The Non-Consumer Advocate’s Holiday Gift Idea Forum

by Katy on October 29, 2013 · 100 comments

Gift Idea Forum

It’s easy to be careful when it comes to spending on ourselves, but that austerity can be difficult to maintain when the month of December rolls around. I’ve certainly been guilty of keeping my gift spending under control until December 23rd, when I suddenly panic and plug in the gift holes without a single thought for the financial consequences.

Please tell me I’m not the only one.

I officially only buy used, I do buy food gifts, experiential gifts and the occasional responsibly manufactured doo-dad. And that can add up.

I am only just now starting to think about this year’s holiday shopping. Although I do shop from thrift shops year round, birthdays sneak up and deplete my precious gift stash.

Birthdays are awful that way.

My best piece of advice to keep your holiday gifting expenses under control is to decrease the number of people with whom you exchange gifts. This conversation may be uncomfortable, but you may find that the idea to stop exchanging gifts is a welcome one. No one wants their house cluttered with useless crap, and everyone is keeping an eye on their spending.

Whether it’s used gifts, homemade gifts, experiential gifts or simply no gifts, I want to hear your ideas!

What are you giving this year, and what are you struggling with? What gifts have been hits, and conversely what gifts were duds?

Please share your ideas in the comments section below. Let’s get the ideas flowing, because I truly believe that you can have a Non-Consumer holiday season that’s still generous and meaningful.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
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{ 100 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen @ Journey towards simplicity October 29, 2013 at 9:53 am

I tried Tisbest Giftcards one year – its where a monetary amount designated on the card allows the receiver to choose what charity among a huge list to donate the amount… it had mixed reviews. Some folks frowned when they realized they were not getting the 25 bucks in their own pocket… others figured it was thoughtful and creative.

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Katy October 29, 2013 at 9:57 am

Just yesterday I bought a Goodwill Restoration Hardware luxury plush throw blanket THAT STILL HAD THE TAGS ON for my older son. It was $9.99, although they normally cost $60.

I also bought a $3 Goodwill small round bent-plywood stool that I will paint and possibly mod-podge for my younger son. His bed is very close to his closet, so it will work well as a bedside table.

Katy

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Ann Warlick June 5, 2015 at 3:49 am

Its great!

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Suzanne P. October 29, 2013 at 9:59 am

I’m a freak of nature and usually start buying Christmas presents in June. I buy things at thrift stores, online or anywhere/time that I find something a friend or relative might like that’s also a good deal. In the past I have accidentally forgotten about items that I already purchased and that has resulted in too many gifts for some people. Lately I have been keeping track on a word document saved to my desktop so I can see what I’ve already gotten for people. It’s helped me “remember” what I’ve already gotten.

This year I am giving most extended family members Saltine toffee candy (it’s just sooo good). I bought a couple of unopened packages of cellophane gift bags from the thrift store and chocolate chips and butter when they were on sale. Now all I need are the Saltines and brown sugar.

I’ve also been buying frames from thrift stores for months and spray painting them. They will hold pictures of my baby. These I will also give away as gifts.

My nuclear family is limited to $30 per person. Ninety-five percent of my presents have already been purchased and I feel pretty good about not going overboard this year. However, like you, I do tend to panic right before Christmas and go on a mini-spending spree. I’m just going to have to tell myself “NO!” That or maybe I will give myself a $10 budget that I have to stick to for those last few items.

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Betsey October 29, 2013 at 10:17 am

recipe for saltine toffee?

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Suzanne P. October 29, 2013 at 11:08 am

This is the recipe I’m going to use… http://eatsnacklove.com/2012/10/12/saltine-toffee-bars/

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Hannah October 29, 2013 at 10:01 am

On Thanksgiving Day after the feast, everyone in my family puts their name in a hat. Then we each draw names – everyone gets just one gift for one person. That way, on Christmas morning, everyone has something to open. This is a great way to wrangle the extended family – no more getting 6 gifts from grandma and one from the cousins. It’s really fun to find out on Christmas morning who got your name – it’s especially fun for the kids who get to buy something for a grown-up or an older cousin.

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Katy October 29, 2013 at 10:16 am

My family tried this one year and it was a huge flop. The organizer had my small kids pick names, and I got my own kids. It saved everyone money except for me!

Katy

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Hannah October 30, 2013 at 5:03 am

If parents pick their own kids, they snoop around and trade with someone else in the family. I’m not sure how we always make it work, but we do!

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Kelly October 29, 2013 at 2:32 pm

We do the same thing, draw names on Thanksgiving, but we only have the adults draw names. The dollar amount allowed has varied by year, usually $20 to $40 range. The kids receive 1 gift from each set of grandparents & 1 from each set of aunt/uncle. Gifts may be new or used, or even may be several items that total the dollar amount allowed. Or may all be homemade, inexpensive and just worth that dollar amount. We spend very little money all year long on anything at all, so at Christmas we usually try to fill NEEDS, such as warm clothing or bedding or a tool needed to do your work. We also have a white elephant gift exchange for the adults- $5 limit, 1st person picks a gift from the pile, 2nd person can take one from the pile or swipe the gift the 1st person chose… lol… Can be a lot of fun… usually food or handmade or bath towels, etc. The kids want to join in, but they are all little and don’t understand well when someone else swipes your gift, so we make them wait until they are about 15 or 16 years old. This has been going on for 5 generations now, as a way to control costs, teach needs over wants, and not be a consumer. We’d rather spend time together baking or sledding than blow money mindlessly in the shopping mall.

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Kelly October 29, 2013 at 2:59 pm

In re-reading my prior post, it almost sounds like the little kids get a bunch of presents from everyone, but it really doesn’t work out that way. As an example, last year the kids each received a snowsuit from me, a hat/mitten/scarf set from another grandparent, a doll or a truck from their parents, 2 small puzzles & 3 coloring books from aunt/uncle, a couple of used books from another uncle. It was packaged as 4 presents, the winter clothing was a necessity, it had 1 major gift (doll/truck) and a handful of small/cheap things to keep them busy. Very typical year for our small ones. They spent the day happily coloring, cooking with us, or doing puzzles.

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Katy October 29, 2013 at 10:05 am

And if you are shopping from traditional retailers, make sure to use a site like eBates, which gives you a small percentage back:

http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=yaZtYqVzY1ZW0umGs30hXA%3D%3D

Katy

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Belleln October 29, 2013 at 10:12 am

Because we are retired and live on a fixed income of SS & a really small pension we sent a letter to our siblings and our grown kids and laid out the financial situation about 9 years ago. It was tough but we felt that honesty is the best policy. By setting limits of spending and on whom we gifted made our lives much better and actually guilt free as we didn’t feel we were being cheap.
We only give 6 gifts per year – 3 grandkids get birthday & Christmas gifts. The dollar amount is limited to $25 for each gift. I do send each of them a piece of mail every month using 2/$1 cards for Easter, Halloween and computer printed ‘stationery’ for other months. I also use Forever Stamps. I try to pick up freebies like pens made from bamboo, recycled plastic wood keychains, magnets, etc. These I alter if necessary like gluing a photo over the ad on the magnets. I also add embellishments to the letters with glitter, stickers, etc that I’ve picked up for 25 cents or less at thrift or yard sales. Including something flat so the postage is not increased in a letter/card is fun for all of us.

A sample of the most loved gifts (by the kids) have been Rocket Stompers, headlamp – worn around the waist, watch with stop watch capability, voice altering megaphone, magazine subscriptions, sterling silver chain with birthstone flower, and a set of plastic cones used for everything from start & finish lines to blocking sister from his room.
I usually shop thru Amazon Prime and have the gifts sent directly to the grandkids. They don’t care that it is not wrapped because they love to get mail.

This year one of my grandsons is getting a t-shirt with Orange you’re glad I didn’t say Banana, his favorite joke, custom printed for $8 rather than the $15 if I bought it already made and a book of knock-knock jokes which should be about $6-7. I know he’ll love it and hopefully learn a new joke ’cause the banana/orange is really, really getting old.

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Kathy M October 29, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Belleln

Thank you for sharing this. I am in a similar situation and haven’t had much luck with my adult children understanding my limitations. I like the card idea and some of your gift ideas. Any other thoughts you would like to share? I have set the $25 limit for bday/xmas this year and I am the one not sticking to it and I MUST. Time to put on my thinking cap and get creative.

