Gift Giving 101~ No pressure, No tricks.

I’m reposting from last year’s series on Redeeming Christmas. You can catch all my posts here.  I’m attempting to pull some of my favourite ideas and posts and bring them to a new audience for this year.

 

Gifts. I’m not really sure where to start with this. I used to love shopping. I actually still do~for other people. I like finding that one thing; the one that will make people cry and tug on their heartstrings. I love those kinds of gifts.

What I don’t love is shopping malls.  I. HATE. MALLS.   They are money pits that serve one purpose: indulgence.  Bigger malls are being built with fancier stores than I ever recall being built in my entire 40+ years on this planet.  Shoe stores, women’s stores, men’s stores, jewelry stores, toy stores, hat stores. Too many stores. And WAY too many people in malls on any given day.

 

I people watch and what I see in malls is a lot of people buying a lot of stuff that they don’t need and in 6 weeks won’t care about or want anymore. A lot of time and money is wasted in malls every year. And the other thing I see is stress. Stress on the faces of all those people. Frustrated, hurried, concerned and not at all cheerful.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

If we are to be cheerful givers, not under compulsion to give, not reluctant givers then why do we make the lists  that lead us into a guilt-laden journey?

Can I tell you a secret? You don’t have to give anyone a gift for Christmas.  You don’t! Really, I’m not even kidding. You DO.NOT. HAVE. TO.

Buying gifts to me should be intentional, for the purpose of building up, blessing and out of the generosity of our hearts.  If we feel guilted into it then we have missed the point. If we don’t even like the gifts we’re buying, we’ve really missed the point.  And if we are TOLD what to give and who to give to , then we are actually disobeying the Word of God. 

Here’s my experience:

1. I don’t give to the same people every year. Some are the same but most are not. Of course I give to my kids; I want to . I enjoy it. But I don’t HAVE to.  And they don’t HAVE to give to me either.   I rely on circumstance and opportunity to dictate who gets gifts from me.

2. My parents and inlaws often do not receive gifts from us.  I may really be stepping on toes with this one but I want you all to think about this. Our parents have lived longer than we have. They have every token, trinket, picture frame, sweater, appliance that money can buy.  They are fairly self-sufficient and they also have quite a few kids and grandkids.  Our parents like giving their grandkids gifts(if money permits) but don’t usually expect much in return. And I know what you’re thinking: ” All parents say ‘don’t get us anything’ , but they don’t really mean it; they’re just being polite.”‘  I disagree.  Sure they probably love the thought of the gift but if you were to really have a conversation with them, they don’t want any more stuff. They don’t need it. They are trying to downsize and simplify along with the rest of us but they have 20-30 years on us! Now, my mom lives alone and I like to make sure she gets something from us , even if it is small. I will talk about *Christmas in a Box* in a later post.  But unless we’re spending Christmas with one set of parents, we don’t generally send anything to them.

3. My husband and I go regularly without exchanging Christmas gifts.  Gifts cost money. And when money is tight you trim the budget and the list. We don’t need anything else. If we want something and can afford it, we buy it. We don’t need a calendar to tell us when. Besides, we have a lot more fun buying for our kids and friends.Very often we will give a card that expresses in words how we continue to give our hearts and our lives to each other. I love those cards. They are priceless and they’re one of a kind.

4.If giving isn’t fun, I don’t do it. Ever.  Remember that part about a cheerful giver? Ya, that one.  I take that very seriously. The FUN of giving is well, fun!  When I get something that someone is going to love or that I am going to love giving(because it’s silly, ridiculous or just plain awesome), I cannot tell you how great I feel. It is a rush. It is more fun than getting a gift any day, hands down. So if you’re one of those list people that beats the pavement to find the very thing your kid wants and you hate every minute of it, stop it.  Just stop. Cheerfully.  Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself this question: ” What am I teaching my children , my friends and the poor clerks in the stores about my faith?”  Ouch. Painful, isn’t it?  You should never ever put a retail clerk on minimum wage through the ordeal of dealing with your crabby moods because you can’t find the exact colour or size of what Missy said she HAS to have. EVER.

