If you are a minimalist or have one in your life, holiday gift-giving can be a sticky wicket. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, here’s a guide to maneuver through the holidays with (hopefully) less drama about gift-giving. I also have a list of the 13 best gifts for minimalists.
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What is a minimalist?
Better to get this clear first before moving forward. There are lots of different types of minimalists, but there are some general themes among them all:
Minimalists value people and experiences over possessions
They try to only own what they truly need, what gives them joy and/or items that are meaningful or have a purpose
So in general, a minimalist is not going to want a lot of gifts, or no gifts at all. They also may not want to give a lot of gifts either, because they don’t want to make other people’s level of clutter from unnecessary stuff.
Gift-giving between minimalists and non-minimalists
The first and best thing to do is have an honest conversation with people you normally exchange gifts with.
As a minimalist, many years ago we told our friends and family that we no longer wished to exchange holiday gifts. We explained we had everything we need and we appreciated the thoughtfulness of loved ones, but we would prefer if they not give us gifts. We suggested they instead spend the money on themselves, as that would make us happier.
We also explained we would not be giving gifts, either, and we hoped they would understand. And yes, this includes gifts to the children in our lives. My niece and nephew know not to expect gifts from us around the holidays. And you know what? They still love us, and they know we love them!
At first, some people resisted our wish the receive gifts. They would still give us things, which we would accept graciously but give a gentle reminder that we didn’t get them anything. Amazingly, nobody was offended to not receive a gift from us, even if they got us one. For them it was fun just to give a gift. But eventually, the gift-receiving tapered off and we no longer got gifts around the holidays.
Ryan and I don’t exchange gifts with each other, either. For many years Ryan had to work on every holiday, so just being together is the best gift for us.
However, being a minimalist does not mean having to completely exclude the exchange of gifts. It’s more about not exchanging meaningless, perfunctory presents. So another option is to talk to people and explain that you want to make certain you give them something really meaningful. Ask them for suggestions.
If you want to be less direct, have a chat with them and see how things are going. You may be able to figure out a gift idea based on what’s going on in their lives. Are they stressed? Talking about wanting to lose weight? Thinking of going back to school? When a present comes as the result of a heartfelt conversation, it will be that much more appreciated.
If you want to give a gift to a minimalist…
Here are some ideas which might make a minimalist happy to receive a gift, and can fulfill a non-minimalist’s desire to give a present. In fact, these gift ideas work well for anyone, not just minimalists!
Charitable donations. My employer doesn’t do holiday bonuses, but each year my supervisor wants to give us something out of her own pocket. She offered to do gift cards or money, neither of which I needed. So I asked if she could instead make a donation to charity of whatever money she wanted to spend on me. I requested she donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, because my mom has lymphoma. My coworker liked the idea so much that she copied it with the charity of her choice.
Experiential gifts. This is a great gift idea, especially for kids, or the adult who already has everything. My niece loves animals, so one year I gave her a gift certificate for her first horseback ride at a stable I found through Groupon.
You can easily give e-certificates and electronic gift cards to people these days, so you don’t even have to be in the same area to send your present. Here are some ideas to get you started:
General online shopping:
Amazon eGift card or a
For the book lover in your life:
Kindle Unlimited subscription or
For music lovers:
For museum afficionados: NARM has over 1000 member museums, botanical gardens, children’s museums and science and techonology centers in North America.
For the socially-conscious shopper: wearwell “is a one-of-a-kind personal shopping subscription service that makes it easy to buy clothes you love while supporting the causes you care about.” Plus, not having to spend time in a store looking for the right size and style? Yes please!
For the lifetime learner: Udemy has over 80,000 online classes. They’re having a Black Friday sale right now, with tons of courses for $9.99 each!
For kids: instead of toys, consider encouraging financial responsibility by opening a savings account or education fund in their name. It’s something you (and others) can donate to every year. Imagine giving the gift of a starter fund for them when they finish school, or the possibility of getting a debt-free college education!
Food: Because who doesn’t love that kind of present?? But maybe make it healthy food so your loved ones can start off the new year right? One Green Planet did an article a few years ago for plant-based meal delivery services that you can check out here: https://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/plant-based-meal-services-you-should-be-ordering-from-today/
But the gift I value most of all? Time with the people I care about. The easiest way to have more time? Spend less money so you can work less.