We get it—we’ve all seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Christmas isn’t supposed to come from a store, the true meaning of Christmas is in our hearts, blah blah. And yes, maybe we’d be better off focusing on the spirit of giving during the holiday season. But this year we may not have as much of a choice.
Historic supply chain shortages have created quite the bottleneck in ports around the world, and it’s leaving empty spots on store shelves at your local store of choice. There’s a good chance that this year you won’t be able to find what you want on a Black Friday shopping marathon or running to the mall the night before Christmas to pick up a few last-minute things. Even your reliable online retailers might experience stocking issues with popular products.
One solution is to turn to intangible Christmas gifts for your loved ones. There are so many thoughtful, easy, affordable, and useful gifts that you can give without rushing the gift display or waiting 4 weeks for a shipping confirmation. Plus, you get that moral superiority of opting out of the materialistic consumer machine. It’s a win-win.
17 Intangible Christmas Gifts
1. Gift Cards
Maybe it’s just my inner shopaholic talking, but I LOVE a gift card. For a while, it was considered bad form to give people gift cards as if it meant that the giver didn’t take the time or effort to choose and purchase a gift for the recipient. Truthfully, a gift card might be the very best gift out there because you KNOW they’ll get something they actually want.
Be thoughtful about the type of gift card that you get them—your dad might not appreciate a Sephora gift card as much as your sister. It’s not so much about the amount of the gift card, so long as it’s a gift card that the recipient will actually use. (Cash gifts are also a fantastic choice!) Don’t have time to go to the store? E-gift cards are super accessible and perfect for a last-minute gift, or to someone who lives far away.
Giving an experience can be such a memorable gift. We often feel like we need to get something tangible or big, all wrapped in colorful paper and holographic bows, but your kids will quickly break or forget about the shiny new plastic toy, and the generic gift set you gave your mom will sit unused under a bathroom sink. A non-materialistic experience is something to remember.
Like gift cards, you’ll want to tailor the experience to the interests of your recipient. An aspiring chef might like a pasta-making class at a local Italian restaurant. Your outdoorsy husband might like a pass to a rock climbing gym or a river-rafting excursion. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, either—every year my husband gets me movie tickets in my stocking and it’s my favorite!
If your goal is to hit them right in the feels and get them to cry happy tears, it’s time to create a Kudoboard. A Kudoboard is a group greeting card that makes it easy to gather kind thoughts, memories, and messages of appreciation in one place. You get to choose the background, fonts, and submission settings, and then you can invite contributors to add whatever they want.
For example, a Kudoboard for your dad might include written memories from his siblings, wedding photos uploaded by your mom, funny GIFs of family inside jokes, and video messages from his grandkids. It can be completely virtual—shared by a link—or printed as a book or poster if you want a tangible gift to present to them (give it at least a week for printing and shipping).
It’s a thoughtful and heartfelt way to show a loved one how much they’re cared about and appreciated! Learn more
4. Handmade Gift
A handmade gift is infused with love and awareness. You’re literally thinking of them with each and every stitch, stroke, or twist of the tool. I have only done this once, as I am not even remotely crafty. I created a wreath using my grandma’s Christmas ornaments as a way to honor and remember her, and I gave it to my mom for Christmas. I love seeing it in her home each season and I know it was meaningful for her.
Think about skills you have (or could learn) that could create something new and thoughtful. From sewing clothing or home goods to painting decor for their bedroom, there are limitless ways to make a gift for someone you love. Dust off your supplies, swing by a local craft store and fire up a Pinterest account to make them something they could never find in a store.
We love a gift that gives all year round. There are a lot of ways to gift someone access to something useful that will extend far beyond Christmas morning. It’s all about getting them a subscription to something that will enhance their life.
Some great gift subscriptions might include:
- Masterclass—to learn something new
- Apple TV—so they can finally listen to your advice and binge Ted Lasso
- StitchFix—fresh new clothes without going to the mall
- Magazines or Books—affordable ongoing entertainment
Get creative and think about their interests, then simply search for the interest+subscription and see what you come up with!
