Friday, March 18, 2011

Saving Money on Gifts

 I have been thinking a lot about the subject of gift giving lately. I enjoy giving gifts and to be perfectly honest I enjoy getting them too. Many of my ideas about gift giving are changing however. I used to feel like all the gifts I gave should be brand new, either bought at the store or made generally using all new materials. I have changed my mind on that.

  There are several reasons my ideas are changing. I don't know where you are in this range of "what is right with gift giving" but I thought I would share some of what I have been thinking about on this subject.

  First- "Why do we give gifts?" Here are my thoughts:
  • To show someone we care about them. (often to help celebrate a special day of theirs.)
  • To help someone out- fulfil a need.
  • Another reason (but I think it is not a good reason!) could be to show off what you can afford to give or are able to make. I hope that I never give for this reason!
Did I miss something with that list? After thinking about the "why" it help me to realize that the first two reasons for giving are really not that hard to do. To show someone we care does not require the gift to be new, it just needs to be something that shows we were thinking about them, what they like and what fits them. To show someone we care a gift isn't even always necessary, a card (especially one that you have personally written a message in) can often do that just as well. To help someone out often doesn't require an expensive gift or a brand new gift either. Sometimes a need can cost a lot of money but when we thoughtfully think about each gift we give and not spend money needlessly when we don't need too then we will (at least it seems that way in our situation) be better equipped to be able to help with a need that does cost a lot.

  Another reason I have really started to rethink gift giving is when I look at our own household. I have been working at getting rid of things in our house because we simply have had too much stuff. I think this is a very common problem in our country. So in my realization that most people are probably a lot like me and really don't need a lot of new things and actually might be feeling overwhelmed with what they do have I started thinking things like this: "If I don't know specifically what a person might want or need why would I go out and spend money on something just so I can give a gift?" This has prompted me to try to be more observant of others.

    I do like to give gifts so I am trying to notice things that might really be useful to them or something they would really enjoy. If I can't really figure that out I have been working on giving more consumable type gifts. Food and such that are universally used and will not clutter up their home. Another option I have been using is to give something homemade. My idea with this is that it shows that I care and am thinking about them but these gifts are usually made using something I already have so the only cost is time. Since I am concerned about conservation this sort of gift doesn't add yet one more thing to our overcrowded country, I simply remake and use something that was already out there.

  Here are some of my ideas for economical gift giving. I would really love some feedback on these ideas! I am still struggling to always feel comfortable with all of them, some feel a little revolutionary to me but I think in so many ways they make sense. I hate the idea of wasting money or other resources but yet when giving gifts it can be a challenge to feel comfortable giving something that is used or simply out of the ordinary.

  • Shop at garage sales. Last summer in my little bit of yard saleing I was surprised at how many new or practically new things that I found. (This speaks to the over abundance of stuff we have in our country!) I started to especially look through the books that I found. Many had never had a name written in them and had no bends or tears. I picked up many of these for 25 cents each and have used them for gifts. I did also pick up some baby socks (10 pairs in a bag for 10 cents) and onesies (6 in a bag for 50 cents) that looked practically new and I brought them home and washed them. So far I used some of the socks to make a "flower" on top of a baby gift (below) and I used a onesie (along with fabric from a shirt that had been given to us) to make another baby gift.

  •  Make handmade gifts using recycled materials. Things I have done along this line are: Rugs (like above and they have been well received), bibs, hot pads, tote bags, skirts, doll clothes, doll furniture, doll houses, jewelry, toys, mittens, quilts..... The list could go on and on.
  • Give food or other consumable gifts.With this sort of gift we like to make our own. They are fun to make and you can make them look "pretty" and also making it yourself can cause it to be quite economical. Above is a soup mix we made and gave away and below is some candy. Other homemade food gifts that we have given and people have liked are: Homemade bread, Jam, Lefse, cookie mixes and cookies or bars. I have also received Homemade Vanilla and Seasoning salts both of which I really appreciated.

  • Shop sales and shop year round. I try to keep an eye out for gifts year round. So when Legos went on sale last fall I got some for the boys for Christmas and I also got sets for their birthdays this year (which aren't until August and October). I have a little file cabinet and a box and under my bed as well where I keep gifts that I have bought ahead. When it is something expensive I will have a particular person in mind for the gift but if it is a nice gift that is really inexpensive I will get it just so I am ready for impromptu parties or need a gift quickly. I am still trying to get better at finding gifts for Ken throughout the year!
  • Make gifts using supplies you already have. Above is a ski bag that I made for Ken for Valentines day. He had wanted one and we looked at one at the ski shop and it was $60. I figured I could make one instead. I was able to use stuff that I had on hand (mostly thanks to my Grandma having me go through and take stuff from her sewing stuff) and so the bag itself cost me nothing besides my time. (It did take more time than I had figured since I made it triple layered but that is okay.)    This year I have also had fun making baby sweaters from yarn that I already had on hand. If you have crafted very long I find it is pretty easy to build up a big supply of materials (but that just might be because when people find out that I like to make things many of them offer materials that they are no longer using and I gladly say "yes!") and when you use things you have on hand, gifts can be made very economically. You just need some time.
 This is by no means a complete list but this post is getting long and I have other stuff I should be doing so I will quit talking for now! :-) I would really, really love to hear what you all think about my thoughts on gift giving. Do you think used gifts are okay? What about re-gifting? (I do that too.) Do you like homemade gifts? Please share your thoughts......


Debra said...

