The holiday season is here, and with it comes consumer madness.

I’m not a fan of buying a bunch of gifts and getting into credit card debt just to stress yourself out more and work harder to pay off the bills, all to add to the needless clutter we already have in our homes.

So I say opt out.

Don’t be a part of the madness. It’s a trap, designed to get us to spend our money, but we don’t need to fall prey to it. We can opt out.

What should you do instead of buying a bunch of crap? I have a few ideas, but I’m sure you can come up with even more.

The Zen Habits Gift List

Here are some alternative gift ideas for your loved ones, to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Create a personal website for someone, complete with photo montage, if you’re good at web stuff.
  • Create a picnic for the two of you, or for the whole family or group of friends.
  • Plan a day trip into nature.
  • Create a scrapbook.
  • Find a board game at Goodwill and customize it for the person’s personality.
  • Make a treasure hunt for them.
  • Sew them a personalize quilt.
  • If you have an expertise, give them the gift of coaching: be their personal trainer, French tutor, guitar teacher, if that’s what they’ve been wanting to do, and that’s in your expertise.
  • Pass along your absolute favorite books (including mine, if you already ordered one).
  • Massages are often appreciated.
  • Clean their house or wash their car.
  • Bake brownies or a berry pie.
  • Make a personalize card set for them for Werewolf / Mafia and play with your group.
  • Help them realize their dreams.
  • Do a challenge with them.
  • Take a class together (community classes are often free or cheap).
  • Pass on your digital camera if you aren’t using it and they would.
  • Gift certificate for mowing their lawn.
  • Make an illustrated book about how awesome the person is.
  • Create a video from family/friends with everyone sharing what they love about the person.

These aren’t all free, but they aren’t part of the consumerist holiday shopping tradition. They take extra effort, which is why they’re special. The loved ones in your life are worth more than a few clicks online and a hit to your credit card.

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