerism and socially aware purchases started March 2009. This is my first Christmas seriously considering each purchase – the problem I have is my family and friends aren’t on the same journey. I cannot ‘not buy’ this year – the shock would be too immense – so I have opted for experience purchases where they get to do something rather than fill their homes with clutter. Next year however I may not hold back – I have pre-warned a few close members about my intentions! (Katy as I live in the UK I’ll abstain from entering the book comp – I’ve tracked one down in the UK and you’ll be pleased to know it’s used! p.s. Love the blog!)


Terilyn December 7, 2009 at 5:58 am

I have always shopped Goodwill and thrift stores for the holidays. There is a big fall festival in this area the first two weeks in Oct. and hundreds of yardsales. When my children were small, this was where I bought Christmas gifts, from those yard sales. We couldn’t afford more. We had four kids living on less than ten thousand dollars a year income. I would pray over those yardsales for weeks before just to be able to find clothing and gifts for the kids.

Sometimes I feel guilty because my daughter has picked up my “cheapness”. We can afford better now. But I hesitate to spend it. I only buy sales or thrift stores. And many times I am too cheap to pay what the thrift store wants! LOL. Do you know that some Goodwills are charging six dollars a piece for jeans (or more)? My limit for used clothing is a couple of dollars. Thank God for yard sales.

When I do buy NEW Christmas gifts now, I try to hit the half off after Christmas sales or really deep discount sales. And the gifts have to be useful. I won’t buy fluff. Flash lights, tools, food, warm blankets, smoke detectors, decent shoes, etc are all ok. But fluff is something I just can’t bring myself to waste money on.

I guess because we had so very little in the decades past, I just can’t spend in a wasteful manner now. It bothers me. I do feel guilty that my daughter and sons watch their money so closely too, but it is a skill that will serve them well. They don’t waste money. They weigh each purchase, and are probably considered tightwads, but they learned it at home.

Remember that festival with the yardsales I told you about? I have a box of Precious Moment statues under the bed that I bought a few years ago for $65. I am still giving Christmas gifts from that box. My MIL is getting one for Christmas as are my neice, daughter, and SIL. It will probably last me 2 more years for Christmas gifts. And I have a bedspread wrapped up for myself from hubby for Christmas that came from a yard sale the first weekend in Oct this year. Old “cheap” habbits are hard to break even when you don’t have to be that frugal any longer.


Kristie December 5, 2011 at 11:55 am

I’m with you about Goodwill being over priced! I just can’t make myself pay that much for a used pair of jeans when I can go the outlet mall and get a brand new pair for about $15. But then I feel guilty because I know I’m just feeding the consumer wheel. Honestly about 75% of my closet was gifted to me by friends who outgrew their clothes or no longer like them.


Megg December 5, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Just because you HAVE the money doesn’t mean you have to spend it 🙂 Keep your cheap habits because that’s a good habit to have!


Jessie December 7, 2009 at 6:26 am

I am giving several handmade gifts this year. I just recently started knitting, and it gives me a chance to think about what someone might really want and use, instead of just going out to the stores and hoping I come back home with something for everyone. I’m also giving more long lasting gifts, like magazine subscriptions for people that I know would enjoy then.


Sam December 7, 2009 at 6:57 am

Kiva loans are a great gift. I also like the virtual gifts that you can send at
You make a donation to FARM-Africa, choose the gift you want to send – cows urine is my favorite – and the person you send it to will receive an email movie about the gift and its use in Africa. The best thing is that you are also helping farmers in Africa build a brighter future for themselves and their families. I love all of the other ideas too – especially the dressing up box. I’d love to do that for my nieces.


Eleanor Woodfin Craig December 7, 2009 at 7:36 am

My husband and I are completing some much needed renovations on our house, and decided that we have spent enough $$! The improvements are our gift to each other. My favorite uncle and I just agreed not to exchange gifts this year, and I am (with their permission) “regifting” some unused kitchen accessories to my sisters-in-law, which I know they will enjoy using.


