Ditch the holiday consumerism — Here are 10 ways to give without buying a thing

Ditch the holiday consumerism — Here are 10 ways to give without buying a thing
3 Minute Read

You’ve likely spent the past month being assaulted by businesses telling you that holiday consumerism is the solution to all your problems. You know – the signs, Facebook ads, and window displays telling you that you need to buy this or have that in order to be the best partner, mother, hostess, friend, or human being.

And of course, if you don’t buy this thing that you absolutely must have, you won’t achieve true happiness either. So, obviously, the solution is to BUY BUY BUY!!!

At least this is what marketers are telling us on a daily basis. Especially during the holidays. But it’s such a shame because the holidays are supposed to be about being present and spending quality time with the people closest to you. Somehow, “being present” has morphed into “giving presents.” And that’s apparently a better reflection of showing someone just how much they mean to you.

We’re told in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that having more makes you happier. And the more you buy for others, the more they’ll like you.

And it’s crazy how that message is absorbed into our dopamine-loving brains. Sometimes without us even knowing it.


But holiday consumerism can get tricky.

Last week, I had some time to kill between two appointments and decided to opt for the 30-minute walk through lower Manhattan instead of taking the subway. It was a nippy and overcast day. But I knew once I started walking, I’d warm up and the overpriced bagel in my tummy would give me sustenance for the “trek.”

As I walked through the streets of SoHo with its cozy boutique shops and the big chain stores surrounding Union square, even I [the person who rarely buys something unless its totally practical, and unless I really need it] found myself being lured into these stores. Their perfectly-curated window displays, catchy slogans and Instagram-worthy color palettes slowly and subtly pulled me inside, trying to convince me that the only thing standing in the way of me and that hit of dopamine . . . was their one-of-a-kind sweater [and my credit card].

Luckily, I snapped out of my trance and walked out as fast as I came in. “You almost had me!” I thought to myself.


Image of a hand pointing at shop window, which is at the heart of holiday consumerism today


The point I’m trying to make here is that you don’t have to “buy” into the holidays to have a happy holiday season. This time of year should be about the things that matter most. Like the things that won’t break after a few months or won’t be out of style by next Christmas. I’m not saying that buying gifts is a bad thing. If you need to buy, then buy consciously. But be intentional and mindful about it.

With that in mind, here are a few ways to really appreciate the holidays and give in meaningful ways. It can show your friends and family just how much you appreciate them:


  • warm hugs
  • your time
  • undivided attention
  • your Saturday night

Share your:

  • blanket
  • bottle of wine
  • seat on the subway
  • secret stash of snacks
  • favorite place in the city
  • mom’s recipe for mocha pudding!


Image of People sharing plate with dumplings

There are so many ways to give that don’t involve partaking in the culture of holiday consumerism that’s bleeding our planet of so many valuable resources.

As each day, year, and season passes, I find myself happier with less stuff. And I’m more focused on what really matters: my relationships, my family, and my mental clarity.

If you want some tips on how to remove the mental and physical clutter out of your life, you can check out my post on how I moved apartments earlier this year and downsized most of my stuff.

But just remember that you don’t need to buy in order to partake in the holidays. You just need to be present, thoughtful, and kind.


What’s your approach to the holidays when it comes to buying gifts, decorations, etc?

Is it something you enjoy doing, or is it something that drains you?

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