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Belleln October 30, 2013 at 6:25 am

Kathy M. – to get my adult children on board I told them our income and expenses. This was after Hurricane Charley and the housing bubble burst here in SW Florida and we had repairs that were not covered completely by insurance. As we’ve always been frugal the adult children were surprised to see we were having to tighten the belt even more.
The grandkids are 4, 6 & 11. Should be easy enough but we live 1200 miles away and have no idea what they already have. Trying to tie a gift into their current interests but with something that will last more than a couple of months is hard but doable with a little or lot of thought.
Check the dollar store for some ideas – last year for a birthday one of our grandsons got a wheelbarrow. We sent a safety vest and a tool belt both purchased for $1 each and he used them all summer long.Shipping was minimal in a used padded envelope. Several years ago our granddaughter, at age 7, wanted to be a princess. Dollar store provided a foam crown & self adhesive jewels. I found a tulle tutu at a yard sale – again shipping was minimal in a used padded envelope. Envelopes are cheaper to mail than boxes.
Don’t forget about your skills – do you knit or crochet? Lots of free patterns out there. Some of the current trends in scarves are quick and inexpensive if you shop around for sales. Do you sew? Lots of free patterns for PJs, purses, long skirts, etc. How about coupons for whatever with Grandma – movie night with popcorn, baking a cake and decorating it, going to a museum on the free day?
Always be on the look-out for clearance items at the craft/sewing/hardware/big box stores and many thrift stores have sales, clearances, special discount days too.

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Yankeegal October 29, 2013 at 3:33 pm

We too have done this with our extended family and adult children. I do buy for my 2 grandchildren and a niece and nephew(under 18.) We had a big family discussion about it and everyone was on board. My adult children are very successful in their own right and had a hard time coming up with ideas for gifts I could get. I do provide daycare for my grandchildren 4 days a week, and they view that as gift enough. I do baskets, purchased from the thrift store of course, with some of their favorite food items-and that is what I also do for some friends and neighbors.

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Vickie October 30, 2013 at 6:51 am

Good tips, everyone!!
We aren’t retired yet, but we are on the Dave Ramsey debt reduction plan, so we can have the mortgage paid off in 5 years – before we retire.

I make a list and set limits. Most kids have enough toys as it is and my grandkids aren’t any different. So, I get specific about what they need. They each get a toy, or video game (16 yr old grandson is a gamer) and then PJs or clothing they might need.
I ask my Daughter what she needs and that’s what she gets. She’s very specific about what she can use or needs, so no wasting money on something she won’t use.

I get $25 gift certificates to WalMart for my nephew & his wife, then I get my great nephew either an outfit or a small toy. I get my brother a gift card, because he usually needs things and I’d rather he pick out those things for himself.

My mother is in a Nursing home, so I buy something comfy and warm for her to wear.
My husband buys a restaurant gift card for his parents – they are retired and well off, so they don’t need “stuff” – they’d rather enjoy dinner out together. Then he buys a gift card for his Sister and brother-in-law, since they live in Hawaii and shipping gifts is too expensive. A gift card to Sam’s or Costco allows them to choose what they’d like.

If I need something specific I always tell my husband, so he doesn’t waste time and money. Last year, when my daughter asked me what I wanted I told her I’d prefer some nuts & berries, which I use for my breakfast mix. She was thrilled. She could get that when grocery shopping and it made things much simpler and more cost effective.

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Linda M October 29, 2013 at 10:13 am

I do buy new gifts besides thrifted gifts…have to be honest. However, I never used to buy “used” and have came a long, long way. Some of the things on my gift list that I made or grew include: crocheted scarves, homemade jams and jellies, dried herbs, bath salI ts, canned food items, handcrafted items my husband makes in his workshop, etc. I also am making baggies of food items that I will purchase in bulk at the bulk store….candies, nuts, etc. Also plan to buy two of the Lindt chocolate bars that Katy has a coupon for and they will go into one of my food baskets we give. We also will purchase gift cards for restaurant foods for the older people on our list that “have everything”. I let my daughter help me pick out things for her children….no way I can please them as they are teens. We have lots of extended family and friends that we like to give small gifts to….and growing or making our own gifts makes that a lot more personal and affordable. I am not doing it this year but have bought a book of stamps and made greeting cards to give to someone older than can’t get out much but likes to remember friends with cards. And we also tend to replenish things we need with new things…..like underwear or socks…..gifts at our place can be practical, too. But, that is not all we give….and those are just to immediate, in-house people:)! Ha!

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Betsey October 29, 2013 at 10:14 am

Am I weird? I am 64 and want nor need nothing.

Every year my family and I simply put the price of presents (around $100) and donate it to a church, charity, or a needy person. Our only exceptions are kids under 18. Even then we try to keep it simple…a book, art supplies, tickets, etc.

One family I know sets a $5 limit on presents, and they all put $5 in a kitty (about 20 of them). Then the best gift giver is rewarded with the kitty. My friend last year won it when she found a designer blouse, never worn, for $4.99 at a thrift store for her sil. That person gets to keep it, donate it, or give it to another family.

We have so much fun doing this and our Christmas is simplified. No one is frazzled and the bills do not come in January.

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Trish October 29, 2013 at 3:32 pm

All of that sounds wonderful. My mom really corralled Christmas in years ago. For the most part we don’t exchange gifts at all. I also want or need nothing. I love the family wit the $5 limit on presents. How creative. Unfortunately my sister to whom I am closest has lots of money and wouldn’t dream of doing this. She usually sends me something rather extravagant and useless. Unfortunately much of the time they go straight into the goodwill donation box.

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Deanna October 29, 2013 at 10:15 am

I talked to my brothers and sister-in-laws and we all agreed to just get gifts for the kids and not each other, because none of us needs more stuff and we end up just exchanging gift cards anyway. I make a lot of gifts, some food gifts like banana bread for coworkers. Last year I made some jewelry for family and friend gifts, this year I am making quilts for the kids in my family.

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Megg October 29, 2013 at 10:16 am

This year we opted out of my husband’s extended family name/gift exchange. I’m thankful that we had that option. On my side you aren’t involved unless you go to the party, and we won’t be going to my home this year (we live in Seattle, they’re in Boston).
I made a cross stitch for my sister and framed it myself, saving at least $80! Her birthday is 3 days after Christmas so it will double as a birthday present.
The men in my extended family are getting consumables (BBQ spice rub, college-themed pasta, beer, stuff like that). Every year I make my mom and MIL a photo calendar. This can be pricey but I like the idea of it and I usually have a groupon or coupon code. I’m most proud of my sister-in-law’s gift. It was a groupon for a photo book (only $13, shipping included) and I used pictures of my nephew’s first year. My nephew gets a book because he’s only 1 🙂
I will bake something for our close friends out here.
I am stuck on my husband but I’m thinking about an experience of some sort for us, as we don’t really need anything.

I know this isn’t present-related but we were able to use points from our Southwest credit card to get 1 free round trip flight to see my MIL for Christmas! That saved a lot.

I, too am crazy and have been thinking about Christmas for 6 months! I just need to make and order the photo calendars and I’m done!

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Lindsay October 29, 2013 at 10:24 am

I have extended family that exchanges gifts with their immediate family on New Year’s Day so they can take advantage of all of the after Christmas sales. Seems pretty brilliant to me.

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Markie October 29, 2013 at 10:26 am

The harsh reality in my life is the young adults in my family: kids, neices & nephews want cash for Christmas. It’s so not fun. But it is easy.

For my kids I usually give 6 gifts each. At least three of them are gift cards which I get free from my credit cards points and Mypoints. Then they get 3 gifts that they want/need i.e. books, pajamas, business attire.

My question is when do you stop giving gifts to extended family. They will all be 21 by the end of this year.

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Sadye October 30, 2013 at 5:44 am

For what it’s worth, my family generally stops the gifts at 18 (except for close relatives), and definitely by college graduation — though for college graduation, birth of a child, etc., gifts did come.

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Jessica October 31, 2013 at 8:37 am

Anyone over 18 gets homemade consumables, unless they have a particular need. And that’s only if we are going to be together on Xmas day – we don’t send gifts to cousins who are attending their own nuclear family celebration, even if we are close.

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Amanda October 29, 2013 at 10:44 am

My mama and her siblings and their spouses, after they grew up, did the name-out-of-a-hat thing for years and years. I’m the oldest of the next generation and when I got married I was invited to join. Very tentatively I felt them each out individually on only doing presents for the kids. Not only were they all on board, they were all thrilled. It was my greatest Christmas triumph ever. If only I could get every one else on my list on board.

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megyn October 29, 2013 at 10:47 am

I’m lucky our boys are young and pretty much know I only buy 2nd hand. This year, I’m working on a community toy swap for the parents. And all left over toys will be donated to a children’s shelter. I’m mainly doing this because I don’t feel like spending more money on toys, AND I can convince my boys to part with some of their (like the 18+ dragons my 5 year old collects and never touches after a week of playing).

