If you're like most of us, stretching your dollar
any farther will tear it to shreds. But don't stress. A tough
economy provides challenges, but also can stir your gifting
ingenuity. With some planning and creativity, your holiday gifts
can be personal, thoughtful, and even a little fabulous-all without
breaking the bank.
That truly is the question. Start with your list. Can you
pare it down to cut costs? A crucial review can determine if it's
time to eliminate gifting with some individuals. Who knows? They
also could be feeling the crunch and welcome your idea to stop
exchanging gifts, too.
"Green" the holiday and lose the stigma of the regift.
Just be honest about it, please. If you know someone who would
appreciate the ceramic horse you received from dear Aunt Martha,
why not pass it along? Likewise, that funky scarf buried in your
drawer could be loved and worn by your bohemian gal pal.
With original tags and packaging intact, all is forgiven
if the thought is conveyed in a lovely note to the recipient. So,
go ahead, reinvent the regift. It won't cost a dime and you could
make someone really happy.
As we all know, one man's trash is another man's treasure.
White elephant exchanges are great to swap unwanted, unused items.
Blind auctions let individuals use imaginary money to outbid each
other for gently used and unknown pre-wrapped items. What about a
purse exchange? It's always nice to get a "new" purse a friend is
tired of while sprucing up your handbag wardrobe. A book swap is
great for both casual and avid readers. Possibilities are endless
based on interests and ages. These themed exchanges are fun
treasure hunts and provide lots of laughs-a bonus stress reliever
for this hectic time of year.
Do good with your gathering. Invite others to donate
nonperishable items to help a local food pantry. Find out what
items are desperately needed and have guests help by bringing
canned soup for a "Souper Soiree" or jars of peanut butter and
jelly for a "Nutty Good Time." Animal lovers can collect pet food,
chew toys and dog treats for donation to a pet shelter. Or maybe
charge each guest an "admission fee" and then vote on what charity
the donations will benefit. Make sure to ask your kids for their
ideas as you reinforce the importance of helping others.
A picture is worth a thousand words and, fortunately, only
pennies per print. Make favorite photos your go-to gift this
holiday. Recapture, rekindle and reunite with cherished people,
vacations and memories. Be creative with enlargements, collages and
color manipulation like sepia for a vintage look. In-store and
online options offer endless possibilities. Add an inexpensive
frame kids can embellish with items or writing for a unique,
personalized gift and a lasting memory. Magnetic frames also can
save table space and elicit a smile with every opening of the
Love to cook? Even if you don't, a meal exchange could
offer some incentive. This fun idea has some investment on the
front end, however, since you need to bring a homemade packaged
entrée for EVERY person attending. (Now, stick with this and keep
readingº) If 10 guests attend, you bring 10 packaged entrées. Your
payoff is that each of the other guests also must do the
How it works: Prior to the event, the host will provide
the number of guests attending and you'll provide what you're
bringing to ensure no duplication. Each guest then prepares and
packages, in their own home, entrées for that number. The trick is
to keep it easy so you can make big batches without too much
difficulty-think assembly line. Choose a family favorite, personal
specialty or any soups, stews, lasagna, etc., that freeze well.
Package meals (dollar store containers are great) and label with
entrée and your names, number of servings (4-6 recommended) and
reheating instructions. Don't forget to include a recipe card,
Arrive at the party with your completed packages, swap
with other guests, and go home with a variety of meals. Just the
remedy for nights when you can't even think about preparing dinner
for the family.
If gifting is unavoidable, suggest a grab bag exchange or
the $5 challenge, where the goal is to find the most relevant gift
for the person whose name you choose. Dollar stores and dollar
departments at retailers make this fun and easy. It's amazing what
nice and useful things can be found to suit someone's
Other simple solutions include favorite candy, writing
journals and creative coupons for services like "Free babysitting"
or "Good for one escape with a walk and a latte," etc.
Lucy Latourette is a freelance writer and mother of two who tries not to stress over the holidays.
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