The Christmas post---finally
We wish you a frugal Christmas, and a debt free New Year
Every year I am challenged to find the best gifts for my ever-growing family. Not only must they be useful, thoughtful, and appropriate to the individual—they must also be affordable.
This year, as my family grew by 9 people ( 1 boyfriend + his family members = 9 people), my $265.00 Christmas budget was put to the test. Could I manage to find a gift that not only showed I cared, but that was useful AND appreciated by 28 people? Let’s look at how I did:
My immediate family:
Niece #1: A beautiful brown silk/rayon fitted woman’s blouse, with chrysocola chandelier earrings. Gorgeous.
(Both were in my wardrobe. I had outgrown the once worn blouse not long after its purchase from a consignment shop. It looks “new” and the dark brown will be beautiful with S’s sandy blonde hair, as will the swirling greens of the chrysocola (a gift from a former boyfriend).
Niece #2: Baby pink cashmere turtleneck and pink chandelier earrings.
Though pricier than most gifts I give…this was the perfect thing for E. Beautiful color for her skin, and extra soft. I hope she likes it. (Yet again, the jewelry was something in my possession. It was just time to move it on.)
Niece #3: A coordinated outfit of spring green (sweater, summer dress), and a handmade paper journal with aster flowers.
The outfit was a hand-me down from a friend who received it as a hand-me down from her sister who had undergone a dramatic weight loss. Though the outfit was a size too small for me (and her), it is in excellent condition. . The journal was a gift from a former employer, and it is beautiful---I thought a young collegiate woman like K could benefit from having something special in which to keep her thoughts.
Brother #1: Two bottles of black cherry juice (recommended by his doctor, and very hard for him to find in his hometown), and a remote phone for his home, land-line use.
Price: $ 18.00
I had to track down the juice at the health food store. Though not an ideal gift, it was something he needed. And something needed can be a much appreciated gift. The phone was one that I had in the home, and since I’m “all cell, all the time” now, this is something he can use.
Brother #2: Decorating Junkmarket Style
Price $ 20.00
Corduroy jacket and coordinating cotton flannel shirt
Price $ 8.00
I paid a little too much for this fabulous book at the book store. I could have gotten it cheaper at Amazon.com, I found out later. Nevertheless, it is just about the perfect gift for S., as it gives him plenty of ideas for his Junkyard Antiques business. I was going to let the gift stop there---but then I found the shirt and jacket at a yard sale, and it was too good to pass up.
And now for the tough customer:
Mom: An oversized flannel nightgown.
Cute, suede shoes, size 7
Mom is the hardest person in the world to shop for. She doesn’t want anything that she’d tell you about, so you have to corner her to get to admit that there are a few material things that she would enjoy. This year, I got her to give me a list. The only thing she really wanted on the list was the oversized flannel nightgown. After a thorough store search, the “right” nightgown was found at Amazon.com. Oh, how I love Amazon.com.
The shoes I got at a yardsale. Never worn---still had the sticker on them. Perfect.
Sterling silver paperweight with quote from Thoreau.
This lovely thing was hard to part with---but as I had a tight budget, and I really wanted something nice for C. to use since he is starting his own business. .
Great Niece #1: Heirloom Book on Babysitting
This was the book that I bought at the ripe old age of 11 when I found out I was to be an aunt for the first time. I used this book as guidance on how to care for Great Niece #1’s mother, when she was new and shiny. Now that GN#1 has a little sister and is showing an interest in family history—this is a nice way of respecting our family’s life.
Great Niece #2: Sweatshirt with a logo of my workplace.
It’s pretty, it’s warm—and it was a “gift” from my workplace when they decided that it was “damaged” due to a water leak in the storage room. After a good washing, the sweatshirt is good as new, and is a little memento of where of G. Auntie works. This also has the added bonus of not adding one more toy to a baby’s pile of growing stuff. This is one the parent’s can appreciate.
The boyfriend’s family:
When you can, shop in your own wardrobe. When you can’t---comparison shop at Amazon.com, or ebay.
Sister #1: Earrings
Sister #2: Earrings
Price: $ 15.00
Mother: Chopping board and basket, with little book of Christmas Stories
Price: $0 (I had this as a gift from last year. Nice. But I didn’t need it. When I was at the Mother’s house last, she was searching everywhere for a chopping board. This seemed like the thing for her. Plus, she reads a great deal and would appreciate a sweet little book with Christmas stories.)
Brother #1: Book of William Bartram’s travels
(Truth be told, I bought this book ages ago to impress a naturalist I was dating at the time. “Look at me! I’m smart! I too, love Bartram!” Anyway, though a lovely, informative book, I never really appreciated it the way it should be. Since the brother is a naturalist and intellectual at heart—he would appreciate Bartram.)
Honestly, I just met him and didn’t know what to do for him, since he is seldom home. (His work makes him travel a great deal.) For this year, I’ll just make him a card, and mail it to his current post.
