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

By Paige Brady, December 3, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Paige Brady

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.



Category: Holidays




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.
12/03/2013 3:50:42 PM CST
Alison says ...
I like to give homemade jams. My favorite charity is the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project - http://www.gorilladoctors.org/about-mgvp.html
12/03/2013 4:34:26 PM CST
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.
12/03/2013 7:45:44 PM CST
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!
12/04/2013 12:03:43 AM CST
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.
12/04/2013 8:59:41 AM CST
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.
12/04/2013 9:48:56 AM CST
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 :)
12/04/2013 10:55:10 AM CST
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
12/04/2013 11:08:07 AM CST
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!
12/04/2013 11:09:22 AM CST
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.
12/04/2013 11:19:05 AM CST
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.
12/04/2013 12:26:55 PM CST
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.
12/04/2013 3:18:19 PM CST
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.
12/04/2013 3:18:28 PM CST
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..!!
12/04/2013 3:23:47 PM CST
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!
12/04/2013 3:26:16 PM CST
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.
12/04/2013 3:26:40 PM CST
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
12/04/2013 3:28:12 PM CST
mik meyer says ...
I donate my time and experience to repair bikes for Free Bikes 4 Kidz FB4kZ!
12/04/2013 3:29:06 PM CST
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).
12/04/2013 3:36:45 PM CST
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.
12/04/2013 3:44:21 PM CST
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.
12/04/2013 3:46:40 PM CST
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>
12/04/2013 3:46:50 PM CST
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!
12/04/2013 3:48:22 PM CST
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.
12/04/2013 3:53:10 PM CST
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)
12/04/2013 3:55:11 PM CST