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Give Gifts Without Spending A Penny

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Give Gifts Without Spending A Penny

I’m not a shopper. It’s just not my thing. So when I heard that Black Friday sales were starting at midnight the night of Thanksgiving this year, I wanted to puke. Like puh-lease retailers. Can I at least digest my turkey before you start cramming STUFF I DON’T NEED down my throat?

This weekend, my daughter Siena and I went to the craft store to buy the materials to decorate glass ornaments so she could give them away as holiday presents. This was the first time this year that I’ve ventured into the mall, so I had forgotten that going to a mall in December on a Saturday is just asking for a headache.

When we finally weaved through the traffic and finally got lucky enough to have someone pull out in front of us so we could park the car, the commercialism of the season wafted over me like bad perfume.

At the craft store, Siena was running around like a maniac, asking me to buy everything she could get her hot little hands on, and shoppers were filling up carts with more and more STUFF. I even found myself tempted to buy things I didn’t need. After all, those scented candles were 3 for $10.

And then, in the middle of the chaos, I had a thought.

What if we all just decided enough is enough and said a big fat NO to the madness?

What Do You Want For Christmas?

When Mom called to ask me what Siena wanted for Christmas, I said, “Ballet classes.”

Mom said, “But what can I buy at the store? What can I wrap up and put under the tree?”

I said, “Ballet shoes.”

That seemed to satisfy her – or so I thought. Then I heard from a friend that Mom couldn’t resist going out and buying lots of plastic toys so Siena would have dozens of presents to open on Christmas morning – toys Siena never plays with. What Siena really loves is drawing and knitting and singing and dancing. The toys wind up getting donated to Goodwill.

You Can’t Buy Happiness

What hole are we trying to fill by buying all this stuff? What are we really teaching our children? Has our unbridled capitalism just gone too far? What’s at the root of all this?

When I was a med student, I had a friend whose parents were very wealthy, and she often asked me to go to the mall with her. One day, we scoured the whole mall and she couldn’t find anything she wanted. She burst into tears.

When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “I’ve already bought everything I want. There’s nothing left to buy.”

When do we say enough is enough, that we’re happy with what we have and seek only new experiences, new precious moments with those we love, new adventures, not new consumer electronic goods or new Manolo Blahniks?

Give The Gifts Of Experiences, Time, and Love This Holiday Season

So here’s the crazy idea that came to me while standing in line at the craft store, surrounded by plastic poinsettas.

What if we all draw a line in the sand and commit to buying no gifts?

Now don’t freak out. I don’t mean you won’t be giving. Just not something you bought at the mall. . .

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at and also created two online communities - and She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


+ add your own
6:46PM PST on Nov 25, 2012

I don't understand why you didn't suggest yarn and drawing paper for your mom.

10:17AM PST on Dec 11, 2011

some good ideas thanks

5:24AM PST on Dec 10, 2011

We definitely need to be less consumer driven. I make many gifts & give gifts of food. I don't spend spend spend especially at Christmas. Seems the reason for Christmas is just to buy things. NOT!

8:49PM PST on Dec 9, 2011


2:14PM PST on Dec 9, 2011

Especially love making/getting handmade gifts
TY for article

2:14PM PST on Dec 9, 2011

Please, let's uncouple gift-giving from charity. Make charitable donations to those groups you find worthy. Give or don't give gifts to loved ones. Don't put someone else's name on a donation of your choosing and call it a gift! This practice isn't just smarmy, it's dishonest and patronizing at best, passive aggressive at worst. If there's no joy in gift-giving, don't do it! Just don't do something else and call it gift giving.

8:00AM PST on Dec 9, 2011

Such great ideas! Thank you! :) I was worried about what I was going to do for my family and friends this Christmas and now I'm feeling much better. I knew I didn't want to support "big box" stores like Wal-Mart or go to the mall, and this helps me with some great ideas. Thanks again!

7:25AM PST on Dec 9, 2011


12:50AM PST on Dec 9, 2011

Great ideas.

11:08PM PST on Dec 8, 2011

I totally agree with what is said in this article ... enough to buy things that actually we do not need.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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