As for family, we tend to do a lot of experiences/gift cards/Groupons. We all have lists on both sides, which really help with not giving another something they won’t use/want. However, my husband’s grandma HAS to give everyone something. I love that his grandfather makes neat wood things for the boys, but I can only handle so much Avon stuff and cross-stitched stuff. We’ll see what happens this year from them. For our grandparents, we always do donations to organizations in their area like food pantries and animal shelters. I have to say that I do get out of buying a lot because most relatives just enjoy being sent things my boys make/draw/paint. I did ask my brother (an artist) to paint something for each of the boys’ rooms for the holidays. I’m hoping they are something they will hang onto for awhile and beat all that ugly faux-art in most kids’ rooms.

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Lindsey October 29, 2013 at 10:48 am

This past summer I grew a lot of mint and made mint extract for the bakers in the family, as well as bottles of dried spices from the garden—sage, savory, dill and oregano. I have rhubarb liqueur steeping away for later bottling and gift giving. Finally, in September I delivered 9 Christmas gifts to non-gardeners—huge baskets of newly dug potatoes, some red fleshed, some white fleshed and some blue fleshed. All of these nine folks are elderly and of limited income, so I know the potatoes will be welcomed and used. I have done this for about six years, and although it does seem odd to give the Christmas gifts that early, I feel like it is welcome. (Most folks even give me back the baskets for next year!)

My problem is thinking of something to give my husband. I sewed a shirt one year and it looked so horrible that even he admitted it was bad (and he is a kind, gentle person who hates hurting the feelings of others). He is much stronger than I am so does all of the heavy chores, so doing those chores for a month as a gift is not possible. His greatest vice is chocolate chip cookies, but I give him a huge basket of those on his birthday…Last year I bought him a huge pork butt (I detest pork) and fixed it for him and never complained when he willingly ate it every night for a week, but I don’t really want to do that again. So, husband/partner suggestions would be most appreciated.

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Lazyretirementjackie October 29, 2013 at 12:31 pm

One relatively inexpensive gift I often give my husband at Christmas is a photo book of the year just passed. I take a lot of digital pictures of house, garden, sunsets, trips and occasions, and then, come November, assemble a book on the computer and order it from one of the online photo book outfits – Picaboo or Shutterfly. There are often Groupons or other discount offers for these. After trying several, I am going back to Apple, since I think the quality is better. But, it is not a huge expense, even using Apple.

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Betsey October 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm

My mom used to give a gift of car washes; when younger, she’d do it. As she aged, she bought a ticket of 10 for $35.
Dad would do the dishes after family dinners. In fact, all the guys would get up and clean the kitchen while the women had coffee in the living room.
Another thing they did was a milk-and-cookie coupon thing; when one or the other had a frazzle day, they’d go to the store, buy the favorite cookies, go down to the river or a park, and enjoy.
My husband and I gave certificates for back rubs, a cooking night off, a hug-and-kiss moment..whatever the other person really liked. My favorite was a coupon for a day in which I was free from child care and housekeeping. His was a garage sweeping day where I cleaned the garage. I loved baseball games. He loved football. I gave him a certificate that he could teach me the rules and I would sit and enjoy the game with him. He would go to my games and cheer for my team. Whatever.

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Roberta October 30, 2013 at 7:18 am

We’re saving up for a trip to England, and within our family we’re only giving homemade gifts (my daughter bought it when I said it was “like Little House on the Prairie.”) My daughter will be sewing flannel pajama pants for my husband, out of an old sheet. He only had a summer pair, and that’s not comfy for lounging in winter! I splurged on a pattern for $2 because I thought it would be easier for her that way. I will be printing out old maps of London from graphicsfairy, and mounting them on canvas for him, since he is mad about maps. I knitted two pairs of wool socks for my dad.

I usually search Pinterest for “gifts for men” or something like that, to get some ideas. Hope this helps you come up with some ideas.

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ilona October 29, 2013 at 10:48 am

One of our traditions is holiday stockings … I have staple items I put in each year: everyone gets a book of postage stamps, some candies and a new toothbrush … after reading Bea Johnson’s book ZERO WASTE HOME, I am going to locate compostable toothbrushes this year. I liked so many of the ideas already listed in response to your question, Katy … who doesn’t love homemade food items?! and dried herbs! and I think hand-made scarves are one of the best gifts! blessed holidays to ALL!

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Amy October 29, 2013 at 10:52 am

Markie: My suggestion for the extended family is to stop soon. My in-laws’ side used to stop doing the extended family members after 18, but due to rising college costs and everything for young people, they recently went up to 21-years-old. As adults, we do not get gifts from extended family (unless they’re handmade), and I think that’s just fine, because we all know that at some point there are too many people to buy for, and you have got to stop somewhere. 🙂

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Lisa October 29, 2013 at 10:56 am

Our list is pared down about as far as it can go, I think. I buy for immediate family and their children only. My mom has asked for no gifts and only does the traditional stocking for the adult kids. On my husband’s side, we’ve got the siblings/spouses down to single inexpensive gift drawing. The kids now also do the same. My mother-in-law loves to read, so I always send her a selection of books for her Kindle.

Every year, my husband and I beg his parents for the gift of nothing, but they never comply. Items are purchased and shipped across the country where, 9 times out of 10, they are delivered directly to Goodwill (if you’re wondering where all those new-with-tags items come from). And we beg them to get the kids just one or two gifts. This never happens either…

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Barb October 30, 2013 at 10:02 am

My son and his wife asked us to give one gift only to each of their children. On Thanksgiving each year, we look through the gift catalog for World Vision and have the kids choose gifts to give from that. On Christmas morning, the first thing they open is the envelope reminding them of what they gave and we pray for the family receiving it ( example: a goat, beehive, school books, etc) This takes a big bite out of the “gimmee’s” that children often associate with Christmas.

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Stephanie October 29, 2013 at 10:59 am

I asked for tickets to music theater from my parents for my family. I hope they go for that since I really don’t want more stuff – my kids have plenty of clothes and can’t really think of any toys that they really want either. I have asked in years past for the in-laws and parents to put money in the kids 529s but no one has taken me up on that yet unfortunately.
I have tried in years past to get my parents different gifts like harry and david pears or something but then my mother (she’s 64) is disappointed that she doesn’t have something to open on christmas. seriously??

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Sara E October 29, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Stephanie, my mom opened a 529 for my niece and nephew and since they are 5 and 2 1/2 years old, they get a little $5 gift for bdays and Christmas and then $50 into the college accounts for the year. It makes me happy because I think education is so important and they have no idea right now the difference between a $5 gift or $50 gift. See if the in-laws will compromise- a little money in the 529s and a little less expensive gift.

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Rachel C October 30, 2013 at 5:20 am

Good idea! Our kids have benefited from the 529 plan started by their grandparents years ago. We should have enough to cover tuition for our youngest through senior year. My husband and I pay for everything else.

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Constance October 29, 2013 at 11:01 am

My family celebrates “re-giftmas”. We only give things we already own that we think the other person might enjoy/use more than we would. We keep a big box by the door, so if you don’t want your gift you can just put it in the SallyAnn Donation box. Our kids get stockings and gifts, but we try to keep them experiential or consumable.

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AnnW October 29, 2013 at 3:16 pm

This is a GREAT idea! It can also be pretty funny.

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Alice October 29, 2013 at 11:22 am

I totally agree with you about limiting the number of people to exchange with. We have been doing this and it is the biggest help.

Food and drink gifts are usually a hit as well as gift cards to favorite restaurants/stores.

I have never had one of my homemade gifts get rave reviews, so I will not do that again.

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Nicole October 29, 2013 at 11:54 am

We save year round for Christmas which means everything is free! (At least that’s how it feels). We don’t travel either which helps. And we’re modest with gifts in our immediate family. We have a budget and we stick to it.

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Sara E October 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I’m not a big gift person so I am having the opposite problem- reassuring my new mother-in-law (and new extended family) that I’m really okay with her donating the gift money to a children’s charity in my name. I just hate the clutter of all the gifts. My husband’s family has no small kids at this time, so all the adults buy gifts for all the other adults (who honestly have the $ to buy there own stuff). It is hard to know what to get when we only see them two times a year.

I am slowly working with my husband that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to let the person know you love them. Thanks everyone for all the ideas!

