Blog: My Little Farm in Town

Frugal gifts: It's the Thought that Counts

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I had a wonderful afternoon visiting with neighbors and giving and receiving gifts. I find most of my gifts at garage sales and thrift shops. Other presents I make from things that I find at garage sales and thrift shops. When I find something I think a particular friend will enjoy, I set it aside for them.  I have a gift closet where I put all of these things so I can easily keep track of them. I suppose that a lot of you do the same kind of thing.

I was brought up in a big family with very little money. My first job was cleaning a neighbor's house each Saturday morning. I'd get up early and watch as many cartoons as I could, and then I would go across the street (I was in second grade)  to Mrs. Shoppe's house and clean for a couple of hours: vacuum, sweep, wash dishes, make beds, clean the bathroom, and dust. She would pay me 50 cents, give me some hard candy, and send me home. This is not meant to be a sob story--it's just the way it was and I was glad to have the money.

I'd use some of this money in December to buy or make Christmas presents.  My mom taught me to think of the person I was giving the gift to and let the gift fit the person.She was brought up during the Depression when a piece of fruit or a fountain pen was a wonderful gift. If I didn't want to or couldn't afford to give everyone a gift, it was okay. No one in our family took offense, and we were all taught to appreciate any gift given to us. I remember giving my mom a wooden spoon for Christmas one year, and she treated it as if it were gold. She knew that I'd had to work hard to earn the money to buy that simple gift and she knew how much I loved her.

Here are just a few ideas for thoughtful gifts: 

  • Family Box: This idea came from my pen pal in Kentucky. Fill a box with things that families can do together and give a family gift rather than a bunch of individual gifts:sledding/skating--mittens, hats, scarves, hot cocoa mix, marshmallows, candy canes, everything needed to dress a snowman; game night--board games, snacks, small prizes; movie night--DVD or VHS family movie(s), popcorn, a liter or more of pop or drink powder, candy; nature outing--trail maps of local county or state parks, water bottles, gorp, some inexpensive guide books or info downloaded from web sites.
  • Books! Check out the web sites of libraries in your area. Most of them have books sales annually, and some have them monthly. A good book sale in my area sells children's books for 25 cents, hardcovers for a dollar, and soft cover books for 50 cents. (If you volunteer to sort or carry books for these events, you are usually given an opportunity to have "first picks.") You find books at these sales that are out of print or so unusual that you wouldn't have guessed that they existed--I found a book of bridges with pictures and schematic diagrams that cost me one dollar for the structural engineer in my life. She was thrilled--I was too! There are also the independent and chain book stores that take books in trade and sell them for half the cover price. Sometimes I buy books when I find them in good condition for 10 cents each at garage sales and then trade them in at these stores for cash, more books, or gift certificates.
  • Custom Cookbooks: I made one of these for a friend today. This friend was a bit downhearted because they found that her husband  was allergic to dairy and nuts this year, and all her favorite family Christmas cookie recipes contained butter and nuts! I bought a can of butter flavored shortening then got on the computer and searched using for  recipes containing butter flavored shortening. I filled a binder with free recipes and used a piece of Christmas stationary to make a cover. It is all wrapped and under the tree right now.
  • Food Kits:There are lots of make-a-mix recipes for soups, muffins, bars, cookies, tea breads, drinks, flavored rice, etc. on the web or that you can get from the public library. I like to give these kinds of gifts to the mail carriers and neighbors. They make good "guy" gifts. I have quite a library of these types of books and pamphlets that I have picked up at book sales and garage sales. I "mine" them regularly for gift ideas.
  • Things you make or grow: I have been given gifts of seeds, garlands of pine cones for my mantle, strings of popcorn for the wild birds, favorite poems in handmade cards. My mother likes to get gifts of herbs from my garden. This year my sister and I with my daughter's help picked apples from a tree that we had given my dad for Father's Day over 20 years ago. I dried a half bushel of them and returned some to my mother as a gift.

I'm sure that you have other great ideas for thoughtful gifts. If you want to share them, feel free to respond to this post.

Merry Christmas, Begonia.




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