5. Giving gifts should never put you into debt. Cash people. Use cash.  If you don’t have it, you don’t buy it. Don’t justify under any circumstance the use of credit to buy someone a gift. It’s not worth it. On Boxing Day people wake up to their stupidity(overspending and needless debt) and also to the pouty same faces they saw two days before Christmas. Things don’t make people happy. Things don’t make kids more behaved.  Things don’t satisfy.  So, no debt. Say it with me : ” I will not go into debt this Christmas”.

6.I never expect a gift from anyone. Growing up poor has a lot of benefits. If you see your single mother struggle to put food on the table you darn well know not to expect a gift under the tree. And then when you get something, you appreciate it so much more.  Don’t give your parents, your husband , your friends or anyone a list of what you’d like. Don’t Pin a Christmas Wish List board for all to see.  Don’t cut magazine pictures and put them on your husband’s side of the bathroom mirror.  Don’t send e-mail hints or set up gift registries.  Don’t. Can I tell you a sad story? I know of someone who is middle aged. He has kids. A couple of years ago he went to his mother’s house for Christmas dinner.  When gift opening time came around, his elderly mother had a gift for him and one for each of his kids. When he didn’t get more than one(as he had come to expect for his 40+ years of existence) he picked up his kids, stormed out of his mother’s house in disgust and made it clear to all in attendance how disgusted he was that all he got was “one measly gift”.   You can’t make this stuff up. Pathetic. Ungrateful. Unkind.  My shock and outrage…well, I’ve had to let it go because it doesn’t affect me. But what an awful thing for his mother to endure.

7. If a gift doesn’t make me think of Jesus, I’m not buying it. This might sound silly. But remember, we’re redeeming Christmas from commercialism and the *way we’ve always done it*.  When we see people with the Father’s eyes and we love them the way the Father loves: lavishly, uninhibited and generously, then we will give accordingly.  If you go to the dollar store just to fill up space in a stocking or give to a kid in the family who you don’t really know but feel obligated to give to, then that’s not really seeing them from a Jesus perspective.  When you buy a gift you should see it as a reflection of your love for the person and the love Christ has for them(because obviously, we give to some people we don’t love very much…or love very well).  If we spend too much on something that isn’t really that great, or if we buy because we’re in a rush or pressured or obligated, we won’t give the way Jesus would give. Consider the gifts that Jesus received as an infant: gold, frankincense and myrrh…special, selective, rare, expensive. We can’t maybe afford the expensive but we can afford to be selective, take some time and make it special. This is why handmade or rare gifts say so much. The sacrifice of our time and effort can speak to the recipient of a gift.

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This topic of giving gifts is deep and wide. If you have some other thoughts or advice, please share. For most people who celebrate Christmas, the giving and receiving of gifts is the most important, central theme of their Christmas experience.  In fact, there are many who believe that without the giving and getting of gifts there would be no Christmas. We need to cautiously examine the message that sends to our children and our larger communities. Redeeming Christmas~the renovation of what  we’ve  always done ~is not an easy, painless process. It will require a huge shift on our parts to become cheerful givers who are not bound by the same routine of obligatory gifts to the same people year after year. I look forward to hearing from all of you.

 

 

 

Spreading Christmas Cheer~ A Giveaway!

I used to watch Oprah’s favorite things shows. I got all excited and teary when people would win stuff they weren’t expecting. Just watching their expressions was enough to make me want to run out and buy some goodies for my friends and family.

Now Ellen has carried on the tradition with her 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways.  Listen people, I don’t have unlimited resources or wealth to draw from.  I don’t have diamond bracelets or iPads.  I can’t even muster an iPod to give away.

However, I am feeling particularly generous this year and I wanted to share it with you, my readers.  But, there’s a catch(don’t you just hate that?)

Here it is:  I want you to go to my Facebook page and  “Like”  it.  Well, don’t just LIKE it….can you actually press the little “Like”  button? I want to set a tone for the new year with new posts, new ideas, new conversations and it all kind of happens there.  I just want everyone to be a part of it.  So, here’s the deal:Go to the link for THIS post on my FB page,share it on your page and then come back to my page and comment “shared” in the comments section.  For everyone who “shares” my link , you will get your name into a draw for something homemade by me!!  Just in time for Christmas gift-giving.  (sorry, this will only be available to those in North America).

