Gift Giving — How To Be Frugal And Yet Generous

by Katy on August 19, 2008 · 3 comments



Allison asked this question in response to A Reason For Non-Consumers To Celebrate:

“I’m curious how you handle birthday gifts throughout the year — especially for kids’ classmates and others who aren’t necessarily aware of the compact.   I was comfortable doing this for my kids when they were young (e.g. giving recycled toys for Christmas), but feel like it’s tougher now…”

Good question Allison.

When I give a gift, I have three priorities:

  • First, to not spend too much money. 
  • Second, to not slip up from The Compact (only buy used).
  • Third, to give a gift that is thoughtful and would be welcome in the recipient’s life.



Sound like a tall order? Well yes, it is. But it’s actually extremely do-able.

The trick is to plan ahead. Birthday parties and gifts are a given, and should not come as any great surprise.

So, always buy your gifts ahead of time.

I do almost all of my shopping at area Goodwill thrift shops. But this doesn’t mean that I am stocking up on a bunch of worn out junk. I only buy like-new items. 

I often come across games and toys that are still in their original packaging. If it’s something I think would make a good gift, I buy it and set it aside. Now I’m set for when those inevitable birthday invitations start rolling in.

For example, my ten-year-old son was invited to a sleepover birthday party last week. Did I rush off to Target and plunk down twenty bucks on some random toy?

No way, fellow Non-Consumers.

I brought out my bag of perfectly new (actually used) toys and let my son shop for a toy he thought the birthday boy would like. (He chose a Quip-It interactive DVD game still in its shrink wrap. $37.95 new, $3 at Goodwill — tee hee.)

Boom. Problem solved. No fuss, no muss. 

Another tried and true staple for child gift giving is books. I buy never-been-read juvenile fiction, (usually Newbery award winner types) for 49 cents apiece throughout the year. Then I let my sons pick out five or so for the birthday kid. Add an homemade card and voila, you’ve got a great package for one lucky kid.

There is no reason anyone need know you’re giving used gifts, (unless you think the person would appreciate it). And there’s certainly no need to feel bad. I think I actually give better gifts because I’m buying ahead and can give it more thought.

Don’t forget that by buying used, you’re casting your vote against the negative impact of our consumer culture. When something is bought brand new, another item in manufactured to replace what you just brought home. But when a used item is bought, there is no message sent to the factory to churn out more stuff. And frankly, this world has got enough stuff.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison August 19, 2008 at 6:18 pm

Thanks Katy! This is great. I’m aware of Goodwill, but actually have no idea where one is around me. I’m sure there are other great outlets for stocking up on used gifts. Personally, I love library book sales (though it can be a little tough to find “like new” books there). I wonder if other readers would mind sharing their favorite shopping spots for previously used goods?


CanadianKate August 19, 2008 at 6:59 pm

I’m still struggling with this. But the Compact allows services, so I’ve been taking the easy way out, buying gift certificates to movies, downloads from ITunes, and subscriptions to their favourite online sites (my dh loves the comic page of the newspaper but we don’t subscribe to a paper so he belongs to three different services to get all the daily comics he likes to read.)

In a discussion over at the Compact some people had come up with amazing ‘dates’ for the birthday child (not on their birthday but another days at a later time.) Trips to museums, zoos, hiking picnics. If you think about it, kids are starved for attention these days so one on one time is a great gift.

Another idea was a box of used baking/cooking things and then spending a half day baking with the child, teaching them how to cook.

All this takes time and thought. I’m just beginning to think about Christmas this year and at this point, despite only having a few people to buy for, it is overwhelming.


Mrs Green August 20, 2008 at 12:00 am

Just brilliant! I have a box of stuff too, but it’s just reduced things I’ve bought new. And I’m not very good at choosing gifts. Some people seem to have a real art for choosing great gifts; I’m not like that. So I have my box of goodies, but then when the Birthday comes I panic and often go and buy something new.

Anyway, your post has really inspired me to rethink this. After all, the recipient has usually forgotten what they’ve received within a few days anyway! And I remember one instance where a friend said to me ‘I can’t write you a thank you note; my kids just ripped everything open so I don’t know what you gave them’……..


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