Giving Back - A Few Ideas For The Holidays Instead of Presents

The lead up to the holidays can be a frantic one. There's friends and family members, co-workers and secret Santa's to buy for and it can seem that the list of 'things' to buy is endless. I get it. Even as I make it a part of my blog to include a few gift guides every year, I recognize that the constant bombardment of what to buy and how many people to buy for can be overwhelming. 

A few years ago James and I decided to no longer exchange gifts at Christmas. We were finding ourselves overwhelmed with all of our 'stuff', in a small condo with no more space for things and really, of course there was lots that we wanted but really, we have everything we need and if we don't, we usually go pick it up and buy it for ourselves. So, we decided that rather than buying one another gifts that we'd choose a cause near and dear to our hearts and we'd support that instead. So, we went and spent all of the money (and then some) that we'd typically spend on gifts for one another, bought a ton of the items on the list of needed donations from The Humane Society's list and donated a bunch of supplies to the Humane Society. And you know what - we felt amazing, had a great time picking out the gifts for the dogs and animals and, we didn't miss opening presents on Christmas morning. 

Last year, we decided to extend that to my mom's side of the family and instead of exchanging gifts we sponsored a sanctuary animal from HART. Sanctuary animals are often deemed unadoptable because of their history with violence or abuse or neglect and therefore their costs for training, veterinary needs and other costs can be quite high. Last year we sponsored Leo and this year, we're sponsoring little Ninja. This way rather than rushing through our Christmas morning frantically opening gifts, we'll be able to enjoy our time together slowed down and just spending quality time together. I love it.

So today I thought I'd share a few ideas if you're looking for something to give other than presents to your family this year. And let me know - have you ever foregone gifts instead opting to give back for the holidays?


Food Bank - Donate Food or Volunteer Your Time

No matter where you live, there will be a food bank nearby that is always in need of donations of volunteering. I remember being absolutely shocked the first time I volunteered at the Food Bank at how truly dire the situation is and at how little people and families were to survive on. It's an eye opening experience and one that I definitely recommend. Maybe if there's a group of friends that you normally exchange gifts with instead you could go volunteer as a group. Or, go pick up a bunch of groceries and drop them off, I promise you'll feel so great afterwards.

Soup Kitchen

Similar to the food bank, volunteering to serve a meal at a soup kitchen (in Edmonton check out Hope Mission as one of many options) over the holidays is a very rewarding experience. I've served lunch a few times in the city at the Mustard Seed Church and it's another experience I highly recommend. It's also a great activity to do as a group or family rather than everyone buying gifts for one another. 

Hamper for Family

No matter where you live chances are there's an organization that provides hampers for a family over the holidays. My family did this years ago and our whole family got involved with buying food, toys and other holiday items for a family in need. Chances are it's a bit late this year for this type of service but it's a great idea to discuss with your family for next year. As an idea, with our family when we did this years ago we all brought a loonie to every family dinner and had a 'pot' with money for the hamper so when the holidays came around we used that money to purchase everything for the hamper. Sometimes a $5 bill went into the 'pot' and at others, sometimes it was only whatever change you had with you but this money collected over the year paid for the majority of the hamper and gifts.

Visit a Senior's Home

I used to volunteer at a retirement home years ago and I'm so glad I did. Now that my grandmother is in a home/hospital for the elderly with dementia I'm so glad I had that experience as I'm more comfortable visiting her and also, I see other volunteers who visit those whose families don't visit as often. So if you know someone in a retirement home, go visit them over the holidays, those homes can sometimes be lonely places and especially over the holidays, any extra visits I'm sure are so greatly appreciated. Esp if you have furry friends or little ones you bring with you! 

Gift Exchange or Secret Santa

Now I get it, not everyone has the time available to volunteer or maybe the money or resources to donate but another idea to cut back on the holiday overwhelm is to reduce the number of people you have to buy gifts for. Truth be told, I think I only bought 3 gifts total this year because now rather than buying gifts for one another, with most of my friends (aside from a few exceptions) we do an activity or go for a meal together over the holidays over giving each other gifts. With my mom's side of the family we now sponsor a dog and on my dad's side, we do a White Elephant Gift Exchange (which BTW is SO much fun and totally ridiculous and hilarious). So consider opting for a secret santa with your friends/family or a gift exchange to cut back on holiday spending and stress!


There you go, just a few ideas from this gal who's always trying to reduce holiday stress! haha Have you done any of these before? Let me know if you have any alternates to gifts that you do with your friends or family!

giving back over the holidays