Minimalist Mama

Save money by living with less and keep it going for another year

This month’s topic might be a little painful for some of you. But it all comes down to this: The secret to having less is to buy less and own less.

I know, it’s not really a secret, but it IS hard to do. Because even if you stop the flow of items into your home that you purchase, it’s inevitable that more stuff will find its way inside because of the upcoming holidays.

So, make this holiday season the one where you take a stand.

A recent article in The Guardian claimed that people are afflicted with “affluenza” and that “if people maintained and repaired their possessions, the world economy and the impact of human activity on the environment would be transformed.” Wow. That’s a bold statement, but the author asserted that people have been “trained to love the thrill of buying new stuff.” And I would agree that is true.

A Washington Post article published a month after Hurricane Irma devastated the South uncovered residents who realized they could live with less, especially when faced with a disaster that limited what possessions they could take with them as they evacuated.

And, a survey by SunTrust Banks, Inc. found that nearly seven in 10 Americans would skip exchanging gifts this holiday season if their friends and family agreed to it. Instead, sixty percent of the people surveyed said they would spend more time with friends and family if they didn’t have to worry about gifts. Well, that’s something to think about!

A great way to stop getting “stuff” this holiday season is to simply say it: no more things, no more knick-knacks, no more gifts. Be firm and upfront with friends, families and well-meaning gift givers.

Instead, suggest experiences, such as getting together for coffee or a meal during the holiday season, seeing a local show or performance together, or spending time doing charitable work such as ringing a bell or serving a holiday meal. For children, take a trip on the Polar Express, see a performance of the Nutcracker, or bake cookies together that can be enjoyed with family or donated to a local shelter.

Be honest with your spouse, your children, parents, grandparents, coworkers and anyone else who purchases gifts for you. If they want to buy something — because in the words of my mother, “you have to have something to open on Christmas morning!” — here are some suggestions:

• Baking supplies to bake cookies or a favorite family recipe together.

• Passes to a favorite place, such as the movies, trampoline park, water park, indoor sporting center, arts center, etc.

• Offer to pay for music lessons, sports lessons or dance classes.

• Gift certificates to local restaurants.

• Tickets to a major sporting events, or season tickets for a beloved team.

• Pay for a yearly subscription for television service, satellite radio, a magazine, crate or boxed service (makeup or meals), or even Amazon Prime.

• A one-on-one day together. A few years ago, my best friend started spending the day with my daughters for their birthday, by taking them shopping and treating them to lunch. Sure, they may get a small gift or item of clothing, but what they love the most about their birthday is spending the afternoon with someone they love, all by themselves.

• Donating items for those in need in your community, such as an animal shelter, food bank, homeless shelter or domestic violence shelter. Children can have birthday parties at local animal shelters and ask for gifts of food or supplies for the animals there.

Remember that just because you are celebrating the holidays during a certain time of year, it doesn’t mean the gift has to be enjoyed immediately. Think of how enjoyable it will be to delay the spirit of the holidays and think of your loved ones as you enjoy their gift later in the year.

Joshua Becker, of Becoming Minimalist, made a great point in a recent blog about the holiday season: “Holidays are holidays and traditions are traditions. But traditions are not the holiday.” This is helpful as you think about changing holiday practices that leave you out of money, out of space, out of time and out of patience. After all, that’s not what the holidays are about.

Share any tips you’ve learned with me at

Minimalist Mama is published on the first Sunday of each month in the Lifestyle section. Brigandi can be reached at