6. Spa/Beauty Service
Your recipient doesn’t have to be a beauty queen to appreciate some pampering. Getting your loved one a certificate for a service at a salon or spa can be one of the most luxurious gifts they’ll ever receive. Every year for my birthday I ask my parents for a massage certificate and it is a total treat.
Getting a spa or salon certificate is also a great way to support small and local businesses. Check reviews online for spas or salons near them, then get a certificate or gift card for the service you think they’d enjoy most. Maybe it’s a mani/pedi, a hot stone massage, a facial, or a deluxe beard barbering treatment. Everyone loves to glow up for the holidays.
While this one is a little trickier, it’s also the most impactful. Travel is a non-materialistic gift that will expand their worldview and provide a meaningful experience. Because you need to know their life and schedule, it works best for a spouse or parents giving to their children. I know a family that chooses a vacation every other year in lieu of Christmas presents, and it’s become a tradition that has created memories for over a decade.
8. Amusement Park, Museum, Exposition
Giving your loved one admission to an exclusive space is a fantastic intangible gift. A day pass to Six Flags or a ski resort will be a day of fun recreation they’ll always remember. There’s a really cool museum/park combination in my county that has affordable and jam-packed passes which are particularly popular for families with young kids. If your loved one is a fan of culture, you might consider a pass to a traveling exhibit or exposition. Even better? Go with them on these excursions for quality time and memories.
9. Event Tickets
Concerts, live podcasts, sporting events, classes, or demonstrations… the possibilities are limitless. Check out what they’re tweeting and posting about on social media for ideas of fun events they might like to attend.
Another great non-materialistic way to give something meaningful while supporting the local economy is to give them a gift card or certificate to a restaurant. Choose the one you already know they enjoy or choose a highly-rated restaurant they’ve never tried.
11. Video or Slideshow
Are you ready to make grandma cry? A video or slideshow will do the trick. Sharing the highlights of the year, a video compilation of grandkids saying “I love you!” or a spouse making a tender wedding slideshow for their newlywed will be a thoughtful and sensitive intangible gift.
A great way to show love without adding more clutter is to upgrade something they already have and love. Resetting a vintage family ring, reupholstering a worn-out chair, painting or refinishing furniture, or turning a collection of well-loved t-shirts into a quilt are a few ideas you can use to level up something they already appreciate.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that, as a writer, I’m partial to heartfelt writing as a gift. It’s truly priceless, especially when it comes from someone with something to share. A handwritten letter or card (email if you want to go totally intangible!) that is thoughtfully composed will hold a place in their heart forever.
What do you get for the person who has everything? A photobook so they can look at everything they have. But seriously, everyone enjoys a scrapbook, photo album, photobook, or whatever method you take for sharing the photos that mean the most.
Someone send this suggestion to everyone I know. If I opened up an email or envelope with a certificate for house cleaners, I would collapse in a puddle of tears. This is an especially good idea for moms. Thank me later.
16. Car Detail + Oil Change
Your brother loves his car? Perfect. Head to the nearest full-service car wash and tune-up shop to get certificates for a car detailing service (some even come to YOU these days). True luxury.
17. Acts of Service
When it comes to parents, in particular, they often buy what they want for themselves and they’re too busy helping others to take care of the projects weighing on them at home. A fantastic non-materialistic gift is to provide an act of service to improve their lives. Maybe you band together with your siblings and finish the landscaping at your parents’ house. Maybe you show up to clean out a friend or neighbor’s garage. It’s such a powerful act of love—and way better than anything from the store.
The Gift of Thought
In the end, gift-giving is about the connection. It’s a symbol of love, appreciation, and thought meant to foster a good relationship. It will look very different for different parties, but you can make this holiday season particularly memorable—even if supply shortages ruin Black Friday.