Friday, August 20, 2010

Christmas in

In my family, we gift everyone at Christmas.  This means thirteen people on my late husband's side of the family, and then eleven or thirteen at my siblings' event in Denver. I am in no way complaining. I like giving gifts and I like getting gifts. The biggest problem of course, has been my adult children (especially the one still at home).  I admit that my husband and I were pretty generous and probably spent more per child than most. We generally ended up making their seasonal clothing replenishment part of Christmas, and they generally got no gifts other than this and birthdays. My children have not asked for much the past few years, but I had trouble adjusting my habits, if you will.

So while I love giving gifts and would not change Christmas in any way, I have had to learn to be creative about acquiring gifts, as well as cutting down on gifts for my immediate family. Fortunately over the years I've been able to develop a few methods for doing this.  First, I make many of my gifts, and secondly, I get gifts for pennies throughout the year.  These are both things that anyone can do.

When it comes to how a acquire gifts for pennies, some of the methods I've  mentioned here already, but I'll share them again. Also, although it is not my intention to ever turn into a coupon or deals site, occasionally I may mention a specific deal  in the future just to share how easy it can be.

As I said before, I sign up online with all the stores and receive free gifts and high value coupons. Secondly, I shop yard sales. While many people think of yard sales for kids stuff, it's not necessarily true.  My brother would love a boys life from the late sixties, when we lived in Hawaii (Something to do with mongoose trapping and the like). I take baskets and clean them and use them for gift baskets. And I can always use more canning jars. The third big thing I do is that I  sign up for every single reward program there is. I shop mainly online and I do so through a portal that gives me cash back.  I take every freebie offered (not the trial sized stuff, but everything else). In the past week I have gotten a free photo book, a free photo collage and a set of photo cards for nothing-and that includes shipping. The very last big thing I do to get good gifts for pennies is that I keep my eyes out for gift card deals. They usually appear mainly at Christmas. Last year, if I bought a hundred dollars in Barnes and Noble gift cards, I got a free 25.00 card. My in laws love to eat out, and last year I got a free $25.00 gift card for buying them a $50.00 gift card from Carrabas.

I need to say that doing these things do NOT take me a lot of time. I'm not tied to my computer all day long. I simply make it a part of my day, usually when I do emails morning and night to also visit a list of about five websites that regularly keep me updated about the deals of the day, and I take advantage of them or not as I see fit. Obviously, this kind of shopping requires a certain basic knowledge of the kinds of gifts that relative want, or at least the stores and restaurants they use. If it's a far away relative, you may have to hope that you have a hint from mom or dad or sister and wait later in the season to shop.

My other primary source for gifts is things I make. Let me say here right off the bat that although I am a quilter, not all of the gifts I give are quilted items, and there are many ways to make gifts. Nice gifts, gifts that your family will be happy to have. We all have skills of some kind that we can use to this purpose. And I don't man just painted magnets here. I am not a gourmet cook by any means. But in previous years I have made flavored sauces for ice cream (raspberry chocolate sauce made with liqueur and chocolate for example) and put them in a decorated basket with garage sale scrounged glasses. This year I am making different flavors of barbecue sauces and doing baskets. I am also not an accomplished scrapbooker, although I have some supplies. My children are going to get cookbooks with family recipes. The computer will be my friend. And as an experiment I am making one large picture frame collage with a map of all of Normandy and the beaches and pictures of our visit there for my son.  I tell you these things only to show that these are the kinds of things that are appreciated, and that most anyone can make. You don't have to be "artistic" or "crafty" to make gifts.

My last source of gifts is one that usually gets only used with my children, and previously with my husband. That's the "coupon" or "permission gift".  I've promised a child a gourmet dinner  of their choosing (there are a few things I can cook!!). I've promised them a day doing something that we both like. When they were younger I gave promises of sleepovers and of staying up late. As for the permissions, for years my husband and I did not give each other gifts, but gave each other "permission" to buy something outside of our normal comfort range that we could not buy for the other person. I would never have been able to choose my husband's new ski boots, for example.

One of the benefit of acquiring gifts this way is obviously financial. My overall expenditure is much less for the same items that someone might purchase as gifts in November and December. The other advantage is peace, for lack of a better word. I don't have to go near a mall or a store after Thanksgiving unless I choose, as a rule. I love Christmas, and in fact I go to a holiday concert every year, as well as Christmas craft fairs and other events. But I choose the time and place, that place is never Walmart, Target or the mall.

Now, I'm off to look for recipes Hot Buttered Rum Mix!


  1. And why NOT the trial sized samples? Or don't you have to fill stockings? Even my adult kids still want stockings. Heck, my 60 year old sister fills mine and I do one for her!

  2. Grace, so many of the trial sizes are nothing but little squares of plastic. Now, I am happy to get a trial sized bottle, but I don't generally go for the little packets the size of the old avon permume samples if you get my drift. By now since I send for a great many per week, I generally know just which are which (I also get free items for the shelter by the gazillion).

    Since we are now only three, we have given up stockings, but we do get a pile of small gifts that we wrap individually. We go somewhere else for christmas and open up the "greater family" gifts, and just upon up the ones from the three of us to each other on Christmas morning or after midnight mass depending...


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