Spend less

How to get in the giving spirit without breaking the bank

Holiday shopping stressing you out? It’s easy to get carried away, but this time of year is really about spending time with the people you love, not spending all your money! Here are some holiday hacks for an affordable giving season.

Rediscover the gift exchange


Instead of shopping for every single person you’ve ever met, invite friends and family to join a Secret Santa. This kind of gift exchange is great for giving on a budget, plus it’s a fun way to spend time together and there’s no limit to how many people can join. The premise is simple: Participants are randomly assigned someone to bestow with a gift. Draw names from a hat (if you’re traditional) or use a free online name generator: We used Draw Names for Secret Santa at the Moka office.


For a White Elephant gift exchange, participants simply have to show up with a wrapped present. Each player is given a number that determines their place in line. (Alphabetical order by first name is one easy way to do it, but you can get creative.)  First up opens any present. Next up can either unwrap another present or steal an opened gift from someone. If your gift is snatched, you can steal another or head back to the pile. Limiting how many times a gift can be stolen keeps the game on track.

Santa’s Little Helper: Set a dollar limit for the gift that everyone can afford. Start a Google Spreadsheet where you can anonymous drop hints about yourself and other participants; this will help people decide what to buy. A fun seasonal theme can also inspire players.

Consider homemade gifts


Recipe jars are incredibly easy and versatile: Just pick up some mason jars and assemble the dry ingredients for anything from chocolate chip oatmeal cookies to coconut curry soup. If you personalize each jar with some ribbon and a note, you can completely skip wrapping paper. Plus, there’s absolutely no cooking skill required, and you can knock out all your shopping at the grocery store.


So you’re not Martha Stewart? Don’t worry. You can still hand craft something for a loved one, and if you’re not sure where to start I’ve got one word for you: YouTube. It’s incredible what you can do with some fabric and a hot glue gun, paper and scissors, or even dollar store Christmas baubles and an old wire hanger.


Isn’t time the most precious gift of all? Handmade coupons are a fun, personalized gift that don’t have to cost you anything. Write down your promise to do something together that the recipient loves (like playing a video game) or simply commit to liberating them from a household chore whenever they cash in the coupon. Humour is highly encouraged (i.e. This coupon is good for winning one argument.)

And don’t forget the gift wrap!


Fancy wrapping paper doesn’t come cheap, but beautiful packaging can really make a gift. Old newspapers, magazines, and flyers are totally underrated wrapping options that are both environmentally friendly and free. Try pages full of text for a modern black and white look or use the cartoon pages for something more colourful. Brown paper bags are also easy to repurpose and can be spruced up with twine and a sprig of Douglas fir or holly.

If you’re shopping this holiday season, figure out what you can afford first and then stick to the plan. There’s no need to completely freeze your account, but you don’t have to go in the red to prove you care. Afterall, the greatest gift you can give yourself is a debt-free New Year.