Mary December 7, 2009 at 7:54 am

We play Secret Santa with all the people who come to my Dad’s for dinner. We take something that we either made or from resale shop, etc. (useful but not new – unless homemade)
Other than that we give to Heifer International and our local food bank.


Tiffany December 7, 2009 at 7:56 am

It’s too late for this year, but the day after Christmas I’m going to try to talk my extended family into doing some sort of secret santa so everyone buys and recieves only ONE gift. None of us need, or really want, anything. I’m hoping everyone will go along with it, wish me luck!


Judy December 7, 2009 at 8:24 am

Every year I try to cut back a little more. We are giving experiential gifts to our grandchildren, taking my grandson to a couple of train shows, taking my granddaughter to a performance of the Nutcracker. The rest of their gifts are used books purchased at public library, Goodwill and one new one each purchased at Borders clearance and an educational game for each, also purchased at Borders with discount coupon. My mother is also getting books, purchased used and Borders clearance, CDs made by my husband. Our daughters and spouse and fiance are getting gift cards to restaurants. I did buy a couple of items such as candles and wine(consumables, no clutter) to go with gift cards. I am regifting a small family scupture to our oldest daughter and family. Our decorating is a small artificial tree purchased years ago(I would no longer buy artificial for environmental reasons). We have switched to LED lights to conserve energy. A few greens, holly and red candles scattered through the house completes the decorations. During the year if I find things at the Goodwill that will work as gifts, I buy them and put away.


April December 7, 2009 at 8:26 am

This year, my family have all agreed to give only practical, consumable items for Christmas. I am buying the food for the meal, and we are all chipping in to buy my cousin a case of toilet paper (her request), ordering a load of firewood for my grandma who has only wood heat…stuff like that. These gifts don’t require hours of shopping, and won’t end up being one more unwanted item shoved in the back of a drawer somewhere. We know they will be used and appreciated, and especially this year, with money so tight, practical gifts seem the way to go.


Aleta December 7, 2009 at 8:32 am

Chilly here in Portland!! 🙂

One thing we do is to get giving tree tags from the kids’ school (The kids pick their own) and give to needy kids on their own “turf.”

So, shopping means we’re shopping for someone else, locally.

The school also has a canned food drive that is also a good, local way to give. Not as many people have taken the tags. Most of the ones are taken by the teachers and staff.

We’re teaching the kids while they’re young (12, 9, 6) to get by on less and give to others. This year we doubled up on giving tree tags.


Karen December 7, 2009 at 9:53 am

We’re trying to scale back the gift buying but I still think it’s fun to have some surprises to open. The trick is to find something that the person will love and use. We try to find one or two gifts for close family only and shop at craft fairs or local shops, avoiding malls or big box stores as much as possible. Portland has so many great local artisans. I figure that way at least we are supporting someone else’s livelihood (making their holiday better in the process) and finding unique gifts that will be treasured.


Judy December 7, 2009 at 9:57 am

I realized after my other posting I forgot about the charitable giving we do. I filled a shoe box with toys for a child(sponsored where I work). I also donated pet food for the local animal shelters through my employer. Our community has an “Angel Gift” program. We will pick a charity from that to donate to. We also give to the local food bank, environmantal groups, hospice and Heifer Intl.


namastemama December 7, 2009 at 10:08 am

We bought blessing baskets (check out This is a local purchase for us too. We are filling them with local and homemade consumables (food) and soaps made by our retired farmer neighbors and whatever the kids want to make. Handmade cards this year due to a wonderful art class we took. This not only keeps the kids busy and away from commercials but also keeps us away from CCMC (cheap crap made in China). I am also going to spend time everyday focusing on the real meaning of the season. I’ve already heard about the neighbors 40 inch TV, wii and that’s only the beginning I’m sure. Merry Christmas everyone. I enjoyed your ideas.


