Living Vegan In Charlotte, NC

Frugal Vegan Gift Giving – Part I – Making A List, And Checking It Twice …

ive got socks

Believe it or not, sometimes socks can be a cool – and frugal – vegan gift!

It’s not just going to be a frugal Friday – it’s going to be a whole Frugal Week as we focus on vegan gift giving and receiving!

Holidays can be stressful times indeed for vegans and vegetarians!

First, there’s the general pressure of the Holiday season – the crowds at the stores, the pressure to find the perfect gifts, your dwindling bank account and rising credit card balance.

Then, a vegan can also feel left out of the Holiday season a bit.

It starts at Thanksgiving, when all your otherwise sane omnivore friends begin obsessing about dead birds – even posting pictures of turkey corpses as their FB profile picture.

And then it’s Black Friday!  Reading through the ads you find most of the “doorbusters” and “Holiday Gift Sets Free With Purchase” don’t appeal or apply to you anymore.  You aren’t interested in the blowout sales on leather jackets, or the matching angora hat, gloves, and scarf set, or the beauty and bath gift sets that were tested on animals, or the gift baskets full of sausages, smoked salmon, and milk chocolates.

There are those awkward situations when a family member or friend gets you something completely inappropriate – a leather wallet or purse, or a cheese sampler from Hickory Farms.

Your family and friends have things like steak knives, Ugg boots, and Paula Deen cookbooks on their Wish List … but you don’t feel like being an “enabler” any more.

You check out some vegan shopping online shopping sites … like Vegan Cuts, Pangea, and Vegan Essentials … and you are either dismayed ($14 for a bag of kale chips?  Really?) or disappointed (That’s one heck of an ugly purse.)

What’s a frugal, practical vegan to do?

Take a realistic look at your finances and your holiday expenses.

Remember your holiday expenses include more than gift giving – there’s holiday travel. Perhaps you are hosting a party or having friends or relatives stay at your house over the holidays – that will be additional food expenses, plus maybe a bit of money towards decorating, cleaning, and “sprucing up.”  You may have a few fun things you want to do with your family – take the kids ice skating, go to Biltmore Estate, catch some holiday movies (highly recommend the new Disney 3D movie, Frozen.)  Maybe you have a tradition of giving money to a charity over the holiday season, or making a donation in memory of a loved one no longer with you.  Make a list of all these things and roughly estimate your expenses.

To this list also add your current money goals.  Pay off your credit card debt?  Your student loan?  Make a down payment on a house or a car?  Save for the next big family vacation or your children’s college?  Label this list, “IMPORTANT!”

And then – and only then – take a look at your gift list.  How long is your list?  Who is on your list – adults or children?  Friends or acquaintances?  Do you even like the people on your list? What kind of presents do you usually give?  How much do you usually spend per gift? And what effect will that have on your bank account?  How does that affect your “IMPORTANT” list?

How much, realistically, can you afford to spend on gifts?  Better question, looking at these lists, how much do you want to spend?

Here’s a radical idea.  (You’re veg, you should be used to radical ideas.)


You do not HAVE to give gifts.  You should only give gifts if you WANT to, you can AFFORD to, and if giving makes BOTH YOU and the RECIPIENT happy.

That does not necessarily mean NO gifts.  It means giving selectively.  You may want to buy gifts for the children and not the adults.  Or just your immediate family.  If you have a big, extended family, you may want to suggest drawing names, or setting a dollar limit per gift. Those are just a few ideas.

Children should have toys at Christmas.  But for the adults on your list ... gifts should be voluntary and optional.

Children should have toys at Christmas. But for the adults on your list … gifts should be voluntary and optional. (This was my cat Charlie – a stray I took in – RIP.)

It’s fine to tell people you’re not into gift-giving.  Give whatever reason you want, or no reason at all.  Say you’re stepping out of the media commercialism frenzy.  If you’re Christian, say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  If you’re not Christian, say you believe the holiday season should be about peace, love, and goodwill, not consumerism.  And there’s nothing wrong with telling people closest to you that your budget is a little tighter this year.  Believe me, anyone who truly cares about you does not want you going into debt (or further into debt) to buy them a Christmas gift.

