One Less Gift – A Holiday Gift Exemption Certificate

Tired of holiday consumerism?

Give a “One Less Gift” Certificate to someone special.

Instead of exchanging presents, you’ll both have one less gift to worry about, saving time, money, and the planet’s resources.

Click here for the full-size certificate in PDF format: print it off, or email it to friends and family!

One Less Gift - Holiday Gift Exemption CertificateConsider these less-material ways to celebrate the holiday with your loved ones:

1. Spend time together. Schedule a lunch, walk, or coffee together. Plan it around a holiday activity—like strolling through town to admire the shop windows and Christmas lights—for a particularly festive atmosphere.

2. Make charitable donations. The money we spend buying each other gadgets, knickknacks, and tchotchkes can do a world of good for those less fortunate. The key is to make it fun: spend an afternoon with loved ones choosing favorite charities together. Selecting a sheep, goat, or water buffalo to donate through Heifer International, for example, can be a lot more fun (and certainly more fulfilling) than fighting crowds at the mall.

3. Exchange good deeds. Exchange services, like babysitting, snow shoveling, a car wash, or computer assistance instead of store-bought gifts. Give each other “coupons” for specific tasks, which can be redeemed when needed. Such help can be far more valuable, and appreciated, than another scarf or kitchen gadget.

4. Protect the environment. Every gift we give up is a gift to our planet: our air will be a little cleaner, our water a little clearer, and our landfills a little emptier. Alternatively, adopt a tree, coral reef, acre of rainforest, or natural habitat in the recipient’s name — see The Nature Conservancy’s gift guide for ideas.

5. Volunteer. Give the gift of your time, and help out those in need; volunteering with friends and family creates meaningful memories that’ll last a lifetime. To find opportunities, contact national nonprofits, community organizations, or an online service like It’s a wonderful way to spread the love and spirit of the holiday season!

6. Enjoy nature. Gather holly for your table, pinecones for your mantelpiece, or simply go for a long, quiet walk in the snow. String up some popcorn and cranberries, and decorate a Christmas tree in its native environment.

7. Have a holiday potluck. Share a fun, no-stress feast together! Ask attendees to bring their favorite seasonal dishes-such as childhood treats, secret family recipes, or traditional holiday foods from their cultural backgrounds. Serve buffet style, so guests can mingle while they sample the offerings.

8. Admire holiday decor. Make it a tradition to walk around your hometown, or drive to a neighboring one, to admire the seasonal decorations. Seek out particularly festive streets and decked-out homes for your outing; ask around your community, or check local papers, for prime locations.

9. Join in community celebrations. Attend the tree lighting in your town’s main square at the start of the season. Then take your pick of the parades, parties, pageants and holiday concerts that follow.

10. Celebrate simple pleasures. Instead of going to the mall, gather your family around the hearth: cozy up in blankets, make hot cocoa and enjoy the flicker of a fire. Revive some old-fashioned traditions: like singing carols, roasting chestnuts, and reading classic holiday tales to the little ones.

58 comments to One Less Gift – A Holiday Gift Exemption Certificate

  • Apple

    This is a wonderful idea Francine. I have been sending early Christmas cards with a similar message, but to send and receive a certificate would probably be more fun. Thank you.

  • My family had just been brainstorming ways to make Christmas less about the stuff. This is a wonderful idea I’m going to share!

  • I have something similar that has been used in a sceret santa set-up, as well as doing the no gift thing in our family, except for the two girls. Love it, let’s hope we can spread the word !

  • Tara

    I don’t know what to say. I love the idea of this, and will certainly be celebrating a gift-less Christmas this year, but…. I don’t know. I can just imagine the confused look family and friends would give if I were to hand them a Gift[Less] Certificate.

    I think I’ll save the paper and just explain my reasons.

    • Amanda

      Same. This isn’t really realistic or a good idea unless your family has already heard your reasons and is relatively on board with them. Otherwise they’ll be confused (at best) or offended (at worst).

