Thursday, December 17, 2009

For the Budget Minded

Times are tough and several people I know are saying they aren't in the Christmas mood. Many aren't due to finances, but I think that one of the blessings of this kind of time is that the truer meaning of Christmas can resurface-- the spiritual reasons, the contemplation of a year past and the hope a new one brings, spending time with family, breaking bread, serving others who may be in even greater need. But I also see how a return to things found and made require we give much more of ourselves, cause us to think more about the person we craft it for... and they are enjoyed in equal measure because of it.

The Gift of Music:

My favorite thing to give and receive is a home made CD... I don't have any fancy label making software or buy name brand discs and cases...

I take my time thinking about the person and their tastes, and sometimes I give people something I think is good that might expand their usual fare. Today with Itunes and a laptop that can burn CD's easily (you can buy cheaper, non-name brand stacks of CD's at Office Depot or Staples and they work perfectly fine). Type up the playlist by title and artist and print it out on some colored paper, then tape to the inside of a jewel case... or even give in an envelope or a paper case... Make two different discs or even a collection of a few more, each for different moods or seasons or whatever. In the process, you will discover new or rediscover old music you love and remember the power that music carries.

"Spirit" Box
There is plenty to be worried about these days, and often we feel helpless. Create a sacred box that your loved one can use to turn whatever's keeping them up at night or dragging down their day over and let it go... You can take any kind of box and cut out pictures of whatever you think will enhance the meaning of the box for the receiver... you can simply glue those on, or add decoupage (easily procured for a few bucks from your local craft store), You can paint it a soothing color. Or you might find a box at a flea market or garage sale. It could even be a basket, but I suggest it has a top. There is something theraputic about shutting the lid on the issue of the moment. Include a little pad of paper and if you'd like, a fountain pen (see here for one under $4) or a cool pencil or something with colored ink. You can write a card with directions essentially saying that this box is to hold their troubles and questions, letters to people saying what they couldn't say in person, forgivenesses, etc... Write it on paper and put it in side, then let go and let the universe work it's magic. Make it as simple or elaborate (adding an inspirational quote or poem) as you like.

This of course could be used as a gratitude box as well.

Appreciation Book:
I once made up a book for a friend... 25 reasons why -- take your pick: I love/admire/repect/appreciate/am crazy about you, want to be your friend, love living my life with you, can't live without you" for starters. It can go to a significant other, a dear friend, a mentor, your kids, grandkids, etc...

I made up a list over a few days of everything that came into my head on the topic. The best ones stood out and I chose from that list a smaller list. I arranged each in the order I thought worked and found a little notebook with a hard cover. Places like Kate's Paperie, places that sell small photo albums or brag books work well. You can go to town making little collages, writing on related or meaningful pictures, etc... but I just wrote the words on each plain white page, nicely, neatly maybe, but believe me, simple words are enough if you're not up for an art project.

Another version can be a jar that holds 365 little notes, quotes, etc... personalized for whomever the receiver is... I put one on this blog a few months ago (CLICK HERE to see) and I thought, this would be very easy to make CLICK HERE to see that example. This site will give you many other ideas besides the example I used that was for a sister.

Plain Ol' Photos
Yep, people still love photos, even though you might be able to see them all on Facebook. Photos you can hold in your hand, frame, preserve in an album. With many of our at-home computer printers able to do photos, that has become easier, but again, I am low tech... I take a disc to any CVS or Walgreens and use their little machines for a buck or so a pic (watch the circulars for weekly deals). If you don't want to do that you should be able to drop them off at your local Wolf Camera, Staples, Office Depot or Kinkos and have them do it all for you for not that much more.

You can give as is, include with a photo album, put them IN the album yourself and give that or frame (if you have a good eye you can find them cheap at drugstores, Walmart or discount places like Kohls, Loehmans, TJMaxx, etc...

Two takes on this idea -- my mother in law has tried to print the photos I e-mail to her after we've had a party, Thanksgiving or Christmas together. And I only send one or two of the best ones of the lot. I am putting them all on actual discs for her to have and do what she wants when she wants. I will also print a few of the better ones and give them together tied with a pretty ribbon. That way she has everything, but also some of the best already to see and display.

My sisters make a habit of digging out old photos of relatives or mom and dad when they were young and slowly, over time, have been copying them for each of us in the family... each year we get several, and they are just WONDERFUL. You may need to go out on a limb and call an aunt a cousin or a family friend to find things to surprise everyone with but boy is it worth it!! Even if you only give one or two, the history and sentiment has major impact and will not be forgotten anytime soon.

Not just any Recipes:
Just like the photos, we all would like that recipe that grandma made, or mom, or aunt so and so.... or all of them. If you can get hold of those, write it out on a card of some sort, preferably one that's durable (or you can go to town and laminate it at any office supply store) and give it as is, in a card with a related memory, or in a box or book with blank spaces for them to add more. Food, like music, bring us back to different times and places immediately, so nothing could be more personal, more honoring of your own legacy than these kinds of gifts.

The Gift of Make Believe, Fun and Play:
Superhero in a Box, for ages 3 and up, one size fits all somehow... CLICK HERE to find for $14 at Restoration Hardware. But hmmmm... Cool idea for any age-- this is something you could make at home too. It doesn't need to be Halloween, as you know, since kids love to dress up. Seems even without being able to sew, you could make a bunny in a box by getting a little set of ears and a tail and a pink tee shirt including an eyebrow pencil to draw on whiskers. Red Riding Hood in a box? Fireman? Doctor? The possibilities are endless...
Great for impromptu family theater, photo sessions, etc... as the day's festivites wind down and there's all that time and no school!

And I don't even have to mention that there are adult versions of this one, lol... the french maid, the fireman, etc...

Food, Glorious Food!
It is a time for eating, drinking and being merry... so even if you throw some cinnamon sticks and nutmeg into apple cider or wine and pour it into a mason jar, make rice chrispie treats (I dice up those red and green candied cherries you can find this time of year to make flecks of christmas color in them), put split peas and chicken bullion into a jar and tie an artfully written soup recipe around the lid with a pretty ribbon, or go to town cutting out cookies and decorating them, I guarantee it will be welcomed and consumed. I have popped my own corn and drizzled caramel on it and dipped mini pretzles into melted chocolate and let them dry on wax paper over cookie sheets and given those away. Also, hard candy recipes abound... with a little karo syrup and a thermometer and some tasty extracts, you can put some local stores out of business!

Hand Crafting:
It goes without saying that if you knit a scarf or afgan or booties, sew up stockings or a hat, bake clay or carve wood to make ornaments, or can whip up a cloth dollie, you HAVE to know it will be the BEST GIFT. Yes the world has become high tech, but nothing beats the time and thoughtfulness put into something made by the hands and heart. And yes, some of these take time and there are only about 9 days left til Christmas and Kwanzaa. But it's something to think about.

If you have any ideas, please share them in the comment area! Hopefully this list got your wheels turning, and will revive your spirit a little. The true gift of these times is that we realize what is more important and identify what isn't, learn that we can indeed live with far less, while we need each other more... If there was ever a time to be filled with the true Spirit and meaning of Christmas, this time--right now-- is.

1 comment:

Monetmom3 said...

This is a treasure trove of gift ideas. Love it, thanks!!