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Sara E October 30, 2013 at 8:43 am

I just remembered, for my grandparents when they were in their 80s and still living at home my mom would make them freezer meals. She would just double what she made for us the month ahead and then put aside portions for the gparents. She would label the meal with the date and we would put all of it in their freezer when we celebrated Christmas. They loved it and would call her months later telling her how they just had the roast beef and potatoes and how great a cook she was.

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Kendra October 30, 2013 at 10:50 am

My sister in law did this for me several years ago. If I remember correctly, I got 6-8 meals and 2 desserts. It is, by far, my most favorite gift ever.

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A. Marie October 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm

(1) DH and I don’t exchange gifts. (We do indulge each other on other occasions.)

(2) My family-of-origin members started giving each other donations to charity several years ago. A large shout-out to my oldest sister for initiating this custom.

(3) We and the friends with whom we exchange gifts happily accept (1) first-class thrifted items, (2) homegrown herbs/other consumables, or (3) “time” and “experience” gifts.

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Taylor-Made Ranch October 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm

We like to make our own Christmas gifts, usually started early in the year – doesn’t look like it will happen this year due to health issues holding us back. One year I grew oodles of tomatoes in the garden & canned homemade pasta sauce & made homemade pasta, wrapped everything beautifully in a basket & included a stainless-steel pasta ladle – it was a huge hit but took months to complete. One year we fashioned & made homemade hummingbird feeders from painted vintage bottles along with packaged homemade hummingbird nectar – those were loved as well. There’s always a theme to the basket – we’ve made homemade soaps, venison jerky and home-canned goods. I really enjoy that we put so much of ourselves into our gifts and they always seem to be appreciated.

~Taylor-Made Ranch~
Wolfe City, Texas

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hmbalison October 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Lately, instead of buying “things” we are giving experiences when possible . Last Christmas, we hired a student photographer to take a portrait of my two good friends and their dog (their baby). When my dad turned 80 last month, we treated him to a VIP tour at a cool automobile museum. We had our own guide, and we got to start our tour an hour before the museum opened to the general public. A big hit. Now, I’m trying to think of good ideas for people on our holiday list.

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Elizabeth October 29, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I am buying baked goods from a high school girl basketball player to help her raise money to play and I will be giving those baked goods as gifts to others as needed. I have cut way back on the Christmas gifts but still like to give surprise gifts when I can and I think they will suit the recipient.

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Susan October 29, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I never had any children, and for years in my family my husband and I were expected to buy gifts for all our nieces and nephews on both sides! What was was really the end of that, is when only on a few occasions, did any of them think that maybe it would be a good idea for the children or teens to give us a gift. I thought the real message was we expect or are entitled to gifts! Add in the birthdays, the confirmations, the graduations and the weddings… and when I think back, the baby showers and christenings, for them and now for their children. This is a lot of gifts. My now, ex SIL actually told me since we had no children, we could well afford to buy for their kids! How rude and insensitive that was to me, and it hurt. No one in my family is poor or disadvantaged. I have seen also the excess, where kids actually tire of opening all those toys. There were a few occasions that we did receive gifts, usually school photos. I believe that you are doing your children no favors if they do not learn about the spirit of giving, and that means shopping and picking out gifts for others. To learn to be a good gift giver, the thought and who the person is. Mindfulness. So please do not do everything for a child, including well intentioned getting all their gifts to give from the child.

I am now again single after almost 30 years of marriage, and stated a long time ago, I can not afford to be giving gifts for the sake of just giving.

I also caution that many many people do not want handmade or home baked gifts! My parents when alive did ask me to make my dad a case of strawberry jam, and I went out and picked all the berries in those days, and a case of homemade bread and butter pickles for my mom. They said give us that for our Christmas gift, and I did. My mom was so funny, when she found out I cut all those pickling cukes by hand.. she thought I used my food processor or other appliance. She also asked me to make a few special Christmas cookies she like.

PLEASE make sure your gift of home canned whatever or bread is appreciated or wanted.. I am in my late 50s and believe me, many people do not want food gifts, the jarred mixes, the homemade kits, or candy. Talk to and communicate with your family to find out if it gets used or enjoyed. I seriously do not want homemade cocoa mix made from dairy creamer. Being frugal is not about being cheap!

I heard this gift plan a long time ago, and if Katy posted this here and I missed it, it will be a repeat. This was meant for children, but I believe it applies to many of us for gift giving guidelines. Forgive the long post.

something they WANT
something they NEED
something to WEAR
something to READ

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dusty October 30, 2013 at 2:38 am

Well, Susan it sounds like you and I have had the exact same experience. I too am single (will be in about 2 weeks) after 33 years of marriage and we too, had no children. However, we were expected to give everyone gifts for every occasion. When I think about what was spent on Christmas I could faint. I tried to stop it numerous times but was made to feel awful by my in-laws. After all, Christmas is all about gifts, (this is what I was told). One year our town was putting in new sidewalks in the historic area and I purchased bricks for everyone in the family. I thought this was a nice gesture. I received a bottle of Jack Daniels. Now I have nothing against Jack Daniels but it would have been nice if they would have bought my husand and I a brick (I later bought one myself) or they could have made a donation to a local charity. BTW, all these folks that I spent tons of money on for gifts for every occasion, haven’t seen or talked to any of them in over a year since the divorce process started. So, there ya go. From now on, surrounding myself with people who care about me and giving them experiences (i.e., museum trips, movies, etc).

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Lisa October 29, 2013 at 1:47 pm

When my brother and I were teenagers, as our Christmas present to each other, we’d go to the record store and each buy ourselves an album (I’m dating myself!) of equal cost. It was always my favorite present!

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patti October 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I am really enjoying this topic. In my family, we still give Christmas gifts to all and my parents are in their 90s!! Hard to come up with something they will like and “need” and they (my mom more than my dad) expect thoughtful presents – no gift cards or charity donations. I give food gifts, wearables, and books. For my brother and sil who are minimalists, I try to make something they will keep – this year I am knitting socks. In my husband’s family we draw names for the adults with a $35 limit but give $25 to all the kids (who are in college now and look forward to their cash). In my own family, we give gifts but we all do try to pick things that have been hinted about or that we know the person will really like. No wasted $$ allowed. When we go to visit our families (depends on work schedules) we have to eat out or go through a formal dinner at home. If we stay home on Christmas Day, we are allowed to be slugs in our pajamas and no one has to cook a thing unless they want to. Guess which is our favorite? And I have no qualms about getting rid of any gift that I don’t like, want, or need. Off to Goodwill immediately!!

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Ruby J. October 29, 2013 at 2:35 pm

We long ago asked our extended family if they were okay with a charitable gift given in their name and some homemade baked goodies in lieu of bought gifts. They were, and it started a rather nice tradition that continues today.

My husband and I do not exchange gifts with each other. Instead we give money to the food bank. Our son, who until recently was a financially strapped college student, has delighted me for years with handmade coupons for chores things such as “ten litter box changes.” I love those. 😀

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AnnW October 29, 2013 at 3:36 pm

In the last seven years, I had to move my parents from their home to independent living, then to assisted living, then to the dementia ward. The amount of gifts and stuff that I had to get rid of was heart breaking. My mother continued to exchange gifts with her siblings and friends. There were boxes and boxes of plates, bric a brac, stationery, and jewelry that had been opened once and then put away. What a waste. She still wanted gifts from other people, but decided that she would not buy gifts for other adults. The thrift store used to refer to her (in her absence) as the lady with the stuff in the original boxes. There was no way I could have sold anything. All my time in their state was spent taking care of them. So think twice before you buy presents for birthdays, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, etc. You may end up having to dispose of them also.

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Katy October 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Edibles would have been a great gift.

Katy

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Lindsey October 30, 2013 at 10:45 am

You know, I have sometimes given avid bakers a bag of flour (something like the more expensive King Arthur brand that they would not buy for themselves) and sugar—ordinary, I know, but I knew they would use/enjoy it.

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Sarah The Happiness Advocate October 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I’ve been working on making Christmas gifts this year. So far I’ve made small jars of Queen Anne’s Lace jelly; felted wool balls (using free wool from a friend’s sheep) with homemade lavender extract from my garden; applebutter from apples I’ve found this fall around my town; and felted wool soaps decorated with ribbon and fake flowers bought at our thrift shop (wool and soap were free). I’m hoping people like them!

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Hope :) October 29, 2013 at 4:03 pm

This year, my husband and I are giving each other the gift of a weekend getaway — to New York City, funnily enough (given that you just got back from NYC!). We’ll actually manage to do so pretty frugally — we’ll take the BoltBus up from DC, will stay at a hotel where we can use some points to defray costs, will purchase any Broadway tickets at the TKTS booth, and will make liberal use of our National Parks pass. 🙂 So the trip will be frugal and fun, AND no clutter at home (neither of us are big on souvenirs)! A win-win, in my book. And tons of fun.