And then ….here’s the good part: if you’re on Pinterest, follow me and I’ll follow you back.  Send me the link to your Pinterest page in the comment sections as well. This second comment will also get your name in the draw!  So there you go: 2 chances to win!

For all of my new followers wondering what this is all about~it’s just me, a little prairie girl, sharing thoughts on home, faith and family. If you’re wondering where to start…..a timely, good place would be my series on Redeeming Christmas. Lots of good ideas for simplifying and taking back Christmas from the chaos that it has become. There’s 31 posts in this series so no shortage of thoughts and ponderings.  Check it out here.

A bunting, a wreath and 12 fabric ornaments. Split it up and give as gifts or adorn your own little world with vintage loveliness. Perfect for that shabby vintage look, a girl's room, a nursery or kitchen. Possibilities are endless!

A bunting, a wreath and 12 fabric ornaments. Split it up and give as gifts or adorn your own little world with vintage loveliness. Perfect for that shabby vintage look, a girl’s room, a nursery or kitchen. Possibilities are endless!

Oh and one more thing….there’s a time limit here. Only comments posted by 11 pm(central time) Friday evening will count. That gives you 36 hours! Like,share, comment! Off you go! I can’t wait to see whose name will be drawn! I wish everyone could win~but, well, it wouldn’t be a contest then. 😉

 

 

The Secret Giver~Adopt a Family {Day 29}

Matthew 6:

1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

This is one of my favourite passages. I love everything about it. I love that it is Jesus’ words and I love that it comes just before He teaches us how to pray(the Lord’s prayer).   What I love most is the concept that giving, especially to the needy, is to be done in such a way that we draw absolutely zero attention to ourselves. NONE. It is a secret.  It is THE best secret.  When you give to those in need , you do so to bring glory to God, not glory to yourselves. 

About 12 years ago we had made plans to go home to our parents’ for Christmas.  We had 4 little kids and my husband worked very hard to provide but that was a year of particular financial hardship for us. Our 4th baby had come and life was chaotic, hectic and expensive with 2 in diapers.   Our van’s transmission completely died about 3 weeks before Christmas.  The cost to fix it was going to be around $1400 and a few extras on top of that. We were shell-shocked. We only lived pay-cheque to pay-cheque and there really wasn’t extra money for any surprises. The money we were going to use to drive to Saskatchewan was immediately put into the repair of our only vehicle. Obviously, there would be no trip.  And even beyond that there would be no money for gifts or turkey dinner. All of our bill payments had to be held off until the 2nd pay cheque in the month meaning that we were behind and the only way to get caught up was to pay them all at once leaving nothing for extras.

I cried.

Not because our kids weren’t going to have gifts but because our plans, hopes and dreams of being with family was gone in an instant. I cried because the burden of not having enough was unbearably heavy that year. I cried because I felt alone.

And then came the secret givers.

First there was one family who asked if they could provide some gifts for our kids. It was so sweet how their kids wrapped items for our kids.  And then someone else helped with some groceries and food.

And then came Christmas Eve. We had long come to recognize our church’s generosity, especially at Christmas to families in need. We knew that on Christmas Eve there would be sacks of toys and hampers of food for the neediest in the community.  What we didn’t know was that at then end of the night, when all the other sacks were taken away….there were two large ones left. For us. Shocked, humbled, a crying blubbering mess I was. I felt guilty. Surely there were others that had more need than we did. But the Lord spoke into my life and gently reminded me that this is how He shows His love. He sees our needs and He fills them. He sees our desires and He longs to give them to us.

We went home and the kids were so excited. Some of the nicest toys and books were wrapped for each of them. Beautiful toys and even some treats: a gingerbread cake/cookie pan, mix, decorations, turkey and the fixings…so many things…it was like an over abundance…MORE THAN WE WOULD HAVE EVER, EVER BOUGHT FOR OURSELVES.

It was one of the nicest Christmases ever. Just knowing that people cared. Feeling like someone took the time to think of us and consider our kids’ ages and likes~ it was really special.

