The most intimate gift you can give is your Time
Michael and I decided in the beginning of our relationship that we wouldn't purchase things for each other when presents were expected: during Christmas time, birthdays, anniversaries. Instead, we would plan experiences together. Our first Christmas together, we took a beginner's flying lesson. My birthday, He planned for us to go skydiving together. His birthday, I got him stunt-driving lessons. This Christmas, we decided to get scuba certified.
Every time we do something together I'm more convinced of how great an idea it was. It takes away a little bit of the surprise element, sure. However, we now get to be excited and curious for several weeks leading up to our excursion. Lots of research, learning and speculation takes place before we do each thing. It brings us together, solidifies our friendship, stimulates great conversation, and in the end, creates memories that last far longer than exchanging presents ever would.
We only get one life (...or do we? But that's a question for another post). Time is one of the few things that you allocate without knowing how much more you have; you never truly know when you will run out. I've come to realize that investing your time into somebody else is the single most precious gift you can give.
Don't mistake me - I still give physical gifts. We just don't need to make them the focal-point of what we like to share with others. The last thing that most of us need is more possessions. What I genuinely want to share with those I love is my life. My time. One of the few things I cannot purchase. The only thing that you can receive from nobody else - my time. Our memories that we create together mean far more to me than almost any present.
I relish Christmas-time more than I ever have before. Why? Because I focus on enjoying my time with my family, creating memories. I spend more money now - if I'm going to organize an excursion as my gift to you, I like to pay for it. But every dollar I spend is spent creating memories that will never get lost, thrown away, broken or misplaced over the years. You might also find that you enjoy some activities that you never expected to love.
I'm sure there will be plenty of "I don't have time for everybody" and "not everybody wants to do things with me" thoughts. For the first thought: If you don't think you have time for somebody who means enough to you that you'd like to get them a gift, make time. Everybody has the same amount of hours in the day. You'll spend them on what is important to you, whether you like to think about it that way or not.
For the second thought: Why would you want to buy a present for somebody who doesn't even want to spend time with you?