Forget about “reciprocation” gifts.  You know, someone you weren’t planning to give a gift to (or expecting to get a gift from) “surprises” you with a gift, so you then feel obligated to gift them back.  Or someone ignores the agreed-upon budget limit of $20 and gives you a gift easily worth $50, so you then feel you need to give them an equally expensive gift. Here are two things to keep in mind:

People should give because THEY want to give, not because they are expecting anything in return (except making you happy).   Smile and gracefully accept the gift.  Don’t spoil their pleasure in gift-giving by refusing it.  If they’re giving only because they expect something in return – well, that’s not really a gift, is it?

That’s not to say there are some people who ARE expecting a gift in return, maybe even in a specific value range.  But that’s their problem, not yours.

"Look at this!  I gave them a dead mouse and three dead cockroaches and all they got me was this stupid collar from Dollar Tree!  They said it matched my eyes ... hmmmph."

“Look at this! I gave them a dead mouse and three dead cockroaches and all they got me was this stupid collar from Dollar Tree! They said it matched my eyes … hmmmph.”

Second, if someone chooses to ignore the gift limit – that was their decision, not yours.  Besides, you may not know what someone actually paid.  Two personal examples:

Some people are just really, really, really good at shopping.  My partner is a deal-finding, couponing genius and, thanks to him, we frequently buy top-quality, name-brand, brand-new things for both ourselves and others at a fraction of the price.

When I was in my teens I worked at a secretarial service instead of doing the waitress-y thing.  One of our clients was a rep for Calvin Klein Cosmetics, and she’d frequently give me full-size bottles of fragrances and gift sets, which included Obsession For Men, Obsession for Women, and Eternity.  These were not “samples” – these were giant bottles of fragrance and top-of-the-line gift sets.  Of course I used them for gifts.

And I personally know many other people in sales and marketing who receive free or can purchase deeply discounted goods.  So – don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  Or a cat, either.

Prince Harry Pumpkin.

Prince Harry Pumpkin.

Next blog post:  Those Awkward Gift Situations – When Someone Gives You Dead Cow

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8 Responses »

  1. That picture of Charlie is adorable, he looks like he is possessively hording all those stuffed animals…too cute. I’m sorry for your loss. Great advice as well. My boyfriend and I are both horribly broke this year and have agreed not to exchange gifts, we do lots for each other all year, we don’t need one day to prove our love via gifts. And I only give my best friend’s son a gift and not her, and she prefers it that way. So many people feel pressured to give gifts to EVERYONE, but I agree with you, it shouldn’t be that way. Looking forward to your next post!

    • Oh, Charlie loved his stuff toys! Poor baby, I didn’t have him in my life for long! I understand what you’re going through – my partner and I were both laid off several years ago within months of each other. We’ve since found work, but it was tough! That was when I first reconsidered the whole concept of gift giving, and it has been very liberating! No one needs to “prove” their love with gifts.

  2. I’m going simple this year – making things for family and close friends and sending cards to the rest! I’ve also asked for nothing in return, so I’m hoping to skip the gift receiving guilt! Just happy for everything I have and to spend time with family!

  3. I think I love you after this post! Mainly because of your stance that giving gifts does not have to be this mandatory thing because I totally agree!! I think that the holiday season “forces” people into gift buying. There have been so many times that I’ve been so busy that I would get gifts at the last minute and they were always things I didn’t really feel that proud of.

    I prefer making homemade gifts and giving them to people any time of the year. That is what makes gift giving actually special. When they mean something and come at times when people don’t “expect” them. Will I buy gifts this year? Who knows. Probably. I worry that people in my life are in the camp of “expecting” gifts and will be hurt if I don’t give any.

    • Thanks! I used to be totally into gift giving and wound us spending all this money on gifts people didn’t even appreciate and getting gifts I just donated to charities in return. IT IS MADNESS!!! I’d rather pick out one or two very special gifts for one or two very special people in my life … or, like you say, make or bake something special, or DO something special!

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