We don’t know who the givers were(the church let people adopt a family as opposed to the church paying for the items).  We had a couple of ideas but we never found out. No one seemed to know…or at least they weren’t saying.  And you know, I just love that.  I love not knowing because all I do know is that Jesus loves us.  All I know is that someone took up being the hands and feet of Jesus. I couldn’t say thank you to a person, I had to thank Jesus.  I couldn’t put a face to the gifts…only Jesus.

You see, that is the beauty of the secret gift.  That is the  challenge before us at Christmas~ we like or dislike things based on who gave them to us. It is natural to judge: “oh, clearly they don’t know us very well”  or  feeling guilt or an obligation to repay to whomever it was.

This is why I love adopting a family every Christmas.  I love to buy special things, wrap them and bless them in Jesus’ name.  I love to take the meager list that the agency gives (usually very small and modest) and double , triple or quadruple ….every little item that a family could use at Christmas: At least one large and one small gift for each member, stockings filled with personal items, Festive napkins, decorations, treats, chocolates, Christmasy towels, games, puzzles, coffee, tea and more…..

I never know who receives it or how it is received. It doesn’t matter.  I just love going all out and not hearing a peep about it afterwards.  Because that’s the Jesus way of giving.

I challenge everyone to adopt a family this Christmas. If you do nothing else, this will be the single most important, significant thing you do.

 Contact your local agencies for more information;

Salvation Army

MCC

Local Child and Family Services

Christmas in a Box{Day 20}

I’m sure you have a long list of people you would love to give gifts to for Christmas.

Or maybe you only have one or two.

But I think all of us have friends and family who live far from us and we likely don’t see them often and maybe not ever at Christmas due to distance. These are the people who we choose to send something to regardless of need, just because we love them and want them to know we’re thinking of them.  For these people, I have developed *Christmas in a Box*.  This is a way of sending a gift early(to beat the mailing deadlines) that encompasses the entire season of  Christmas and all its seasonal glory.

First, start accumulating items for your box. Don’t think expensive or overly valuable, but think personal, expressive and unique to your area(especially for those who live in another country, state or province).

Here are some examples:

  • a puzzle(for the ones who partake in this yearly tradition I try to splurge a bit more than the average $3 Walmart special~bookstores often have very unique and beautiful puzzles)
  • an assortment of seasonal drink mixes: Christmas tea, Christmas morning coffee, hot cocoa mix, apple cider mix
  • your recipient’s favorite chocolate/candy or something locally made by you or someone else: fudge, After Eights, brittle, etc
  • something cozy: a warm throw blanket(a Christmasy theme), slippers, scarf or mitts….something soft and beautiful that your recipient likely wouldn’t buy for themselves
  • a deck of cards with your province/city’s logo/emblem or some other defining feature
  • a box of Christmas cards, or make your own..just a few for someone who might not have bought their own
  • a couple of fun Christmas tree ornaments, or homemade ones
  • a book or movie for the Christmas season:  The Christmas Shoes, Nativity, Elf….
  • an advent devotional
  • a box of mini Christmas lights
  • a jar of homemade jam or locally produced syrup(Saskatoon syrup from Saskatchewan is nice! or Maple Syrup..)
  • recycle some of your favorite books from the past year and wrap them up too
  • a calendar for the new year~one you made is great but one from local scenes is always nice too
  • hard candy  and candy canes tossed into the box  randomly

You could go on and on and on….

 

The idea here is to give someone a festive surprise EARLY in the season. And by early I mean sending this so it arrives by December 1.  Think of your grandparents, aging parents, aunts or uncles, friends in far off lands, kids at college…..there are many people who would love a little love in a box from you. It shows you care. It shows you’re thinking of them. And it’s all items that when they use them throughout the month of December they will think of you and know that they are loved.

Finally, the wrapping:  Don’t just throw it all in a box.  Take care to wrap each item in tissue, tucking everything neatly into a box and presenting it in such a way that when opened, it will be a feast for the senses.  I once sent a box to my mom and instead of packing peanuts and scrunched paper I used pine cones from under our evergreen. It was the PERFECT packing filler and the scent was like northern Alberta forests. (not so sure I could get away with sending that across the international border into the US though).

