5 Gift Alternatives so You’ll Spend #Not1Dime This Holiday

Generic image

The holidays are upon us, and the coquito-infused ugly-sweater parties are in full effect. This is the time of year when we are all a little “extra.” We eat, drink and even spend more than we typically do. But this year might be a little different. In support of the call for “justice or else,” some of us are opting to boycott this holiday season by not spending any money. It’s considered a “redistribution of pain” strategy in response to unjust police killings.

Or maybe you’re not intentionally boycotting the holiday season, but your bank account is participating in some type of low-distribution-of-funds strategy in response to those unjust Sallie Mae student-loan payments. Either way, a “spend no money” gift exchange would be fun and helpful. And in all seriousness, it may even allow you to clear some debt before 2016.


The challenge doesn’t come with any crazy rules, and it’s pretty self-explanatory. You and your friends or family (or whomever you typically exchange gifts with) create a way to provide gifts for one another that cost no money. You can give anything you want, as long as the gift doesn’t cost anything. To help you get started, I made a list of a few suggestions. 

1. Have a potluck book exchange.

Get together with some friends, and have all participants bring five or six books they really enjoyed but are willing to swap. This works a couple of ways. You can add an element of surprise or give direct exchanges. If you like the idea of being surprised by whatever books you receive, the attendees should be instructed (by the host) to wrap their books prior to the event. Each of you then gets an opportunity to randomly select books (but no more than the number of books you brought to the event). Just so you know, I’m still trying to convince folks that “read and chill” is better than Netflix and chill. So don’t be shy to invite me.

2. Provide a service.


Don’t run and get all Zola on me and create a discounted backpage. This can be something done with platonic friends. For example, if you have friends or family with children (or pets), you can get creative and make redeemable coupons. One could be for a few hours of free child care (or pet sitting). You can get as specific as you want. It might also be fun to create a coupon for tasks that friends or family really don’t enjoy. I promise that I would prefer a “I would take out your daughters braids one time” coupon over a Starbucks gift certificate ANY DAY! This would also be fun to do with a significant other. And I’m not giving you any suggestions on what the coupons should be redeemed for because I don’t want you judging me.

3. Use your hands.


If you’re really handy, think of something you can create in place of a gift. But to stick with the challenge, you would have to use supplies and materials that you already own. Think “DIY project.”

4. Create a recipe book.


Make recipes for unique dishes that you know someone would enjoy. This is a thoughtful gift idea only for that person who enjoys cooking—not the person you always ask to bring the ice to the potluck. Otherwise it’s just throwing major shade.  

5. Recycle something in your home.


You can use an old wine bottle and turn it into a vase. Save one of your nicer wine bottles, clean it and decorate it using quotes that you think the person would like.   

This is just a short list to stimulate your creative juices. The goal is to get imaginative with your friends’ gifts, avoid spending money and have some fun. As an added benefit, this also helps you start thinking about some expenses that could be eliminated in your own life. Which isn’t exactly a bad way to start the New Year. Happy holidays, and enjoy!


Shanita Hubbard is a mom, writer, social-justice advocate and Nas stan and is also the lover of a great twist-out and good books. Follow her on Twitter.

Share This Story