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Katy October 29, 2013 at 4:16 pm

That sounds great, have fun!

Katy

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Diane Gringeri October 29, 2013 at 4:06 pm

I have cut down my gift giving list this year. Giving to my children, my mom and a few close friends. Also trying to support small businesses and buying off etsy.

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Shari October 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I love to craft items….patchwork lanyards in a favorite color, patchwork (scrap) rice bags (heat in microwave and use as a bedwarmer or a heat pack against sore muscles) or reusable grocery bags (have a favorite pattern to use fabric from my stash plus a pattern which uses old t-shirts. I will also do quilts for more substantial gifts and for those who I know will put it to use.

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Jenzer October 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm

When my niece and nephew were in their late tweens/early teens, we started giving them cash as gifts–but we made them work for it. We started with simple math problems or word scrambles they had to solve; each correct answer got them $10.

As they got older, we made the challenges tougher. One year we put ten trivia questions about their parents into a hat (e.g. “Where did your mom go to college?” “In what year of high school did your parents meet?”). They each got to draw five questions. Correct answers earned $10, “thanks for playing!” wrong answers earned $5. They learned a lot about their mom and dad that Christmas.

Another year we put together sets of international currency for my nephew: Chinese yuan, Guyanese dollars, and UAE dirham. DH is a pilot, so in the course of his job he picks up a lot of paper money from all over the world. The currency came with the instructions that my nephew select one set of currency, and we would give him the US dollar equivalent. Googling was allowed to help him make his decision. He chose well.

Occasionally we’ll give them gift cards instead of cash. My daughter still talks about the year we gave my nephew a HUGE wrapped box, which contained another wrapped box, which contained another wrapped box, which contained another wrapped box … I think we had eight boxes altogether. Inside the smallest box was a note that read, “Whoops, you missed it — your gift was in the first box!” We’d cut out a sheet of cardboard and sandwiched his gift card in between that and the side of the biggest box. The look on his face when he read the note was priceless. 🙂

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PoppyEcho October 30, 2013 at 9:22 pm

I just loved reading these, so much fun!

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Betty W October 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm

When my grandparents we alive we each paid a bill in the month of December for them. There were 5 of us and we switched it around each year. Some years we paid for a newspaper subscription, phone, cable, etc. That way they would have extra money. They gave us momentos from the past. Such as a copy of a family photograph or a letter . One year my grandmother gave me the deck of cards we always played cards with at her house.
My best friend and I exchange frozen meals. We each make 3 meals & freeze them and then trade. It is so nice to have a meal you can pop in the oven & something different from what I make.
Also I know of a family where they draw names -you can’t draw your own or of your spouse or child- then they make a homemade gift for that person It maybe food, craft, furniture, frame, stepping stones etc. it works great for her family .

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Betsey October 30, 2013 at 7:11 am

That is a great idea, a bill paying gift!

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Denise October 30, 2013 at 9:35 am

I love that bill paying idea as well!!

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Elizabeth October 29, 2013 at 6:59 pm

We unofficially stumbled on buying “consumable” gifts. This works out great, and I’m so glad we didn’t eliminate gift giving altogether. As various people’s finances change, this works out well. For example, when someone is really struggling financially but others aren’t, it allows those with more $$ to give plenty of gourmet-type food (think lots of really good cheeses, etc from Trader Joe’s, along with crackers, good chips, sausage, etc) to someone in need, while allowing the person without much $$ to give cheap homemade cookies…so the spirit of Christmas allows tactful help where needed. Similarly, someone without a lot of time but plenty of $$ could buy people fresh flowers, candles, expensive lotion (all tailored to what the recipient would enjoy), while someone with more time could give homemade childhood-favorite food to the busy person who has no time to make it. It’s worked well for us.
For my aging parents (without so much $), it works well to give them slightly “nicer” needed items (the “nicer” element makes them gift-appropriate). They want to give us gifts. A suggestion is to drop hints during the year of things they already own: “If you ever don’t know what to get me, I’d love to have this favorite [book, tea set, tray, necklace, small table, extra stationary, tools, whatever] you own…” It saves them $, allows you to enjoy a sentimental item longer, and averts the massive clean-out of older people’s homes if/when they downsize. A suggestion for someone of any age: if someone has borrowed something from you and you don’t need it, give it to them for keeps as a holiday gift.
For kids, I second the idea of someone above (although it seems to be in the minority), that kids should be taught about *exchanging* gifts, including the joy of giving, rather than a sense of entitlement of just being recipients but not givers. As a young child, my mom took us to garage sales where I spent my hard-earned 5 cents on a vase, filled it with free evergreens and gave as a gift to an aunt/grandparent, etc. Perhaps they didn’t keep the vase long-term, but it taught us the joy of giving, and I imagine it meant a lot to an adult that a child sacrificed to give them a gift… (And a 5 cent vase going to Good Will again is just the natural cycle of things, no great waste). My own most meaningful gifts as an adult have been those a child sacrificed to make or buy for me.

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Jenny October 29, 2013 at 8:17 pm

I am not very good at limiting holiday spending. My husband has a big family and all attempts to suggest drawing names, or stopping the Andes altogether have been stonewalled. I do notice that everyone’s gifts have gotten smaller each year. I would love to stop gifting the adult nieces and nephews but it seems weird to do that when they still go home for Christmas and we send gifts to their parents. I have only my mom and she’s now in assisted living so unless she needs some new clothing, I do lotions, soaps, and snacks. And a magazine subscription.

I am considering a calendar with my husband’s photos for his family this year–anyone have an estimate of what that sort of thing costs on snapfish or a similar site?

For my groups-reading and knitting-I make jam or chutney. Easy to save for later or give to the food pantry if not wanted.

It’s our close group of friends where it gets expensive. I like to knit things and another friend sews or crochets. One of the women in the group is mortified that she doesn’t have the talent or time to create so she overcompensates by spending tons of money. And then others feel like they should spend more money….I initiated a discussion a couple of years ago about scaling back via email a few years ago and everyone got upset and had hurt feelings so I’ve said nothing since! It sort of makes me dread Christmas!

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Cattis October 29, 2013 at 11:17 pm

This year I´m trying to go with more homemade gifts, I asked my sister how she felt about it and she loved the idea. She´s great at giving massages, so I´m hoping for one of those… Homemade and giving eachother experienses or services, I would love it if I got a babysitter for a weekend for example…

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Cattis October 29, 2013 at 11:22 pm

We give gifts to children and our siblings and parents. We don´t give to aunts and uncles. In my family that´s always been the case but not in my husbands family. I´ve cut down on our grocery spending and already gotten half of all christmasgifts ready, that´s such a nice feeling! I have about 5 more to go, my husband will take care of the rest. Sweet!

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Diane October 30, 2013 at 4:15 am

This year I have already made a special holiday mobile similar to one I saw for a lot of money for my sisters and 2 friends. I will also add a bag of homemade cinnamon sea salt maple glazed nuts and maybe a bar of soap made in Austin. For my son and granddaughter baskets of small indulgent treats and gift cards. I live on a very small budget, but living giving at holiday time.

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Rubymay1029 October 30, 2013 at 5:47 am

My book club friends wanted to do a gift exchange, so I suggested that we “shop” for our gifts from our house. The rules were it had to come from your house. You could make something if you already had the supplies at home, bake something, or give something that you were willing to part with. I thought we would end up exchanging books, but my friends were super creative and it was a lot of fun. It is now a tradition.

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Sadye October 30, 2013 at 5:53 am

Before the sister and I successfully did a charity donation for parents/grandparents, we privately agreed with each other that we would exchange gift cards of an equal amount to the store of the other one’s choice. This might be helpful for anyone who has some family members clinging to traditional gifts, but also a few relatives who don’t want more “stuff.”

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Trish October 30, 2013 at 6:16 am

I am single again at age 56, having been dumped by my SO after 15 years, and am employed part time, so money for presents is tight. I am selling clothing (lost 35 lbs) on E-Bay to find some cash, and am making some gifts. Also found a way to give my 84 yr old mother her magazines. I asked my co-workers who don’t want their Coke points to save them for me, and I spend them on magazine subscriptions. Freebie! Mom is happy and she also passes the magazines on to me, so I can enjoy too, then I recycle them. Win win.

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Tonya October 30, 2013 at 6:20 am

We aren’t as non-consumery as we have been in past years. Some people in our lives don’t appreciate a secondhand gift, and I try to be respectful of that.

