Monday, December 12, 2016

Gift Guide for the Not-So-Wealthy

Twelve and a half more days until Christmas, dear readers! Time is flying so parties are in full swing, lights are twinkling everywhere we look, and my money is basically just kissing my bank account and waving goodbye at this point. 

Now I'm not a frivolous spender; every dime counts these days. I'm also not really into material things because they make clutter and clutter makes me crazy (unless we're talking books....or chickens. Can never too many chickens). But with the big day less than two weeks away, I can't help but focus on money way more than someone should when trying to celebrate what is supposed to be a season of peace, love, and birth. 

It seems inevitable that every year we're bombarded with a never-ending slew of grab bag gifts, book exchanges, teacher gifts (both of my children have 3 teachers!), appetizers, drinks, presents for the kids, presents for family members, tipping the garbage service and the mailpeople and anyone else who delivers stuff to you....all the added costs of the holiday season can make me feel a little less-than-joyous.

But never fear. Jen's gift guide for the not-so-wealthy is here. 

Find Freebies
  • Raid a special someone's basement/garage/closet. The best way to make this happen is by offering to assist with holiday decorations. I recently received 3 matching ornaments for free from one very special woman in my life while my kids trimmed her tree - and those ornaments are going straight to 3 of the 6 teachers I need to thank this holiday. 
  • Keep an eye on Craigslist and those Facebook garage sale sites. This is especially important after the holidays, when people are sick of it all and starting a new year and looking to just get rid of stuff.
  • Cruise around on garbage day. A lot of parents try and "clean up" right before Santa comes. You can find bikes, cabinets, bookshelves, chairs, playground equipment, and all sorts of other stuff by hitting the streets before the garbage trucks do.
Offer Your Services
  • Shoveling is horrific. Nobody likes it. It makes the perfect gift because literally everyone, man, woman, or child, tears up when they step outside to an unexpectedly clean driveway.
  • Watch things. Watch homes while friends and family are on vacation. Bring in the mail, roll out the trash bins, water the plants. Take it up a notch by offering to watch pets. Take it up four hundred notches by offering to watch kids. Best. Gift. Ever. 
  • Cleaning and prepping for a party is the hardest part of every event....unless of course you consider the clean up after the event. Offer to arrive ahead of the crowd and help the host or hostess in lieu of bringing a gift. Stay late and help clean things up. I promise it is so incredibly appreciated. 
Handmade is Your Friend
  • Churches, libraries, and park district are constantly offering classes and advent activities throughout the holiday season. You can typically make a handful of beautiful, handmade presents for friends and family at a quarter of the cost of buying new. 
  • Bake, cook, can. People love to eat. Cookies are fantastic. Everyone loves cookies, even people who try not to love cookies. Sweet breads that can be frozen make great gifts, too. So do easily-reheated meals like casseroles and pasta dishes. Canned goods, I'm finding, are a huge hit. And I don't mean like Campbells' soup canned goods, I mean like the 'maters I canned this summer, the salsa verde I made, the bone broth I cooked up - people love it. 
  • If you have any talent in anything....knitting, welding, carving, photography, writing, hammering, designing, sewing, coloring.....use it. Make something pretty for someone. I know it takes a ton of time. I know it's easier to buy. But we're trying to be frugal, readers. Your handmade item made from supplies you readily keep on hand to support your hobby is worth so much more to the recipient than something purchased in the store. Use your supplies and your talents and get cracking! A variation of this idea would be to sell your talents - like a "I'll carve your kid a sign that you can give her for Christmas" type thing. 
Regifting is the New Gifting
  • Save gift cards and certificates instead of using them. We've all received a gift card to a store we don't typically frequent. Instead of trekking out there and buying way more stuff than you ever would've normally, save the card. Give it to someone later, someone who maybe likes the store a little more or would make better use of the card. Check expiration dates, they can be tricky. 
  • All those grab bag gifts you participated in last year? And the year before that? Save the stuff you aren't in love with. I have a huge tote in the basement with items I've collected over the years from work parties, friend parties, and family parties. Regift the gift to a completely different group of people and wal-lah, no money spent and nobody's the wiser. 
  • Enhancing stuff is a real thing. Take those Christmas towels you never used and turn them into a blanket. Redesign that wine glass set that's just chillin in your basement into personalized glasses. Scour your shelves for books you've read once or twice and send them out into the world to be enjoyed by someone else. 
Just Say No
  • You're not required to participate in work-related Christmas festivities. You can say no to the work grab bag, the potluck, and getting presents for bosses and coworkers. A handwritten note to those who really made your year is likely better appreciated anyways.
  • You're not required to send Christmas cards. Those suckers are expensive, especially for something that sits around for a couple days then gets tossed in the recycling. You can buy a box of non-photo Christmas cards for like $5 in the off-season and send them out with a 4x6 picture if you really just have to send cards. You'd get the same effect for half the cost. 
  • You do not need to serve a full dinner for your family. If you host the holidays, consider taking it down a notch and doing appetizers and finger foods only. Family members who want more can always volunteer to prepare, bring, and clean up the dinner themselves ;) 
My favorite Christmas gifts are those given out of love and true thought for the recipient. I absolutely love giving gifts because I love making those I care about happy. Watching someone smile because of something I've given them, or done for them, is one of the best feelings in the world. Presents don't need to be expensive, they don't need to be things, and they don't need to drain your wallet. You don't need expensive, flashy objects to prove how much you love someone, and likewise, you don't need a ton of money to be rich. I think Clarence said it best when he wrote:

Do you have a favorite, frugal go-to gift, readers? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading :)



  1. As a teacher I get a lot of homemade goodies which I love! My favorite was one year I had a student who gave me homemade bath salts. I think food is a great one too-I've gotten homemade breads and one family even gave me homemade enchiladas-those were a huge hit at my house.

    1. Awww I love the bath salts idea!!! That is awesome. And enchiladas?!?!? Love that idea too!! Lisa gettin' hooked up!! Hahaha :) Merry Christmas lovely!