Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Phenomenal Gift-giving on a Less-Than-Phenomenal Budget


Today I’m participating in the Ultimate Blog Swap. You’ll find me posting over at  Infinite Learners about When a Mommy Blogger becomes a Mom Blogger, and I’m excited to welcome Kathirynne from Evolution to Simplicity to PJs Til Noon!


Gift giving can be a highly stressful proposition.  We want the gift to express our feelings for the recipient, we want it to be appreciated, and we don't want to break the bank paying for it.  Implementing the steps below will make your gift giving easier, more heartfelt and thoughtful and (I hope) less expensive.

1) Plan Ahead It's one thing to be caught off guard by an unexpected baby shower or a wedding invitation that arrives out of the blue and have to engage in some quick thinking to come up with a suitable gift.  But Christmas, Valentine's Day and our loved ones' birthdays occur on the same day every year, which makes for easy planning.  Mother's Day, Father's Day and Easter, while not on exactly the same date every year, annually occur at the same time of year, so they are no surprise, either. 
The time to start thinking about Christmas, for instance, is NOT the day after Thanksgiving.  Anyone can purchase something from a "big box store" on Black Friday.  But to create truly meaningful gifts requires forethought and advance planning.  The Victorians traditionally began their Christmas preparations as early as July to ensure that they would be finished in time to be placed under the tree on Christmas Eve.  It may feel silly to be "making a list and checking it twice" while the scent of Independence Day fireworks still lingers in the air, but when you're finished with your holiday shopping well before Thanksgiving (while everyone around you is frantically scouring the shops for that "perfect gift") you'll be glad that you planned so far in advance.

2) Know Your Intended Recipient  With very few exceptions (our children's teachers, for instance), the people to whom we give gifts are people we know well.  If this is not the case, perhaps the question to be asking ourselves is not "What gift shall I give to this person?" but rather "Why do I feel obligated to give this person a gift at all?"
Once you have established that a particular person does, indeed, belong on your gift list, it's time to brainstorm.  The best gifts are ones that have been selected with the specific recipient in mind.  Consider your intended recipient's likes and dislikes, their interests and hobbies, even their allergies and dietary restrictions, if applicable. 
For instance, your friend the chai tea lover who has a long commute to work every day might enjoy a reusable travel mug, a chai tea recipe and all the necessary ingredients to make her favorite beverage at home.  Not only will she appreciate this gift when she opens it, but also every time she doesn't have to fork over $4.50 at Starbuck's for her daily chai fix.

3) Set (and Stick to) a Budget This is probably the least fun component of gift giving, but it is probably the most important one.  Giving gifts that are beyond our financial means is irresponsible and unnecessary.  Planning and creativity usually trump a large outlay of cash when it comes to gift giving, so set your budget boundaries and stay within them.  (In order to avoid "the gift that keeps on taking" pay with cash instead of with a credit card...those interest charges add up.)

4) Get Creative  This is where the fun really begins.  A good gift is like a collage - a bit from this source, a bit from that source - all combined to create a masterpiece that is more than the sum of its parts.  Decide on a theme to use as a springboard.  Does your friend enjoy sushi?  Perhaps a “Make-at-home Sushi Kit”might be a good gift.  Has your niece expressed a sudden interest in knitting?  A knitting bag containing needles, yarn and a gift certificate for classes at a local yarn shop (or, if you know how to knit, lessons from you would be even better) would make the perfect present for her.

Think beyond the usual sources when seeking out the components of your gift.  That vintage coffee can from the antique shop can become a quaint container for a gently used coffee mug from the thrift store, a sack of fancy coffee from the gourmet grocery, and a selection of biscotti baked in your own kitchen to create a gift that your favorite coffee lover will be thrilled to receive.  A stack of books (by a favorite author or about a specific topic of interest) from the second-hand bookshop, a simple handmade bookmark or two and a clip-on booklight from the office supply store combine to become a fantastic present for that bookworm in your life.

The gifts we give are tiny reflections of ourselves.  Be sure the gifts you give say that you are thoughtful, creative and thrifty but not cheap.


~Jen here.  I for one LOVE the tips in this post! 

What do you think?  You have tips to add, and what’s the best gift you’ve ever given?  Or received? 

(I’ll take whatever you want to throw our comment way!)

ps.  Visit Life...Your Way to see all of the Ultimate Blog Swap participants!