4 tips for intentional holiday gifting

Budgeting by values

Spend less, mean more. Here are some ways your gifts can create a purposeful impact this year. 

This holiday season, you may be planning to gather with some friends and family, take a special vacation, or shop until you drop—whether online or in-store. Whatever the case, it’s easy to feel tempted to go out and splurge this time of year.

But before you put that credit card to work, think about how you’re spending. While it can be nice to receive expensive toys or luxury goods, it’s the truly thoughtful gifts that can deliver a meaningful impact and show you really care. By spending more intentionally, you can ensure that your dollars are making a difference.

The value of a gift isn’t captured by its price tag. Intentional gifting means being considerate with your holiday spending and focusing on gifts that will have lasting value and meaning—to you and the person receiving the gift.

First, get clear on the “why” behind each intentional gift or holiday purchase and make sure your money decisions are guided by a sense of purpose. Having a spending plan that aligns with what matters most to you will also help steer you toward gifts that are truly valuable to the people receiving them.

Here are some ways to give with care this holiday season.

1. Craft something yourself.

A meaningful gift doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. If you’re on a tight budget for holiday spending, consider customized homemade gifts for your loved ones. Paying attention to what someone likes and creating a gift that suits them can go a long way toward showing you care. Some ideas include handmade arts and crafts, custom jewelry, photo collages, or freshly baked cookies.

If you’re not really into crafting or baking, even a card with a handwritten note can make someone’s day. Thoughtful gifts that you put your heart, hands, and mind into can carry much higher sentimental value than a flashy object.

2. Shop small, sustainably, and responsibly.

Many people are shifting their spending toward companies and brands that create responsible initiatives around sustainability.Disclosure 1 Similarly, many shoppers say they support local small businesses to help strengthen their local communities.Disclosure 2 Consider directing your gift-buying dollars to retailers that support causes you care about or to local businesses that help make your community a vibrant place year-round. 

82% of Americans believe small businesses have a positive impact on people's lives.

Source: Shopping small means big impact,” Bentley University, November 25, 2022.

3. Consider experiential gifts instead of things.

Giving and sharing experiences can create special memories that spark joy for years to come. For quality bonding time, consider outdoor experiences, like a guided hiking or camping trip, as well as indoor activities, like a family night at the movies.

You can also gift learning experiences. Is there an online class your partner has shown an interest in? Or do you know a loved one who would enjoy learning to cook through a cooking class or a meal-kit subscription service?

And remember that education itself can be an unforgettable experience—which makes investing in a younger loved one’s college savings another way to spend on gifts this holiday season. By opening or donating to a savings account or a 529 plan, you can show them that you care about their future and long-term well-being.

4. Donate to a worthy cause.

If you have the means, gift giving can also extend outside your family to help others who are in need. Instead of (or in addition to) exchanging gifts with your own loved ones this holiday season, you could buy gifts for a child or family in need.

Your holiday gift giving could also be expanded to charitable organizations. If there’s a cause your family cares about, you could suggest making a group donation this year instead of buying gifts for one another. You can also ask friends and family members if there is a cause they’re passionate about and offer to support it through a gift donation on their behalf. Even small donations can make a big difference in the lives of others.

Next steps

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