Holiday Gifts the Frugal and Green Way

As we approach the winter holiday season it is time to start thinking about a strategy for gift giving if we want to keep it frugal and green. I really don’t like to squeeze Thanksgiving by leaping into the next holiday too soon, but obtaining gifts the frugal way takes a lot more thought and possibly time than just going out and throwing money at the problem. Money that may be hard to come by for some.

The first step to any gift giving situation is to slow down and think about the recipient. What is your relationship to them? What do they like? Have they mentioned any desires they might have? Do they have any little quirks? The best part of a gift is its thoughtfulness, and that comes from actually giving thought. If you can’t answer anything about the recipient, why are they on your list at all? I know, sometimes a “stray” appears on the horizon at the last minute- the sister’s roommate from school or the uncle’s new wife. People you don’t know but don’t want to leave out. For those people you might do a little gift basket, or a bottle of wine if you know they would drink it.

Once you have the list in hand, it is time to think of where to get the gifts. If you have a special DIY skill, such as preserving fruits or knitting beautiful scarves, take it as far as you can. There was a time, not so many years ago, when that it how the meaning and joy of this season was expressed. Your skill may not be able to run the table on your gift list, but you can come close.

The next step, for those with few applicable DIY skills, or a very long difficult list, is to shop locally. There may be a local economy co-op nearby that can help you find good sources. If not just look around and find the local potter, weaver, or artisan food product manufacturer. Somewhere close by is a craftsperson who would be happy to help. Local businesses make a community stronger by keeping the money circulating at home. The prices may be surprisingly comparable to the big box stores, or they may be a bit higher to reflect a higher quality. But even so it is worth it if you can afford it. That is what sustainability is all about.

Finally, don’t overlook second hand stores. If this is a very thin year for you, try goodwill, or if there are kids involved ask around about local toy drives. Or see if anyone in your community is having an exchange. My local clothing exchange crowd is planning a holiday exchange that includes toys and gifts this year. Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot to bring, this is the gift economy.  Even if all you can come up with is one toy per child it is better than passing the holiday without acknowledgement. I know how hard this season can be for many this year and I wish you all the best.

If none of these ideas work for the toughies on your list, think about a book. Or a gift certificate to a book store so they can get their own. I am generally not fond of this solution for reasons explained above, but it does work. Just be very careful of things that may be returned to the chain stores. They are making it harder and harder to return goods, and are rarely the frugal, green, thoughtful, and creative choice anyhow. And whatever you do, keep the plastic in your wallet this year. You will be much happier in January if you do. Here’s wishing you happy hunting and a happy holiday season!

These links may help you shop:

http://www.livingeconomies.org/ Info on local economies

http://www.etsy.com/ Look on the left side panel for a “shop locally” button

https://frugalplanet.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/dyi-should-you-or-shouldn%E2%80%99t-you/ The Frugal Goddesses guide to Doing it Yourself

http://www.thethriftshopper.com/ A few links for buying second hand-You never know what might turn up!

http://www.goodwill.org/

http://www.amazon.com/

http://www.freecycle.org/

http://www.ebay.com/

http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites

http://m.news10.net/BETTER/news.jsp?key=299466&rc=su And a news story about the new return policies

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