Once everything is neatly tucked into the box, tape it well so nothing shifts or opens and then wrap with wrapping paper.  You can use regular wrapping paper as long as you completely cover it with clear packing tape OR I like IKEA’s brown/red kraft paper at Christmas which is very festive and durable~perfect for wrapping mailing packages. The other option is to wrap in brown kraft paper and stick on cut outs from Christmas wrap or old Christmas cards. Whatever you do, make it pretty; make it festive.

And there you have it: Christmas in a Box. 🙂

Pack a Shoebox{Day 13 of Redeeming Christmas}

I am a Mennonite. I was raised in the Mennonite Brethern church. I was baptized there. My great-grandparents homesteaded the Western Canadian soil with their bare hands. They buried children there. Many.  Their lives were hard. They spoke no English. They simply lived their lives in a foreign land, freely, because their homeland abandoned them. Cursed. Broken. Persecuted. My people were the needy immigrants we sometimes look down upon.   If I were alive then, I would hope that I , and others, could help them. But I am alive now and I must give to those who have nothing, have been abandoned by their countries, have been persecuted.  These are Menno Simmon’s words and they are brave, deeply emotional and profound words that we must all hear and act upon:

True evangelical faith is of such a nature it cannot lie dormant, but spreads itself out in all kinds of righteousness and fruits of love;
it dies to flesh and blood ;
it destroys all lusts and forbidden desires ;
it seeks, serves and fears God in its inmost soul ;
it clothes the naked ;
it feeds the hungry ;
it comforts the sorrowful ;
it shelters the destitute ;
it aids and consoles the sad ;
it does good to those who do it harm ;
it serves those that harm it ;
it prays for those who persecute it ;
it teaches, admonishes and judges us with the Word of the Lord ;
it seeks those who are lost ;
it binds up what is wounded ;
it heals the sick;
it saves what is strong (sound) ;
it becomes all things to all people .
The persecution, suffering and anguish that come to it for the sake of the Lord’s truth have become a glorious joy and comfort to it.”

Is this not the very essence of what it means to be a Christian? Is this not what Redeeming our faith and our Christmas is all about??

Have you ever participated in Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child campaign?

If you haven’t, do it this year.  Just do it.  Don’t wait. Don’t ponder. Don’t wonder. Just do it.

Samaritan’s Purse goes into the tragedy riddled nations of this planet and saves, helps, hopes, feeds and gives.

And then came Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child provides an opportunity for people of all ages to be involved in a simple, hands-on project of Samaritan’s Purse that focuses on the true meaning of Christmas – Jesus Christ – God’s greatest gift.

Operation Christmas Child was started in 1990 by Dave Cooke, a Welshman who felt moved to deliver gifts to Romanian orphans after seeing their living circumstances on television.  In 1993, Operation Christmas Child grew and was adopted by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization run by Franklin Graham. 

To date, Operation Christmas Child has collected and distributed over 94 million shoe box gifts worldwide.  Each shoe box gift is filled with hygiene items, school supplies, toys, and candy, is given to children regardless of gender, race, religion, or age.  When culturally appropriate, copies of a book entitled The Greatest Gift of All, which has been translated into 130 different languages, are offered to children after the shoe box has already been distributed.

National Collection Week is November 19-25

Visit the website, find a church near you with the boxes to fill. In our family we try to do a shoe box for each member of our family. It is a lot. But we have a lot. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

My suggestions: don’t cheap out on dollar store toys. T-shirts, face cloths, rubber bouncing balls, sunglasses, calculators, hair accessories and stuffed toys are some of the very best things to include.  The entire list of suggested items is here.

There is nothing more redeeming that you will give as a gift this year than to give to a child in a country that is in distress. NOTHING. 

Thrifted and Vintage Gifts {Day 12 of Redeeming Christmas}

I’m loving thrift stores since we moved to the city! Let me tell you folks: these ain’t yo’ mama’s  thrift stores! Nope, not anymore. Thrift stores are absolutely bursting at the seams with all kinds of clothing, giftware, furniture, housewares, seasonal items and bedding! Many of them are hardly used. Most of the clothing is brand name and in great condition.

 

I am going to attempt to convince my family to go the thrift store route this year on most of our gift-giving.  Here’s why:  I’m tired of the stuff that I see in every store that is a repeat of the last store. I’m tired of giving my hard-earned dollars to the government tax system that seems to be getting us no further ahead.  I’m tired of buying CRAP(ya, I said it) that was made somewhere else by people who are barely scraping together enough to eat. I want the quality and rarity of items that our parents and grandparents once enjoyed. And so, I thrift.

