How Can We Use Media To Gift Without Buying?

Update: Dec. 12, 2018 Open Call…for any and all ideas to give the gift of TIME to teachers, elders, family and friends and reduce consumption/increase heartfelt meaning in the process! Hit me up with your favorite finds and well-received, positive picks? 

Dec. 16, 2015 Update For those who appreciated the post “Toy Joy vs Consumption Junction, or one of the original posts about stuffed animals with cellphones, “Can something be done about all this consumption?” and teaching kids about giving vs receiving while counter-marketing consumption cues,  I wanted to remind that seeding philanthropy and experiential fun to help others less fortunate can go a long way in bringing perspective and life lessons to Tame the Gimmes.

Our holiday tradition of ‘what I could give you if I could’ will take on a new meaning this year as adversity has ratcheted up the ante on the eldercare front and our worldview for kids on a global scale from climate change to ISIS looks bleak. Now more than ever we need intentional vs vapid values imparted at every level…So my question to you is, how do you celebrate the holidays with mindfulness and ‘doing’ vs buying? What ways work with you and your family?

It’s time to update this post, beyond a ‘peace on earth’ wish and I’m wondering what other ideas can be used to ‘gift the gift of…’ (time, presence, health, skills, anything that requires thought without coinage or consumption) Specifics please? And yes, there are prizes and ‘freecycling’ from kids gifts to parenting books…so leave a note in the comments!

gift-photo.jpgDec. 10, 2011 Usually “it’s the thought that counts” is mumbled in the unwrapping-to-wincing phase of needless holiday consumption but I’d like to flip that message into a heart-felt, fun-filled, family tradition instead. With budgets cut to the quick and the focus on children when it comes to ‘doing something special’ for holiday gifts, here’s a long overdue idea for adults that won’t cost a cent…pick out gifts for loved ones, but just don’t buy them.

Seriously. Why not? If it’s truly “the thought that counts” then why not skip the consumption in woulda/coulda mode? After all, how many of us see ‘hilarious’ catalog items ‘perfect’ for so and so, fork out the dough for a giggle, but secretly know it’ll show up in the ‘regifted’ bin?

By turning the sentiment virtual in a fresh new way, relatives and friends know you’re thinking of them with joy and humor minus the mailing costs, spending and credit card bills. (and since ‘the sky’s the limit’ and there’s no budget, you can discover all kinds of fun finds)

Here’s how it works: Write a post full of links with what you’ve picked out for each individual, then invite the key players in your world and let them ‘figure out the puzzle’ in the name of ‘virtual gifting.’

By literally skipping the ‘buy, buy’ flurry and dodging the neuroscience of shopping there’s more time for mindfulness and genuine sharing of thoughts that ‘remind you’ of a certain someone…It could catch on as a beloved annual holiday game ritual.

It’s eco-friendly. Sustainably sound.

An intimacy builder among families to get people talking across the miles…

…And at the very least, could toss out some ideas to get people thinking about what they’d really like to go-see-do or experience with that family member. (a cruise/spa for relaxation? Sure, hey, you’re not payin for it!)

So here goes, friends, family, social media mavens that received a participatory email ping to read this:

Peruse the media and marketing gift items from catalogs that made it into my nightly bubble bath browsing ritual below and ‘find yourself’ (yes, you might be on the list more than once, especially those of you with Dec/Jan bdays!)

Which one (s) do you think I intended for you? What item would you ‘virtually gift’ to me? Have fun, with much love and virtual smooches, xo, me.

P.S. This is not intended as yet another ‘list/guide’ prominent picks post, this is just an ‘example’ using my own family to test out how the idea might work. (I’ll let you know…)

Also, by popular request after beta-testing on a handful of advisory teens who said things ranging from ‘does this mean I can pick out ANY car?’ to ‘yah, but that’s a fun hat, where DO you get it for reals?’ I’m putting the links next to the item)

Match the Gift to the Receiver!

