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Celebrate a Non-Commercial Christmas and Win $500 for Charity

All of the Black Friday, Cyber Monday, BUY-BUY-BUY gift madness is making me crazy. The over-the-top advertising has a reverse effect on me: I don’t want to buy anything as a sign of protest!

When I was first living on my own (and totally broke), I sought inventive ways to give gifts to my family. One year I collected recipes from my mother, grandmother and aunts, and created a personalized cookbook. Another year I wrote and recorded a song with verses about family lore. I also made my mother’s famous caramel popcorn for my husband’s family – they were thrilled and didn’t know I cut out the nuts, which were too pricey for my meager budget.

Read on to learn how you could win a $500 donation to your favorite non-profit on behalf on you and your family. UPDATE: Thank you to everyone that entered. Congrats to our winners: Noreen, SaraL, and Kelly B!

Those gifts meant more than buying some “thing” that my family member didn’t want or need or care about. And it kept me out of debt, which is a huge gift in itself.

Now that I can afford to purchase stuff, I still don’t do it for extended family and friends. Instead, I make a donation to a favorite charity in their honor. I feel better about the money going to good use and I hope my relatives feel good about being part of something beyond a present under the tree.

I won’t lie: some folks want stuff and I put a crimp in their gifting. Oh well, I feel the same when they send me a purse or sweater that I’d never choose for myself and that immediately goes to the local thrift store.

If you want to go non-commercial this year, here are some ideas from my co-workers and me. Whether you choose this route as a statement or out of economic necessity, I’m betting one of these will lift your Christmas spirit (instead of crushing it under a load of debt.)

Gift Your Skills

 

Whatever you can do, people need and appreciate the help. Some ideas:

  • Babysitting
  • Computer tech help
  • Yard work
  • Tax/accounting help
  • House or closet cleaning
  • Dog walking
  • Errand running
  • Offer to scan/digitize old photos
  • Donate volunteer time at meaningful place for recipient
  • Assistance with elder care

Creative Stuff

  • Write a song or a poem
  • Create and share a playlist
  • Compose a list of your favorite things from the past year: movies, books, music, blogs, recipes, cookbooks, etc.
  • Create a set of greeting cards with watercolors or collages and meaningful quotes
  • Make a set of fun refrigerator magnets—glue magnets onto small toys/everyday objects such as thimbles, whittled down pencils, etc. 
  • Fancy hand-lettering of your favorite quote or song lyric for the gift of frame-able inspiration
  • Write down a favorite memory with the recipient in a nice, keep-worthy card

Culinary Creations

  • Homemade body scrub
  • Granola or cookie/scone mix in a jar
  • A “coupon” to be redeemed for a home-cooked meal
  • Little bags of custom spice mixes
  • Written collection of recipe cards

Bonus idea: Kids’ Dinner Party/Free Parent Night

  • Double up on the gifts here. Invite a few kids over for dinner (or brunch) without their parents, giving their parents the gift of a meal out without kids.

Transparency alert: I work for a company that sells stuff. Many people do, right? For me, one of the coolest things about Whole Foods Market is the focus on giving back: to the community, through our Foundations and to local non-profits. So I tapped into that energy and am passing it along to you with this contest.

Do you have a favorite non-commercial gift or way of celebrating the joy of the season? Tell us about it in the comment section below by December 17th and we’ll randomly select three winners to receive a $500 donation to their favorite non-profit on behalf of you and your family. Tell us what your favorite charity is too! I can’t wait to get more ideas on how to make this season bright without a lot of green.

The fine print: No purchase necessary. Contest promotion ends December 17, 2013, 11:59 PM CDT. Must be a legal resident of the US or Canada (except in Quebec, where it is void) age 18 or older to participate. Taxes on prize, if applicable, are the responsibility of the winner. Employees of Whole Foods Market, Inc., are not eligible. Void where prohibited.

 

 

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504 comments

Comments

Sandy Bishop says …

The Christmas following my father's death in September (my mother had predeceased him) I made cookbooks for my 4 siblings of my parents' favorite recipes with a picture of the two of them on the front of the binder. As I use the cookbook with their recipes, I think of them. It makes me happy and brings them close again.

Alison says …

I like to give homemade jams. My favorite charity is the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project - http://www.gorilladoctors.org/about-mgvp.html

Malika Bourne says …

Here! Here! I pose a toast to you for your unselfish gift to others by writing this inspiring post. Thank you I wish more people felt this way, too.

Nicole Egerer says …

Our family has already adopted the no gifts policy and you are right, some people don't like that very much but we still love visiting them and sharing food and fellowship which is frankly the best part! We gift to charity as a family (with those who want to participate). My favorite charity is HeartCry Ministry. What a great giveaway - it's so great to give to people who really need it!