Meredith December 7, 2009 at 12:12 pm

What a great giveaway! I’m happy to share my thoughts in any case as this is a big topic around our house right now. Last year we said we were going to scale back Christmas big-time, and it still got away from us and cost way too much money. This year, it’s Round Two. So far, I have spent about $40.00 for our two children, with most of that being spent on toys and books at our neighbourhood thrift shop. In addition to their Santa gifts, my husband is making each of our boys a train-shaped piggy bank, and I am knitting each of them a pair of mittens and a hat. They also always get a book. I actually found a saying on a message board a few years ago that we follow, which is that everyone should get: Something you want, something you need, something to play with, something to read.
We’ve also put a stop to adding new decorations to our home this year. We will make some new ornaments with our kids and use what we have otherwise. I did, however, score a package of LED tree lights at the thrift shop on the weekend for $2.50, which we will use to replace some of our older, less-efficient bulbs.
We’ve also agreed to give gifts of charity to our siblings, and will probably add some homemade baking and knitting to those gifts.
I haven’t set foot in the mall, and don’t plan on it! Oh, that’s a lie. We will be going as a family to give a toy for the toy drive, and the collection box is in the mall.


Kate December 7, 2009 at 12:15 pm

My mother-in-law is moving to Michigan to keep her job with an insurance company, while leaving my father-in-law in Ohio. We’re going to “borrow” one of their bridge sets when we visit next week, and we’re wrapping it up and giving it to her with a request to be taught to play bridge — and a promise to visit during the week while she’s alone in her studio apartment.

My sister is a poor college student, so I’m going to cook her some frozen meals out of my leftovers over the next couple of months as our present to her.

My mom asked me to make her cloth napkins out of an old table cloth for Xmas — I’m going to emboss them with a holly stamp in one corner, so that they’re a little bit more fancy than she was expecting!


Kris-ND December 7, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Please take me out of the contest for the book. I had paperback swap credits and was able to get the book with my credits. It was mailed today!


tracifree December 7, 2009 at 12:50 pm

This year we asked friends and relatives to only do gift exchanges amongst the kids. Some relatives were shocked and said “well, we’ll be getting you something anyway.”


Kathy D December 7, 2009 at 7:54 pm

I like to give to others with less. I save items for Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes…… I made 90 boxes this year hoping for more next year


Maniacal Mommy December 7, 2009 at 8:37 pm

I don’t know if this counts, but most of my kids presents come from Ebay. I figure it is part of the whole “reduce, reuse, recycle’ thing.

We cannot afford gifts for everyone, so most of our friend receive tins of goodies (the tins being from the local thrift store).

I also make meals to give to our friends. We give lasagnas and pot pies for our friends to either eat or freeze. We could give gift cards for restaurants, but how nice is it to have a meal you do not have to cook, and you don’t have to drive to get it? I would LOVE a gift like that.

I think a gift means “I care enough to give you something I would want for myself.” I spend hours making things for my friends, not just “shopping” for them.

As adults we have the power to buy what we want for ourselves.

My friends know that what I give them took more than a check being written, or a credit card being swiped.

I care enough to spend my time for them. They appreciate that. And that is why we are friends. They understand I am not being “cheap”. I am giving what I have, from the heart.


Kelincha December 7, 2009 at 9:17 pm

My husband is forgoing any gifts for himself in order to help a family in need. Any money that would have been spent on him we are spending on them instead. Additionally, we limit gifts to our kids to one toy, one book, one item of clothing. My son is getting a telescope that I found at Goodwill.


linda December 7, 2009 at 9:26 pm

small edible gifts


Kris-ND December 8, 2009 at 4:17 am

Sherry, I love this idea!


Cate December 8, 2009 at 11:49 am

I would love to win this!