A New DIY Anti-consumption Holiday Game:

“There’s a nap for that” (baby onesie) ThinkGeek

Also like Carpe Dormio (‘seize the nap’ if they had it in a seniors/adult version, dang)

Pat the Foodie (culinary pull and poke parody from our friends at SF’s ImagineeringCo who also brought us “Pat the Politician” and “Presidential Paper Dolls” awhile back, see post here)

Good Night iPad (parody, also avail in print “by Ann Droyd” see PBS MindShift) along with the hit Samuel Jackson read along “Go the F to Sleep” (NSFW, here it is on HuffPo)

Press Here by Herve Tullet at Chronicle Books–the ‘no batteries necessary’ non-digital wow, because what’s old is new again, enjoy, kiddies!)

Me to We Youth Volunteer Trips Abroad: (because you need it!)

Me to We Adult/Family Volunteer Trips Abroad: (because we want it!)

Virtual rat/SPCA. (or hamster, or mouse, cause you keep changing your ‘aww it’s so cuuuuute cooing) Yah. That’s right. The one you want to adopt at the shelter. Here ya go. Along with Sit Happens (SPCA obedience training tee) for the rescue critters from last round. And the iPAW’d 4GS pet toy (complete w/FaceBark, SaFurri icons etc –very fun, tho you know I’d never spend $10 on a teehee–yes, I AM that cheap)

Comfy conductive texting gloves for your winter digits: Gloves you don’t have to take off while using your mobile (asst’d places, inc mass retailers)

Virtuous vino for the fashionista, AND a percentage goes to Dress for success!

Guide Me Now Caregiver Plaque (from Wireless)

Star Wars: Use The Force for Good (from Stand Up for Cancer) hand-created iPhone covers  (benefit cancer)

STRONG (bright red coffee cup) from Girls Inc

SuperHero Cuff Bracelet (a gorgeous real one-sterling silver from Etsy!) 

Self-Esteem Passport (very clever simulation of a real one in look/feel and worldly messaging, from Reach and

Zilly: A Modern Day Parable (“I like being me and I’m exactly how I’m supposed to be!” A newly released whimsical creation by co-founder of, this one I may have to buy for real, from Ditto with the sentiment for the new Etsy Full of Awesome necklaces (tees, school supplies and more via Pigtail Pals)

GEMS Art Book: Breaking the Silence w/Very Young Girls DVD (GEMS: Girls Education Mentoring Services)

Anti-bullying/buff boy Rudolph “They used to call me names” (wouldn’t buy this w/body dysmorphia cues to gents, but admit it caught my eye at “WhatOnEarth”catalog)

Chica Rosa Eco Clutch (200 recycled aluminum pulltabs via SF MOMA)

Aerial art scarves: Batik and unusual fashionista finds with an eco awareness theme (Trendcentral)

I love you “written in stone” (Inspired Living)

The Right Words at the Right Time by Marlo Thomas vol2 (from St.Jude)

Cradle to Cradle Remaking the Way we Make Things and EcoFluxx Game for kids and all ages (

Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology & Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle

Stackable Latin rings (Nemo Nisi Mors – No One But Death Shall Part Us, Veritas Inlustrat – Truth Enlightens, Serva Me Serva Bote – Save Me and I Will Save You, Inter Nos – Between Us, Tibi In Omne Tempus – For You Forever, Datum Amore Ad Defend – Given In Love For Protection from Marc Jacobs

Several sayings came from Signals Catalog: Can you match which ones are for you, ‘fam bam’ and friends?

I cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from passing over my head but I can keep them from building a nest in my hair

The Hokey Pokey Clinic (a place to turn yourself around)

I am the Captain of my soul, I am the master of my fate (double-sided necklace)

I don’t DO mornings (Muppet Mugs)

If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you. (Winnie the Pooh friendship necklace)

As a computer professional I find your faith in technology amusing (tee) I’m billing you for this. (tee) No, I don’t know what’s wrong w/your computer. (more computer humor here for you know who)

She wasn’t where she had been. She wasn’t where she was going…but she was on her way.

So there you have it…a mini-wish gift list for those in my circles who have recited repeatedly that they do NOT NEED (nor want) more “stuff” —and who counsel to ‘spend less, do more’ and opt for the experiential moments since we’re all “running out of somedays.”