Ellen says …

I like to bake cookies for a friend that recieves a lot of commerical gifts. I would love to see the charity "Birthday Wishes" get a $500 donation.

Michelle Smiley says …

In my family (and among our friends) some of our favorite gifts to give and receive are homemade foods and treats. It's such a simple and special thing to give - unique, delicious, scarce and made for human consumption - instead of storage, donation, reselling, upcycling, recycling or tossing in the trash bin. My mom has such a distinct and tasty way of making her Christmas treats that her friends and family start asking "is it time yet?" well in advance of Christmas! We also like to wrap our gifts in reusable homemade cloth bags - they look incredibly festive and are ten times easier to wrap things in compared to paper, scissors and tape.

Catherine Flynn says …

I used to pick out poems that best suited my friends. (Not necessarily written by me.) And my non-profit is Katherine Anne Porter School in Wimberley, TX :)

DB says …

My (Extended) family has the tradition of drawing names from a proverbial hat and only giving gifts to the one person as opposed to every person in the family. Two years ago this was modified even further to adults drawing 2 children's (under 21s) names and buying only them gifts, this way all of the children in the extended family receive two gifts each and the adults don't have to worry about those rubbish sweaters that they'd never choose/wear as you mentioned... but this still doesn't tackle the "no spend" issue... what my immediate family has taken to doing is regifting/returning for a more child-appropriate gift all of the other random gifts we invariably receive from the other side of the family not partaking in this drawing. We are still spending, just not our own money... does that count? I'd like to see KAPS get a $500 donation should my name be drawn. Cheers

Jordan Elliott-Pierce says …

After I had kids, everyone in my family learned quickly what to expect for Christmas each year: pictures galore! As a way to make the gifts more exciting and special though, my kids and I add a crafty little touch to each photo gift. We put each picture in a cheapy frame that is much larger than the photo, leaving an exposed backdrop to the framed pic. Then, we personalize each framed pic by backing the pic with cute, Christmasy scrapbooking paper, ribbon, stickers, etc. The time and effort to spice up this simple gift is always appreciated!

kathleen ridenour says …

My favorite non profit is the one I work for. We involve people in Bible translation. One neat way is to assist a community to have parasite free water via a bio sand filter. Proving natural pesticide-free repellent for places that malaria cause a high sickness rate. Or remodeling buildings that the community uses like restrooms or schools to connect with the community building relationships and meeting the immediate needs before meeting a spiritual need of Jesus' Love. This is a small part of Wycliffe Associates in Orlando, Florida.

Peggy Wilfong says …

Love this!!! It takes the pressure off to purchase, purchas, purchase! I love the Christmas season but not the commercial side. The tree is such a rich tradition at my house. With each ornament we put on the tree comes a memory of a time, place, or person. Joys and sorrows (bitter sweet) are treasured each year throughout the holiday season. Thanks for the tips to make the holiday more personal. There are a couple here that I plan on using this year.

Julie says …

My favorite gift is the gift of time, so I like to make the gift involve an activity the two of us can do together like going to the movies or seeing a concert. Yes, the tickets do cost money but it also forms a memory of time spent together.

Arden says …

One of my favorite things to give for the holidays, is meals! Cook a bunch of soup or chilli, put in a container and decorate it. It's always such a good warm & nutritious gift that people really appreciate... Another really good one is homemade RACK kit (random acts of Christmas kindness) you can include little notes of thing they can do and hot cocoa and candy canes. This is especially good for families, since it gives them something to do and they can open it before Christmas. My favorite nonprofit is local, Infused Fitness. The mission is to provide education on fitness and nutrition to underprivileged families here in Orange County.

Rusty H says …

Every year I give homemade English toffee and peanut brittle. Last year I included homemade vanilla and dulce de leche. It was great..!!

Karen Banuelos says …

I would love to give our school a donation -Singing Stones School - Whole Community Education 501(c)3 - The long term goal for the school is to have a farm (teach children how to garden) and a school (K to 12)along with housing on the property senior citizens and the school teachers. We can learn a lot from each other!

Julie says …

This year, instead of sending Christmas cards to my list, I bought 3 boxes of cards and had the kiddos draw pictures and sent them to Holiday Mail for Heroes (deadline 12/6/13). For the folks on my usual card list, they will all be getting a phone call instead. It's a win-win-win, a 10 minute phone call will do more long distance bonding than the usual card, the kiddos felt good doing something nice for others, and soldiers away from home will get this year's heart warming cards. Everyone's happy.

