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Hello there!

The holidays are upon us! We made it through Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping insanity, but in case you’re still trying to figure out gifts for anyone else on your list, I’d like to share my personal holiday gift guid(anc)e. First, some overall notes:

Consider how much you can afford to allocate to gift-giving this season

More than half of Americans are still paying of debt they incurred as a result of holiday shopping last year. While Millennials overall took on less debt than other generations, they also took (or are taking) the greatest amount of time to pay it back. Don’t become a statistic! If you can’t afford to buy gifts with cash-on-hand, don’t buy gifts. It’s that simple. Please notice that I didn’t say not to give gifts – I said not to buy gifts, and that’s a very important distinction.

Review the people on your gift-giving list, and consider ways to streamline

This might be in the form of a white elephant exchange or something similar with family and friends; being the one to bring this up can make you the Holiday Hero, because everyone else is probably stressing over the same thing – how to get gifts for a lot of people this season without going completely broke. You don’t have to give gifts to every single person you know. Keep it simple, and be open and honest about expectations. I don’t exchange Christmas gifts with friends; rather, I make sure to spend time with them because they’re important to me, and I’ll bring a bottle of wine or a snack when we hang out. Same thing with extended family – no gifts. That might not work for everyone, but it’s worth taking the time to figure out what will work for you personally.

Be intentional about each gift you choose to allocate money, time and energy into procuring

Does the gift hold special meaning for the person you’re giving it to, or is it just “stuff” to open on Christmas morning? There’s nothing wrong with spending money (that you have) on gifts (that people want), but don’t feel like you have to buy a ton of toys for your kids, or a lot of gadgets for your partner. Children do better cognitively in environments with fewer toys, and adults do better financially in environments with less money spent on stuff they won’t use. Everyone does better when they get to spend uninterrupted time with the people they love, free from financial worry!

Talk to your family about holiday gifting expectations, and honor any agreements made

Years ago when my brothers and I were young and broke, I came up with a rule that we should set a $5 limit to gifts for each other at Christmas. Our family LOVES Christmas and I LOVE giving gifts, so we turned it into a game we could have fun with, rather than a restriction we had to endure. We all stuck with the plan and looked forward to finding and gifting the most funny, ridiculous and unique things to each other. The key to success here was that we had a great attitude, and we did not deviate from the plan. We would have all felt awkward if one of us had gone ahead and spent $50 when everyone else spent $5. So have the conversation, and stick with whatever is decided!

A tactical plan for gift-giving

Without further ado, here is my guidance on holiday gifts for 2017! This includes ideas about things you can do as well as things you can buy, if you have the money and if it makes sense for you and for the recipient of the gift.

Make something 

I have a love-hate relationship with making macarons, and I give boxes of them to everyone in my family at Christmas (spoiler alert, family! Hi Mom!) … They know I do it, they know they’re really difficult to make, and they know that I do it because it’s an expression of love that’s also practical, consumable and delicious! Maybe you make great hard cider at home, and you can give out 6-packs. Maybe you have an amazing chocolate fudge recipe and you want to make a few batches for relatives. If you don’t want to or can’t cook something, consider buying this delicious small-batch peanut brittle my aunt makes. If you think you don’t like peanut brittle, it’s because you haven’t had this peanut brittle. It’s crisp and sweet and delicious, and easy to chew. You’re welcome. Take a cool trip this year? Maybe pick up bottles of wine from that region to give out as gifts, along with a framed photo or two from your adventure.

Here are some photos of macarons I’ve made…some look better than others, but they all taste good 🙂 Strawberry, Pistachio, Hazelnut Espresso, and Champagne




While I happen to be a big fan of food and consumables in general, you don’t have to make something edible! One year I made glass ornaments for our parents with our wedding invitation curled up in ribbons inside. You can knit or crochet a scarf for someone (pro tip: don’t make your first crochet project a king-sized blanket. I’ve been working on one for over two years now and it’s only maybe halfway finished … pls halp. So much yarn.) Maybe you’re really into photography and can have some prints made, or you love to paint and want to create something unique and beautiful for a loved one.

This is your opportunity to learn a new skill or demonstrate your proficiency in an existing one, while also doing something nice for someone! If you hate crafting but love the end result, consider buying these adorable completely customizable bookmarks a family friend makes. I have probably 10 of these (I love physical books) and they are the BEST for people who love books!

Invest in an activity

My husband and I have a standing agreement to gift events and activities to each other for Christmas. We’ve been together for a while now and we’re pretty boring, so he more or less knows I’ll be “buying” him a camping trip somewhere, and I’ve been pretty clear that I wanted an annual pass to our local botanical gardens (hint, hint! Hi Husband!).

We do discuss what we’re going to spend on each other, which might horrify not work for everyone. I know not everyone wants to know what their spouse is giving, but I at least want to know what my spouse is spending! And I’m pretty vocal about the things I want. As is he. It works for us to know what we plan to buy for each other, but if that sounds completely unromantic to you I’d at least suggest having a dialogue around how much you plan to spend on each other, especially if your finances are merged!

What’s an activity that your loved ones would really like to do with you? Consider making that a gift instead of buying another thing they’ll need to maintain and store somewhere. It doesn’t have to cost much, or anything at all. Maybe it’s as simple as taking your mom out to lunch at that place she wants to try, or signing up for a charity race with your sister who’s really into running. Putting thought into activities your loved ones care about will be a lot more meaningful than a random new accessory or gadget. Another idea (and shameless plug): give the gift of financial empowerment to a woman or partnered couple in your life who could use it – I have witnessed firsthand the power of financial coaching to radically change lives. If you have any questions about my coaching programs or Beyond Budgeting Money Bootcamp, shoot me a note and let’s talk!

Make a donation in honor of a loved one

I recommend using Charity Navigator to find nonprofit organizations aligned with causes your loved ones care about. There has been a lot of turmoil in the world this year, and a lot of places and people that need our help.

Some of my favorites are Charity: Water and the Atlanta Humane Society (where we got our little snugs, Ace and Tamale). There are SO MANY worthy causes out there, and making a donation in honor of a loved one is a great way to spread love and kindness without adding to house clutter and eventually landfills.


Here are some festive puppy shots – Tamale and Ace are ready for the holidays with their (last season clearance rack) Christmas collars!




Buy something meaningful and personal

As someone who’s primary love language is gift-giving, I completely understand the desire to buy gifts for people. I’m all for it, so long as people are not going into debt to pay for them.  So if you have cash and have decided on meaningful, personalized gifts you can buy, then go for it.

In Conclusion

There are lots of things you can use money for, that are meaningful, personal, and worthwhile. There are significantly more things you can use money for that have none of those attributes. It’s up to you to know the difference!

Now, it’s your turn. What gifts are you most excited about giving this season? Do you have a budget in mind? Let me know in the comments!