November 12, 2021

The guide to Alternative Gifts!

I LOVE shopping for gifts and finding things that I love and have a more positive impact on people and planet! But I know it can be overwhelming – which is why I write gift guides (they’re HERE this year if you haven’t seen them for the US and the UK!)

Sometimes though, the best option for budget and lowering impact is some form of alternative gift, as in, something that isn’t purchased and wrapped and may cost nothing or very little.  There are many ways to play it and hopefully this blog gives some examples and ideas that can inspire you and help your gifting!

Some different ways to play it

Mutually agreeing a “non-gift” holiday season

This isn’t for everyone but in some instances it’s perfect. My husband and I have agreed not to gift to each other some years and done the same with other family members other years. It’s a great move in some places where celebration can be done other ways! It can have a material or or financial reason behind it and it can free both parties.

Mutually agreeing a shared experience or skill trade

Second to not gifting, mutually agreeing a shared experience or trade can be fun! Agree to go out for a nice meal with people! We’ve done this this year with various people, we’ll exchange no gifts but we’ll all share a fun meal out together! It’s the gift of quality time as well as non physical gifts.

It could be a meal or fun coffee/drinks or taking a class date once a week in January instead of gifting to brighten up the month! Get creative.

Suggest a non physical gift!

Next step along from mutually agreeing a trade, you might feel more comfortable asking people first: “would you rather have a physical gift from me or a non physical gift or [__insert skill you have__]”. Invite them in and make it a mutual decision! It can be so fun and it might not be something they’ve thought of! It often brings more relational connection not less than the standard gift idea! You can also obviously do this without checking ahead but for people who feel more nervous to take a step towards gifting this way it can be good to ask!


1. BABYSITTING! For parents giving a voucher of Babysitting is SUCH a gift! Or go above and do a gift card for a movie theatre and the babysitting! Write it in a card and gift “a morning of babysitting” or “a Friday night of 4 hours of babysitting” and gift it with a bar of chocolate!

2. GIFT A SKILL YOU HAVE! So many of us have skills that would be gratefully received by others and that can make great gifts. Think about what you have to give and make a “voucher” for that. One of my friends once gifted me a voucher to make me a compost heap cos she knew I wanted one and it was THE best gift!

3. AUDIBLE SUBSCRIPTION Amazon is not the top place I want to put my money but Audible is the one spend I love from amazon! An audible subscription gives someone a book to read each month and discounts on others and it’s the only way I listen! Find the giftable subscription HERE!

4. COFFEE SHOP GIFT CARD: Gift card to a local coffee shop – amp it up with a book, or a notebook to make it a solo self care time you’re gifting.

5. MASTERCLASS SUBSCRIPTION: Masterclass is an online hub of incredible classes from cooking to acting to politics and graphic design taught by the best of the best experts. We’ve clubbed together to gift this one and received it too! Find it HERE!

6. STORYWORTH SUBSCRIPTION: This is a great one for parents and grandparents. Admittedly a boomerang gift but such a precious and cherished one where the recipient answers questions over the year and they get formulated into a bound hardback book at the end. Find it HERE!

7. FAMILY PHOTO SESSION: Gift a family photo session with a local photographer – we’ve done this and LOVED it. Get everyone together and do a shoot together then everyone gets to benefit with photos. It’s a great and fun gift. It was such a valuable and precious gift to give that we all got to have photos and even a short family video from!

8. COOK + SHARE MEALS: For the right friends this would be THE perfect alternative gift. Gift “4 evening meals in January”, then double up what yo’re making once a month and drop it round!

9. GIFT A MEMBERSHIP: Again such a useful and non physical gift to give or receive that can keep on giving over months or years. Think about zoos, parks, attractions, sports facilities, gardens, galleries or things like that local to the recipient or ask them for a suggestion they’d love!

10. THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE! These are just a few non gift gift ideas and they’re great starting points but get creative!

Ask someone for their skill as a gift to you!

The other side of reducing our footprint with gifting differently is to ask for gifts differently. I’m a HUGE fan of gift lists and suggestions for people because it reduces unwanted and unneeded gifts. There are different ways to do it from a broad list to suggestions to a bigger item to gift towards or a company to shop with.  This year I’ve asked my carpenter brother for no gift but help building a chicken tractor – no financial cost or physical gift but the time to put together materials I buy and I’m so excited about it! Think of things like asking for:

  • A photo to frame from a photographer
  • Help building or creating from someone with that ability
  • Asking something unique like “Will you give me a little intro from what you know about financial investing over coffee?!”
  • Will you teach me how to bake simple sourdough?!
  • Will you go through my closet and help me make it work better?! (I’ve asked this of style savvy friends and family!)
  • Will you help me start up growing a garden?
  • so many other things depending on who will be gifting to you!

Sometimes having conversations around how you want to be gifted to can feel awkward and clunky but I think it’s worth it in the long run! My advice is to make it about you and your niche and maybe odd needs rather than criticising the way that someone else might choose to gift.  Admit that you don’t really know how to have the conversation but that you’ve realised this really matters to you. Most people who are gifting to you don’t want their gifting to be judged, but they DO want to know about how things make you feel!

And if you just need a more mindful gift list to send them you know there are two right here on the blog for you to shop from or send to friends!







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