Henry Golas says …

The Death Valley Conservancy supports worthy projects in Death Valley National Park and the surrounding communities. One of its past projects was working with The Coleman Company to support a kids program, Death Valley ROCKS," which brought city kids out to DVNP for camping and hands-on field science. For most students, it was their first time ever camping and the effect was amazing - to see them light up. At the end, they are told they get to keep their program-provided Coleman sleeping bags in the hope they will encourage their families to continue their adventures in the outdoors with them, The looks on the kids' faces when they are told that was amazing - as if they were being given a million bucks! (..n some ways... they were - those experiences for them are priceless and they will remember them for the rest of their lives.) www.dvconservancy.org

mik meyer says …

I donate my time and experience to repair bikes for Free Bikes 4 Kidz FB4kZ!

John Hamilton says …

My charity is the Brain Injury Association of Maryland. I had a Traumatic Brian Injury back in 72 which I think was be-4 that it was even there. My accident was on a diamond frame bike. I have ridden recumbents be-4, but DON'T have the 1 I want / any YET. I have pretty much recovered & what I want 2 do when a certain occurance happens is 2 either hike up the Appalachian Trail & / or ride a RECUMBENT bike or trike across the U.S. 4 the BIAM. Question: Do u think I may be able 2 count on Whole Foods 4 support when I do my trip? They have done a lot 4 the brain injured, but there is just so much more 2 do in addition 2 research. I do remember testifying be-4 the MD ?? about getting the helmet law in-2 effect 4 MD 4 motorcyclists. Be-4 that my Father was instrumental in getting the helmet law passed in Howard County, MD 4 bicylists under 16 (well it does take EVEN more effort 4 an adult 2 recover, but it is HARD 2 tell an adult what 2 do & 2 wear the helmet CORRECTLY).

KWendt says …

I like to make photobooks for my family - - this year it's a book of photos of all the silly things my family members have put on their heads: hats, caps, napkins, buckets, tinsel, tiaras, veils, etc, dating back to 1914. I think they'll get a kick out of it. My favorite charity is Nine Lives Foundation in Redwood City where Dr. Monica Rudiger rescues kitties and provides much needed veterinary care for them.

Marjorie Sener says …

I am learning to make lap-size Christmas quilts which are warm, bright and beautiful. I have several favorite charities; one is Animal Alliance.

Suellen says …

Our dachshund Bella puts smiles on almost everyone's faces as she walks around the city. We think of her as our "happiness ambassador." To build on her reputation for joy, each year we bake and give away dozens and dozens of sugar cookies--dachshund shaped-- complete with red sugar crystal collars. Our favorite non-profit is St. Elizabeth's School, a K-8 school built on intentional economic, social and ethnic diversity and delivering the highest quality education possible. <a href="http://stelizabethsdenver.org/">http://stelizabethsdenver.org/</a>

Amanda O says …

I make homemade handwarmers. You take two, square sweater scraps, stitching 3 sides in a loops stitch with yarn (this started when I accidentally shrunk a cashmere sweater & wanted to upcycle it). Fill with ceramic pie weights, then stitch the 4th side closed. You can heat them in the microwave for a few minutes. They keep your pockets/fingers toasty warm & are reusable!

Marilyn Stephens says …

My favorite way of celebrating the joy of the season is to volunteer at our local food bank or shelter. I also like to go through my coat closets and give unused coats to our local homeless shelters. My favorite charity is Mathew House in Monroe. They help people in need.

Sarah W says …

My extended family gets together in one of our houses. We all bring home made food specialties to share. We also bring a beautiful reusable box or jar filled with cards or papers listing wonderful qualities about the person we were chosen to give it to. Everyone goes home feeling so good about themselves. My favorite charity is the Hebrew Free Burial Association (http://www.hebrewfreeburial.org)

Allison says …

Every year since I was in middle school, I've made my father a mixed CD of my favorite songs. He loves discovering new music and it gives him a little bit of insight into how my personality has changed over the last year. The past couple of years I've gotten creative with the wrapping/delivery so it's always a surprise when he gets it. I started when I was about 13 and I'm 23 now. He still has all the CDs and listens to them in his car or at work. I'd love to be able to donate $500 to Chicago Cat Rescue. They're entirely volunteer based and $500 would feed a lot of cats and cover some pricey medical bills for rescued animals. Happiest of Holidays :)

Brenda says …

I've been making more and more food gifts over the past few years. Canned goodies, baked things, etc. I want people to actually use and enjoy the things I've given them. I would like to support Mother's Milk Bank in San Jose with this gift.

beth atkins says …

Every year I make my own holiday card and that is my gift to friends and family - that way it is a personal piece of art from me. I have friends and family who love to collect them.