      That said, a conversation ahead of time is often perfectly fine. My boyfriend and I decided we’d rather just do something together instead of gifting things to each other, and my Dad and sister totally on board with the “make a gift” idea. I just think it’d be a bit confusing to gift them one of these thingies unless they were kind of expecting it, lol.

  • Katie

    I tried about ten years ago to send one of these to my mother and she was terribly offended. She explained that some people *enjoy* buying things for others. So I am forced to come up with lists of things for people to buy for me, and I am forced to shop (which I hatehatehate) for others. What I want isn’t things — it’s effort, attention, smiles, breaks (as in “give me a”), conversations….

    • Apple

      My parents are exactly the same. There are people who feel they need to give an ‘object’ as a present. I usually ask for something I would get for ourselves…simply delay it until she gets it for Christmas. :)

      • Amanda

        That’s been my experience too. My grandma will give cash if I want, but she really does prefer an object as a gift. To make her happy, I can usually delay getting something I really could use until Christmas. It’s usually practical stuff- this year it’s boot socks since my are horrendously worn out, last year it was pajamas for the same reason. Generally around October I’ll start thinking of something I need to replace and I’ll put that on my Christmas list and just be patient.

    • Trish B

      Same here unfortunately. Stresses me out more and more each year.

    • I am half lucky… I don’t receive any gift or I don’t have to give any gift to my family (just mother and father). We only ask each other every year if anything is due for buying during that period (for example; I gifted my mother some Ayurvedic medicines what she usually buy once a month).
      BUT, my DH family is completely other way round; they already buy something and gift me on very day. To stop this practice I told them not to buy or at least ask me before buying. This worked perfect with in-laws. But biggest problem is with DH relative; which I am not sure which one will gift me and which one will not. So these days I am not buying gifts for anybody thinking that nobody will gift me as well because they are not getting anything from me. (This could be rude but I am still trying to find nicer way).
      Certificate idea is nice but unfortunately not workable for me.
      If you have any idea or nicer way to stop the inflow of gift… please share.

  • My family has never really been really big on gift exchange. Now, we usually just buy gifts for the little kids and for grown ups, we just spend time together – either go for lunch together or just hang out.

    It’s one of the few times of the year where everyone has a bit more time :)

    The idea of a giftless gift card is really cute though.

    • jeneric

      My family has a rule: no gifts for those between 18 and 80. My great grandfather came up with that when he was 81 :) I think its great. Spending time with family is what’s most important.

  • GreyQueen

    I wish I felt able to opt-out of gifting certain relations (and being opted-out by them in return, of course)as it is an annual source of strain and aggravation. However, this year they have indicated that they will give me money (it will be a very modest amount but very gratefully received)and I have spent it ahead of the festive season on having a trailer-load of manure from a local farmer delivered to my allotment garden. Yes, some fuel resources have been depleted moving this from the farm to my veg patch in the city suburbs, but the cash went firmly back into the local economy, I shall grow more of my own food with the fertilised soil and, best of all, there will be nothing on my personal premises to tend, dust or move about. ;) Oh, and I got a few free workouts thrown in as I moved the manure around and dug it in. I think gifting vouchers for various things is a superb idea; I would love it personally. A few years ago, my “present” was to sneak into the parental home whilst they were away for a week and decorate their bedroom. It’s a clutter hell-hole and they had been postponing dealing with it for many years, largely because they were so busy helping other family members. They ended up with a fresh white room (their choice) done as if by the elves. They were thrilled and I was pleased. I feel a lot of people would place a greater value on practical assistance or a day out than they would on yet another knick-knack in an already-crowded life.