The Father: A book on cooking wild game.
I bought it on sale, and it the perfect thing for him as he is a hunter and a chef.
Best friend #1: St. Brendan’s cross necklace
The necklace was a gift from an old boyfriend---and as I am moving into a new phase of my life with the right man for my life, it seems only appropriate to give this old but fabulous jewelry to people who will love it, as much for what they are, as for who gave it to them.
Best friend #2 and family: a potpourri of stuff
The pet carrier, which is something they desperately need---was a gift to me that my cats rejected. Their cats will like it, as it is much like the old carrier they had, before the vet accidentally lost it. (Don’t ask. It was partly my fault, and I still feel badly about it.)
The purse is for their daughter. My boyfriend won it as a door prize at a games’ party he attended. We agreed it would be a good gift for L.
The cool luggage straps were specialty items that were discontinued at the giftshop. Since they were being marked “out of stock”, the manager put them on a table that said “Make a donation and take your item”. So---I donated a few dollars and took two luggage straps. They will be perfect for P’s military bag, where he keeps his armor.
Also—I passed down a book to the best friend, signed by the author. It was a gift to me, and it is wonderful. It is all about chakras, and since she is very into yoga lately, that seemed her kind of thing more than mine.
They recently “fixed” many bathroom problems---but they still need a little decoration to spruce the place up. I passed on some Ikea giftcards that a friend gave to me, but which I could never use because they never had what I needed. However, it seems they have just what this group of friends needs.
And finally, I offered up one free night of babysitting so they could have a date night.
It is a big gift, and sortof extravagant. But they helped me tremendously when I first moved here---and I thought they needed something BIG to help them in all the ways they are moving nowadays.
Good friend #1: Shishka Mirror embroidery Indian make-up purse. Gorgeous.
I found it at a yardsale I helped to co-host. At the end of the day, it hadn’t sold, and the lady who was selling it, gave it to me. This made me really happy as my budget was getting low, and as the friend that I am giving it to travels a great deal and may enjoy something in which she can carry her “stuff”.
Good friend #1: Earrings.
These were made by the lady who helped to co-host the yardsale. Just gorgeous. She gave a few pair away to folks who were working the yard sale.
I know just who to give these to. They will look lovely with her hair. (:
Best work buddy #1: Necklace ( $0)
Best work buddy #2: Earrings ($0)
Best work buddy #3: Earrings ($0)
All other friends that I love, but who live far away: Home-made cards
All other immediate work buddies: Boxes of tea and cards
Price: $7.00 total
(I really thought about just making a few cards---but when I found an appropriate gift at the salvage store for 60 cents each, and a box of 16 Christmas cards for $ 1.75, I went for it. After all, it never hurts to try to improve your work relationships, even if it is through spreading a little Christmas cheer.)
As the last, but not least person on my list, he is the second hardest for which to shop because he doesn’t seem to need or want anything.
However, every time we were near a Cracker Barrel he would wistfully look at the rocking chairs and say “I’d really like a rocking chair.”
So, I looked into rocking chairs.
I have to admit, it is hard to find a good quality frugal rocking chair. After looking around on the internet (Ebay, Amazon, JC Penny, yes, even Cracker Barrel), I ended up finding the rocking chair of his dreams at my brother’s junkyard antique shop. It desperately needs reupholstering—but it is a gorgeous late 1800s rocker that will be worth the effort. Oh---and my brother gave that to me, so the reupholstering will be where the expense comes in. (Since this is an antique, I’m not venturing to upholster this one myself).
I’m told that I can expect to pay as much as $100.00 for the upholstery/labor. But I think that a bargain for an antique, which only accrues in value, when the cheapest I could get for a new one (JC Penny, BTW), was around $80.00.
Final Christmas Total: $265.00
All gift wrap came from unused wall-paper rolls that were found in the house I moved into this year, or from the yard sale I co-hosted, and salvaged from freshly put out recyclables by my neighbor. Very pretty stuff---and it all worked well as gift wrap.
So, 28 gifted people later, we all are having a merry Christmas---as much because the gifts were good ones, as that I was able to live within my budget.
I admit, this type of gift-giving may not be for you. After all, not everyone can shop in their own closet when items have reached their usefulness potential, co-host one yard sale, and end up with so much cool stuff. . Not everyone has a family that is good with anything less than brand new stuff, or that may be as budget conscious as yourself. But then again---maybe this is for you.
Maybe you are tired of bustling about in the mall, or spending endless amounts of time internet shopping? Maybe you want to unplug a little from consumerist approach to Christmas? Or maybe you just want to re-use and re-gift as a form of resource management ? Whatever the path you choose---I hope this account of my Christmas thrift gives you hope for your gift giving adventures—and makes your spirits bright, this wonderful time of year.
Blessings to you all…and Merry Christmas