Here are some thrifty gift items:

~a long sweater, knee-high boots and a chunky scarf~ total price $20.  What teenage girl isn’t going to love that?

~a leather jacket~ HELLO!

~Vintage bedding(oh my heart….I LOVE vintage linens!)~repurposed or as they are.

~I found some adorable, barely used vintage aprons for $.99 each. Put them with an old copy of Betty Crocker’s cookbook, Julia Child’s cookbook or some other vintage-y cookbook and then add a DVD copy of the movie Julie & Julia for a vintage lover. Perfect!

~ Vintage books….by the hundreds! Bundle them with twine and a sprig of holly and evergreen.

~ Vintage suitcases are very trendy and coveted by the younger generation.

~ My husband bought a 12 piece place setting of Christmas dishes for me~cups, saucers, glass tumblers, serving platters, tea service..there must be over 100 pieces. The price? $20. No kidding!

~Vintage cameras for a photographer~they are lovely and collectible. And cheap!

~Baby clothes are a steal at thrift stores because babies grow out of them so fast, there is no time to stain them!

~Gently used toys are another great idea. Your kids don’t know or won’t care.

~ Vintage toys like Fisher Price garage or boats are so cool if you can find them. We have some locally for sale for about $25 average.

~Afgahns.  I usually stay away from these but lately, I have been drawn to them. I found one for $3 that had never been used. The last row of stitches wasn’t even tied off and it’s gorgeous.  I have now found several others that are gently used and beautiful. Someone took great care and time to make them and for me, that makes them priceless.

Go into a thrift store and look at the potential of everything. Go in with an open mind. If you are crafty, you can probably find several uses for many *old* things. Repurposing, upcycling. Google these words and let your imagination soar!

Giving Thoughtfully {Day 10 of Redeeming Christmas}

This may be the most important advice I can give you when it comes to what kinds of gifts you should give.

Mark 12: 28-33

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.  To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.

Your neighbour: the person beside you. The person on the bus with you. The person in the grocery line with you. The person who sits beside you in church. The person in the bedroom down the hall. The person on the other side of town who you meet for coffee. The person you talk to, visit with, see, touch, know.  EVERYONE is a neighbour of yours in some way.   And if you are to love them as you love yourself, that changes how you shop for gifts, doesn’t it?

If you could have THE MOST thoughtful gift from anyone, what would it be?

Think about that and then think about how you have given and purchased gifts in the past.  Do you run into the store on Christmas Eve and grab the latest , greatest(not) bath accessories basket for your mother in law?  Or how about that cheap toy for your nephew? Or maybe some pajamas on sale because ‘who doesn’t like pajamas?’

Okay, so clearly these are not the most thoughtful gifts. We need to clear our minds and shake off the bad habits we’ve developed about ‘anything is better than nothing’.  Because at the end of the day, it’s all just stuff. More stuff we don’t need that we feel obligated to buy.

Here are some ways to give thoughtfully:

1. A family who has moved into a new house recently: how about a new mailbox and new house numbers? They’re a frivolous purchase for someone with house expenses but very thoughtful as a gift.

2. New parents are sometimes struggling with lack of sleep, lack of support and lack of funds. Knowing that someone is there and sees/understands this stage is priceless. What I wouldn’t have given to have had a break in those early years.  A laundry basket filled with diapers, formula, baby food, laundry soap and a meal or two is the perfect gift for new parents.  A coupon book for free babysitting  or letting Mom have a nap in her own house while you watch the baby for a couple hours. Add to that a gift card for a local steakhouse and you just have the young couple a date!

3. For grandparents, this cool subway art with all of their grandkids’ birthdates is perfect! You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have something special. And it fixes that age old problem of your parents calling you to find out what birthdays they’ve missed. 😉

4. A letter that your grandpa wrote to your grandma in their courting days would be a lovely gift copied and framed and given to your parent and uncles/aunts.  It’s unique and exclusive to your family.