For non-consumer gifts, I love to give a gift card to Whole Foods to my nephew and his girlfriend, who are big cooks. Last year we gave Kiva giftcards to our college age neices, and the website lets them decide who they want to make a microloan to. We also like restaurant gift cards, since that’s an experience (my inlaws are on SS, rarely eat out, and really appreciate restaurant GCs).

Our family goes to the Dominican Republic every year and we always visit the same barrio community. We have made so many friends there, and there is a woman’s sewing co-op in the community. Many of our gifts are purses, bags, and handmade coffee bean necklaces purchased from those women. I feel like buying from a friend for a friend is a wonderful way to give. We also buy lots of locally produced DR coffee and rum and give those as gifts.

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Betsey October 30, 2013 at 7:16 am

These comments are priceless. What I like about them are two-fold: non-consumerist and the fact that January bills for extravagant gifts do not come in!
Thanks, Katy, for posing the question and thanks to all of you who have given me support for the way I live.

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Louise October 30, 2013 at 7:21 am

Good Morning Katy! My gift giving circle is small – the main focus is our six year old son, Walter. For my Mom and my Husband we’ve agreed to a $50 limit which can be spent on a single gift or multiple smaller gifts (my Mom likes getting socks, a book, a CD, and something sweet to nibble on!). For the rest – we make our own Christmas cards with the front being a photo of the family. This numbers 70-80 which does add up (card stock, photo paper, labels, stamps) … but I find this connection to our friends a very important part of our Christmas tradition. We design the card, take the picture, and then assemble everything before mailing them off. I’d say Christmas still adds up to $600-800 each year … with personal Christmas cards, presents, food, and travel to family. That’s $15 each week that we need to save up over the course of a year to meet this budget line.

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Jami October 30, 2013 at 7:27 am

The holidays ended last year with me realizing that we had failed to do many of the holiday activities we had planned for the season. However, we did end up spending the time between Christmas and New Year getting rid of “stuff” as we do every year. I decided at that time that I’d had enough! I notified all the friends and family that we usually exchange gifts with that we would be having a giftless Christmas in 2013. I knew no one would make a big deal of it, having just come off the holidays. It probably seemed so far away! As we’ve moved closer to the season I’ve reminded everyone by asking, “What would you like to DO with us to celebrate Christmas this year?”. We already have plans for a day trip into the snow with one family and to see the nutcracker and go out to dinner with my parents. Another friend wants to come over to drink cocoa and decorate our tree with us! Simple! We will spread our activities out through December to avoid getting too busy. We have had a little argument from some family members. I just smile and don’t get worked up trying to defend this choice! They are free to do what they want – I can’t control whether they get us gifts or not, but we won’t be attending any family gift exchanges and gifts won’t be our focus.

I will still fill my teenage daughters’ stockings, at their request. My mom will also still get them pajamas as she has every year for Christmas Eve. I knew I had to be flexible! I didn’t want the emphasis to be on going without. That would shift the focus to what is NOT happening (gifts). I also think that this is extra hard on the grandmas because each of them feel like they will be missing out not giving the usual loot. I am hoping that this holiday is so fun that no one feels that anything is missing.

We put out that we would be doing this for one year, but I have a feeling that we are redefining Christmas for our family!

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jennifer October 30, 2013 at 7:46 am

My MIL buys each of her 3 son’s–a jar of olives (a joke from many years ago), a box of choc. covered cherries and a can of mixed nuts. As I am the only DIL, she buys me a large can of roasted peanuts and maybe potholders or hand towels for the kitchen. She also gifts us around $100 cash/each.
For her one and only grandson (our 7 year old) she does a gift card to Wal-Mart a jar of maraschino cherries (he loves them) and then around $150 that gets split between his college fund, savings account and a little for him. As for what we give her-a framed school picture, sometimes a personalized calendar. (she is a hoarder and I don’t want to encourage more stuff!)

This year, I intend to step up my baking and gift breads, muffins, mixes, cookies.
My sister and I went in on concert tickets for our mom to an artist she adores. She will enjoy the concert, dinner with her girls and the time spent more than any other trinket we could buy her. I will also purchase a few restaurant gift cards/grocery store cards for my parents as they are on a very small, limited SS budget. Lets them enjoy a supper out and lets them stretch the grocery budget.

I have a mentally challenged uncle that lives on his own and makes money by doing farm work/odd jobs for people. My sister and I get him a bunch of groceries along with a small gift card to a restaurant as well.

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Liesl Clark October 30, 2013 at 7:58 am

Wow, a lot of great ideas here. How about trying a Buy Nothing Christmas? Or, at least try to. For the past 3 years, we’ve had a “Buy Nothing: Give Freely Holiday Gift Boutique” at my home where people can simply come and pick out what they want, free of charge? How does it work? My friend, our kids, and I spend some time during the year collecting things throughout the community for the boutique, and we also invite people to bring unwanted housewares, toys, etc to the event to share with others. It’s that simple! And it’s a wonderful way for children to be able to “shop” for their parents and siblings without needing money. We’re part of a gift economy that we’ve started on our island (Bainbridge Island) and now have 32 local gift economies that have sprung up all around the country. Everything is offered to neighbors for free, and members can ask for what they need or want. It’s simple and a beautiful way to create community. If you’d like to learn more about our Buy Nothing Holiday Gift Boutiques, you can read about it here: http://blog.trashbackwards.com/2012/12/09/start-an-annual-holiday-free-gift-boutique/

And if you’d like to learn more about The Buy Nothing Project and our local gift economies, please check us out here: http://blog.trashbackwards.com/2013/10/14/buy-nothing-groups-random-acts-of-kindness-all-day-long/

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The Prudent Homemaker October 30, 2013 at 7:55 pm

I’ve participated in swaps like this, but I love your title! They were really quite nice and today I wore a pair of shoes and carried a purse that came from those.

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Maggie October 30, 2013 at 8:12 am

I give our neighbors homemade bread. It doesn’t take long to make, and they love it! We only give gifts to each other, our parents, and our son. My mom never wants anything, so that cuts out one person to shop for! We also made a rule that we each get one want, one need, and one surprise. That’s it, just three gifts. We’re hoping that’ll stifle my son’s gimmies as he gets older!

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Susan October 30, 2013 at 8:35 am

Since I vented yesterday… I want to post some ideas for gift giving! Over the years I have bought educational and fun gifts for children, and some my nieces and nephews did appreciate them! One is Tangrams . Tangrams is a logic game that develops spatial reasoning skills. It is much more available now, and there are books to add to it, more diagrams to work out. The pieces could easily be made out of wood or even stiff cardboard if you went home made. I recently saw it at Barnes and Noble and can probably buy on line. It is low tech and fun. Any board game that you enjoy is often found in thrift shops. Board Game night is a good fun, family or with friends. I hope to host one for friends that are like me, divorced after long term marriages.

I love small appliances and have got my good friend a FoodSaver at GW for under 10 dollars. If the foam strip is missing, you can get a replacement, but I have always just cleaned them up and work fine. People abandon these or upgrade. I did purchase the Wide Mouth Jar sealer for it, again, new under 10 dollars and out of my FS bags and rolls, put a starter kit together. She could not believe it. We both thrift shop. She has two young boys and cook ahead, seal salad in a jar etc. I buy FS anytime I see them. I have one put aside, for my guy friend, he cooks, divorced like me, and I know he will love it. I give all year, and a good thankful for him for helping me out with my house, woods, trees etc. If you have a bigger budget, you could add a bigger pack of bags or rolls. They are washable and reusable bags. I have a huge collection of mason jars from my younger days, could add those and lids too.

Magazine subscriptions. If you shop Groupon or on line deals, you can find some magazines for 5.00 to 12.00 a year. Sometimes you get BOGO free, but they are not always a deal, you pay more for your renewal. I only get one magazine now! I recently got a deal for Cooks Illustrated web site access for one year for half off, that was 17.00. If I had someone to give it to, would be a great gift for a cook. I got it for me! I have gifted cookbooks, I have 100’s of which I should part with some, and great deals at Half Price Books or the secondary market on line. I love to give books. I was given a Nook a few years back, and 2 years ago the same BF gave me a new color one. Here, you can use the library and “borrow”free for your Nook, one of the reasons he chose that over the Kindle. I have not passed my old one to anyone, that and you can loan some books from B&N to others from your account. There are a lot of free books on line, many classics. I would gift that along with instructions on how to use the library site. Simple Nooks can be found on line for under 50 dollars now, the black and whites. People with vision issues love them.

