Saturday, 12 September 2009

When You Have Limited Handy Skills

By Notes From The Frugal Trenches

I've shared here before that I don't know how to crochet or sew, my knitting attempts are best left unseen by members of the public, and my growing of all things edible, well um, leaves a lot to be desired! I put my hands up and admit it because I'm on a journey not a race, a journey of learning what works for me, and a journey of accepting it may take time to acquire these new skills. There are many posts on this co-op about other writer's ability to make lovely things ranging from soap to granola to knitwear. But I thought for anyone who is a novice like me, whose attempts often fail, I'd write about just what we can do to redeem ourselves and feel like we are giving something of value even if we don't make it ourselves.

It is no secret I don't like a lot of plastic, mainstream toys or jewelry and I certainly don't have the budget to purchase often lovely unique items from private sellers, but I have found a good compromise. Here are some gifts that work for me!

• I think ahead about the people I want need to give gifts to and write down their favourite hobbies and interests, with some suggestions. Keeping this in my diary helps remind me to think & plan ahead.
• I make a realistic budget for gifts each month, and break that down into a budget per person
• I frequent charity shops, not simply to buy anything but on the look out for treasure! For example for a friend who loves all things vintage, I found the most remarkable vintage tea set in perfect condition for £7.50!
• I purchase charity gifts - for example requesting catalogues from places like World Vision or smaller organizations who have good gift & fairtrade initiatives. Recently I found some lovely handmade stationery from children in Guatemala! I purchased these note sets and a bracelet (total £6) for two friends for their birthdays and both were very well received
• I donate to charities in people's names! One year for everyone on my Christmas list I made a donations to a village in Africa for purchasing livestock, plants, soil, immunizations etc.
• If a friend or family member has a special interest - I look at something that will help cultivate that, for example a small holding magazine subscription, or natural mothering subscription for a friend who is a new mum!
• My one skill I have & I enjoy is cooking, so I will make soups or meals for friends and family
• I have found giving plants for the garden, or grow your own herb boxes to be very welcome
• I purchase experiences - for example for one friend who was ashamed she didn't know how to swim, I purchased her a swim lesson (private instructor) specializing in adults and then gave her 4 handmade vouchers from myself, for an hours swimming together!
• I find one off shops (thankfully we have several where I live) and look for unique gifts that I can keep at home ready for when needed.
• I trawl through etsy and bookmark lovely, frugal and green things I find there! And yes I do swoon over the talent people have!
• I remember that time is just as special a gift as something physical, the photo above is from a day I took a family member to the beach for their birthday, treating them to a lovely english high tea overlooking the sea! I then took this photo and gave it afterwards as a little momento of our trip!

Finally, I'm learning to have patience with myself, to start small with low expectations and to learn simple new skills so that one day I just might be able to make something worth showing on this blog!

Well, I really hope I'm not the only one who has to admit they are a work in progress when it comes to handmade gifts! So, if like me you sometimes have to resort to other frugal, green & simple gifts I'd love to hear what you do!