  • mrs Brady Old Lady

    I just bought a goat for a friend. Not a real one – you go to the Oxfam site (www.oxfampaktuit, they probably have something similar in English in the main site) and donate money and they send you a gift certificate.
    In Belgium there are also Bongo Bons, which means you give somebody a voucher for an experience, such as a spa, a wine tasting event, etc etc…

  • Elizabeth

    For as long as I can remember, my spouse and I have been giving to one specific international charity for Christmas. This year, we may donate to our local winter homeless shelter as well. When my children were small, we would make an Advent wreath by writing in things we would like to do during the holiday season: ice skating, making snow in the blender, taking an evening walk to see the Christmas lights, etc. Now that they are older, they enjoy cash and gift certificates. I know that doesn’t seem very personal, but it is what they want and need. No waste. We also volunteer for them to meet us on vacation, if they can arrange it. My extended family live for Black Friday. I think it is a bigger anticipation than Thanksgiving, (in fact, I know it is). However, they know I don’t exchange gifts or send out wasteful holiday cards. Whether that offends, I don’t really know, but I am quite comfortable with it.

  • CJ

    My mother derives so much pleasure from buying gifts for others, that I simply could not tell her not to. She’s upset enough as it is because ever since October, when she started asking what me and my husband wanted, I’ve been feeding her lists of useful things…dressing gowns, jumpers, thermals etc. She keeps saying ‘but can’t I get you something PRETTY!’. Thing is, I really don’t need anything ‘pretty’. I have all the jewellery, scarves etc I want (thanks to being bought some every other Christmas, plus quite a lot of personal purchases over the years), so to ask for things we genuinely need and would otherwise buy ourselves seems the perfect option. She enjoys the giving, and we really appreciate the gifts.

  • Linda H.

    I’d love to hand these out and call it a day, but there would be some serious freak-outs. SIGH. Gets me down every year.

  • […] You could re-commit yourself to the spirit of the season and give thoughtful gifts, but that doesn’t solve the things problem. Or you could just opt out of gift-giving entirely, and put your friends and family on notice with this “gift certificate” from Miss Minimalist: […]

  • Ive only skimmed these responses but the message is woeful. People, please! Aren’t you adults with free will and choice? No-ones forcing you to do anything! Wake up!!!! You can extract yourselves from ‘traditions’ with families and you can retrain those around you. It takes time and consistency but it can be done. I don’t participate in anything Christmas, i don’t have to give or receive and as a result, december is beautifully peaceful, cheap and stress free. It’s been an evolution, but I’ve been completely “off the hook” for almost a decade. As a general rule, I don’t give or receive gifts for birthday etc either. Working as a professional organiser sees me at the coal face of unwanted stuff.

    Think about choosing to be vegan or to dye your grey hair or get rid of your tv or whatever. Other people can just suck it up.

  • Ann

    I think this is a wonderful idea. The past few years I have come to an agreement with my sister and sister-in-law to not buy for the adults and only the kids. It is so nice! We adults have everything we want anyway. My Mother brought this up to her SIL a few years ago and started a family feud. Unfortunately, there are some people that relate the size/quality of the gift with the size/quality of your love :-/


    I had thought about sending a massive email to my friends and family to let them know that i did not want/need anything for this Holidays; that i would rather spend more time with them, go for a nice walk, a nice show, dinner, ice skating or a hot cup of cocoa instead of wasting their money/time at the stores. You had saved me the fact that i had to think about a nice way of saying this without them being offended by me not needing their presents! thank you so much!

  • A friend sent me a link to your blog…what a treat it is…tho I doubt I will ever be a minimalist I do believe in de-cluttering alot and doing with less…The ideas I have read are so great!! I will be sharing these ideas on my blog and direct people to your site… Thank you for so many great ideas that will be kinder to not only ourselves but to the environment!!

    Peace, Linda

  • Sarah

    Mostly good ideas, Francine, but when it comes to the comments, I’m with Lissanne, a very good comment!

    BUT, giving a goat as a ‘present’ is not a viable or environmentally safe gift, please do your homework in order not to cause more problems instead of making fewer…Why give an animal – an extra mouth to feed – to people living in areas already suffering from drought, erosion etc.?

  • Sarah

    Treeplanting, there’s a good idea for a gift.

