why i’m saying no to holiday gift-giving

The only way I know how to honor the amount of good in my life is to not spend money on things, but to give it back.

Holiday Gift Giving Give Back

Finding the perfect something for someone and gifting it to them can be one of life’s greatest pleasures. However, the holiday season’s intense pressure to give and give and give is, in my opinion, absolutely soul crushing. The mile-long lists of who needs a present, trying to balance and budget it all, knowing what to show up to the holiday party with, figuring out how to fairly give in order to protect everyone’s feelings…

Will they think this is stupid?

Do they like red or white wine?

What do they even do for fun?

Does their diet allow for this?

Can’t we just get them a gift card?

I freaking hate it.

So this year I’ve decided to say: screw tradition.

About the time that Christmas decorations started to roll out I felt a heavy tug on my heart to do something non-traditional but impactful this year. It’s been a tough season of life for me and while I am still picking up the pieces, I feel like, it’s my responsibility, as I heal, to be a better human than I was a year ago­. So many people helped me this year, propping me up on my own two feet when I couldn’t hold myself up on my own. The amount of gratitude I have for these people and the opportunities the universe has presented, allowing me to find my way through a dark time, is too big to put into words and certainly too big to reciprocate with a nice, holiday fruit basket.

The only way I know how to honor the amount of good in my life is to not spend money on things, but to give it back. I’ve decided to forego all holiday gift-giving and to instead invest in women in need of support for their businesses every day for 40 days.

Here’s my plan:

Using Kiva, a global network of lenders and borrowers, I will give a daily $25 loan to a female business owner in order to create opportunity, empower, and support women across the world from Thanksgiving until New Years Day.

Kiva’s model allows for these crowdfunded loans to be paid back based on the loan’s terms, which allows the original funds to be reinvested. The money can also be withdrawn, but my intent is to keep it cycling and creating change for someone in need from this holiday season into many more.

My only rules:

  1. Make a daily contribution to one female borrower whose story I feel connected to.
  2.  No guilt allowed.

If you’re good at math you know that by the end of the season I will have given $1,000 total. I struggle knowing that this is just a drop in the bucket, especially when I start the comparison game with Gwenyth ‘s Goop guide. The truth of the matter is, I don’t actually have $1,000 to give right now. I am only 3 months into supporting myself on a self-employed salary, trying to furnish a home from scratch, and then you throw in the pressure to gift my besties a $450 cashmere scarf. But I know myself, and I will spend money on gifts for my friends and family regardless, unless I consciously spend the money somewhere else. So, around the world it will go! (Fingers crossed for those scarves next year, ladies.)

The platform features entrepreneurs of all walks of life. Some need capital to grow their businesses into large-scale production, while some need a couple hundred dollars to buy a cow for milk or a few sacks of grain. My heart belongs to all of these women, because though their countries, languages, and currencies are different than my own, they’re fighting to be and do something impactful in the same way I am every day.

This Christmas, as my way of saying thank you, thank you, thank you to the ones who’ve supported me, I am going to not only cheer for women with my voice, but cheer for women with my wallet. For updates along the way follow with me on Instagram. I’ll share what I am discovering and how it’s going over there, and report back here with my experience after Christmas.

Here’s to breaking tradition and building each other up this season. 


December 5 update: 

I am 12 days into my commitment and wanted to share with you how it's going around here.

  • I tweaked my plan early on to include some local Giving Tuesday donations in my $1,000 budget. When I made this plan I didn't have the day of giving on my radar and when it arrived I felt compelled to give back to a few organizations here in Laramie that are especially important to me. I took $200 and gave to Laramie Main Street Alliance, Laramie Public Art, Laramie Soup Kitchen, Feeding Laramie Valley, and Wyoming Women Rise. (All organizations that you should check out if you're in the area!) Because I don't have much wiggle room in the cash department, this means I will just give $200 less on Kiva. No biggie.
  • I haven't been great about getting on and picking a campaign each and every day, but rather just jump on and give to a few at a time.  This is just a technicality that I should probably keep in mind for next year. 
  • Reading the needs of these women scattered across the country is equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking. Many of the women are in need of less then $1,000 for something like seeds, livestock, or parts to fix something like a refrigerator or vehicle. It really makes you think how freaking lucky we are to have business wish-lists made up of things like fancy websites, professional headshots, and Instagram worthy office supplies. 
  • As expected, it feels awesome to be giving back instead of shopping for things I know my loved ones just don't need. I have discovered that there are a couple of traditional gifts that I've given over the years that I feel a little heartsick about not giving, but in the end, it just doesn't freaking matter. There's always next year, right? 
give back Christmas, no presents.jpg

Here are the women I have given loans to on Kiva so far.

Top left to right:  

  • Lorena in Ecuador. Her business sells cosmetics and jewelry from her home to support her husband and three children.
  • Samit in Cambodia. She cultivates rice with her husband and is in need of organic fertilizer and pesticides. Her family survives on an income of $3 (USD) a day.
  • Eva in San Francisco. She is looking to expand her dog daycare and training facility.
  • Munisa in Tajikistan. She is a widowed grocery story owner in need of products to sell to support her child. Her loan amount was only $475.

Bottom left to right:

  • Zolia in Sunnyvale, CA. She left her home in Guatemala to work at 14 years old, and has been selling products since. After moving to the United States last year, she has worked to launch a party business.
  • Lisa in San Rafael, CA. Her business is focused on creating healthy, sustainable, conscious food. She hopes to hire a formerly-incarcerated individuals full-time to expand her cookie business.
  • Jessica and Kirsten in Detroit, MI. The ladies are launching a photo booth company aimed at creating an affordable, energizing experience for communities. They have a passion for activating neighborhoods in need, public spaces cultivating community. (Wonder why I liked them so much?) 

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