Our Holiday Gift Exchange

A great gift exchange doesn't need to be expensive

Last year I brought up to my brother and sister-in-law that we don’t want to do a regular gift exchange anymore. It’s not that I dislike gifting (though to be honest I kind of do sometimes). But for Christmas gifts and birthday gifts it just didn’t make sense to buy ‘stuff’ we didn’t really need.

We’d talked about doing some alternative options – things like donating to a charity, or an experience.

This year, though, my sister-in-law had an excellent idea that we’ll be trying out.

The Gift Exchange

Instead of doing traditional gifts, we are exchanging books and recipes. All of us in my family do well enough for ourselves that anything we want, we can buy ourselves. We also tend to have an affliction of loving instant gratification in those cases.

Don’t get me wrong – our purchases are well thought out – but when we find something we like, it generally isn’t an issue for us to get it should we so choose.

Doing an exchange of books and recipes will be a pretty fun experiment. For starters, I get to think about all of the nerdy finance books that I want my family to read.

As a foody, I also get to share some of my favorite recipes – and try out new ones.

Why It’s Better Than Regular Gifts

This gift exchange idea is brilliant – way better than regular gifts.

  • It’s free – just using what you’ve got around at home.
  • You can share some of your personality – and cater really effectively to the personality of the recipient.
  • Nobody’s upset if you don’t like it. If you get a recipe that just doesn’t do it for you, who cares?
  • It lets us explore other things. Reading is Kristin’s favorite thing to do, and I love reading and cooking.

We’re really excited to see what this year’s exchange has in store.

Other Gift Exchange Ideas

Honestly it’s probably a bit late, but if you’re looking for some other ‘exchange’ type ideas here are a few that should be pretty easy.

  • Books
  • Recipes
  • Video games (for the nerds out there)
  • Board games (if you’re looking for a cooperative board game, I love Pandemic)
  • Movies

The holiday time doesn’t need to be expensive. In lieu of store-bought gifts, an exchange can be a great alternative that still keeps the spirit of giving alive.

My favorite part of it is spending time with friends and family. There are no better gifts than that.


What is your gifting tradition during holidays and/or birthdays?.

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  1. Books are a great idea, but now that so many of us read e-books I wish they would make it easier to give those.

    I honestly try to just “check out” ebooks from the library nowadays. So maybe instead of “giving” a family member one of those books, the gift would be just the book recommendation itself. In other words, my gift to my brother would be verbally given – “Dude, you need to read The Simple Path To Wealth”


  2. “It’s not that I dislike gifting (though to be honest I kind of do sometimes).”

    Thank you, Dave. Someone had to say it. Oh, I love your gift exchange ideas, BTW. Books or recipes. I’d be very happy giving or receiving either.

    1. Haha gifting can sometimes be so uncomfortable! If nothing else I find it horribly tedious 🙂 I’m just…bad at it. Hoping this exchange is a bit more personal, easier, and cheaper. A win all around!

  3. I love the recipe exchange idea! I have gone the route of all e books except for my very favorites, but now you have me thinking about different options for next year. I like the specific parameters so not a ton of money is spent, plus then gifts are really only what the person wants.

  4. Exchanging books and recipes sounds like a good idea, love both but more the recipes. Wish I knew this idea a few years ago, my mother in law used to have a few good recipes.
    Christmas should not be expensive, and it’s always good to find some new ideas to try.

    1. For sure! And the thing with all of us is that we’re all terrible gifters in my immediate family, with an exception of my sister-in-law and my wife hahah. So this lets the rest of us still be thoughtful and not spend money on stuff none of us really need (or if we do, we’d just buy ourselves)

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