  • This really works! We did this for our wedding (we posted something similar on our wedding website) and explicitly asked for charitable donations. It helped that we gave a list of our favorite charities. More than half of our guests actually followed through!

  • Emma

    We are having a re-gifting Christmas this year and am loving the process!

  • Jessica

    I did this with a relative a few years ago. They promptly wrote me out of their will. I wish I’d just passed the stuff to Goodwill or the circular file (trash can). I have taught my son to appreciate service not stuff so maybe there’s hope for the future…

    • Yeah, I’ve had that problem a bit too. I’m learning to give “semi-minimalist” gifts — valuable items that are either consumable or are experiences. Most people are too stuck in their consumerism to understand why we’re doing this and we need to meet them halfway. Who doesn’t like an all-expenses paid day at the spa?

      I’ve also had to resort to a “Lite Christmas List” of experiences and consumables I can use, to keep people from dumping stuff I really don’t want on me. Here’s this years list, if you need some ideas:

  • Kernel

    Isn’t it a bit extreme to completely remove yourself from the gift-giving culture? I for one enjoy finding a great gift for somebody I care about. To me a great gift is one the recipient truly enjoys- the price does not have to be high. Homemade gifts can be great. I like taking the time to really think about the gifts I will get/make for the few people I really care about. Some years I can’t think of a good gift for everybody I want to give to, and that is a little disappointing, but I think it is the effort people appreciate.

    • prufock

      I don’t think the idea is to completely remove yourself from the gift-giving culture, but instead to change your perception of what constitutes a “gift.”

      Homemade gifts, for instance, are a great alternative to lapping up something at a department store.

      A lot of gift giving is done out of obligation and without real consideration of what a person needs or wants. It’s unnecessary. If you’re taking the time to think about what someone would really appreciate, you’re ahead of the curve.

  • What a fabulous idea. I also really like the idea of a regifting holiday from the comments. Being a minimalist in training, I am struggling with how to help my somewhat entitled children embrace the concept. I bet I could secretly find a few items they received from prior holidays/birthdays, rewrap them and they wouldn’t be any the wiser. A sad testament to the excess lifestyle I am guilty of allowing. Thank you!

  • AussieGirl

    Francine, I love your blog and your book to me, is magnificent (I’ve read it many times over now).. But I don’t think I could go this far. I love Christmas – The festivities, the decor and yes, I love the presents placed under the tree too. I actually don’t like receiving them as much as I like giving them. I often think very hard about what the person would actually want/need and I actively seek that particular item. No frilly stuff or nothing that would merely please myself but not the recipient. That said, I only buy for my children, husband, mother, sister and neices/nephews. One present for each adult and there is no number on the children’s presents simply because some years I combine the presents and some years I do individual ones – Depends on the interests and ages.

    Overall though, I don’t think my gift purchasing/giving is excessive. We don’t give birthday presents throughout the year.. and we don’t do toy purchases throughout the year either. An example of the gifts organized for this year: my husband is getting a new wallet – his is torn, tattered and around 10 years old. Time for a new one that won’t let the coins slip through I think! I’ll look for something high quality and asthetically appealing. My sister is getting a dvd series she purchases every year when they come out – except this year I’m purchasing it on her behalf.. My mum is getting a decorative item that she likes for her new home (she is re-decorating from scratch).. I’ve asked for nothing in return because I really feel I don’t need anything.. I’ve asked for a nice dinner/family outing. If they feel really compelled, chocolate is always, always welcome. :D

    My mum bought me a beautiful Christmas tablecloth I was lusting over last year for Christmas. It was only $30 but to me it felt like a million dollars because she recognized that I really wanted that particular one for our table and had travelled all the way back to the store to purchase it.

