November 13, 2019

How To Use The Gifting Economy To Tackle Your Holiday Gift List

By Laura Spitalniak

As the holiday season approaches, some are tackling its consumeristic nature in a different way.

Fans of the “gifting economy” swear by it.  People giving items with no direct agreement for something in return, while receiving things under the same guidelines. This method reduces what is bought and discarded, making it environmentally and wallet-friendly. It also allows for some holiday cleaning and decluttering in preparation for hosting family and friends.

Online groups have popped up across platforms, including the Buy Nothing Project. You can only be a member of one Buy Nothing group, so choose the one that best represents where you live. This makes pick-up easier for all parties involved.

But how can you “shop” for gifts in a Facebook group? Check out these tips and tricks:

Go All Natural

Indoor plants have grown in popularity, especially with young people and those living in cities. Pothos, an easy-to-grow leafy vine, is a great choice for beginners and experts alike. The plant is easy to propagate and looks beautiful in even a basic glass jar.

Many Buy Nothing members are house plant fans as well. Ask for a clipping from someone’s pothos plant and you’re sure to get a positive response. One post in the Columbia Heights/Petworth group asked for plant clippings and got six offers in a day!

Books As Gifts

Books are perennial favorites for readers to give and receive. However, if the subject matter leaves something to be desired, books can also be used as craft supplies. Many bibliophiles will gasp at the thought of intentionally tearing a page. But an old physics textbook has outdated information and does no longer has value in its original state. Thirty minutes and a quick tutorial later, it can have new life as a piece of art.

Use Customization

Any gift can benefit from customization, whether it’s a skirt dyed to the recipient’s favorite color or a painted frame for cherished photos. Before you head to Michael’s, ask the group for the supplies. Arts and crafts supplies, such as yarn, poster board, fabric, and dyes, pop up frequently. A little personalization can help turn your present from “fine” to “winning the gift exchange.”

Take Recommendations

Because individuals can only join one Buy Nothing group, members are often also neighbors. If you need ideas in addition to supplies, tell your story and take recommendations from others. If you have no idea what to get your nephew for Christmas, the parent of three boys who lives down the street likely has a wealth of suggestions.

Set Group Notifications

If you really want to know the second an item is listed, enable notifications for the group’s post. Some members follow first come, first serve rules. Popular items (with four or more requests in the comments) will often result in the owner pulling a name from a hat or using a randomizer. Buy Nothing doesn’t encourage the constant refreshing of the screen but notifications can help keep you aware of your options.

Just Ask

No matter how specific the item you’re looking for, it never hurts to ask. Share the story of why you’re looking for Tickle Me Elmo/Hot Wheels/a vintage dollhouse and how it would be used in the future. The probability of a match being found increases when you give your request wiggle room. But it never hurts to ask. A commenter might even direct you to a better idea.

While You’re There

Do a little holiday cleaning and pass on items you no longer use. Maternity clothing and children’s toys are always popular giveaways, as well as crafting supplies and appliances. If you see an ISO post (“In Search Of”) you can fulfill, reach out to the poster and share the Buy Nothing spirit.

Ready to give it a try? Click on your neighborhood below to join your Buy Nothing group.

Washington, DC


Northern VA