In the same spirit of Buy Nothing Christmas, I am posting on my birthday to let you know that birthdays and holidays do not equate to lavish gifts wrapped or bagged in the appropriate season's paper. In fact, for us, celebrations do not entail purchased gifts at all, but deeper, more meaningful expressions of appreciation for loved ones.
For my twentieth birthday, we are getting together with all the family and some friends for some together time. Some family even happens to be in from out of town, which only sweetens the occasion. My mother will be making a big home made lunch, which means I'm spared cooking for a meal, and I'll also get to see a good friend who I haven't seen for a long time. These are celebratory days for us.
Yes, our families celebrate holidays in the traditional manner (purchased-gift-giving), but they understand our reasoning for not wanting to take part in the same fashion. Saving money is only a nice side effect. We find home and hand made gifts, including hosting meals, as well as simply setting aside time from one's day for someone, are much more heartfelt gifts than anything you could go buy present-ready at the store.
Some variations on buy nothing include gift giving in which one person is selected to buy for another and the whole group is taken care of that way. Everyone gets one gift, and everyone gives one gift. Another holiday alternative is for everyone to give gifts only to their immediate family and closest friends. An interesting birthday alternative is to give gifts to everyone else on your birthday. After all, it is better to give than to receive! This method results in less overall gift shopping in a year.
Another option is to make a donation in someone's name to an organization of your choice or theirs (if you know of one they are passionate about). This is a very thoughtful gift in my opinion, and also helps those who genuinely need it or furthers good causes. Most organizations will provide you with a card to present to your loved one for whom the donation was made.
We like these alternative methods of gift giving, and especially buy nothing and donating, because these remove the focus from material things and place more focus on people. Try talking to your family about possible alternatives that can work for you all.