Rose says …

A great way to celebrate the season is to choose an elder care facility and ask if there is a resident(s) who have no friends or family nearby. Take that person(s) out to lunch, they will be forever grateful. My charities: Second Harvest Food Bank and St. Jude's Hospital

Linda says …

I make chocolate truffles for my friends and also make a nice card to send out. My favorite charity is Cavalier Rescue USA - www.cavalierrescueusa.org

Jessica says …

I make tamales and give them as presents- it is a lot of hard work to make tamales so my family and friends are super happy to receive them. Favorite Charity is Utah Food Bank

elizabth says …

I plan to give home "grown" eggs in decorated cartons. If I win I would like to donate the $500 to MESA Madison (Virginia) Emergency Services Assoc. They are supported by whole foods but they need freezers. One died right before Thanksgiving. I hope they can get a nice one for $500!

Meg says …

Years ago our family decided to stop giving traditional gifts. Instead on Christmas we all choose a poem, song, special dish, or something else that reflects our talents or interests and share it with the family as our gift to everyone. It makes the evening entertaining and keeps us free of the shopping madness. I'd like to see money go to 826 Seattle.

Linda says …

I celebrate the joy of the season by making a large (for my husband and me) gift to the Second Harvest Food Bank and encourage others to match our gift. This way when I'm sitting down to my dinner table during the holidays, I know that others can share in my good fortune.

Linda says …

I love to design and print a seasonal card for my friends, showing the beauty of where I live and including a nice quote that makes my friends feel good when they read it. It is a tradition I have enjoyed for a long time. My favorite charity is www.cavalierrescueusa.org

beth says …

Since I am retired, I have more time to help out others. I give my friends coupons for things like a ride to the airport, home cooked meals, etc. My favorite non profit that I volunteer with - the local Audubon chapter.

Linda says …

I love to design and print a seasonal card for my friends, showing the beauty of where I live and including a nice quote that makes my friends feel good when they read it. It is a tradition I have enjoyed for a long time. My favorite charity is www.cavalierrescueusa.org

beth says …

Since I am retired, I have more time to help out others. I give my friends coupons for things like a ride to the airport, home cooked meals, etc. My favorite non profit that I volunteer with - the local Audubon chapter.

William Gould says …

Our non commercial way to celebrate is that we make blankets and pass them out to the homeless at Christmas. My favorite non profit charity is Foundation Fighting Blindness

Reshmi says …

Why spend money when one has everything. This Christmas, we will sit together as a family and count our blessings and reach out to those who don't - in whatever form. My favorite charity is Isha Institute of Inner Sciences.

Agata Ketterick says …

My family has done away with traditional gift giving. One year I knit everyone a hat!

Nicole Starr says …

This year for the second year in a row, my child and I will be wandering around our neighborhood "giving back". It is snowy here and he and I shovel for those who are unable, unwilling, or just haven't gotten to it!

Terri says …

Bible-based Christian churches use funds to help spread the good news of Jesus locally and around the world. Giving at Christmas helps this. After all, Christmas is celebrating the birth of Jesus who was born to die to pay for the sins of those who accept Him as their personal Lord and Savior. Merry Christmas!

Linda says …

I love to design and print a seasonal card for my friends, showing the beauty of where I live and including a nice quote that makes my friends feel good when they read it. It is a tradition I have enjoyed for a long time. My favorite charity is www.cavalierrescueusa.org

Margaret Mapes says …

I like to spend time with elderly men and women in Assisted Living facilities as they so appreciate the visits and certainly do not want more 'stuff.' The neighborhood charity I would like to support if I win, is L'Arche. This world-wide organization provides incredible support to adults with some developmental disabilities.

K Anderson says …

Make cookies for the neighbors and read books by the Christmas tree to my kids. Favorite charity is Rio Real PTA.

Arpita (Marianne) Brown says …

donate time to serve an organized Christmas meal to those in need. My husband & I will do this on Christmas morning.

Maureen Willoughby says …

I am so grateful to see this message! I find reports of people being trampled by others who "have to have the best price" have nothing to do with the sweet story of Hanukkah, or the birth of a poor child in a stable in Bethlehem. The greatest gift we can give each other is that of time; preparing a delicious food, copying priceless family photos, or just talking and listening to family we wish we could be with more often. Find time to be still with your friends and family, ask them about their memories, and make a few memories for the younger ones.

Donna says …

Donate a free turkey I received to charity. Mom passed away this past summer, so I am typing up the grandkids favorites into a booklet along with it being on line in an e-mail for them to save. This way they can have it where they can access it while at the store to see what they need to buy.

Lisa Moon says …

I like to put together photo collages of things the receiver and I did together that year. I usually decorate the frames with the year and names. I think it is a great way to show people that you are thankful for time spent with them My favorite charity is the Kids Lift Foundation in Charlottesville Va. www.kidslift.org

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