Creating a “No Gift Policy" for the Holidays

How to keep your minimalist goals during gift-giving season.

Melanie & Jeremy Scroggins Melanie & Jeremy Scroggins  |  11.22.2017

It’s that time of year again. Present-buying season is upon us. Soon, questions like “What do you want?” will be circulating all around. As a kid, there is magic in those kinds of questions. As an adult, questions about new things or gifts can be burdensome.

As Americans, we like stuff and have plenty of it. We have so much stuff that we often have to pay for storage spaces to keep the stuff that doesn’t fit into our homes.

Living in an RV presents many obstacles that living in a larger home with more space does not, but there are small practical ways to avoid some of those obstacles.

When it comes to gift-giving holidays, it can be hard to say “no” to loving family and friends who simply want to bring a little extra light into our lives in the form of things. Either they assume we could use a particular item or they saw it, thought of us, and bought it for us. The problem is, a lot of those gifts don’t always find a use or space in a home that is 31-feet long.

Christmas is going to look different for us this year. Instead of buying and receiving gifts, we will be encouraging our friends and families to gift in other ways; that starts with us creating a “no gift policy” for the holidays.

Why create a no gift policy?

For starters, we don’t have the space. We made an effort to purposefully pare down our belongings and bring only what we would need on the road. Adding more stuff to our already tiny home isn’t practical.

Also, we don’t need anything else. Period. What we need we can get for ourselves when the need presents itself, but the days of I like this and I’m going to get it for the heck of it are pretty much over for us.

How we’ll present the idea to people in our lives

Soon, I’ll be sending out an email to our closest family and friends stating that we will “not be accepting physical things as gifts.”

Instead of telling them what we’d like to get, we will outline how they can give to someone or something else.

I don’t think this idea will come as a shock to most of the people in our lives; they know we live in an RV. However, I think it is respectful and important to outline in detail why we have made this decision.

Alternative gift options

A couple years ago, I encouraged my family to give monetary donations to Girl Up, a UN organization that gives to girls in other parts of the world and provides for their health and education.

To me, it made sense: give to those who need it. Why should I get something I don’t need when someone else can truly benefit from such a gift?

Now that I live in an RV, it not only makes sense to encourage family and friends to give elsewhere, but I have realized that the old way of giving gifts is part of the reason we keep acquiring more stuff as a society.

So, I will be making a list of organizations that fall in line with the values Jeremy and I have and suggest our friends and family consider giving to them instead of the two of us.

If you are in a similar living situation, you understand how difficult it can be around the holidays. How will my family feel? What if I offend them?

The concerns you have are legitimate. It’s fun to give and get gifts; it reminds us of being kids gathered around family. I’m not saying you have to throw out gifts altogether. Gifts come in many shapes and forms. But this year, maybe think a little harder about what could bring value into your life rather than settling for another kitchen knife set or another pair of shoes.

We couldn’t have completed the Pennine Way without the gear we asked for on our wedding registry.

Gift Alternatives

If you are looking for other options, here are some ideas:

  • Asking for monetary funds to invest in courses you’d like to take
  • Requesting gift cards to places you know you will spend money (like grocery stores)
  • Volunteering at the local food bank or soup kitchen together
  • Donating to organizations like the Angel Tree, Operation Christmas Child, etc.
  • Donating to foundations focused on scientific and medical research for illnesses that matter to you like, Depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.
  • Donating to disaster relief organizations like the American Red Cross, Unicef, etc.
  • Ask for an experience instead of a physical item, like a wine tasting, sky-diving, a massage, etc.
  • Holding a potluck dinner with friends and/or family sans gifts with the focus on spending time together
  • Ask for gear you need for an upcoming trip, like we did for our hike on the Pennine Way

Not all gift ideas are found at the mall, and the best part is that you can be as creative as you want to be when it comes to alternative gift ideas. Think outside the box!

Have you ever done this for the holidays? How did the people in your life respond?


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