I Don't Believe in Buying Holiday Gifts (And, No, I'm Not a Scrooge)

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
A pile of Christmas gifts in colorful wrapping with ribbons.
Beata Becla/Shutterstock
By Jeff Wilson, as told to Meghan Rabbitt

In our "Money Mic" series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.

Today, one dad tells us why he and his wife don't exchange gifts -- and why they've also chosen to downplay presents for their daughters. By skipping the whole holiday gift-giving hoopla, he says that it actually makes his family's season merrier

This time of year, most of my family and friends are frantically running around shopping malls and waiting in crazy-long lines to get gifts to put under the tree. Some of them have a lot of fun doing this -- and others are totally stressed out.

As for me, my wife, Sherri, and our two daughters, Winter, 15, and Sylvie, 12, we sneak in as many long hikes as we can before the snow starts falling and spend our weekends cooking delicious dinners. You see, Sherri and I don't get each other gifts, and we don't buy many for the girls, either. As a result, there's no such thing as "pre-holiday craziness" in our world, and we truly get to experience all of the magic of the season without any of the stress.

A No-Gifts Christmas Tradition Is Born

Sherri and I met in our late 20s and bonded over our shared vision that a frugal, simpler life might just be the ticket to happiness. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%We talked about "Walden" and how we'd both read it as teenagers, but how we hadn't truly understood Henry David Thoreau's point until much later in life. And we'd seen many of our family members try to keep up with the Joneses, working constantly to make payments on a big house, two brand new cars or a boat.

With all of that in mind, we decided to minimize our wants and stick to our needs.

So starting early in our relationship, we made an agreement: birthdays, Christmas, Valentine's Day and other holidays were "no gift zones" for us -- at least not for store-bought presents. Instead, we would write poems, create something by hand or give each other an experience on those special occasions.

For example, for our birthdays every year, we leave the house early in the morning to hike 15 miles on the beautiful, deserted trails at Lake Hope State Park near our home in Athens, Ohio, and then have a great meal at their lodge restaurant. It feels decadent to ditch work for the day and be together in the woods. Neither of us would trade that for a store-bought gift of any kind.

Fast-forward to my siblings and I having children and trying to buy birthday and Christmas presents for everyone. Sherri and I felt like we already had everything we needed to be happy, plus we didn't always use the things that we were given.

And whenever we visited our extended families at Christmas, it seemed like the piles of gifts for the children got higher every year, and the toys would just be forgotten a week later. We feared that we'd be doing a disservice to the kids by teaching them that this was what life was all about.

More from LearnVest

8 Cheap Ways to Have Fun This Winter
See Gallery
I Don't Believe in Buying Holiday Gifts (And, No, I'm Not a Scrooge)

I always assumed I needed a cabin in the mountains, an ax or other weaponry draped over my shoulder, and a full beard in order to snowshoe. But as it happens, snowshoeing can be done by pretty much anyone, fairly cheaply. Find a local outdoor equipment rental supplier and snag yourself a pair of snowshoes for under $10.

Sledding has two perks that make it a perfect winter activity: 1. It's free (assuming you have a sled or a friend's you can borrow). 2. You're outside, but you're not cold, because all it takes is a couple of times climbing back up your favorite sledding hill, and you're breaking a sweat. And did you know that sledding is the cutest photo op for a family ever? Oops, that's three things.
There's no better way to enjoy winter than from the inside of your toasty warm car. And no December is complete without a self-guided tour of the best local Christmas lights. This list compiles some favorite spots across the country, but you can also Google the best displays in your area. And (added bonus), your children are strapped in for this activity, which should keep things simple and (relatively) drama-free.
Thanks to Pinterest, the DIY bug is more contagious than ever -- especially during the winter. If you're looking for a free way to unleash your inner Martha (or Marty, for you guys out there) Stewart, try out a free DIY workshop from home-improvement stores like The Home Depot or craft stores like Michaels. Other retailers are also getting in on the action, such as Apple, which hosted hour-long coding classes for children at their stores this week.
Get the thrill of the outdoors without the winter weather in the pleasant confines of an indoor rock gym. For the price of a movie and popcorn, you can get a day pass, learn how to belay friends and family safely, and scale to your heart's (and ripped forearms') content.
When winter gives you frozen lemons, make piping-hot lemonade -- and then swim in it. (That's the expression, right?) According to the National Geophysical Data Center, there are over 1,661 natural hot springs in the United States. However, most are out West. If you happen to live east of the Rockies, it's high time to make friends with a hot-tub owner.
Leave the fancy clubs and goofy-looking pants at home; this is poor man's golf. But don't let that fool you. It's a great game for beginners and Tiger Woods frisbee-ers alike. With public courses across the country and greens fees that are typically 100 percent cheaper than regular golf, you might completely forget about those clubs in your trunk come spring.
Going to a movie for a dollar might sound like something your grandparents did in simpler times, but believe it or not, you can still catch recent releases in theaters for just a buck or two. They're getting harder to find, but do yourself (and your budget) a favor by finding a local dollar theater this winter for some quality entertainment.
So leave the hibernating to the grizzlies and your weird roommate and get yourself out and about this winter. If your budget can get along and have a good time with these cold-weather activities, so can you.
Read Full Story

People are Reading