20 alternative gift ideas this holiday season.. + book giveaway!

This is a guest post and giveaway by Lama Marut. We’re giving away 3 copies of his book “A Spiritual Renegade’s Guide to the Good Life’ to 3 lucky readers. The book is geared towards anyone interested in living a happier, more positive, and successful life from the inside out.

UPDATE: We have 3 winners! Jill, Cathi, and Kat. Thanks to everyone for sharing your awesome tips and ideas. See you at the next giveaway, yeah :)? xo, Tia.

The holiday season is upon us and while there is much rejoicing to be done, for some of us this is bad news.

You see, among the many stresses and strains of the season is the problem of what gifts to get your friends and relatives for Christmas or Hanukkah.

It’s a problem because it seems like everybody’s already got everything. Or the things they don’t have / want are beyond your means.

C’mon, really, isn’t it true? 

We’ve got all the gadgets and clothes and our kids already have all the toys and games. At this point of materialistic saturation, anything “new” we acquire is just some exotic or supposedly improved version of something we in all probability already have.

Buying yet more things for people who have everything seems a bit redundant and unnecessary. 

So the big challenge for most would-be gift-givers is to find stuff that people with too much stuff don’t have already.

Here’s a solution: Don’t buy stuff at all!

This year, why not fight the power of endless consumerism and give your loved ones a different kind of present? If you’re on board, here are a few suggestions for alternative gifts:

  • Give a collection of poems or a short story you wrote especially for someone else.
  • Give to a charity in someone else’s name, or give to someone else’s favorite charity.
  • Pledge to help someone else do repairs on their home, wash their car, shovel snow, rake the yard etc.
  • Give someone the gift of travel – buy them a ticket to go somewhere exotic!
  • Take someone out to dinner, a ball game, a museum, an amusement park, etc.
  • Buy necessities for victims of a disaster in the name of someone else.
  • Give someone an hour or two of your time to use in any way they want.
  • Give something you made yourself.
  • Give the gift of a promise to be kinder, less judgmental or argumentative, more patient, and understanding.
  • Apologize for something you did to another that you know was wrong and that you haven’t yet apologized for.
  • Make a photo scrapbook of your favorite times with another person.
  • Elicit and compile a list of nice things others have said about someone and give it to them.
  • Give the gift of music: something you composed, learned to play, or just a favorite song or compilation.
  • Give another person a gift of a class or course on something they’d be interest in learning.
  • Take someone on a day trip – hiking, biking, kayaking, etc.
  • Gift a day at a spa.
  • Offer to babysit someone else’s kids.
  • Create a dinner party in someone else’s honor and invite all their friends.
  • Create a new kind of sandwich or a signature dish, call it by someone else’s name (“the Mary Ann”), and post it on the internet.
  • Make a video of you doing yet another joke version of “Call Me Maybe,” and give someone that.

So have fun this holiday season, and give more creative and meaningful gifts to those you love. 

They’ll appreciate the gift of your time and inventiveness much more than another unnecessary *thing*, don’t you reckon?

Leave a comment below with YOUR idea of a fab alternative gift and you’ll be in to win one of 3 copies of ‘A Spiritual Renegade’s Guide to the Good Life’ (a gift for someone, perhaps :)? Winners drawn randomly on Dec 13th. 

Lama Marut is an ordained Buddhist monk who worked as a professor at Columbia University and the University of California Riverside.

He is the founder and spiritual director of three spiritual centers and serves as a founding board member and staff teacher at the Yoga Studies Institute.

** Want MORE BLISS and less stress in your life? Inner Sparkle: The 21 Day eCourse is made for you. Click here to get inspired. Happy. Sparkly. **


Facebook comments:



  1. Nicola gilbert says

    2 years ago i got an old jam jar and inside placed 101 individually cut pieces of card. On each card i wrote a reason why my mum was so special. Whether it be her kindness and loyalty, or her amazing homemade chips. My mum loved it, and to this day its her favourite gift ever! X

  2. says

    This was such a pick me up. Just when I was feeling down on the whole holiday spirit thing (I think my bad mood is proportional to the ginormous pile of dishes I have to do from a little holiday baking I got into this afternoon) this came and it made me smile!

    – Make a home made flip/rip off calendar that has something nice about a person or a picture or a great memory you have together for them to flip every morning when they wake up

    – Make a coupon book, with things like ‘free coffee’ etc and carry it around with you. When the occasion arises, give someone a coupon and then take care of whatever was on it (like if your standing in line for coffee, hand the coupon over and pay for their coffee).

    • says

      Congrats Jill!! You win a copy of the book – just did the draw via random.org 🙂 Hit reply to this email and send me your mailing address so I can get the book sent across to you!

  3. Kylie says

    invite the entire family to volunteer at a Christmas lunch for the homeless. Doing this this year for the first time ever. Can’t wait : )

  4. says

    My gifts to give this year are my time and skill as a photographer. To capture My friends and family and give a print of happy times together, be it at Christmas or just any day of the year. Something Im sure everyone will cherish in years to come

  5. Karen says

    Take your kids, grandkids or friends kids to the local nursing home caroling. It’s not only a gift for the kids but for the folks who live there too!

  6. Penny says

    The gift of keeping it real. Offering non judgmental authenticity in your friendship and support of the recipient. Understanding, empathy, and finding the silver lining for her or him whenever needed.

