When I was a kid, I loved putting together a Christmas wish list. My parents were pretty good about getting me what I asked for, and they made certain I'd get one big ticket item along with some toys, clothes, and sweets.
By the time I was out of college, the Christmas wish list had lost its fun. It has become an exercise in finding items with a range of prices suitable to the varying income levels of my friends and family that I wouldn't hate having around if someone actually ended up buying them for me. I enjoy living a simple lifestyle, and I really don't want more stuff. Some of my friends feel the same way, and we have enjoyed a pleasant I-won't-get-you-anything-if-you-won't-get-me-anything holiday truce for years. Some economists agree that skipping gift-giving all together is a much more efficient allocation of resources.
For friends and family who insist on keeping the obligatory tradition to spend money on loved ones I've found an alternative to the wish list: the fundraising page.
Set a goal to raise money for they worthy cause of your choice, and direct your friends and relatives to spend their money on something useful - like moving a family in Kenya into the middle class - instead of on another ill-fitting sweater. Shift your gifts to someone who could really use a little something extra, and enjoy the warm feeling of making someone else's life better.
Your loved-ones may be more receptive to learning about the struggles of others around the holidays - it's a great time for outreach. Set-up your fundraising page and spread the word about what you want for Christmas. This year, I've set up a page with The Adventure Project. In addition to doing great work, their message is upbeat and presented in digestible graphics with short, punchy descriptions. Perfect for enticing giving from those who may not be familiar with the struggles of families in extreme poverty.
If the fundraising page may not go over well in your family, think of other approaches to moving money spent on gifts to money spent on charity. My best friend and I created our own tradition for birthdays and holidays after reading The Life You Can Save. We donate to a charity in the other's name and also give each other an affordable item under $10.