Alternative Gift Ideas

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Many families might be looking  “outside the box” at the whole gift-giving scene. There are many good alternative gift ideas that they can look at.

For us being a one income family that is self-employed with four children, needless to say, has left Christmas one of extreme worry. I refuse to get in debt and during a slow time of year, this makes it hard to give a Christmas to my children that were something equivalent to their friends. I don’t believe in keeping up with the Jones but it is hard to explain why Santa Claus loves one family more than another. And I do want my children to believe in Santa. But that is for another blog post. Plus they won’t remember the gifts but they will remember the memories you build.

I loved and hated Christmas at the same time. I love the awe and wonderment, but I hated the endless trying to keep all things equal for four children. I had to spend the same amount per child yet balance the gifts so it didn’t look like child one got 5 gifts and child 2 only got 3 gifts. Then I would be disappointed when the gifts were only used on Christmas day and never to be played with or used again. Then we were just collecting “STUFF.” Stuff I had to pick up and clean around, stuff that they don’t remember. It took me many years to figure out how to work this but I came up with what worked for us and I now look forward to Christmas 100 %.

So my dilemma was:

I don’t want to worry about figuring out stuff to buy that they won’t use very long, nor remember and then my home is just a storage place as well as wasted our money.

So, I came up with two options and now that my kids are older I change between the two Christmas options depending on the money situation for that given year and sometimes I combine our two options.  This post is one of our options you can read our second option, The 3 gifts of Christmas, here.

Here are listed some great kid-friendly choices for alternatives Christmas gifts.



1. Lessons/Tuition/ Sports

Having four kids with a variety of interests and living on one income we couldn’t always afford to put our kids in sports or other types of lessons. Unless it was offered free through the city or we did a swap with other parents we didn’t do it.  Paying for a season of something they would enjoy really helps us as well as makes them happy.





2. Subscription Boxes

Subscription Addiction ratings on boxes

Best Subscription boxes for kids 2018 

Best Subscription Boxes for Women 2018

Best Subscription Boxes for Men 2018

38 best subscription boxes for women according to Urban Tastebud



3. Online Classes

It’s like an extracurricular activity that you don’t have to leave home to attend! Techie HomeSchool Mom has made an amazing list of 100 online classes for kids. 

She has an extensive list geared for your artist, crafter, designer, engineer,  entrepreneur,  fashionista,  foodie, musician, photographer,  techie,  filmmaker, and your writer.

Another great option for kids is They have everything from animation, cooking, music, engineering, lego,  Minecraft and more. You can open up a big wide world for them that will last far longer than any material good.





4. Annual Passes

Become a member at the zoo, science center, museums, or get an annual pass to Disneyland or water park. This is a gift that the family can enjoy all year over and over.  Many of these memberships are part of a reciprocity program where you can get free/reduced admissions to other cultural experiences in the United States.



5. Tickets To Special Events

At some point in the new year, there might be a fair, festivals, car or motocross races, concert, dinner theater, play, rodeo, or other live show that your child might want to attend. Not only would this be a fun but create memories you might not have been able to do otherwise. Groupon usually has great deals and ideas to check out.






6. Local Food And Fun



Gift cards for ice cream, FroYo, the local food chain with a playground, the movie pass, a round of mini golf, a pass to the community pool, indoor trampoline park, or Ifly are all fabulous gifts that families will enjoy. Check out your local Groupon for discounts.




7. The Gift of Time

Sometimes the best gift of all is the gift of time. Make a thoughtful collection of items that represent activities that you and your child can do together during the next year and wrap these items up and tell your child that this year they are going to receive a gift of time; time spent with mom or dad. An example would be that a small child’s baseball would represent one baseball outing with dad, a package of marshmallows would represent the opportunity for a whole weekend camping at a favorite campsite, and a peanut would represent one afternoon spent at the circus as a family. Make sure you follow-up and actually do these activities with your child.

Make a coupon book that contains fun family activities. You can create and print the coupons on your computer. Each coupon would be one activity. Think of activities that the kids would like, for example

  • One might be for a family taffy pull
  • A night of camping out in the family living room on sleeping bags, tell ghost stories, play games, eat snacks, and tell jokes
  • Bake chocolate chip cookies together
  • Visiting a nursing home and share a talent
  • Hike
  • Go to the zoo
  • Making and fly a kite
  • Visit a chocolate factory
  • Think of something that you are good at (model airplanes, mosaic tiles, pottery, etc.) and make it a gift of time spent together doing that. Girls especially love learning how to sew, embroider, knit, crochet, or bake and how fun that they can do this with you.

8. Special Trip/Vacation

Change things up a bit and take a vacation. As my kids got older they decided they would rather go to an uncles house on the beach in Mexico instead of gifts.  So now we forgo gifts and hop in the car on Christmas morning and meet five other families in the house on the beach and spend a few days. We get off super cheap we don’t buy gifts but we do have to provide one meal for about 30 people during our stay. I love these Christmases because there is no stress of thinking or getting creative on gifts or what to do. I have the same meal I cook every time, we go to the same place and all we have to pay for is gas and that one meal and we enjoy! Happy Christmas to me!

Hopefully, these ideas have sparked your imagination and made you think about giving lifetime memories with experience gifts instead of material objects.


Check out these other alternative gift ideas:

Books centered on the child’s favorite subject

Accessories for your child’s favorite sport

Costumes for dress up/playtime for the little kids (can be purchased cheaply right after Halloween)

A large box filled with craft odds and ends including assorted ribbons, bows, pipe cleaners, buttons, pom poms, stickers, fabric swatches, shiny paper, construction paper, tissue paper, etc.



About The Author

Karie Babbitt

Karie Babbitt is a Lifestyle and Family Travel Writer. Mother of three boys and one girl. She has raised a family of six on a single income for over twenty-five years. She will share how she budgets so she can travel to show her kids all fifty states before they leave her home. Her parenting fails and successes, budgeting tips, food and living life in bliss.

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