I love this post! I struggle with gifts sometimes, too. I really like the idea of the consumable gift - food, coffee, bath products, coloring books and crayons. I have definitely regifted but I make sure it's something I know the recipient would like & something I would go out and buy if it wasn't sitting in my gift closet.

Debra said...

I forgot to mention that I love what you did with the baby socks & onesie! :)

Becky R said...

I love to make and recieve homemade gifts. But sometimes th etime it takes to make stuff, doesn't equal to what gift appears, so I think I am being cheap.

It is hard because most people I know buy gifts (and nice expensive ones at that.)

For Christmas I made green clean kits:
homemade laundry soap, homemade hand soap, cut up rags for cleaning, I made scubbies from veggie bags, I also put together in a tote or bucket.

Some people enjoyed, some people were like "oh thanks" (but I could tell they thought it was weird.)

Becky R said...

forget to mention I can only sew very little and can not knit or crochet, because the stuff you make is awesome!!!

Miranda said...

This is a really great post and is definitely food for thought. We just spent the last 4 months minimizing the excess "stuff" from our lives. It was very humbling to see all of the items that we had brought into our home with no real purpose other than to take up space. With that in mind, I am trying to use what we have on hand to make gifts. I'm also trying to make items that are useful and won't contribute to more clutter in the lives of others.

Unfortunately we have some relatives that live a very "stuff" filled life and love it that way. Handmade gifts are ill received and I have actually found some of the items that took hours to make at their yard sale. Although it was very hurtful, I had to realize that handmade items just weren't for them.

Some items that I have made that were greatly received are crochet scarves, little makeup bags or multi-purpose zippered bags, grocery totes, and lunch bags. Also, doll clothes for younger girls. My grandmother appreciates me coming over to clean for her and the men in our family appreciate food (of any kind). Oh, one other item was a pouch filled with handmade all occasion cards that I gave to some ladies at church. The love to send cards and can no longer find boxes with "all" occasions in them. The loved the ones I made.

Great ideas Abbi! Thanks for the food for thought.

Abbi said...

Thank you ladies for sharing your ideas and thoughts with me! It is helpful to me to know that others are thinking in similiar ways.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

I make handmade gifts for the children for Christmas and birthdays. My husband and I usually do not exchange gifts. I also have given hand-made gifts (usually consumable) to friends and family, such as homemade jams and jellies.

When my daughter gets invited to birthday parties, we also give handmade gifts. We have printed up lots of paper dolls, made bookmarks, and made headbands (my daughter made them).

I also make baby gifts, such as embroidered bibs and burp cloths.

I have reused clothing and sheets for fabric for gifts; I used an old pink sheet (that was given to me) which had no matching sheet as fabric to make a nightgown for one daughter as a birthday gift (we strive towards useful gifts over toys here; they have enough toys and can usually use clothing).

I don't mind gifts of hand-me-down clothing. I have a friend who sometimes sees clothes that she knows that I would like for my girls at the thrift store and she gets them and brings them by. I think they're great gifts!

Nola said...

I love the idea of gifts that are handmade. I wish I had more time to do that, but now is not the season for doing much of that for me. However I am open to doing that in other seasons of life.

I love receiving handmade things, and no, it doesn't have to be from all new stuff or anything. We often give second hand gifts in our own family, but I have yet to do that for others. For example we usually give our kids used books for gifts. I've also got them second hand games and other things. My husband did make the kids a kitchen set (a sink and stove/oven) for Christmas out of a dryer box (also used a plastic dish pan we weren't using and part of the old furnace's filter...the plastic part, it was shelf-like for the shelf under the sink. We also used duct tape. It turned out great and we are so happy with it and so are the kids.

I don't often like the idea of regifting. This is why: because I can usually tell that is what has been done when its done for me, and then I have something that is just as unuseful to me as it was for the first person. They are regifting because it was useless for them, but its also useless for me. I think that this would only be appropriate if the gift WAS useful for the next person. I am sure there are times when it can be.

Rachel said...

I tend to regift usually if we recieve too many gift cards. I feel a little sick to my stomach if we recieve too much and would rather use the cards to bless people we know who may not have recieved much. I have also regifted (I usually only regift at Christmas) when I came up a present short (ACk!).
I just started making my list of gifts that I will be working on this year for Christmas. I am to the point where-ugh! we and our families have too much! So, they will get a homemade gift and if they don't like it-oh well. I almost don't want to recieve store bought gifts from people because of our abundance-small homemade gifts I would love (but only get from my mom who is a wonderful knitter!).
As for reusing items, if they don't look tawdry-use them! I have been buying fabric and clothes to repurpose from the thrift store now and love the idea of reusing items. Of course their is always the people you know that you can't get away with doing homemade or used with and with them just buy small items. I always hope that my frugalness with these people will lead them to stop exchanging gifts with me and then I don't have to worry about them :).
I want to bless people with my gift giving and that is the direction I am going in now with my gifts.

Amber said...

I think the only thing that's missing is that gift giving (or receiving gifts) is one of the five love languages... so while the people whose main love language is not giving gifts may not need one... those who do need gifts to feel loved. <3 (But I like your ideas, because they do not always have to be new gifts!)

Nola said...

I came back to view what others said again...I agree with Amber...I am SO not a gift person...I would rather my husband take me out to a nice walk along by the water or a hike or write me a nice well thought out note...seriously...I would rather have that than a gift, any day! And that applies to friends and other family too...I would rather spend time with them or have a nice note than a gift. Bonus for them, then its free...after many years my husband whose love language is gifts is finally getting it LOL and then I am also finally getting that he LOVES gifts and so I have to think harder than I am programmed to think (I think about writing him a nice long card about how I love him!) LOL


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