Creative Gifting on a Budget

I recently traveled to a friend’s mid-summer wedding. The ceremony was in a gorgeous meadow that had a labyrinth. The path was as wide as a lawn mower. When we arrived to the meadow, I picked wild daisies to make the bride a wreath for her head. Then I took photos of the surrounding area. Next thing I knew, it was time to sage and bless each guest before their entering the labyrinth.

IMG_5600This wedding got me thinking of gifts that can be given from the heart. First, there was the opportunity for every guest (17) to bring organic, non-GMO fruit, vegetable, or flower seeds for the couple to plant and act as a reminder for them to nurture their friendships. The couple also asked each guest to bring  something from nature. In addition to seeds and nature, guests were asked to write a poem or message about, or to the Summer Solstice and read it to the group.IMG_5589

Up until the point of finding an item of nature, I had confidence that as usual, I packed light, and smart. But then I found two rocks—each in the shape of a heart. Why couldn’t I be happy with a leaf or feather! Sticking to my original plan, I was also giving the couple a great chef knife. My friend loves to cook and entertain. So, this meant I had to plan ahead and ship off the knife, and pack the rocks along with wrapping paper (only to get scolded by the bride for using paper.) One guest gifted the couple with catering the simple but beautiful hors d’oeuvres. Another guest made a six foot wine bottle holder out of wood he’d found, adding shape and holes to the piece of wood.

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I’m on the good side of cancer—rebuilding strength. This was my first big trip, and I was determined to carry-on my bag rather than pay $25 for the same weight as some women’s purses. It wasn’t pretty and I ached from doing it, but I did it. It reminded me of a story I was told by a man years ago.

This man was staying in Africa for several months. He made friends with the locals. On his birthday, one of his new friends gifted him with a sea shell. This man knew his friend couldn’t have bought the shell, and they lived hundreds of miles from the coast. He said, “The ocean is far away. How did you get this shell?” His friend replied. “Long journey part of gift.” He’d walked a few days to honor his friend with a sea shell.

How can your journey gift someone? What can you do differently, or go out of your way to honor someone without a big expense on your part? I think my friend was more grateful for the head wreath, photography, and space clearing I did than the chef knife. For me, the big gift was the travel itself.IMG_5590

Holidays on the cheap

 image credit: Google

Holidays on the Cheap. That’s the plan, anyway. Did you do it last year? Have you ever done it? The idea behind giving at the holidays is to give, not necessarily spend. The one with the most toys is not the winner; the one with the biggest bill is not most favored.

Giving a gift – wedding, birthday, holiday, mother’s or father’s day—it’s about expressing your love for that person. Yes, sometimes we really do want to show it by giving someone that gift that is more expensive than what we’d normally spend—and if it’s budgeted for, you can! But you’ve got to think it through. Plan ahead. Birthdays and each holiday come once a year.

Some budget gift ideas:

Baking isn’t as inexpensive as it used to be, but if you like to bake, and bake things people like, that’s a gift. (You don’t even need to buy a container that’ll end up in a garage sale.) A plate or bag with a ribbon works nicely and saves you a couple bucks right there. Make some jam, jelly or can some vegetables. Make some bread. If you bake in the winter, you’ll help heat your house on a cold day by baking then, too! Don’t bake, but are a good cook? Cook a meal for someone or have a gathering and let them know before they come over that this is their gift from you. Take someone on a picnic when the weather’s nice. Some wasabe peas and cheese samples. Get a nice, small basket at a garage sale, re-use a gift bag, or decorate a brown bag you have in the kitchen. Put some fruit in it, or vegetables and a recipe for them to make stir fry or chili. Wash someone’s car, maybe even wax it! They have some great spray on, wipe off waxes now. You don’t have to be made of muscle to use them like in the old days. Would they love you to clean their windows? Walk their dog? Babysit their kids? (If you know you wouldn’t well with certain jobs, don’t offer it.) Is someone moving? Tell them you’ll help them out. Find a charity (I love Heifer International) and give cards letting co-workers, and others know you’ve given a gift (a goat!) in their names. I love to do this a thank you gifts to groups of people.

Growing up, I’d ask my mom, “What do you want for ________?” (your birthday, Christmas) etc.

She’d answer, “Clean dishes.”

“Nooooooo. What do you want?”

“Everyone to get along.”

“Nooooooo. Really. What do you want?”

“It is what I want.”

“What can I get you?”

“A handkerchief—or clean dishes, or everyone getting along.”

She always got the hanky. She’d given choices. One was a chore. One was a behavior. One was affordable for a kid.

Are people asking you for a chore or behavior, but you want to hear something easier to give? When we give, it’s about the other person, and yet it speaks so loudly about us. Just a warning: hankies have really gone up in price.

If you’re going to spend anyway, keep these things in mind:

– Make your list – the maximum amount of money you are willing to spend for this event.

– Have you included everyone/everything on the list? Groups you may be involved that do gift exchanges? Taxes on your purchases? Travel?

– Eat before you go shopping. If you don’t like crowds go during “off” hours (weekdays, or nights.)

– If you’re someone who doesn’t like shopping, exercise before shopping (you’ll feel better). Before shopping, you may want to take a look at your retirement projection, kid’s college cost forecast, or keep the question in mind, “Would I rather give or buy this, or give or do that?” For me, that’s a question that allows me to walk out of the store (often without something) with my head high, and my goals in tact.

– I’ve heard it suggested people go to the store one day of “big item” things, and “small item” things on an other day. The theory is, if you buy something at $1,000.00 then turn around and see something for $150.00, you’ll think, “What a deal!” and buy the item at $150.00 without even thinking it through.

Holidays on the cheap. It doesn’t mean don’t give. It means get creative. Think. Listen. Give from the heart. Have fun! Enjoy the holidays. Enjoy your friends and family.

If you’re interested in seeing how charities rank with how they spend the money they raise, check out Charity Navigator. If you’re not familiar with Heifer International, give it a quick look. The links are below: