Alternatives to Gift and Card Giving

There ARE Alternatives to Greeting Cards, Cakes, and Gifts

There ARE alternatives to expensive traditional holiday celebrations that are pleasant, personal, and highly memorable. This article discusses several of them.

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Replace Greeting Cards

Generically phrased cards, whether generic or name-brand, now cost a fortune: $3-7 or more! Would you rather have a greeting card with a pithy phrase that will be recycled within the year?

Alternatives to the greeting card:

  • Birthday cards--replace with a handwritten letter or note stating the giver's feelings.
  • Christmas/Hannukah/New Year's cards--replace with a long form letter summarizing your activities throughout the year: many recipients will get greater insight into your life and appreciate it more than what you could hand-write on a commercially made card.
  • Give no cards--donate the money you saved to charity instead.
  • Wedding cards--replace with a check in an envelope with a hand-written letter of goodwill to the happy couple on good but plain stationery.
  • Make your own greeting cards using rubber stamping techniques--keep it simple and save a fortune. It's even relaxing and fun to make your own cards!

Replace Cakes and Pies

Skip the cakes and pies for birthdays and other holidays. Instead, make cupcakes or cookies or muffins--perhaps even English muffins, donuts, bagels, or Danishes. This keeps portions small and allows guests to eat a variety of things if they wish.

Wedding cakes: There is no flat-out acceptable substitution for a traditional wedding cake. However, having a small traditional wedding cake with accompanying sheet cake(s) or cupcakes of the same batter in enough quantity to serve all guests is much more economical and practical than having one giant cake that is unwieldy to transport and assemble, and is also difficult to cut and serve.

Give Seeds or Bulbs Instead of Fresh-cut Flowers

Iris bulbs make excellent alternative gifts to giving fresh flowers.
Iris bulbs make excellent alternative gifts to giving fresh flowers. | Source

Replacements for Flowers and Presents

Flowers and presents are probably the biggest waster of money.

  • Flowers die within a pathetically short timeframe and often have packing/vase/delivery charges associated with them.
  • Presents are usually not what the person would have purchased for themselves anyway (not that they are unappreciated in all cases). Additionally, presents need to be wrapped, have ribbons/bows applied, and typically a small gift giving tag attached: the wrappings alone can cost as much as--if not more than--the gift! Much wrapping paper is also wasted, and one needs to have wrapping paper on hand for many different occasions.

Alternatives:

  • If you simply must give flowers, give a potted plant (ideally a low-maintenance one) that can be enjoyed for months or years to come. A miniature rose instead of a dozen red roses, for example, or a succulent garden or terrarium instead of a traditional bouquet.
  • If you must give a present, donate to a charity the amount that you were going to spend on the gift and its packaging and enclose a small, simple greeting card indicating that you have made a donation to XYZ charity on the recipient's behalf.
  • Make your own gift out of "found" objects/photos that are meaningful to the person, but don't be offended if you don't see it prominently displayed in their home--it may not be to their style of decorating, but you can be assured that it is kept safe and treasured.
  • Make your own cards and gift tags by rubber stamping--save a bundle, have fun, and feel relaxed at the same time.

Visit the Local Arboretum/Formal Gardens

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Celebrating my Nth Birthday with the family at The Minnesota Landscape ArboretumThe Minnesota Landscape ArboretumThe Minnesota Landscape ArboretumThe Minnesota Landscape ArboretumThe Minnesota Landscape ArboretumThe Minnesota Landscape Arboretum--the Showy Lady Slipper, Minnesota's rare and endangered state flower
Celebrating my Nth Birthday with the family at The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Celebrating my Nth Birthday with the family at The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum | Source
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum | Source
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum | Source
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum | Source
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum | Source
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum--the Showy Lady Slipper, Minnesota's rare and endangered state flower
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum--the Showy Lady Slipper, Minnesota's rare and endangered state flower | Source

The Ultimate Solution: Activities or Outings

Rather than all of the traditional fuss, an excellent solution is to have an activity together and donate money that would have been spent on presents to charity. You'll need the cooperation of your whole guest list to pull this off, however, and some will still insist on the traditional gift and card.

  • Throw a casual potluck party or barbecue.
  • Visit a local museum, arboretum/public garden, or zoo together as a group or one-on-one with the person.
  • Go to a community concert or sporting event (not professional--too expensive).
  • Have a nice dinner at home then play board games or do a jigsaw puzzle together as a group.
  • Either specify a charity to which you wish money to be donated, or ask that guests donate to their own favorite charities.
  • If you have more than 10 guests, name tags are always a good idea to keep people at ease.

Take lots of pictures, spend lots of time talking, and have fun!

The gift you would have given the person would probably be something they already own, donated/re-gifted, used up, or worn out long before the memory of the outing/activity and corresponding photographs had been forgotten anyway.

Invite the Whole Family--Including Man's Best Friend!

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A Trip to the Zoo is Fun for Everyone--Take Lots of Photos!

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A custom stationery gift basket
A custom stationery gift basket | Source

Substitutions for Traditional Gifts

Cards
Presents
Flowers
Handmade rubber-stamped or drawn/painted cards
Activities: party, outing (zoo, arboretum, local theatre or sporting event, ...)
Potted plant that is easy-care.
A personal letter
Make a donation to charity in their name.
Gift card with note that a donation has been made to a charity on their behalf.
No card/letter at all
A check for the amount you would have spent on present and wrappings, with the request that the money be donated to the recipient's favorite charity.
Home-made card with personal phrasing/letter inside.
For end-of-year holidays, send a form letter with lots of details to everyone about your activities that year. Insert pictures!
Take pictures and make a photo collage or other "found objects" piece meaningful for the recipient.
Seed packets or bulbs that the person can plant or give away as they see fit. (Give them permission to give them away--they won't feel guilty about doing it then.)
Let go of traditional thinking and skip the dozen roses and expensive presents! Make your own cards and presents, donate to charity, or give a potted plant that can be enjoyed for a long time to come. Have an activity together (one-on-one or as a gro

What do you think?

Would you give up the "traditional" for a more memorable event-based/social gathering?

  • Yes! Donating money to charity sounds better than buying Hallmark cards and wrappings to me.
  • In many cases--as long as I could convince others to comply with this new way of celebrating, too.
  • No, in general: I'm very traditional or I think presents and cards are always appreciated over a fleeting experience.
See results without voting

Conclusion: Activities are Quality Time Together

Having a family activity together is a great way of celebrating any occasion.

As you can see, presents and cards are not necessary to having a good time, and a charity would be delighted to receive the money you would have spent on a possibly frivolous or fleeting moment of happiness.

About the Author

Information about the author, a list of her complete works on HubPages, and a means of contacting her are available over on ==>Laura Schneider's profile page. But wait--please leave ratings and any comments you have about this article so that it can be improved to best meet your needs. Thank you!


All text, photos, videos, and graphics in this document are Copyright © 2013 Laura D. Schneider unless indicated otherwise or unless in the public domain. All rights reserved. All trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

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12 comments

CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 2 years ago

I voted Awesome, but truly wish there was a brilliant button. I love the photos at the zoo. You must have a really good camera. Your dog is so adorable!

I used to make and mail 75 Christmas cards every year. I had a little manufacturing line going on in my house. Now, I'm lucky if I send out 20. I'd rather visit and bring a homemade dish with me or like you say here, bring a potted plant! Those make fabulous gifts.

Such a wonderful and inspiring Hub! Great job Laura!


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 2 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA Author

Thanks so much for your kind words, CraftytotheCore! Yup, I think my dog is pretty adorable, too, but then I'm prejudiced to the extreme. Her personality is sweet, too.

75 Christmas cards--wow!! A manufacturing line, indeed! That would cost a fortune, with the price of paper and especially greeting cards being what they are today! I'm a huge fan of the family "form letter" that talks about everyone's activities for the year. I love receiving those things! I feel like I'm caught up on the latest news of the family member/friend who sent it then. Cards can be pretty, but really: who keeps them forever? They end up becoming clutter if you're not careful. The exception is my step-mother, who embroiders elaborate cards that take her a week to do: THOSE cards I frame and hang as art!!

Thanks for the use of your wonderful pictures, too! They really made my article what it is. (I wrote an article about my nice, affordable Samsung camera, but about half of the photos were just taken with my iPhone camera LOL.)


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

While I do think there is room in life for both traditional gift giving and alternative options like the ones you've posted here, time spent with loved ones and friends is priceless and always a good investment. Thanks for highlighting options to gifting so others can think through what could work for their situations!


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 2 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA Author

Thanks, RTalloni! Indeed, there is room in life for both traditional and alternative options such as these. (I hope I didn't offend anyone who loves the traditional gift and card giving practices--that was not my intention!)


Lightshare profile image

Lightshare 2 years ago

Thanks Laura for this wonderful ideas.. -)


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 2 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA Author

You're welcome, Lightshare!


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California

Our family doesn't need lots of presents. For our son's 21's birthday we took him sea kayaking. Things like this are great.


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 2 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA Author

What an awesome birthday present! Way to go! Cheers!


Guest 2 years ago

Great ideas, and environmentally sound, too!


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 2 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA Author

True, Guest: no paper cards and wrapping paper and bows in the trash/recycle bin!


StoneCircle profile image

StoneCircle 2 years ago from Rindge, NH

Glad to read that my family is not the only one to stray from the traditional route.

My wedding cake was homemade Angel food cakes that were made by my mom and grandmom. The food was prepared by the whole family and we had an outside buffet in the middle of an apple orchard.

For the Christmas, we send a family photo with a personalized note. For the rest of the year we make a point to celebrate being with each other. Birthday persons choice!

Love the hub and I gave it thumbs up.


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 2 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA Author

That's the spirit, StoneCircle! Enjoy each other and build personalized versions of traditions that work for you and your loved ones! No need to buy into the traditional traditions--unless you want to!

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