Top-Five: Ways to give gifts without going broke.

15 Dec

Christmas is the season of happiness, joy, and of course – giving. Clearly the most important of the three is the latter. You ask yourself “how in the hell am I going to give everyone I love something wonderful when my pockets are tight and I’m already pinching pennies otherwise?” The answer to this is quite simple: don’t.

Don’t go broke buying everyone presents.

No, I’m not crazy or selfish either.

Instead, I’ve compiled a list of ways to give this holiday season without going broke.

1. Think like a child.

When you were a kid and had no money to buy your family presents, what did you do? You made something, even if it was merely a drawing of a house or a tree, and when you gave those presents, the people receiving them absolutely adored them.

Presents created by the heart and soul are what really make people feel special. Knowing you took the time out of your hectic schedule to put genuine effort into making a gift is what will stand out, not how much you spent.

Ideas for homemade gifts: painting, drawing, sculpture, photo album, or a collage.

2. Pay it forward.

While I was at the pawn shop the other day, there was a young man who came into the store with two very large speakers that were from the later 1970’s — your parents probably had them with their home stereo system when you were a little kid. All he was looking for was some cash to buy gas so he could drive an hour north of here for a job at his uncle’s garage the following morning.

He didn’t look like a meth-head or any kind of drugged out derelict, he was simply down on his luck. The store manager offered him $10 for the speakers if  he could get the speakers to work. After about 15 minutes of finagling with these monstrous decades old sound boxes, he looked like he was about to give up. He had the look of a broken man on his face and it turned my stomach a little bit to see just how desperate people are these days.

So I dug around in my handbag and pulled out two fives and a one dollar bill that were folded together. I reached over to him and handed him the waded up cash and said “Look, I’ve been where you are before, here’s what I can spare”, the shock on his face said it all, “consider if it a Christmas gift from a stranger.” His face lit up with excitement and thanked me for 6 or 7 times. Fortunately for him, the pawn shop manager gave him $15 for the speakers because he, too, felt bad for the guy.

The point to this is to consider how much you have in comparison to other people. Think about how lucky you are to have gas money, gift money, and the financial capability to put food on the table every day in comparison to those who are far less fortunate than you.

Donate an hour or two of your time at a food bank or homeless shelter for the needy. Give an old blanket that you no longer use to a homeless person on the street. Maybe take your leftovers from Christmas and donate them to a few stragglers along the way. I’m not saying be naive about this either, but please be smart when doing things of this nature. Trust your instincts.

Even if your only able to help one person out, just like I did, you will feel pretty damn good. Being a good Samaritan is a wonderful thing. Just think about how many times other people have done random acts of kindness in your favor, don’t you want to pay that forward?

3. Think like your Grandmother.

What is almost always waiting for you whenever you go visit her? A plate of delicious homemade cookies or pie. She must have spent hours creating those delicious butter cookies, the ones that are green and red from food coloring, with the cherry in the center. Or days prepping that pineapple cheesecake. We all love desserts, especially around the holidays.

To bake 24 cupcakes (including the box of cake mix, icing, and some sprinkles) would only cost you around $10 total — if that. Give some kind of decorated dessert item to your cousins or your best friend. People love having food to snack on and no one will give you the evil eye or feel jipped if you handed them a delicious tray of cupcakes, cookies, or some other sweet and tasty dessert.

4. Pretend your camping.

Smores! Who doesn’t like making them? For those holiday parties being thrown this year try an alternative route for food items. If you have a fireplace, toast the marshmallows over the flames and make fun smores sandwiches. Oreo cookies always work very well. If you don’t have a fireplace, get a small can of Sterno gel (the kind that keep buffet foods warm at catered events like weddings) and toast the marshmallows over that way.

5. Redirect your gift-giving.

Consider buying presents for the needy this year. Instead of spending a hoard of money on gifts for everyone you love, try giving people gifts who won’t have any otherwise. Think about the children who will wake up on Christmas morning and won’t have anything to open. They need toys more than your little cousins who already have an entire playroom devoted to the latest toys and gadgets.

The bonus to this is that you can wait until after the holiday and pick up on all the great sales and bargains, thus allowing you to save money in the end because you didn’t have to pay full price for anything. This way everyone is happy and everyone wins.

The After Thought

I had some trouble with this top-five considering that maybe it wasn’t a good enough list with enough detail, but the ideas are there for the taking and I hope that those reading may be inspired from my suggestions.

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4 Responses to “Top-Five: Ways to give gifts without going broke.”

  1. benarcher December 16, 2009 at 9:01 am #

    I liked this a lot. I’d add that it’s important to invest in yourself, too.

    Also, helping the neighbor mow the grass or rake the leaves, doing volunteer work, or even just being there for a friend to give advice – other great gifts.

  2. benarcher December 16, 2009 at 9:59 am #

    Also, this reminds me of a kind of article you might read in a magazine – maybe you could do that. My dad used to write for the daily journal (lol) back when he was trying to start the business.

    You have a unique point of view and style and that’s what captures attention (you’ve certainly captured mine).

  3. Britty Stardust December 16, 2009 at 6:52 am #

    Bitch, I’m expecting my cupcakes in the mail. LOL I really like this list. It’s a very positive and happy one with a tremendous amount of thoughtful ideas.

    I remember one year when Danielle baked me cupcakes for my birthday. Even though they weren’t very good [she made them from scratch and they were so thick.. it was ridiculous. It was her first trial and error as well], it was the fact she took the time to make them for me. That always comes to mind first when I think of birthday presents. It’s a shame things ended the way they did with her. She was pretty awesome sometimes.

    • Lauren Dickson December 16, 2009 at 11:26 am #

      If I could send you cupcakes I absolutely would! Everyone seems to love my cupcakes….funny because I ALWAYS think of you when I make them haha. I’ll post pix soon.

      If you have any other ideas, like Ben did, I’m going to update the post with more ideas.:-)

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