Freebie Christmas

Today I am publishing a comment from and new reader, Joann, who left a comment to an old post. I enjoyed the comment so much I wanted to share it with you. It is a little out of season but who cares. Christmas will be here soon enough. So without further adieu, here it is.

Every Christmas we celebrate what we call Freebie Christmas. Nothing may be bought, everything has to be free, like a coupon for a free box of detergent or an ice-cream cone. When the bank gives me a thank you pen, or blank book, or backpack for opening an account, these go into the freebie box. By the end of the year, I have gifts galore for every one. One year a friend gave me a set of stoneware loaf pans she no longer wanted, brand new in the box! These went into my freebie box. As a result of a year of collecting “new” stuff, I have lovely things to give to my family and extended family. A store was going out of business and you could fill a bag for $5. I filled my bag, calculated what would have cos $5 and put the rest into my freebie box. This included 3 beautiful china teapots, which were a great hit as gifts. Since of the gifts have no monetary value, no one minds if the recipient recycles the gift to some one else and NO ONE ever has their feelings hurt, because it does not matter, it is for the fun, not the gift. One year I received those plastic covers with elastic around the edge for covering food in bowls. I had never seen those before and thought they were very clever shower caps in all sorts of sizes, even one for the dog. Another year, my brother had won the contents of an old theater prop room, so we received Tiny Tim Cratchit’s crutch and a beautiful set of replica Titanic china. We do a lot of laughing and enjoy Christmas very much, without any guilt for passing on some of the gifts.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something made from an animal product eg. leather, bone, wool…

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

Eco Tip for the Day

When buying bars of soap, buy ones without wrappers or multipacks that come in a simple cardboard box. Every little bit of plastic saved from landfill counts.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. huh. I never really gave it a lot of meaning, but my mum does a very similar thing, but is different in the end:
    she collects all gifts that were given to her, but she didnt like. like candles with scent, candle holders, furry toys, freebies from companies, fancy bags, those “wise” gift-books, etc. Everytime she gets a short notice invitation to something, she just pulls something out of there. she sometimes even puts the name of the gift giver on the gift, so that she doesnt give it back accidentally to the original person two years later 😉
    I didnt know it back then, but I never liked the shelf. those items had no meaning, but are bought just because etiquette dictates. If I dont know what to bring, I either bring nothing, or consumables (food and drinks) or I ask what to give.

    although I do like the idea of collecting nice things for people. important is the fun part of it. Joann made it clear:
    “Since of the gifts have no monetary value, no one minds if the recipient recycles the gift to some one else and NO ONE ever has their feelings hurt, because it does not matter, it is for the fun, not the gift.”
    that is the important sentence that makes it all worth while. 🙂

  2. What a great idea! We play “dirty Santa” (Google it). We’ve done this for several years and everyone knows that some of us don’t want something that is clutter to us. So…many of the gifts are usually gift certificates.

    My mini mission today is a pair of leather shoes…to the thrift shop.

  3. Colleen, thanks for the post. Joann, this is a great idea. I think I am going to mention it to our Bible Study group to replace the “White Elephant” gift idea which is supposed to mean don’t buy anything. If we say change the name and say no money to be spent then maybe they will get the idea.

  4. This is a CUTE idea!
    To be honest, I try to avoid freebies but it would be a way to put an enterprising slant on gift giving.

  5. This is such a great idea, and I am one who loves receiving a pre loved gift. Why do people think everything has to be new?
    My neighbor’s do a similar smart thing here for Halloween trick-or-treating. They fill a festive bucket with little things their kids bring home from fast food meal toys and kids parties and other little gifts. Free for them and candy-free handouts for the neighborhood kids. I would do this but we don’t have many little odds and ends for my boys because we avoid them.

  6. JoAnn,
    I love reading about all of the different “takes” on Christmas gift giving. Secret Santa, Drawing names, White Elephants, Gift Certificates only, Homemade/Handmade only, Steal the gift….always clever ideas. Your “freebie” idea is new to me. It is very creative.

    Colleen, this post is very timely as most people/organizations start the majority of their holiday planning in September.

  7. I love any idea that keeps the fun in gift-giving, and this definitely does!

  8. Joann,

    What a funny post! I loved the part about the shower caps in different sizes. LOL! What a fun thing to do at Christmas!

  9. This post is playing with my mind….I guess it keeps us from buying from the big box stores; however for me, it would also means collecting things all year long to unload on one day.

    I don’t mean to give a negative connotation, but for me, this behavior is counterintuitive.

    Am I the only one that feels this way? I hesitate to send this post, but here goes……

    • I feel that way too, but I believe if you only collect freebies that you know someone or most people will likely use, find practical, or beautiful, then it works. If it’s a bunch of junk, then no, I wouldn’t pass it on. For example, I love scented candles and lotions as long as they smell wonderful. Anyone that knows me well would know that saving such things for me, and telling me they were free, would be such a great gift that will be consumed happily. I used to stock up gifts without knowing who they were for though, and I’d often have trouble deciding whether anyone would really delight in the items; so I have started just saving specific gifts for specific people. That works much better for me. In the case of a sudden need of a hostess gift, I have ready ideas for those people I don’t know-baked items, delicious specialty beverages or food, a plant or bouquet if I know they won’t be allergic or if I’m really in a hurry and ingredients in a jar gift.

  10. Hi Anna, I think different things are right for different people… I like gift cards myself… I pay attention all year to where my “giftees” like to shop/eat/get gas and I give certificates to those places… because I know they can use them… clutter free gifts and no large storage space needed for me to keep them until the occasion 🙂

  11. We have a related thing. The weekend after Thanksgiving weekend (so not 2 days after!) is ReGiftMas.

    Bring anything you don’t want. Take anything you do. One room is full of like-new stuff, one room is full of still-has-use stuff. Lots of fun! So that gift you didn’t want? Off it goes to someone who either wants it or knows someone who does (and now they don’t have to buy one!) Hand cream is popular, even if partially used–someone is sure to like the scent.

    I have a box in which I put new items I don’t want and save them all year. About a month before hand I start keeping the still-has-use stuff (the rest of the time I donate it more promptly elsewhere). That seems to balance out having a nice selection and contributing to the gathering without having boxes around the house all year!

  12. Hi Anna. I’m half-way in agreement with you. As a former freebie-junkie I certainly don’t seek free stuff and usually refuse it if offered but some things still arrive unsolicited. We don’t gift at holidays and I try to unload unwanted freebies as they arrive but this would work for those families who still feel the need to exchange gifts while they wean themselves from shopping.

  13. I collect gifts year round…often at the after Christmas sales for the adults. I usually keep the 4 families gifts that I mail gifts to in mailing boxes. With all the decluttering I’ve done over the years these 4 boxes are no problem to store. In fact I could add 2 more boxes for the freebie & regifting. I love both of these ideas.
    I love getting new takes on gift giving. Good on you both!