As far as decommercializing the holidays…we’re still buying loads of presents. However, we’ve given a lot of thought to them in order to ensure that we’re only giving meaningful gifts, many of them experiential. We’ve also made sure not to go overboard for our six-month-old. She’ll have more fun with the boxes, anyway!


Robbie Kay December 8, 2009 at 3:25 pm

I love the idea of a giveaway that came from Goodwill! I wonder if this is the book my husband told me about that he heard about in a seminar…

While everything on my gift idea lists are items that would be bought in stores, we only give about one to two items per person in our family, so that keeps the craziness down. Basically, I just try to be extra picky about what gets on my schedule at this time of year. I find that if I choose activities that focus around our faith, then I can find some joy in the season as opposed to just resenting all the demands on my time and energy.


Rebekah December 8, 2009 at 4:57 pm

My family doesn’t send Christmas cards or consistently exchange gifts, so Christmas isn’t terribly expensive.

Due to insufficient funds, I won’t be travelling or seeing any family this Christmas. I plan to bake gingerbread and sing carols to myself instead. =)


Nancy December 8, 2009 at 7:27 pm

We have gotten to the point where we no longer give gifts. However, this year there is a grandchild, which is tempting to start again. We are spending this season focusing more on advent than on Christmas.


Kristie December 5, 2011 at 11:46 am

I would love to read this book. If I don’t win it, I’ll see if I can get it from the library.

As for a non-commercial Christmas, we keep it simple by only buying gifts for our son. Santa doesn’t wrap gifts, so that saves on buying paper. For gifts from us, I use paper bags from the grocery store (I collect a few throughout the year when I run to the grocery store unexpectedly without my reusables) and I use the ribbon I craft with because I can re-use it.

My son is young , we do not have TV and I don’t get any catalogs so we don’t have any “I wants” in our house. This makes it easy to keep things simple. We give one thing he wants, one thing he needs, one thing to eat, and one thing to wear. When possible we make our own gifts. Last year DH built a small two-man rowboat for DS. This year he is building a sensory table.


Megg December 5, 2011 at 8:11 pm

I got a lot of my gifts from thrift stores, and I didn’t get a ton of stuff for everyone. Luckily since we’re relatively newly married most people understand.
We’re getting each other gifts this year, but like last year we’re going small. Last year we had just bought a house a few months before and this year we’re going to Hawaii in February, so we’re not doing anything huge. I like the idea of experiential gifts and I’m already thinking that next year I want to do something like that for us…a fun concert or something we can remember, not another “thing”.


fiwa December 7, 2011 at 10:46 am

Oh man, I’ve been out of town and am just now catching up on all the blog posts I missed. I’m so glad there’s still time to enter.

This is probably going to sound terrible, but I don’t buy presents for most people. The little kids in my family already have more toys and more “stuff” than they could ever know what to do with, and I live in a different state, so I just stopped sending presents. I refuse to add to a Christmas pile of presents that actually end up in the closet under the stairs STILL WRAPPED because there were just too many to get through and they lost interest in opening more. Can you believe that?! Anyway, I send gift cards to everyone that I still have to exchange with (the in-laws) because that way they can get what they want, and I don’t have to buy anything with excessive packagine or pay shipping. I personally think even the gift card thing is dumb – because we’re just sending them money in exchange for the money that they sent us – but I haven’t been able to talk my husband and his parents out of it yet.

For the guys I work with – I bake them goodies. They give me homemade jam in exchange, which I think is just the cat’s meow!


Alice December 8, 2011 at 5:59 am

The big thing was talking with my dad & brother years ago and requesting that our Big Gifts to each other be a donation to a cause that we both support. My stepmom’s traditions involved a lot more stuff-giving over the holidays, and after a few years of presents-for-the-sake-of-presents, this has been a great compromise for us.

The little thing is reusing gift bags! The overall impact isn’t that huge, but I love pretty wrapping, and when you have a whole bunch of people in on the arrangement, the bags can get traded and reused for years upon years.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: