My friends and I have been a little panicky lately: There’s a recession going on, but all the eggnog lattes, carols, twinkling lights, and retail madness seem to say—no, to scream—”Gifts are not optional.”

Collectively we’ve been discussing all the ways to be responsible, while still being generous—maybe some great DIY gifts, except after pricing out the supplies needed for infusing bourbon or making a handmade cookbook, it ends up costing more than we thought. We could pick a name out of a bag and only have to give one gift this year, but we each want to share something with the entire group. There’s also the idea of regifting, but I don’t know that any of my friends want the unwrapped Rick Astley CD I managed to save all these years.

As we went back and forth about what to do, it finally came to us: Do nothing. There would be no gifts, no panic, and no wrapping paper. Instead we’re each putting $10 into a pot and throwing ourselves a damn good dinner party on the cheap. And I think we’ll be doing a much better version than the New York Times’ model of a budget holiday party, at $30 a person (are you kidding me?!), with a twice-baked potato as the entrée. If a solitary Idaho spud doesn’t shout holiday party, I’m not sure what does.

When it comes down to it, we just want to spend some quality time with each other, and we can’t think of a better way to do it than by cooking, drinking cocktails, and eating together. I know that the idea of a no-gift holiday is not a new one, but (embarrassingly) it’s new to me. I admit it: I love to go shopping and pick out the perfect gift for someone—I get a real thrill out of doing the gift guides for CHOW each year. There’s no way to know if I’ll feel like I missed out on something when it’s all over, but I’m already feeling calmer. I wonder if any of you are coming up with cheaper but still fun ways to celebrate during the holidays?

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