The “No Buy” Gift Guide

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It can be easy to forget that what we have in our lives is secondary, always, to WHO we have in our lives… especially at this time of year when we are inundated by wish lists and gift lists that seem to weave to two (the who and the what) as if they are inseparable as if somehow what we BUY equates to how much we love. We are coming up to the time of year that instigated the Nothing New Project in the first place. Last year I watched as people placed priority on products over people, pushing past each other in shops to grab at cheap plastic stocking stuffers and knick knacks, things none of us truly need.

My reader has been flooded with wish lists and gift buying guides… what to buy for the eco-mama, what to buy for the person who has everything, what to buy for dads, what to buy for kids, what to buy for babies… or the far more egocentric – what to buy for ME for christmas.

I love giving gifts, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s a wonderful thing to find something that is ‘just right’ for someone that we love, and to give it to them. There is something very special about giving the perfect gift. But I think somewhere in amongst all the crazy of this time of year we lose perspective a bit and we begin to buy for the sake of buying. We buy lots to show our love… We buy out of duty… We buy out of habit. But what if we could give gifts that come from somewhere a little different, and that is where this no-buy gift guide comes in. Where the gifts we give don’t come from shops, but they come from us. Gifts that we invest something more than just money, and in that process, we give something more than what can be held… we give a little more of ourselves, and in doing that, we connect a little deeper.

And isn’t that what Christmas all about?

1. Time

In this fast paced work of hyper online connection we often forget how important it is to actually give each other our real life, hands on, time. Time is valuable to all of us, in fact for most of us who spend our lives rushing from one thing to another time is perhaps our most valuable of commodities (bar our health, of course).  Relationships cannot truly grow, connection cannot truly be fostered, love cannot be truly shared unless we are together in person – together we can laugh and we can hold hands and we can wipe away tears and we can share stories and we can read each others faces and we can connect on a level that social media cannot replicate (no matter how much it tells us that it can). Our time is the number one gift we can give.

Presence instead of presents is what we are asking for (and what we will be trying to give) this Christmas.

2. Experience

Instead of going out and buying something for someone this year, what about giving them the gift of an experience. There are beautiful things that we can do for each other that cost little and when we invest our time and a little bit of creativity we can really give a gift that gives them great joy and happiness with wonderful stories to tell for the future – now isn’t that something that everyone we love deserves?

Idea inspiration: A trip to the beach, a road trip, a visit to the zoo, a day on a farm, a weekend away, a beautiful meal, a skill swap… etc.

3. Heartfelt 

If you want to give a gift wrapped under the tree this year, you could consider regifting. Not regifting in the traditional sense (taking an unwanted gift and giving it to someone else) but instead in a heartfelt sense. When we take something of ours that we love and give it away, something wonderful happens – we transfer our own feelings of love from the item to the person… Consider including a little handwritten story with the gift, a story of your connection with the item and what you hope that item will bring to that person.

Idea inspiration: A favourite book, a beloved piece of jewelry a favourite coat, a handwritten story, a beautiful photograph… etc.

4. Favour

A beautiful gift to give someone is to just go and do something for them, a silent favour, a little something that you know will make their life easier, a little something that will brighten their day – a little something that isn’t asked for, just done out of love. Have you noticed something that someone just hasn’t had a chance to get around to yet? Do you have the skills to do it?

Idea inspiration: Weeding a garden, delivering a home cooked meal, babysitting, a load of ironing, planting a tree in their yard… etc.

5. Handmade

Another wonderful idea for a little gift to give on Christmas day is something that is handmade and with love. Gone may be the day of (you) making macaroni necklaces and snowmen decorations out of cotton wool – but there is still something very special about a gift that is made by hand by the giver with the recipient in mind. You can always play to your strengths and make something that you are good at with the loved one in mind. It’s lovely to know that you have been thought of, and considered, and time has been spent to make something just for you…

Idea inspiration: knitting, woodworking, handmade toys, jams and preserves, tinctures and salves, body products, baked goods… etc.


So maybe this year instead of rushing off to the department stores to do *all* of your christmas shopping… you might consider some ‘no buy’ options as gifts for those that you love – when we reconnect with the spirit of Christmas, we reconnect with each other. Instead of buying for the sake of buying – we have the opportunity to take a little time to give a gift that is something more… more than just something you can hold but something you can also really feel.

Our list is 100% no buy as we finish of our year of Nothing New with a final festive hurrah… maybe you could join us, even just a little?

Do you have any of these no-buy gifts on your list this year?


