The article below is my contribution to the December 2010 issue of the Community Co-Op Newsletter. Enjoy!
Gift giving is a big deal to me. I absolutely adore the thought and scavenger hunt that go into finding the perfect gift and I cherish the look of pleasure and surprise on the face of the recipient when the gift is opened. The calendar year is interspersed with birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and off-the-wall-just-because-days and culminates with the holiday season and bash that is Christmas. For all the enjoyment and time that I put into picking out gifts, budgeting is just as important and I refuse to succumb to lavish, spur-of-the-moment purchases that end up leaving a sour aftertaste and a hole in your pocketbook.
So, how does a family working towards a simpler life that is sustainable, organic and local realistically handle the year-round gift giving and jampacked holiday season? We step back and creatively analyze what matters.
What’s important to us?
What’s important to the person receiving the gift?
How much can I afford?
What statement is the chosen gift making and what is its greater, reverberating impact?
After you take these values into consideration and remind yourself that it’s the thought that counts when it comes to gift giving, you can begin the hunt. Below is a good starting point for alternative gift ideas this holiday season or any celebration time. Think outside the box and remember to always, always have fun!
The gift of time
There are certain milestones that you hit as you grow older that make you feel more “adult-like”. One of the first I remember was the overwhelming excitement and elation I had for my new refrigerator. Imagine that?! The same enjoyment I used to get out of a new pair of jeans or a shiny video game was fulfilled with an appliance!
Well, “time” or lack thereof is one of those milestones. The twenty-four day is not nearly long enough to cram in a full-work shift, shuttle stops around town with kiddos, coherent quality conversations with a spouse, and a respite of tea with a loved one or dear friend. In the real world, it might take a month to cross off even a single “discretionary” activity from the “To Do” list of life.
This holiday season consider wrapping up a spot of time. You set the budget. You set the time. Here’re a few ideas.
- A gift certificate for a date night with babysitting handled
- A dot on the calendar marking a walk on the pier or a chat in the park
- A date with each of your children embracing their interests and joys. Maybe a one-on-one trip to the you-paint-ceramics studio for some creative project or an afternoon on the lake whiling away the time in a rowboat with fishing poles.
The gift of giving
Too often we get caught up in the mayhem of life and overlook opportunities to share our wealth and spread gifts to those less fortunate. The holidays are the perfect time to redirect those funds earmarked in your budget for gift giving to a charity of choice or towards the purchase of pantry goods for the food bank.
- Find a charity that means something to you or to the recipient and give a donation in his/her honor.
- Snatch up a couple extra cans of pantry goods the next time you are shopping and make a donation to the food bank.
- Give your time as a volunteer at any number of the local organizations helping those less fortunate.
- Make a direct donation at your local Co-Op to one of the many non-profit organizations they support. (Note to Co-Op that this is a perfect place to add a sidebar listing these organizations)
The gift of purpose
I unabashedly admit that I love getting gifts almost as much as I love giving them. And, I truly appreciate the material nature of handling a beautifully embellished box or an attractively adorned gift bag. When other children dreamed of Easy Bake Ovens and Shetland ponies, I had my eye on a gift-wrapping station for such wares. So, in a compromise to embrace what the holiday means to “me” and support the greater good with my purchase, I choose gifts that make a statement.
Ideas for gift giving with a purpose
- Support local businesses and keep your purchase dollars in your community. Check out the Co-Op’s mercantile and gift section. Source out your farmer’s markets and crafts fairs. Don’t shy away from the internet; search out local companies and take a minute to flip over the product and check out where it’s made.
- Choose ethical companies that focus on the welfare of their workers, their material sources and their waste management.
- Pay attention to the ingredients and materials used in production and manufacture. If you aren’t sure about the paints used on the building blocks or the chemicals in that nail polish, research it. Not comfortable with the answers you find? Check out the alternatives that are available.
- Keep it natural. Consider the road the plastic toy took to get to the store shelf or the polyester and acrylic fabrics making up that shirt you just snagged. Is a wooden version available of that sorting set? Can you find an organic cotton shirt instead?
- Reuse. Consignment and thrift stores can be some the best places to find unique, one-of-a-kind, makes-you-ooo-and-aah gifts.
Gift giving does not need to be solely about a Christmas tree flanked by oodles of boxes and bows. And, your budget doesn’t need to get hit with a one-two-punch. With some time for reflection and a dash of creativity, gift giving can be peacefully enjoyable for all those involved. Remember that a contented gift giver makes for a joyful and pleasing gift. It truly is the thought that counts.
Happy Holidays from my family to yours!