    I like the shopping experience of finding that one perfect gift, then wrapping it and the way it looks under the tree.. Hmmm, I am very minimal in all aspects of my life except this. One of my family members better not give me one of these ‘gift-less’ certificates this year! I’ll have to neatly fold it and place it in the recycling bin. ;)

    Merry Christmas Francine. :)

    • AussieGirl

      I should add that a good coverall gift, to me, is food – Gourmet food (both general and seasonal), chocolates and wine. These are a bit ‘lighter’ as they can be consumed and the packaging recycled. Whereas clothes, knick knacks and household goods have a much longer life span and are harder to dispose of in an environmentally friendly way down the track.

      • Karen T.

        I agree, Aussiegirl. Consumable gifts are also the way I like to go — it’s fun to put together a bag or basket of goodies my recipient will enjoy, but might not buy for him/herself (extra-special chocolates, gourmet nuts or fruit-only jams, for example). Of course, if there are food allergies I take that into consideration. For my elderly mother and mother-in-law, I might fill a bag with some beautiful notepaper, stamps, a top-of-the-line body cream, and a coupon for a manicure. I might give my teenage daughter gift cards for the local movie theatre and a clothing store she likes, plus her favorite (very expensive, so she never buys them) hair care products. For those who “have everything,” I like to donate to World Vision (a non-profit which helps children and families) on their behalf. They’re happy to know that medicines were purchased, or school tuition paid, or mosquito nets given to someone in a developing country. I still participate in the tradition of gift-giving, but I don’t think I’m adding empty useless “stuff” to people’s lives, and I don’t have to spend a fortune to do something special for them.

  • I like the idea behind this, but I know that it would deeply offend some of the people that want to buy us gifts. Most people already know our stance on having less stuff. Really they are buying gifts because it makes them happy, and it is our job to receive it gratefully. Of course, we wind up donating what we don’t need to charity.

  • GreyQueen

    Lissanne, I hear what you’re saying about us all being adults and making our own choices, but we’re also interacting with other adults who are our friends and relations and that means a certain give-and-take. Otherwise we can cause serious hurt. IMO, the trick is to find fellow-travellers among our circle and go gift-free with them if it will be to mutual relief. My “problem” relatives are 70 and 80 years old respectively so the “problem” is self-recitifying sooner rather than later. Of course the “problem” is in my headspace only and it is a privledge to have too much, and I can always discreetly rehome unwanted gifts.

    I actively enjoy shopping for gifts as I do it throughout the year and spend modestly, and I like to give, but I have issues with receiving as my apartment is only 240 square feet and all of those are spoken-for already. Plus I’m into living simply. If I’m giving gifts, I aim for useful or tasty-and-consumable to avoid cluttering my recipient’s life.

    For the past decade I have replaced my grandmother’s birthday and christmas gifts with hampers which she loves and this year when her DIL (my mother) asked her what she wanted for christmas, it was more of the same. Even the box gets recycled between visits.

    I should add that we are not leaving our beloved senior to starve as she has ample funds for food and her daughter living 30 yards away and in and out several times a day including doing the shopping. For my grandmother, it is about not having yet more little bits and pieces and she has grumbled good-naturedly that she has to be careful not to mention the slightest want for any item at any time of the year or one of us will materialise it in days!

  • Gifts are so tricky. In my family giving gifts is considered to be an important way to show that you love them. Three years ago my sister and I tried suggesting that the adults (there are six of us) didn’t need Christmas presents. It didn’t go down too well. So we agreed each adult would give one adult a present (the person you gave to rotated each year). The children still got presents. However this year miraculously everyone agreed that the adults would collectively donate a sum to an agreed charity (Room to Read). Every year a different adult chooses the charity. I’m so thrilled with this outcome.

  • Hello!!

    I really like it and I want to send to my friends and family but… they only speak portuguese.
    Here I am to ask you if I can translate yout text to portuguese and build my own certificate. Or I can send you the translations and you make one in portugues to download.

    May I ?


  • Brian

    I agree that opting out of gifting can be very difficult depending upon the other person/people concerned.

    This year, my sister has finally partly bought into the idea, namely when I suggested that a small ‘gourmet’ food gift would be very welcomed. She still gets her shopping ‘fix’, whilst I get something that we can enjoy but not have to store afterwards! She adores bath products, so she will receive some more luxury-tpye bath products from us (although there is still the packaging to dispose of afterwards!).

