Free (or Nearly Free) Holiday Ideas to Avoid Capitalist Christmas

Being financially independent doesn’t mean you have to be a Scrooge, but all the excess spending makes the Tako family feel uncomfortable.  The holiday season appears to be an excuse by capitalist retailers to entice people to spend with abandon and in excess.  Why else would the retailer spend so much on decorations and promotions if the return on investment wasn’t there?

Social pressure is a powerful thing.  You may find a lump or two of coal in your stocking (and fewer holiday party invites next year) if you don’t partake in the orgy of holiday spending.  What can we do about that? 

Our family isn’t big on monetary gifts, but we do like the spirit of caring embedded in the holiday season.  Caring for others should NOT be about how much money can be spent.  

So how do we ‘do Christmas’ without spending any (or very little) money?   We try to find ways to partake in the spirit of the Holiday’s and show our caring without spending.  You can try to implement some of our favorite ideas (below) in your own Holiday festivities:

1. Gifts from the Buy Nothing Project

Our family is big on the Buy Nothing Project.  We love our local Buy Nothing group.  We give and get tons of stuff from this community and it’s saved us thousands of dollars over the years.  For Christmas this year we have a new bike for TakoJr. #1 and I think he’s going to love it.  100% free and not a scratch on it.  Like new!

Tako Jr.'s By Nothing Christmas bicycle
Tako Jr.’s By Nothing Christmas bicycle
2. Make a Gift 

There’s tons of possibilities here even if you lack serious skills.  In my last post I mentioned Print and Play board games.  There’s a huge variety of games for free (or practically nothing), and most people are able to handle a couple hours with a scissors and a glue stick.  We enjoy doing it as a family, and gift them to others.  If you have other skills, such as: Cooking, Woodworking, Sewing there’s really no reason to buy a gift at all. 

A Print and Play version of Puerto Rico we gifted to a friend
A Print and Play version of Puerto Rico we gifted to a friend
3.  Used Gifts from Thrift Stores & Craigslist

Put this one in the ‘very little money’ category.  Some people do not mind if an item is used or new.  Use your local thrift stores or Craigslist to find used items.  My kids love getting new toys, and they don’t mind if they’re used.  Tako Jr. #1 got some new rain boots from the thrift store for Christmas.  He loves rain boots.  We lined up all his rain boots and asked him which were his favorite.  He chose the one from the thrift store.

Can you identify the thrift store boots? Tako Jr. can’t!
4.  ‘Free’ Gift Cards  

Gift cards can be generated for ‘free’ from sites like Bing Rewards or from trade-in items on the Amazon Trade-In program.  Free how?  In the case of Bing Rewards, perform searches, and generate points.  Points can be exchanged for different kinds of gift cards.  I can generate about $10 in Amazon Gift cards a month.  I need to do a whole post on this, but there’s substantial dollars available for the taking here.  In the case of the Amazon Trade-In program, you send in ‘trade-in’ items like Books, Video Games, and Consumer Electronics.  In exchange, Amazon sends you gift cards. This year I funded Mrs. Tako’s Christmas gifts entirely from Amazon gift cards that I generated from these programs.


5.  Homemade Holiday Cards

Apparently some people still *buy* holiday cards, but in our social circle 80% of people make their own cards now.  It’s easy enough to get a photo from your digital camera, grab some snowflakes from OpenClipArt, and maybe a Holiday Font from DaFont.  Then, whip up a holiday card in the favorite open source vector graphics editor, Inkscape!


6.  Re-Gift

I see nothing wrong with packaging up a gift you don’t use and passing it on to someone who might want it more.  But, in some circles this isn’t considered OK.  You’ll have to make that determination for your personal social group.  That said, if no one says anything, I don’t know how they would find out!


7.  The Homemade Coupon

What is it?  The giver generates a neatly printed coupon stating it can be redeemed for some service at a later date.  Back massages, home-made meals, and ‘A Night Out’ are favorites in our house.  This one can backfire, so think very carefully about the individual you are giving it too.


8.  Dollar Store Stocking Stuffers 

While not everything at the dollar store is a dollar anymore, it’s still an ultra low cost way to find stocking stuffers.  We love Daiso, the Japanese Dollar Store found on the west coast.  They have fantastic Japanese style goods at dollar store prices.  Perfect for stocking stuffers or small gifts, that won’t break the bank.

The stockings are ready!
The stockings are ready for stuffing!
9. Print Your Own Holiday Wrapping Paper

There’s no need to go out and buy a giant roll of holiday wrapping paper, when you can print your own.  Unless of course you NEED a giant roll of paper for your giant gifts.  If you have access to a color printer or a large format printer then the possibilities are nearly endless.  Here are several examples Mrs. Tako used this year: One, Two, Three, Four.  Of course there are hundreds of seamless patterns at OpenClipArt for the printing of holiday papers.


Got any more ideas? How do you keep your holiday spending under control?

4 thoughts on “Free (or Nearly Free) Holiday Ideas to Avoid Capitalist Christmas

  • August 12, 2016 at 8:35 PM

    Daiso is also a favorite of mine.

    We are traveling to Spain and were able to pick up neck pillows for $3 each, as well as, eye masks, ear plugs, slippers(the bathroom floor on the plane is gross) and a money belt all for $1.50 each.

    All those items would have come to about $100 each on Amazon or at Whole Foods.

  • August 12, 2016 at 8:36 PM

    I meant for each of us…not each item=(.

  • December 15, 2016 at 1:57 AM

    We went to Ikea last year after christmas. Holiday wrapping paper was on sale for 19 Cents/roll. Can’t beat that price. I think ink and paper would have been more expensive.

    • December 15, 2016 at 8:14 AM

      In that specific instance, yes. But far less fun than making your own.


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