I have a self imposed ban on shopping at the thrift shops, and have kept it for a year, other than a visit with BF for new clothes for interviews. I can find cashmere in a heartbeat.. and on that one trip found a V neck for me, in the men’s area. I ask for a list from friends what they are looking for and when I do go thrift shopping, keep an eye out for them. These are often gifts. A yogurt maker. A coffee grinder or a new coffee maker. Yarn for knitters, and I have not unraveled a sweater, but thrifty knitters do!
Cashmere sweaters. Above FSaver friend, tiny size,so easy to find her a nice black cashmere turtleneck sweater. I stick to plain and classic, and cashmere can be washed at home. Same as always, you have to know thy audience. I can easily mend a tiny hole, check for moth bites, but would not give someone a mended sweater.
This is a bit more money.. but I would love it if someone gave me a year or 6 months of Netflix! I have streaming. The dvd in the mail is still a good deal for many people who do not do high tech or have Roku or Apple TV. I have also found nice dvd players at GW. I have found remotes for them on ebay for very little if missing. Another friend did not have a dvd and not in the budget. Under 15 dollars for remote, player and someone else had the wires or cables to hook it up. Now she can use the library.

And I will shamelessly promote The Prudent Homemaker and I do not think Katy will mind. She started making gifts and her items are amazing. I am fairly new to her, but she did it last year and just started again yesterday for this year. Here is the link to last year. I would love those felt “paper”dolls.

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Jessica Wolk-Stanley October 30, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Love those dolls!

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Susan October 30, 2013 at 8:38 am

Since I vented yesterday… I want to post some ideas for gift giving! Over the years I have bought educational and fun gifts for children, and some my nieces and nephews did appreciate them! One is Tangrams . Tangrams is a logic game that develops spatial reasoning skills. It is much more available now, and there are books to add to it, more diagrams to work out. The pieces could easily be made out of wood or even stiff cardboard if you went home made. I recently saw it at Barnes and Noble and can probably buy on line. It is low tech and fun. Any board game that you enjoy is often found in thrift shops. Board Game night is a good fun, family or with friends. I hope to host one for friends that are like me, divorced after long term marriages.

I love small appliances and have got my good friend a FoodSaver at GW for under 10 dollars. If the foam strip is missing, you can get a replacement, but I have always just cleaned them up and work fine. People abandon these or upgrade. I did purchase the Wide Mouth Jar sealer for it, again, new under 10 dollars and out of my FS bags and rolls, put a starter kit together. She could not believe it. We both thrift shop. She has two young boys and cook ahead, seal salad in a jar etc. I buy FS anytime I see them. I have one put aside, for my guy friend, he cooks, divorced like me, and I know he will love it. I give all year, and a good thankful for him for helping me out with my house, woods, trees etc. If you have a bigger budget, you could add a bigger pack of bags or rolls. They are washable and reusable bags. I have a huge collection of mason jars from my younger days, could add those and lids too.

Magazine subscriptions. If you shop Groupon or on line deals, you can find some magazines for 5.00 to 12.00 a year. Sometimes you get BOGO free, but they are not always a deal, you pay more for your renewal. I only get one magazine now! I recently got a deal for Cooks Illustrated web site access for one year for half off, that was 17.00. If I had someone to give it to, would be a great gift for a cook. I got it for me! I have gifted cookbooks, I have 100’s of which I should part with some, and great deals at Half Price Books or the secondary market on line. I love to give books. I was given a Nook a few years back, and 2 years ago the same BF gave me a new color one. Here, you can use the library and “borrow”free for your Nook, one of the reasons he chose that over the Kindle. I have not passed my old one to anyone, that and you can loan some books from B&N to others from your account. There are a lot of free books on line, many classics. I would gift that along with instructions on how to use the library site. Simple Nooks can be found on line for under 50 dollars now, the black and whites. People with vision issues love them.

I have a self imposed ban on shopping at the thrift shops, and have kept it for a year, other than a visit with BF for new clothes for interviews. I can find cashmere in a heartbeat.. and on that one trip found a V neck for me, in the men’s area. I ask for a list from friends what they are looking for and when I do go thrift shopping, keep an eye out for them. These are often gifts. A yogurt maker. A coffee grinder or a new coffee maker. Yarn for knitters, and I have not unraveled a sweater, but thrifty knitters do!
Cashmere sweaters. Above FSaver friend, tiny size,so easy to find her a nice black cashmere turtleneck sweater. I stick to plain and classic, and cashmere can be washed at home. Same as always, you have to know thy audience. I can easily mend a tiny hole, check for moth bites, but would not give someone a mended sweater.
This is a bit more money.. but I would love it if someone gave me a year or 6 months of Netflix! I have streaming. The dvd in the mail is still a good deal for many people who do not do high tech or have Roku or Apple TV. I have also found nice dvd players at GW. I have found remotes for them on ebay for very little if missing. Another friend did not have a dvd and not in the budget. Under 15 dollars for remote, player and someone else had the wires or cables to hook it up. Now she can use the library.

And I will shamelessly promote The Prudent Homemaker and I do not think Katy will mind. She started making gifts and her items are amazing. I am fairly new to her, but she did it last year and just started again yesterday for this year. Here is the link to last year. I would love those felt “paper”dolls. http://theprudenthomemakerblog.blogspot.com/search/label/A%20Gift%20A%20Day
This is a very inspiring blog, and for me, not a lot of gifts to do, but getting me in the spirit.

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jill October 30, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Lots of great ideas! We tried the draw names thing in my family one year and it didn’t work for us. But we have done the White Elephant exchange on both sides and it worked well. We have done gift exchanges where it had a monetary limit or had to be homemade. But my favorite so far was my husband’s family’s gift exchange last year – we had a family wedding a few days after Christmas so the morning of the wedding we got a hospitality room and did a $5 gift exchange between 3 generations of my husbands family and my sister-in-law’s family (mom and dad of the groom) Lots of fun ideas and a great icebreaker – the best of all was my 25 year old son (who is always late) who had been out delivering pizzas for work the night before. His cousin spent his $5 for the gift exchange on a fast food breakfast as she forgot about the gift exchange until the way there. It was fought over by all the young adults until my son walks in late and got the last number and proceeded to eat the breakfast in front of all of us!

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PoppyEcho October 30, 2013 at 9:40 pm

This doesn’t solve the problem of saving money but it was an important and valuable part of my family’s Christmas growing up:

As children, we were allowed to wake up early and open anything in our stockings, while making no noise so that our parents could sleep in until an appointed time (this was pretty early when I was about 5 years old, but later as we got older).

As for giving the gifts under the tree, we had this procedure: we all had to take turns. one person would go to the tree and get a present for someone else, (not one he or she’d bought/made his or herself) and hand it to the recipient, and we’d all enjoy watching that person open their gift, and saying what they like about it, and thanking the other person, if that person was there, or a note jotted down to send a thank you note to whomever for whatever it was, and the giver could say what made them chose that, or where they found it.

I feel this made it more about the spirit of giving and less of a consumery gift getting and unwrapping frenzy.

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teri October 31, 2013 at 3:24 am

I try to buy gifts in the after Christmas time of the previous year, then store them until the next Christmas. We have 4 children with spouses and grandchildren plus parents to give gifts, and then the Pastor/wife. I don’t buy extravagant things, but I do try to buy things that will be nice gifts. I buy the grandbabies two toys each and an outfit. I buy all the girls in the family the same thing, and all the boys, so nobody will feel that their sibling or sibling-in-law got a “better” gift. This year all four girls are getting candles and a throw blanket. I will also get them each a bottle of that cheap perfume that WM sells in gift sets for about $10 at Christmas time. The boys are getting pocket knives, and I will buy some new aftershave for each of them. I have two beautiful frilly dresses for the grandbaby girls that I bought last year after Christmas for about $5 each. The boy is getting snowpants that I actually paid $2 in the after season sales. I also have a couple of little car type toys for him. FIL always gets bird seed, bird feeders, or a lawn ornament of some type for less than $15. He likes those types of things. We give the Pastor something we order on Ebay that is unique and has something to do with the faith. Last year we got them a Jewish prayer shawl from Israel that only cost about $15. One year we bought them a shofar off ebay (used), and it was about $25. They like that type of thing. This year I have ordered some frankincense oil for them to use to anoint and pray for people. I will mix it with olive oil and put it in a pretty decanter of some sort that I find at Goodwill. We also give them $25 each year. I know that is almost nothing, but it takes them out to lunch once. I guess all together we spend maybe a couple hundred dollars for Christmas and buy for a dozen people or more. But I am not willing to cut out any of the people because they are all very special to us. I know some families trade names, but these are my kids. And I will buy for each one of them, you know?

