Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Last-Minute Gift Ideas For the Holidays: No- and Low-Cost Gifts

by Melinda Briana Epler, One Green Generation

I posted this a couple of days ago on my own blog, but thought that you all might find this list useful, too. Please share any ideas you have in the comments!

It's nearing Christmas, and I haven't bought a single gift for the holidays. Am I worried? Maybe a little bit, but I'm not stressed about it. I have thought about it a lot, and I already know what I'll be getting most of my friends and family. For most, I don't even need to leave my home!

The other day I asked readers and friends what ideas they had for no-cost gifts. Here's my favorite answer, from Stacey:

So, as a kid, I collected Breyer model horses. I was obsessed with them and all things horsey. Recently, I found them stored in my garage and have decided that they now need to belong to my equally horse-obsessed nieces. There are so many things right with this... I get a whole new opportunity to share my toys [I may not have excelled at this as a ... See Morekid], my nieces get something that they'll love to play with, the garage will be less cluttered and, the best thing is that I get to share something with them that I once loved.

That brings me to....

Gift Idea #1: Gifts From Your Home, Garage, or Storage

Most of us have things around the house, and particularly stored in a box or a corner somewhere that mean something special to us - or more often than not, meant something special to us - and we can't bare to part with it. Books, records, dresses, coats, vases, pictures, dolls, figurines, games, tools, fishing gear, ... the list continues, doesn't it? So why not keep it close to you, and give it to someone who will really appreciate it? An antique means nothing in your basement. The memories will never leave your mind, and new memories will be formed if you give it to someone who will love it.

If the object means something special to you, you might want to attach your story to the gift. Tell the special someone about the gift, or write it down in a note: where it came from and what it meant to you. Think of this as part of the gift you're giving. Because after all, it is probably the most important part!

Here's another great story from Julie:

One of my most treasured gifts was from my grandmother- a collection of old photos from my childhood, my mother's childhood and even earlier ones of my grandmother as a young woman. She was able to scale back her photo closet plus give us grandkids something to treasure. She really enjoyed the process of going through and picking out ones for each of us.

Gift Idea #2: Special Keepsakes From the Heart

My grandmother always used to say that instead of waiting until she's passed away and people attach sadness to a special gift given in a will, she'd rather give it away now and watch people really enjoy it. So true - it makes such a difference to hear the stories and to share the experiences!

Maybe it's a piece of jewelry, a photograph, a work of art, an heirloom passed through generations... Share it with someone you love this year. Make sure you tell the stories behind the gift, and make the giving of the gift truly special. Spend the time and effort to let the person know how special this keepsake is to you, and how much you want that person to have it and treasure it. And let it bring you closer together.

Gift Idea #3: Thoughtful Non-Material Gifts

Here's a great list from Rachel:

1. Baby sitting someone's kids for the evening so they can have alone time.

2. Washing someone's car or cleaning their house - or doing any other housework errand that they can't find the time/energy to do (like helping them tackle that overflowing mess of a closet, for example).

3. Chopping someone's firewood.

4. Putting up someone's Christmas lights for them.

5. The gift of your time. Actively prioritizing relationships we take for granted: ACTUALLY taking the time to spend a few hours visiting with friends that you don't often see.

And from Risa:

6. Listening. With offer of fresh hot chocolate.

I'd add to this list:

7. Help painting the porch
8. Gardening: pruning, planting, composting, and more
9. Setting up dad’s computer
10. A candlelight dinner for two at home

Gift Idea #4: A Coupon Book of Non-Material Gifts

Here's another one from Julie:

One time my sister and I made a coupon booklet for my parents, with things like: a homecooked meal, mowing the lawn, a neck and back massage, being chauffeur for the day, etc.

You can certainly add kisses and hugs, as well as all the things listed in #5.

Gift Idea #5: Re-Gift

I know, it's not super kosher to re-gift, but what else are you going to do with it? And why not give it to someone who will appreciate it?

From Tree:

For my Father-in-Law: I regift (I know some people think its taky). Each year one of the Servicers I use through the year, sends me a lovely gourmet basket - It perfect for DH’s dad and we don’t eat that sort of stuff.

Gift Idea #6: Make Something

You don't have much time, but sometimes things don't take much time to make. On Tuesday, my Mom and I are getting together to make homemade biscotti for all of our cousins. I see it as a gift my mother and I are giving one another (spending quality time together), and a tasty gift for our family members. Another idea? How about a collage of meaningful photos, or a calendar made from your great trip photos or photos of your garden?

From Rob:
most things I give are homemade, and this year giving one of my turkey fryer burners to a friend who brews his own beer. LOL I don’t need two fryers anyway. And I am “remaking” clocks- one or two of them are old clocks I had sitting around, and 1 was bought at the “AS-IS” department at IKEA
From Erin:

I’ve been canning my garden bounty the last few weeks and have lots of salsa and mustard to give as gifts. I also plan to do a lot of knitted gifts again this year, but am keeping it simple with toys/ornaments for the nieces and nephews.
That brings me to...

Idea #7: Gifts From The Garden

You can't grow anything now, sure - but you can give dried herbs or fruit, canned goods, saved seeds, and propagated plants. Yes! I have a cardamon plant indoors that just keeps making new shoots. It's too big for its pot now, so I'm going to divide a few of the shoots and re-pot them as gifts! Or maybe you're like me, and you have four pothos plants around your home from different cuttings at different times. Why not give one away to someone who doesn't have much greenery in their home? Plus, imagine the joy of receiving a jar of homemade jam... Yum!

Idea #8: Peruse Antique Stores, Thrift Stores, and Used Book Stores

You may have cleaned out your storage units, your closets, and your garage and have little to offer from your home. Well, go into town and have some fun going through the local antique store. A beautiful first-edition copy of your mom’s favorite book, an awesome game you used to play as kids (maybe you can turn it into a new holiday tradition), a vintage handbag, an irresistible shawl, a tricycle, almost anything you can think of giving comes in used versions!

Idea #9: Charity Gift Cards

This is a great gift for people who don't need or want more things, but to whom you really want to give a gift and show your appreciation and love. If you know their favorite charity, you can make a donation in their name. Otherwise, one of my favorites is Heifer International, where you can make a donation of goats for a family to keep for milk, or ducks for eggs, or many other things. And one of our favorite clients is TisBest, which allows you to give a gift card (you can give it in email form), and the recipient can choose which charity to give it to.

Idea #10: A Coupon Book for Local Goods and Services

Here in Seattle, we have the Chinook Book. I love it. It costs $20, you can buy it from any number of local stores or charities, and it has loads of coupons for green, sustainable, and local goods and services. I save hundreds of dollars using these coupons over the year, and it helps me support local businesses. How about giving one to someone who are looking for an extra push to "go local" or "go green", or someone who could use some extra coupons in their life (and who couldn't these days?).

There are several other types of coupon books out there. Check around or Google "coupon book" and the name of your city or state. And the Chinook Book is also available in Portland, Denver, Silicon Valley, East Bay, and Twin Cities.

Did You Already Buy All Your Gifts?

You may have done all your shopping this year. But did you see something on this list that is better than what you've bought? Or cheaper? So give the no- or low-cost, meaningful gift instead and take the other one back. I bet you won't regret it at all!

Did This List Make You Think of Some Great Gift Ideas?

Yes? Great!! Go do it, and please take a moment to share your ideas with the rest of us in the comments below, so we can all have more ideas!

And have wonderful, safe, and happy holidays everyone!