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  • December 5, 2014 - 9:42 am

    Life With The Crew - I agree about staying out of the department stores. I wrote a similar blog post last week before “Black Friday” here in the US. I do like supporting independent craftsman though.ReplyCancel

  • December 5, 2014 - 10:23 am

    Emma Galloway - Amen sister! The gift guides have been going into overdrive online this year aye? I much prefer yours xxReplyCancel

  • December 5, 2014 - 10:52 am

    Julie - I asked for someone to do all of the housework/cooking/cleaning/feeding/ for a day. Plus I asked for these to be bought in my name!/productReplyCancel

  • December 5, 2014 - 12:03 pm

    Emiko - So inspiring! I always do homemade food gifts every year for christmas (and when I had more time I used to do loads of handmade cards too) – just wrote a blog post about it yesterday actually! We made simple christmas cookies with my nearly 2 year old (she helped roll, I baked and she did a lot of the decorating!). Definitely makes for a unique little pressie that so many people love all the more so because she was involved in it too!ReplyCancel

  • December 5, 2014 - 12:28 pm

    Emma - Totally agree! Have pruned the Christmas present budget over the past few years. Stopped buying for so many people and now spending less on the people we do buy for. Also tending towards getting people gift vouchers for experiences (photo shoots or night at hotel) rather than yet more stuff that clogs up cupboards and ends up as landfill.ReplyCancel

  • December 5, 2014 - 1:37 pm

    Linda Uzubalis - Great list! This time of year, I always seem to cull a lot of blogs from my reader, usually in direct response to the excess of gift guides. Many of them try to be thoughtful, but really, they’re just full of throwaway stuff made in sweatshops pretending to be simple.

    Anyway, we’re attempting to do a handmade Christmas. We have quite a few people to buy for (and love giving gifts) and have managed to make most gifts. Those that are not handmade are ethically (and locally) sourced… apart from one book because apart from the library or secondhand, I haven’t figured out how to do ethically bought books and it was a specifically requested title. Every bit helps though!

    Must stop rambling as it’s time to get the dinner here on the east coast. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • December 5, 2014 - 7:05 pm

    Rachel - we have done upcycled, recycled, preloved and handmade for the last two Christmases so this will be our third. They aren’t hard and fast rules but guidelines that we are really enjoying and finding much less stressful than buying lists. The men always seem harder to gift for though! I love that at 4 years of age, my son has no concept of a wish list and hope to keep it that way! We managed to score two bikes at garage sales this year so that’s both kids sorted and since my hubs is the assistant manager of the local Salvos Store, he’s found them many preloved children’s books. All out other gifts are handmade by me or a local handmade artisan. Time to spend with the kids and crafting is tricky I admit and my ambitious list may or may not be accomplished. Thanks for this guide – all the other giving guides leave me feeling like I’m some kind of scrooge!ReplyCancel

  • December 11, 2014 - 7:51 pm

    Paul - Almost everything on the list costs money. Especially taking someone away for the weekend or whatever.ReplyCancel

  • December 15, 2014 - 1:09 am

    m - I made tablet a scottish sweet which luckily posts well. I sometimes ferret about in charity shops / secondhand bookshops for something unique. I try really hard to get things that the recipient really wants. I had a great year using to send items directly to people until I found out they had been bought out by amazon 🙁 I organise things like a christmas lunch for artists / freelances/ underemployed types as wellReplyCancel

    • December 15, 2014 - 6:23 am

      Sash - those chirstmas lunches sound wonderful (as do the gifts, of course) – would love to know more about it! 🙂ReplyCancel

      • December 24, 2014 - 2:36 am

        m - oh in the UK your office christmas lunch is a big thing (either of course great or god awful depending on how you get on with fellow workers) So all those people I know like me who either have jobs on zero hour contracts or are freelancers, or under employed have no christmas lunch. So about 5 years ago I emailed around a bunch of people I know in this position and we have settled on having lunch the last three years at a cafe which is a social enterprise run by the local Sikh Community so we eat Indian food, and pull Christmas Crackers, exchange cards (its byob too) its cheaper and nicer than most official Christmas lunches. I think REALLY people want community and contact and love. Another beloved tradition is going to see an old vintage xmas film at art house cinema with friends – but this year no one has had time / inclination to organise. Another tradition I used to have is to get people over for mulled wine and write cards for Amnesty Internationals Prisoner of Conscience Christmas Card Campaign. The last few Christmases I’ve just been knackered by the end of the year / ill so that tradition has fallen a bit by the wayside…ReplyCancel

  • December 7, 2015 - 9:04 am

    Dale - A brilliant list. I’d love to hear what you have to say about gratitude in light of this too Sash.ReplyCancel

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