Oh, with that in mind, since we’re pipe-dreaming and wish listing…Here’s a sample of the river barge travel trips I’d love to experience in Europe…Just wrap it up and zap it over. Won’t cost you a cent. 😉

Now, about that castle in Scotland…

Related Reading On Shaping Youth by Amy Jussel

Can Somethin Be Done About All This Consumption?

Counter-Marketing Consumption Cues to Kids

Marketing Mindfulness to Kids

Shaping Youth Through Philanthropic Fun

Winter Break Ideas to Keep Kids ‘Consumed’ Without Consumption

What’s A Kids Party Without a Pile of Presents? EchoAge

Wrapping Up the Gift of Time

Freecycling Gifts Throughout December

Kids Take Lessons from National Debt Binge

Shaping Youth Interviews PayJr CEO (financial literacy Pt1)

Money Management for Kids Part2 (financial literacy)

Related Must Read Media For Mindfulness w/Kids 2011

Nagging Nine: CCFC Spotlights Most Advertised 2011 Toys

Critical Shopping 101  (

Holiday Teen Marketing: Where You Need To Be (MediaPost)

Daily Show Takes on iPad and iPhone That Push In-app Marketing to Kids

Visual Credits: Opening graphic:, all others from links cited



  1. Love the idea! Very creative, and fun too!

  2. Amy, I want to ask you something: whenever I see a petition or one of those “join us and spread the word” type of things, I always wonder if joining it will have any real effect. It seems like most of the time organizations push and push for change only to get shot down an inch away from success. When there are so many different groups with contrasting goals, all competing for permanent change, what good does one signature on a petition or one picture on a blog do?

  3. I think it depends on what type of petition and how it’s being handled on blogs…for example the GoDaddy boycott just cost them 120,000 domains being switched in a matter of hours for supporting SOPA and caused them to rethink their biz/alliances…Consumer pressure and speaking out can be incredibly impactful…in fact I’m working on a post right now about this very issue, beyond just legislative/voter impact/lobbying and more toward getting corporate consciousness and reaction to criticism shifting toward a positive policy change in terms of the actual creation and design of products being put forth in the marketplace.

    Stay tuned. I hear ya. And I feel that way often too…the answer is complex, because it’s really a ‘depends’ type of Q&A based on what’s being targeted and what the desired outcome is (e.g. behavioral change/policy/boycott-$$ fiscal clipping/ad revenue etc)

  4. These organizations, such as GEMS, if you ACTUALLY READ THEM, are all created to help people, survivors, CHILDREN!! The reason they charge for there products and ask you to BUY them, is to help keep there hard work and amazing organization going!!!
    It’s sad to me that I do a search for GEMS and your site or blog, whatever it is, was on the first page of the search!

  5. Lisa, we’re a nonprofit too and as you can see on Twitter and in this site, a huge supporter of GEMS and have bought every item they sell, and also screen the film “Very Young Girls”—with a Q&A follow up on sexploitation and how to best support orgs like GEMS directly.

    We also have pointed to GEMS in multiple posts including buying the CD to support their work…so this is the only post where we once again reinforce that as a nonprofit people SHOULD buy from GEMS including the new art book, and made it clear in the copy as well. The fact that we’re showing up on the Google SEO for Gems is probably only due to how many times we’ve written about/supported the org…

    Our nonprofit has a similar problem with showing up in search results for nutrition blogs and such that have little to do with our work…sigh. If we could all afford hotshot SEO consultants we’d be able to point folks in the right direction faster, but fwiw, I’ll link lob the direct site in the comments right now and urge any and all readers to GO SUPPORT GEMS!!! (we’ve never received a penny from our donor button, I don’t know about other nonprofits, but we need an overhaul to shift back to social enterprise like GEMS too… and are doing so now, and will probably find a way to partner in our media literacy sessions!)

    Everyone: I challenge you…to go to GEMS site right here, right now and help ’em out! VERY worthy org:

Speak Your Mind