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Holiday Gift-Giving: Thinking Outside the (Gift) Box Print E-mail
Friday, 01 December 2006

We’ve spent most of the week talking about holiday gift ideas – shopping suggestions for both mom and baby (and the occasional Dad gift thrown in as well!)

But what do you do if the holidays are breathing down your neck, and the wallet’s a bit empty? Or where do you turn for gift ideas for the family that truly has everything? Let’s dig in.

First off, let me say that homegrown gifts, whether they’re something homemade or a gift of time or talent, are some of my favorite gifts to get. So don’t be shy, and don’t feel bad if you’re turning crafty this season. Second, I use the word “crafty” with great trepidation. This blog isn’t about becoming Martha Stewart; you won’t find any 12-page instructions for making pom-pom snowmen. If you’re that kind of crafty, you don’t need my blog. Head off to Hobby Lobby, and God Bless you.

But if you’re not a natural homemade gift kind of person and you’re searching for creative ideas, I can help.

When trying to stay in the “low-to-free” cost range, don’t pretend you’re giving something “just like store-bought”. Your sister won’t love the sweater you made because it looks like the one she saw in Bloomingdale’s; she’ll love it because you made it. So think about areas of your life that are meaningful to you, areas you like sharing with other people, for gift inspirations. The other place to turn for giving ideas is the person you are giving to – what do you have to offer that’s unique, personal, and will help that person out a lot in a way a new wine-bottle-opener never will?

It’s no secret that I love to cook. No, wait, scratch that. I like to cook, and I LOVE to bake. So every year I bake a kitchenful of goodies to give to our friends. Jelly we’ve made over the year, candy and cookies for those with sweet tooths, chex mixes or nut mixes for those with salty tooths, I make something for everyone and everyone at least pretends to like it.

If you want to go beyond that, though, I’ve got you covered. A friend of mine always appreciates it when I present her with a batch of her favorite cookie dough in a tub, frozen and ready to cook at a moment’s notice. This is also a great gift for moms who don’t have a lot of time for bake sales! And if you want to get more practical than desserts, give a friend who is either time- or cooking-challenged a subscription to the “casserole of the month” club. Once a month, make double for your evening meal, freeze half, and deliver. She’ll pop it in the oven when she needs a last-minute life-saver and be grateful every time.

Still along the cooking lines, you can pull together a family recipe book. Ask everyone to give their favorite or famous recipes, type them up, and laminate. If you’re not lucky enough (a tragedy, in my obsessive-compulsive mind) to have a laminator, head to Office Depot where they’ll laminate and ring-bind the whole thing for a couple bucks. You’ll have a splatter-proof recipe book to give everyone, a gift they’ll use again and again.

Now that I mention it, there’s not a lot you can’t do with a laminator. Put together a photo collage of long-distance relatives, laminate, and baby’s got an instant placemat. Or laminate individual photos, bind, and you’ve created a cheap brag book for a grandparent. The world is your laminating oyster!

By far, though, the best gift you can give a fellow parent is the gift of time. Give a friend a coupon for babysitting and a bottle of wine, and they have an instant date night. If you’ve got a friend who’s expecting, give coupons for free “laundry” service – pick up, wash, and return within 24 hours. She’ll be hysterical with gratitude when the time comes. The bottom line is, you don’t have to spend money to give someone a meaningful gift they’ll really appreciate.

If all the talk of gift-giving makes you feel too crass and commercial and you’re still searching for a way to “gift” the friend who has everything, there’s a great solution – charitable giving.

Now I know a lot of you are rolling your eyes right now, but hear me out. No one likes to give to charity as a gift because the person has nothing to unwrap; it’s so intangible, and often sounds like a cheesy copout. But you can find some charities that will either have a lot of meaning to your friend, or will show tangible results for your financial donation.

My all-time favorite charity for gift donations is World Vision. They’re a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty. World Vision helps children and families in poverty regardless of their religious beliefs, and comes into the communities in a very grass-roots way. They dig wells, build schools, provide seeds and teach people to farm, and so on.

One of the coolest things about this organization is their “ gift catalog”. You can go in and decide exactly how your money’s going to be spent, which means you can tailor your gift to suit the person on whose behalf you’re donating. Have a friend who’s a doctor? Donate infant immunizations for one child. Give your child’s teacher a backpack full of school supplies for a child in poverty. Know someone who loves to garden? Donate farming tools – plus the training to use them. The gift recipient will receive a gift card explaining exactly where the financial gift is going and what it’s doing. I’ve never failed to see the recipient truly touched by the gift.

You can, of course, go to any charitable organization to give. There are some wonderful ones out there that help new moms in poverty, inner city school kids, and more – simply look to where your passion (or that of your friend’s) lies and go from there.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to give gifts that will be truly meaningful, and you don’t have to fill someone’s house up with what will quickly become next year’s clutter.

Think outside the box.

Stories on Tape
Written by Gamma J on 2006-12-06 08:07:29 IP:
Here's a gift thought - 
I was so excited to have a Godson that I searched and searched for something that would let him "know" me since I didn't live near him. I created books on tape in two versions - one read slowly with a sound to indicate "time to turn the page" and one read a little faster for later on. Once created I sent the tapes and books off.  
Pick some favorites and off you go!
My programmer is trn
Written by Faraz on 2014-02-09 02:43:29 IP:
My programmer is trniyg to convince me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the expenses. But he's tryiong none the less. I've been using WordPress on a variety of websites for about a year and am concerned about switching to another platform. I have heard very good things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can import all my wordpress posts into it? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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