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cathy October 31, 2013 at 7:44 am

teri,
Clearly you put a lot of effort into giving thoughtful gifts for your family and friends. But can I ask why you gave a Jewish prayer shawl to your Christian pastor? Thanks.

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Gretchen October 31, 2013 at 12:54 pm

My best cheap gift ever (in my opinion!) was the year I gave my cousin a membership to the “Cookie of the Month Club.” Every month I baked him a different kind of cookie. I’m pretty sure he enjoyed it. And of course, anytime I made a batch of cookies my own family got a few as well 🙂

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cathy October 31, 2013 at 2:09 pm

We’ve gradually decreased the number of people with whom we exchange gifts. In my husband’s family, when the nieces and nephews were younger, we’d send them gifts as well as their parents. That morphed into sending a gift for the entire family. Along the way, the adults (sibs & spouses and my parents-in-law) started an exchange. Each person would have only one other to buy a gift or gifts for. The dollar limit wasn’t huge, and the emphasis was on creating an excuse to be in communication and learn a little bit about the other person. Many years of creative gift-giving–some new, some used, some handcrafted (there are several artists in the group). In the sibling & spouse group, we also pool money to get something nice (usually a need, but a more expensive one) for my in-laws. As the nieces and nephews grew up (around age 18-21) we tried to incorporate them into the exchange, but they weren’t really into it. Finally, last year or the year before, we let the tradition go completely. We all keep in touch, and no one wants/needs anything.

My family is small. And, like my in-laws, there’s no expectation that gifts MUST be exchanged. If you happen across something during the year that would be the perfect gift, then you give it. My mom likes to give gifts, but gradually switched to useful things (Whole Foods gift card, tickets to a performance) but I finally convinced her that we don’t need anything and she should just concentrate on the grandkids.

My most successful gift was the year we were really broke and I baked biscotti for everyone. It was such a hit that they expect it every year and are disappointed the years I don’t do it. The great thing is that my kids love baking it with me, so we’re creating a new tradition. Also, around 25 years ago, a friend and I started a holiday art & craft show because we knew so many creative people who had nowhere to sell their work. We did it four years running and, for me, the best part was all the trades made among the artists!

In my little family, we give a lot of books (new and used), usually one board/card game that’s a gift for the whole family, tickets to see a play or musical, snarky t-shirts (ThinkGeek type) and the kids each get one splurge gift. We also count up all the charity money we’ve saved during the year and the kids decide how we’ll spend it. In the past, they’ve shopped for food to donate to a food bank/pantry (and we’ve arranged a tour as well), and last year we donated to Heifer International to pay for a flock of chicks and honeybees that were given to families to help stop the cycle of poverty and hunger. My kids want to do that again because it’s fun to choose the animals.

All in all, it’s a very frugal holiday season (and we have to cover both Hanukkah and Christmas) and has always been low-key. As the kids get older, we’re moving more and more toward experiences and traditions (going around to look at Christmas light displays, baking together, hosting a casual party) and focusing on giving fewer things–though used and homemade are always encouraged.

Thanks for all the ideas everyone! I especially like the Buy Nothing Gift Boutique. I’d also say that although I don’t need anymore Stuff to clutter my house, there are many people who genuinely like to give gifts. Sometimes it’s not about whether we love what they give us. Sometimes it’s more important to be a gracious recipient. This is actually why I enjoy food gifts. If I don’t want to or can’t eat it, there’s always someone who will.

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chicknlil November 2, 2013 at 7:34 am

I try to buy things through at good will or things that are made/raised locally. Last year I got my brother and sil an subscription for 1 gallon local, organic milk each week for the year. The kids (2 & 4) get a little gift to open (under $10) and I make a contribution to their college funds. My Dad’s family has a gift exchange and potluck. My gift is always a locally made jam or jelly. My mil gets me a subscription to the local paper (which I love). I will make a donation to Heifer international for my parents’ gift (they farm, so it’s great to give farm animals to another family). My single little brother is hard to buy for. He’s a cyclist, so I try and get him a jersey or something practical. DH gets something practical as well. We’ve been together so long, gifts are really a challenge.(:
I just picked up my mil 8 brand new placemats from G.W. Does anybody have hints on getting the in-laws to not buy so much? My dear, sweet mil goes all out and it’s so unnecessary. (She is the best lady on Earth and I adore her. We just have too much!) I just want to eat and hang out! (We have this discussion every year, it’s helped, but we still have a ways to go.) I give my Mom’s side aunts a frozen free range chicken. Their kids are in town, so they’re cooking a lot and my cousins get a hoot out of eating something I’ve grown. I like to give food, it won’t clutter the house.

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Jen November 2, 2013 at 11:39 am

This year, I mustered up the courage to tell my dad that I just don’t have the funds for Christmas gifts this year. He understood completely, so me, my dad and stepmom are just gonna have a nice, simple Christmas dinner instead, and skip the gifts. The day is about us spending time together, not buying each other stuff we really don’t need.

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Cynthia November 3, 2013 at 11:01 am

I scour local book sales at libraries within a certain vicinity.
I hunt down books for the bibliophiles in my life. These sales prices usually range from .25 to $2.00 per book. Although the second to last day is usually half off day and the last day they more than likely run a fill a bag for $5 type deal. People are really generous in their donations and you can find like new books and quite often just released books.
I bought my Sylvia Plath obsessed cousin a stack of books by that author. She is going to be loving that gift because she can delve into Plath’s world a little further. I amassed these throughout the year.
You can also find like new books at thrift stores. I bought my Grandmother three books written by Beverly Lewis and Wanda Brunstetter. They were the type that had the whole series in one book.
They looked like they came off Wal-Mart shelves. They set me back $1 each. I brought spent less than $7 on both people. And it is absolutely something they will both love.
You can either ask them for a list of books they already have by that author or double check their shelves if you have access to them.
I go to these book sales for cheap books for me anyway so why not do some Christmas shopping at the same time. I also buy some to sell online so it works out well. Endless reading material for me, Christmas presents for my book loving friends and family and some profit to offset the costs. Plus it’s fun. I realize this may not be helpful for this year but if you start next spring when most sales start you might be able to cross off a few people on your list by summertime.

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R November 12, 2013 at 9:39 pm

I try to stay away from all the waste that comes with store-bought gifts. That said, my kid still goes to birthday parties and we still give “gifts.” These days I turn money into an origami shape to suit the recipient’s personality and then I find a fun (small/low waste) way to package it. I like attaching the origami to nice cards or putting it into tins or even creating small shadow boxes from used boxes and gift wrap or maps. The kids LOVE receiving money and their parents aren’t burdened with returns or gift cards from specific stores. Also makes a good present for elderly relatives who could use some extra $. Creative packaging makes it a tasteful gift.

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June November 19, 2013 at 8:34 am

I made a photobook for my boyfriend this year which is full of photos of our travels last year! Then I got a book of our emails to each other printed (as a one off treat!!) using memeoirs’ app online. It depends whether you like something personalised or not!! I made a card using some pretty materials and a cute tagline! 🙂

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AnnDenee October 1, 2014 at 12:37 pm

I’ll be crocheting borders onto tea towels for each of my grandmothers, and sending Husband and Daughter out on to the ski slopes for the first time this year.

Simple and frugal and that’s how I like it.

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Amanda October 2, 2014 at 7:58 am

I have created some unique gifts so far this year — making my own canvas typography art, creating necklace/scarve organizers out of a wall shelf and unique knobs, and creating homemade personal sized chalkboards. Most were made with paint and thrifted materials…and I even learned how to use my husbands drill for the shelf organizer!

I give men the gift of favorite treats (favorite soda and candy; favorite nuts and jerky; favorite ice cream shop gift card) and give the younger men/teens gifts with those treats — new winter scarves I find while thrifting, character wallets, books. Magic sets, books or card tricks books are popular with younger teens/preteens. Art sets and scarves for the ladies…or new jewelry found thrifted.

You can also grow plants or make treats yourself, and I find new things still in their packages often for babies and children….or, for instance, an entire (slightly older) Dave Ramsey set (workbook, cds, envelope system, ect.) in the plastic for 5.00!!! Its gonna be a gift for my sister and her soon-to-be fiance. (Could be engaged by Christmas time) Its worth much more than what I bought it for, and I am giving it in addition to their regular gifts. They have talked about taking the class, but its expensive and their schedules never line up. Now they can take the class in the comforts of their own apartments…and hopefully learn some frugality themselves 😉

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