5. A handwritten recipe from your mom or grandma’s recipe box, enlarged and framed for your siblings.

6. Vinyl Records are coming back into fashion but there are still tons of them to be found on buy/sell websites, thrift stores and ebay. If you know of a group or song that meant something to someone special, finding that record would be a touching thought. Just make sure your recipient has a record player or you might have to buy that too!

7. Sometimes you might have to spend a bit more to do the thoughtful gift. We had a couple of good years when we owned our own company. I asked my husband ahead of time if I could have $1000 to get him something. We NEVER spent that kind of money on each other. It was always small purchases or nothing at all. I figured he earned something awesome. I collaborated with a friend a few hours away and we both bought our husbands tickets to a Leafs/Bruins game in Toronto. We booked the flight and then made up cards to reveal the surprise. Neither knew what was to come. We gave them their cards with the tickets on Christmas Eve. We were 8 hours apart but  they phoned each other right after  they opened the gifts~shock and disbelief. It was a priceless moment. They were able to go to the Hockey Hall of Fame and have a complete guy weekend that they would have never planned on their own. Once in a while, spending your entire Christmas budget on something this big is totally worth it!

8. For a guy, finding a state or provincial license plate with their birth year on it is pretty special. Try to get their state or province of birth.

9. I love photobooks. They are so easy to do with digital online websites. I love personalizing and adding comments. There are literally endless ideas when it comes to photobooks:

  • scanning slides from your parents’ or grandparents’ stash and publishing the photos( this is on my to-do list)
  • a family event from the past year that someone may have missed
  • a collection of family photos from over the years of your extended family….seeing how everyone has changed
  • childhood photos of one or both of your parents
  • a family history book with as many photos as you can find from any and all sources
  • baby,child and teen photos of all the grandkids in the family to give as a group gift to grandparents
  • if you can, get photos of significant family homestead sights, gravestones, barns, towns where your loved one grew up or where the family had its origins in the country~build your book as a story: old photos with new ones

The possibilities are endless. I like Shutterfly. I use their Custom Path method to personalize to my liking. Here is a sample of a book I did earlier this year to memorialize my grandfather’s funeral.

Front cover

10. For your love~how about the first love letter he ever wrote to you, framed? Or your wedding vows.

11. Last year I got my husband a digital photo frame with pictures of our farm, the kids , the dogs, some of our favourite times together. He was living/working away from home and very homesick. He loves that gift~still has it on beside his computer on his desk and regularly takes time to look through and pray for all of us.

12. Do you have a reader in the family? Someone who loves books but is running out of bookshelves? That’s me! My dear friend Tammy surprised me with a Kindle in the mail this spring. I never thought I would want one as I love the feel of a real book in my hands, but I was SO wrong. I love my Kindle. So small and compact and very easy to use and read. I have tons of books on it. What I particularly love is all the books that come out free, sometimes for only 24 hours but if you can catch them, you can save them to read at another time! I have about 15 on there right now that I have yet to read but they didn’t cost me a cent(and they’re all new titles).  A Nook, Kindle or any other digital book tablet is a really great choice for the reader on your list.

13. Handmade~but just not anything that you picked up at a craft sale. Something made by you for someone is the most special gift because you sacrificed time and energy, patience and planning.  When you make a gift for someone, you are telling them they are worth it.  A piece of furniture, a doll cradle, a baby afgahn, a pair of slippers, a new bedspread, a snowboard case(I need to do that this year!), a messenger bag, an iPod case, an iPad cover….so many options!

Check out my Pinterest boards:

http://pinterest.com/prairiejuan/thrifty-gifts/

14. Finally, one very thoughtful gift is that of a person. Maybe you have a family member who lives a long way away. Does your mom have a kid that lives far from home? Pay for her to go fly there for a visit. Give her the itinerary for Christmas. Or fly in a special someone for Christmas. Christmas is not about things, it is about people and therefore, bringing people together in my books is THE BEST GIFT EVER.  This requires coordination, collaboration and finances but so worth it.(work together with siblings, aunts, uncles or whomever to get it done)

Okay, so there’s a few ideas. Are you getting the picture?

What are some of YOUR ideas for thoughtful gifts?

Thoughtfulness.

A kind heart. A generous giver.

This is how we will Redeem Christmas~removing the rush, panic, stress and obligations of giving.