    We have made inroads with other family members… of a fashion! We have a delightful 18-month old female Pug and we suggested that, instead of buying us gifts, we would love it if relatives bought something for our delightful Pug! Many have bought into this idea, and we have explained that they should not buy toys for her, but chews, different types of doggy treats, etc.

    I hope this can be the start of working towards a gift-free Christmas, with this one being a largely ‘consumables’ one!

  • Thank you for this. I have opted out of most of my gift giving and receiving but felt like I may have offended a few people inadvertently. I think this certificate is a genuine, fun and sweet way to convey exactly what I am feeling! This will help so much. Will be sharing this as much as I can.
    Much love,

  • whisper 2

    I too have mostly opted out of Christmas gifts but I still like to give something to my close people for their birthdays – seems nice to celebrate just them once a year. For Christmas, if I find something that seems perfect, small and useful then I enjoy tucking it into the stocking. This year it is some superb wool (not itchy) socks – a cliche I know but these feel wonderfully cozy and warm and are just a bit more special than one might buy for one’s self. Agree with the consumables like wine or homemade goodies – lovely to give and to receive.

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  • runi

    Even though there are three generations of us, we have been told we have an extremely small family. (Us, two daughters and their husbands, and two grandchildren–one from each daughter.) When the grandchildren were tiny babies, the rest of us agreed to concentrate gift giving on them.

    This worked well until the grandkids grew up and decided they WOULD give us presents. (They are both working and doing very well on their own.) These “little kids” took the time to find out what each of our real interests were and gifted us accordingly. I don’t want to take that away from them. Plus (selfishly) they have given me some very neat survival supplies I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

    So, we’re going to leave that alone. I’m sure that when (if) great grandchildren come along, it will not take much to go back to gifting children only.

  • […] Minimalist offers a pdf printable certificate that gives the recipient one less gift to give, one less worry, saves time and money, and instead […]

  • […] Minimalist offers a pdf printable certificate that gives the recipient one less gift to give, one less worry, saves time and money, and instead […]

  • […] One Less Gift – Holiday Exemption Gift Certificate. Posted this on Facebook a while back. Genius idea from Miss Minimalist. When you want to put an end to the exchanging of gifts: the One Less Gift – Holiday Exemption Gift Certificate. Lovely list of non-wrapped up ways to show you care included in the post here. […]

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  • […] idea es creada por Francine Jay del blog Miss Minimalist. El certificado es una propuesta de dos vías, diciendo lo a esa persona que da quiere […]

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  • Mike

    One of my favorite pastimes in the winter is cozying up to our fireplace. MY family, including three cats, needs no encouragement to curl up in front of a roaring fire. We bought a wood-burning insert for our fireplace soon after we moved into our house. We had been renting for years in abodes that did not have any sort of fireplace, so when we became homeowners, we jumped at the chance to get fires going in the winter. We choose a wood-burning fireplace insert, as it’s more efficient than a basic fireplace, and we also don’t have natural gas at the house. The firebox has a door with a tight seal, so when it’s shut, it doesn’t use any of the air in the house for combustion; it uses a concentric chimney liner to draw combustion air in and exhaust air out. Heat radiates off the firebox quite a bit on it’s own, so it’ll keep us warm even in a power outage, though we prefer using it’s built-in fan. It circulates house air around the outside of the firebox – where it’s hot – and blasts it back into the room. It’s the best investment that we’ve made in the house thus far.

    As for gifts: these days, the only things that we ask for from our family is a few additional packages of “bio bricks”. They’re bricks made of compressed sawdust scrap from furniture factories. The bricks burn more evenly, for longer periods of time, and more cleanly, than even seasoned wood (though we have plenty of that stuff, too). We typically buy two pallets of bio bricks in the fall, and those bricks (supplemented with some seasoned wood) gets us through the winter.

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