Gift giving

My husband and I just celebrated our 13th anniversary. The best card I got was from my older son. He told his teacher and was allowed to make a card at school for us. It’s construction paper with the family (as stick figures) drawn, each of us in our own heart shape. He wrote the inside without help from anyone and it’s the sweetest anniversary card I can ever remember getting.

I have always heard that homemade gifts are the best but I didn’t really believe it until I had kids. My family wasn’t one to do homemade that much. But, since I started my thrifty journey, I’ve tried to make at least some of the gifts we give, at least at Christmas. The biggest problem is that I’m not a terribly skilled crafter. I think the best homemade gifts I’ve given so far, the ones that turned out nicest, were the apple muffins in a jar for the families. Nice fabric over the top of a canning jar, presented in brown paper lunch bags tied with ribbon. Pretty, tasty, and inexpensive.

I’m thinking of this not only because of the card my son made, but also because we held my niece’s birthday party yesterday. We wanted to give her a gift certificate to the batting cages she likes because she’s crazy about softball, but ended up giving her the money for it because the little girl at the cages didn’t know how to do gift cards. I hated just putting money in an envelope for her even though I knew she’d love the reasoning behind it.

My mother-in-law hates that the only thing I generally ask for when gift giving time comes around is a gift certificate to the bookstore. It drives her up a wall that I don’t give her concrete things that she can wrap and put under the tree. We don’t really need more stuff though. Well, we don’t need more books, but I adore them. We shop at thrift stores and grocery stores. That’s where our money goes. Neither really lends itself to gift giving. I suppose she could get us groceries, but I sense that’s, again, not what she wants to do.

Gift giving has evolved into a strange thing. It’s an exchange now rather than a special token of affection or recognition. The amount you spend is a mark of how much you like or love the other person. The giant stack of gifts at the holidays is a sign of your prosperity and how much you are able to give your family rather than a special selection of a few things you know they’ll love. And, if you get a gift from someone, you feel guilty until you’ve gotten them something in return.

So, here’s what I propose: let’s make gift giving special again. Include handmade gifts in your giving. Limit holiday gifts to a few, well chosen gifts that you believe the receiver will love. Set a budget and stick to it. No gigantic piles of gifts just for the sake of getting and giving more stuff. We don’t have to prove how much we like or love someone by the dollar amount we spend on them. Explain to your kids, friends, and loved ones that you want them to be happier with the things you give them and want them to be special. There can be no objections to that! Gift giving should be meaningful and from the heart. Thought should go into it. And, if the thing the giver wants most is a gift card, so be it.

Don’t forget about my giveaway! Comment on that post and you’re entered to win 2 books and a DVD of the movie Spy Game!

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