  7. says

    The gift of time…especially for caregivers. My favorite thing my husband does for me is take the kids out for the whole day on my birthday and Mother’s day so I can breathe and relax. I can imagine other caregivers might need this respite too. Offer to take over their care-giving duties for just a few hours or a day and allow them to see to themselves and their own needs.

  8. Jane says

    I love hand-making my gifts — I knit scarves, socks, hats and other small items for friends and family alike as well as making ornaments out of natural items such as pine cones and sea shells. Every minute I am making those gifts, I am thinking of those recipients and putting intentions into every stitch.

  9. says

    Think of someone you knew who has passed away, maybe recently. Sit down and write to their remaining family a short handwritten note saying you’re thinking of them. Share with them your fondest memory of their loved one… or tell them something that that person did when they were alive that helped you, cheered you, or changed your life for the better.

  10. megan says

    My go-to gift the last couple years has been donating money to the food bank instead of gifts. It goes way further and does way more good!

  11. sharon says

    how about making a coupon book of different service that you can do. for the person that they can turn in anytime until next dec 25

  12. Jasmine Thien says

    I’ve started crocheting few months ago and really into the Amigurumi dolls. Handmade crafts or gifts are always the best thing you can give to someone. Especially if it is recycled or inexpensive simple crafts such as a photo frame, scrap book or painting etc 🙂 Cooking for someone might also be the best gift! Happy holidays and have joyous Christmas!

  13. Kathy says

    To send my “daughter” and best friend a Sparkle quote every week. She is incarcerated for her fourth time and this time in a state facility for up to four years. She had to leave her year old son behind with the boyfriend who also has a substance addiction. She has given temp custody to his mother. It hurts but I stand behind her and remind her weekly of the unconditional love I have for her and how much I miss her smile, her kind words and the love she has inside. Using Sparkle quotes for me are a better way to explain life and how life can change if she allows. Better then mom making statements she regrets and becomes upset with. She has sent me one of her quotes, she always wrote me quotes and notes and would leave them on my bed or somewhere I would find them, this one I cherish so much, it is so her: “I hope your day is sunny, and, you think of something funny”. I love and miss her and for me there is no holidays until we are re-united and I have the rights to see my grandson. Thanks, Tia for the inner sparkle, I have it and know this and have begun to push forward again, alone, for I am now also divorced and moving into my own home in Feb 2013 along with my kids, 10 rescued cats. My life and love to hold my life together. Thanks for the reminders of life. Kat

    • says

      Congrats Kat!! You are one of the 3 winners 🙂 Send me your mailing address and I’ll get the book sent across to you. All the best and everything will turn out right in the end!!

      • Kathy says

        Tia, wanted to say thanks, and I am waiting to hear from ya once again. I have something special for you. My email is my children’s names combined, Hillary and Stanton. They were named for my love of life, farm life and my horses. Hillary, for cheerful and Stanton means from the stony farm. His middle name is Lee, meadows. A place I would sit for hours watching and whispering to my horses. My children are my life and I am so proud of them. I understand Hilly drifted and I belief from God, only for a short time. And Stanton, I can not keep up with, he graduated college this pass year in HAVC and owns his business his dad and him began when he was 15. He bought out the business since his dad is terminal with cancer. He is also a professional paintball player on an East Team. He just became a model for a local agency. And there is love of sprint cars, motors, and lifted trucks. He is also a compassionate person, we are so alike. He is 25 and Hilly is 24. My grandson is a year and I am counting the days for court rights to visit. Love your site and in Feb will join your 21 day program. Have a great Holiday with family and your extended family on your site. Looking forward to the book. I will again leave my address: 628 East Siddonsburg Road Mechanicsburg Pa 17055 I am looking for an address for you also!! Hugs Kat

  14. Jay says

    I can’t take credit for this, just saw it on a friend’s Facebook post. Her son found a leatherbound journal on the ground today with a message inside that says:

    “To whomsoever finds this,
    This is my gift to you. Now CREATE!”

  15. Suzanne says

    I am making a CD of love/inspirational songs for my husband who, after 8 1/2 years of marriage, went through one of the worst times ever. You name it, we went through it. Through true love and perseverance we pushed through it all and are stronger than ever, mentally/emotionally, you name it. I thank the universe every day for bringing us back together and showing me the strength I always knew was inside of myself and him. I feel a million miles away from where I was/we were and the CD I am making reflects that! Thanks for letting me post. 🙂

  16. Ashley Siegle says

    I am so not creative about gifts! But I do believe that buying something from the store is not always the best way to give gifts, sometimes offering to babysit for a couple who has a hard time going out on a date or a friend who needs time to herself is my favorite way to “gift” someone without going to the store and buying something I know for me that would be a priceless gift! 🙂

  17. says

    Make a blanket out of old favorite tee-shirts, give someone a fitness program to better their health, instead of having a family dinner have your whole family volunteer to do a dinner for the local food shelters.

  18. says

    I love these ideas! This year I am gifting a friend by working with her to clear the clutter from her apartment. We’ve actually already started! She’s disabled and it’s hard for her to get around. We started with the living room and she was so pleased she cleaned up the kitchen on her own!

  19. Cathi Smith says

    From my CD collection, I put together a compilation CD of my friends fave music, and also another CD with the music that I use to relax. It was the best present out! She still plays them all the time- and that was 2 years ago!!!


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