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Alternative Christmas Gifts in 2023

By Sarah Chisholm, Financial Advisor of Assante Capital Management Ltd.

2023 has been a challenging year for many households. Budgets are being squeezed with high interest rates and the rising cost of living. As Christmas approaches, consider an alternative approach to gift giving.

Use 2023 as an opportunity to prioritize meaning over monetary value. Do your parents really care how much you spend on them, or are they more focused on the quality of time that you spend together over the holidays? Do your friends really want gift cards, or would they prefer something unique? Here are three alternative low-cost gift giving options to consider.

1. Books

2. Photos

3. Dates

Books offer an escape on long dark winter days. In Iceland there is a tradition of gifting books at Christmas time, so much so that the publishing community calls it Jolabokaflod, or the "Christmas Book Flood.” Gift a book that you have recently read and truly enjoy. Explain to the recipient what you enjoyed about the book, or why it might be of interest to them. For kids give gifts that you read as a child or books have been developed into film that you could watch together later. Books do not need to be expensive. Buy gently used books throughout the year or gift from your personal collection. Focus on the meaning and not the cover price.

Photo prints are truly meaningful in this age of digital media. It is so easy to post photographs to social media, but how often do you get a physical print? Take the time to print photographs as gifts. Photos of grandchildren for grandparents and group photos for friends. Put a personal note on the back of the photograph, or have your child decorate a simple frame. Pictures hung on the wall or stuck to the fridge with a simple magnet will bring ongoing joy to the receiver. A small token to smile at and a cute grandchild to brag about to guests. Don’t bother with a card, write your greetings on the photo.

Spend time together. For friends and family, call them early and explain you would like to spend time with them instead of giving a physical gift. Depending on your budget consider taking them out for lunch or a coffee date. For a more budget friendly option, have them over to your place for lunch or coffee, go for a walk together, or spend time volunteering for a cause of their choice. For loved ones far away, skip the mailed gifts and instead pick up the phone. Spending time together is priceless.

For Christmas 2023, step away from the expensive gift cards and the stress of buying “things”. Pick meaningful options that don’t require a set dollar value. Give friends and family advance notice about your plan, they may also choose the same path. Imagine the relief a friend might have knowing that they don’t need to buy you a $25 gift card – that instead you would be excited for a coffee date or a suggestion for a new book to read.

Sarah Chisholm is a Financial Advisor with Assante Capital Management Ltd. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Assante Capital Management Ltd. Please contact her at 613.258.1997 or visit to discuss your circumstances prior to acting on the information above. Assante Capital Management Ltd. is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.

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