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  • courtesy of Money & Life by the FPA

Give more at Christmas without buying

Want to make Christmas a special time for your family without going overboard on buying gifts? Maybe it’s time to start a family tradition of sharing experiences or being generous in a new way. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the consumer frenzy that takes hold during the season of good cheer. There are so many reasons to keep reaching into your pocket - buying gifts, the packed social calendar of drinks, dinners and parties, stocking up the pantry with festive foods. But what if you took a step back from it all and put your energy, time and money into a new way of celebrating with family and friends?

Here are three ideas for taking a different approach to giving and sharing at Christmas and creating some fantastic family memories too.

1. Get together for an occasion to remember

Spending time eating and making merry together on Christmas Day is a well worn family tradition. While it’s something most people look forward to, it can often rely on just one or two people taking on a lot of the work and the budget to entertain a crowd. So what if you added a different sort of festive get-together to your calendar? One that’s planned so everyone can do their bit to make it happen and enjoy the outcome too.

Your ideal family shindig could be a day or two at a sporting event, a trip out to dinner and the theatre or a weekend away together. Once you’ve got the date locked in, you can all start to look forward to it and save for it too. Pooling funds for your special event can be a great way to get you all motivated towards a common financial goal. Make sure you find a way to share the news about your contributions as the dollars add up. A bit of healthy competition in the savings stakes can give you more to spend on luxurious extras – a gourmet hamper or premium seats anyone?

2. Donate and show your shared values

Find yourself scouring the shops for that ideal present for someone who already has all they need, and much more besides? Gifting donations can be the ideal alternative and particularly meaningful when they reflect a person’s interests or what they value most. If your brother feels blessed and grateful to have become a Dad this year, make a donation on his behalf to Make a Wish Australia and bring hope to a child living with a life-threatening illness. Is Mum a bit of a bookworm? Visit TEAR Foundation’s Useful Gifts selection and look out for the Adult Literacy option that can help lift someone out of poverty.

There are hundreds of charities you could donate to on someone’s behalf. Here are just a handful offering ways for you to make a difference with your gifts this Christmas.

Oxfam charity gifts – Oxfam were one of the pioneers of charitable donations as a substitute for traditional gift giving. They have options for a range of budgets, all designed to bring better health, safety and living standards to people throughout the world.

Unicef Give a Gift – from life-saving polio vaccines to a school-in-a-box, head to this UNICEF donation hub to pledge your support to children struggling with hunger and poverty around the world.

Joyspreader – want your donations to help those struggling with poverty in your own backyard? This Smith Family initiative offers different ways to provide a better education to disadvantaged kids and their families.

Kiva – if you’re eager to see your donation create significant momentum for change, then micro lending with Kiva may be just what you’re looking for. Choose who you support and where. When your money is repaid, you can lend again to a new organisation, cause or region.

3. Volunteer or fundraise together

Whether it’s a one-off occasion or a regular commitment of your time, volunteering can be a great way for all of you to get together and feel good about giving back to your community. It could make sense for you to choose an activity where your family already has strengths – if you’re all pretty handy on the tools, perhaps you can donate time to a community building project. Or maybe you’d all like to try something new together and make it a way to acquire new skills. Visit to learn more about volunteering opportunities in your local area.

Pooling your time and energy to raise money for a cause that’s close to your hearts could also be the perfect family project for the new year. You’ll discover a whole world of fundraising initiatives at Many fitness and endurance events have a fundraising angle, so if you want to make a joint commitment to keeping fit, sign up together and see how much you can donate from your efforts.

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