Today I wanted to take a break from our usual home design posts and talk about what’s probably on everyone’s mind these days anyway: the holiday season, and specifically gift giving. Now, you all probably know at least one person that begs off gifts every year – someone who, for whatever reason, says “Don’t get me anything.” I’ve heard this more than ever this year, and lest you think everyone who says it is just being coy, I’ve heard the flip side a lot, too: “How do I keep my family/friend/significant other from getting me anything!” Personally, I understand both sides of the argument – of course you want to give a gift to show the recipient you care about them, but getting a gift isn’t always a blessing.
What “Don’t Get Me Anything” Means
If your initial reaction to “don’t get me anything” is to ignore the request and just go ahead and get a gift anyway, it might be worth thinking about why someone might make the request in the first place. After all, during the holiday season it isn’t exactly an idle request, and even if it seems silly to you, it’s worth thinking about the why, so if you do go ahead and get a gift, you can be respectful of the underlying cause. With that in mind, here are a few of the things that “don’t get me anything” really means.
- I live a simple, minimal life/ in a small and already crowded space/ far away – and getting more stuff during the holidays is just going to complicate my life and cause me stress (and I might end up giving away whatever you give me).
- I love you, but even though we’re family I know we don’t know each other very well, and I know the chances of exchanging a good, meaningful gift are pretty low (see: present face).
- We’re in a newish relationship and I’m not comfortable with you spending a lot of money on me.
- Money is tight and I can’t afford to reciprocate presents, and getting a lot of gifts when I show up empty handed (or much more expensive gifts than the ones I have to give) will make me feel guilty or inadequate.
What You Can Do Instead
Now, the request for no gifts is often sincere, but you might be thinking – but everyone likes getting presents! And to a certain extent, that’s definitely true: I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t like being acknowledged. But giving a gift to someone that doesn’t want one can make them a little uncomfortable as well as expressing your love. One of my favorite ways to beat this problem is to make a donation to charity in your recipient’s name. After all, the people who don’t want more STUFF for Christmas won’t get it, giving to a charity can show a shared interest with your love one, and since they aren’t necessarily GETTING anything, it can ease some of the tension of the exchange. With that in mind, here are a few of my personal favorites that make great gifts for the holiday season.
Contribution With A Cute Card
Around this time of year, many charities make it easy to make a donation in honor of another person, and will send out physical cards or electronic gift cards. I’m a personal fan of Heifer International, an organization that takes a holistic approach to combating poverty and hunger through education and sustainability. Their extensive gift catalog is full of ways to give to the work they do (e.g. you can give a flock of ducks, a llama, send a girl to school, etc.). This makes it easy to make a donation that’s within your budget, while giving your recipient a card that details how their gift is being used.
If You Absolutely Want A Gift With Your Gift
If part of your desire to give involves putting something in a box, wrapping it, and handing it to your recipient, consider donating to the World Wildlife Fund, an organization dedicated to helping protect endangered animal species and promote important conservation efforts around the world. While you can make a donation without receiving any physical acknowledgement (which, of course, means that more of your money goes to the cause), they also offer a wide range of gifts to accompany various donation amounts, from T-shirts, coffee mugs, and totes, to adorable plush toys and beautiful framed prints of the animals or areas your donation is helping to preserve.
Give The Gift Of… Money Management?
I wish my parents had taught me a little more about money management as a kid (especially about investment!), and Kiva is an excellent, charitable way to introduce the concept to a child or activist in your life. Based on a system of microloans, Kiva is essentially an organization that brings banking to parts of the world that wouldn’t otherwise have access to it, allowing people in second and third world countries to take out loans to help improve their lives, livelihoods, and the environment. With gift cards available in $25 chunks, your gift-recipient can pick from one of thousands of different individual projects around the world to support, while learning about the risk and benefit of investing money. The best part? When the loan is repaid in full, the money can be reinvested in another project.
An Object Lesson (For Your Video Game Lover)
I’m a personal believer that charitable giving is important, and that it’s especially important for kids to understand the concept – or, really, to understand the needs of people other than themselves. We’ve all seen heartwarming stories somewhere on the internet of young kids pitching in to try to do some good in the world, and I think that’s a trait that’s definitely worth fostering. So, if your kid is a big video game lover, consider making a donation to Child’s Play this holiday season and talking to your kid (or teen) about it. This foundation was set up by gamers and is largely funded by gamers, and distributes age-appropriate games and toys of all kinds to the children’s wings of hospitals around the world. This allows children who are stuck in the hospital for long periods of time (for things like chemotherapy treatments) to enjoy a little bit of play in a less than fun situation.
For The Writer (Or Reader) In Your Life
Okay, okay, so I admit to The Office Of Letters And Light being a bit of a pet charity, but as a writer, I can’t help but include at least one way for you to support the arts (others include: PBS, NPR, or your local museum, science center, or performing arts theater!). The OLL is a small non-profit organization that sponsors National Novel Writing Month, a global event where thousands of people band together to write… a lot. But the real magic of OLL is in the community that all this writing fosters. They encourage young writers by offering free curriculum to educators and parents that help nurture literacy and creativity, and support local libraries and classrooms to help create a nurturing community where creative minds can thrive.
The Most Grateful Charity
Ask any recent college graduate about charitable giving, and they’ll probably make some snide remark about being a “charitable cause” themselves. They laugh it off (or they’d be crying!), but this holiday season I’d like you to seriously consider making a donation to your own personal charity of one – not in the form of cash, but a contribution towards your child (or relative’s) student loans. Trust me – no matter how big or small the “donation,” you’ll not only be taking a weight off your grad’s shoulders, but also bring them that much closer to independence (which, I promise, they want more than anything!). We’re in an economy where people with high level degrees are being forced to move back home or even just live hand-to-mouth from a combination of underemployment (or flat out unemployment) and crippling student loans. Making that number shrink even a little is guaranteed to be met with gratitude, even if your grad feels a little self-conscious accepting it.
Pick One That’s Personal
Of course, these are just a very few of the thousands of charities out there. Every charity has its own cause and addresses it in a unique way, and choosing one that speaks to your specific recipient can add a much more personal touch to your gift. In that light, I can’t recommend enough that you check out the Project For Awesome, an annual event where average people come together on the internet to champion (and briefly and entertainingly explain) their favorite charities via short youtube videos. It’s an excellent resource not only for giving, but for charity discovery if you don’t have a lot of exposure to various organizations.
If you feel compelled to give a gift to someone who professes not to want one, consider sending your money somewhere that it’s really needed instead. It’s a great way to ensure that your gift is really appreciated while respecting your loved one’s wishes (AND showing them you care, whether they like it or not!). Plus, it’s a great way to avoid… present face!