Thinking outside the gift box

November 16, 2016 | Viewpoints | Volume 20 Issue 23
Marlow Gingerich |

As our family sat around the Thanksgiving dinner table discussing our plans for Christmas and the virtue of giving gifts, someone piped up and said: “We already have too much stuff. Please don’t buy us anything for Christmas this year. We don’t need anything!”

Have you heard this statement before? When people complain that individuals are hard to buy for, this surely could be one of the reasons.

Although sharing gifts with children can be one of the most joyous experiences, the stress of finding something they will like can become a burden as they get older. I think this alone has helped fuel the gift card phenomenon. Perhaps you’ve heard or said the following, “I was not sure what to buy for you, but I am sure you can pick something out that you like.”

Some families choose to do things differently by thinking outside the “gift box.” These families have come to the enlightened conclusion that everyone has enough stuff. They are still generous with their time and money, but they just express it in a different way.

If you would like to join these creative gift-giving families, here are three ideas for you to contemplate:

1. Donate to charities that you are passionate about.

What if you were to pool the funds that would otherwise be spent on gifts, and donate them to a worthy cause? Often during the gift-giving time of the year, people are invited to donate to the local food bank, the local social services agency and various international relief organizations. We all can see the difference these donations make in our local communities and the world. Pooling your gift-giving funds to donate to charity can provide an opportunity for a fun family event, allowing your family to work together in the selection and planning of all the details.

2: Build long-term habits of developing a charitable fund that keeps on giving.

If you are inclined to think further outside the gift-giving box, I would suggest opening a gifting account that could receive your pooled funds and set a gift-giving goal to be reached. Setting a specific monetary goal allows interest to be earned in the interim, which the family can then donate each year. This would encourage your family to continue the spirit of giving throughout the entire year, and not just at Christmas. By taking this approach, you create a “family legacy fund” that continues for years to come. What a great way to inspire and involve grandchildren in charitable giving at a young age!

3: Volunteer with a charity.

Another family I know volunteers at a local soup kitchen every year during the holidays. They help with food preparation, cooking, serving and cleaning up. They have found this experience to be an excellent family time, establishing a legacy of service and putting others first. It also serves as a reminder that not everyone’s Christmas includes a tree with gifts and a turkey dinner. For younger children and teenagers, this is a very effective life lesson. Practising generosity with your time and God-given resources as a family provides teaching moments for lessons in gratitude, as well as a stark reminder of income inequality and how we should respond. How would this type of gift-giving affect your family as you volunteer together, sharing your time and resources?


Marlow Gingerich is a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada serving generous people in Ontario and Canada’s eastern provinces. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest Abundance Canada office or visit

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