No money, more gift exchanges

‘Tis the season for the annual gift exchange with roommates, family members, friend groups, significant others, and even your work place!

I have four so far and, while rent and bills still need to get paid, graduation is just upon the horizon and the expenses of real life are coming in full effect shortly, I am thinking of the most creative ways to either make homemade gifts or figure out how we can all get together but not spend the $20 minimum we set on gifts to exchange.

So basically, I have come up with a few ways in which I can save myself and those I care about the extra $20-100 dollars I would spend on a gift they potentially won’t like or have a use for:

  1. Volunteer- With the Rotary Lights right downtown, my roommates and I decided to volunteer for two hours this coming Thursday night, Dec. 11th. After volunteering we plan to go through the lights ourselves, then grab a coffee at one of the coffee shops downtown (Grounded Specialty Coffee, Cabin Coffee, River Rocks Coffee, of Jules). It’s an easy way for us to have fun, give back, save money, and still be together which is what the holidays are pretty much about.

You can also volunteer at places such as the Salvation Army, bell-ringing, or donate some time at a local food shelter or other places in need. Call the Great River United Way in Onalaska at (608) 796-1400 for more places to help out this holiday.

If you don’t have the time, local supermarkets and grocery stores also have programs that ask for a small $5 donation to send a prepackaged donation directly to the shelter or soup kitchen that has the highest need.

  1. Do a pot luck- I have a pot luck at both of the places I work and with my roommates and friends as well. Everyone just brings a side dish which costs way less than that $10-20 gift we were supposed to exchange. At the pot lucks we also plan to play games such as Charades, Catch Phrase, Pictionary, and whatever else we think of while we are all together.

However, if you and your family, friends, or co-works plan on doing a gift exchange, make sure you set a spending limit and if you pick names write a few things under your name so the gift giver has at least some idea what to get you.

You and your gift exchange friends could do a simple Re-gifting White Elephant Exchange. Everyone who is participating just needs to establish that all of you will be re-gifting and not going out and spending money on gifts. You can use old presents you never used, random fun things around the house, or make a simple gift. It’s fun and it still allows you to exchange gifts but keep a little bit more in your pockets.

The holidays shouldn’t be breaking your bank or making you stressed out. These few things and whatever else you can think of to spend time with family and friends at a lesser cost is a great way to celebrate the holidays! But don’t forget a simple $3-10 dollar donation to charities working directly with those less fortunate is always worth it if you can spare some change…

Best of luck and happy holidays, folks!


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