Holiday Gift Giving

It seems that everyone is trying to rein in their spending this holiday season. Even with retailers in mark-down mode, consumers are feeling the pinch of the recession. Not only that, but when so many people are losing their jobs and struggling financially, it becomes hard to justify spending loads of money on holiday gifts.

I’ve collected some tips I believe will be useful for those hoping to keep a tighter lid on their spending this December.

Tip One – Get Your Family/Friends/Partner On Your Side

My family ditched traditional Christmas gifting a few years back, when I was in my early twenties. We now each draw names and place a limit on how much we spend. Two years ago it was $250. This year it is $100. And yes, even children are included.

Ditto with friends. If you’ve traditionally exchanged gifts with your girlfriends, suggest gathering for a pre-holiday dinner or potluck. Rent corny holiday movies, bake cookies and drink cheap champagne. Anything that takes the pressure off buying gifts for one another.

Striking a No Gift Deal is easiest with a partner. I’m 29 and David is 30. We’re not buying gifts for one another this year. It’s not necessary. Then again, I don’t place much weight on holiday/birthday or (god forbid) Valentine’s Day gifts. I am lucky to have a boyfriend who brings me flowers on a random Tuesday night. I don’t need a box of candy on February 14th to know he loves me.  Trust me, it’s easy. And, if you feel you must do something – how about opening an ING Savings account and agreeing to deposit money each month to save up for a vacation?

Tip Two – Food, Food, Food

Yes, I know that everyone eats too much during the holidays. However, I am not much of a “crafts” person, so if I make something homemade, you can bet it will be edible. Skip the usual cookie/fudge/fruit cake route and try something new and different. Try making some fruit preserves or create soup mixes, adding beans and herbs and rice with instructions to throw in some vegetables and water. The great thing about these gifts is that you can add on a small, inexpensive coordinating item. For example, a wooden spoon paired with the soup mix, or a cute monogrammed mug with a homemade hot chocolate mix.

Tip Three – Those Who Can’t Give, Write

Instead of buying gifts, buy a few boxes of holiday cards, a roll of stamps and stretch out your fingers. But, for the love of baby Jesus, no printed out “What’s Been Up With Us” novellas. No one reads them.

Tip Four – (Almost) Everyone Likes Music

If you have decent taste in music or your family or friends are always asking you to load up their iPod, then you’re in luck. A great (and cheap) option for holidays gifts is to create a holiday CD mix for everyone on your list. If you need some inspiration, hit up NPR’s music blogPitchfork.

Tip Five – Follow The Passion

Every Christmas growing up, my grandmother would stuff my stocking full or art supplies. I LOVED to draw. So does my boyfriend. Last year for Christmas I gave him a sketchbook and a Micron. Simple, useful, and cheap.

Almost everyone is passionate about something – cooking, cycling, fashion – you name it. Pinpoint your gift recipient’s passion and buy them something small and nice that will get a lot of use. Trust me, it will be appreciated.

Gift Ideas Under $15

Stationery
Featured Vendor – Orange Art
Their Brookfield Letterpress square notes are great for the home or office. I use these at work and at home. They are a great upgrade from your run-of-the-mill post-it note. Cards are square and printed with a letterpress icon. Bonus: they come in a square box that is entirely giftable.

Books
Featured Vendor – Powell’s
If you’ve never had a chance to visit Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, you can certainly peruse their extensive website. I recommend the Staff Recommendations. I am also a big fan of supporting local bookstores. This also guarantees less hassle if the book needs to be returned or exchanged.

Wine
Featured Vendors – Bonny Doon, RH Philips
You can find many, many wonderful wines for under $15. In fact, you can find a great value for under $10. I am partial to California wines and recommend RH Philips Tempranillo and Bonny Doon Big House Red or White for gift giving. The wine editors at the Wall Street Journal recommend South American wines, especially those from Chile. Check out their articles here.

Calendars
Featured Vendor – Cavallini
It kind of bums me out that no one gives calendars as gifts these days. And, I’m not talking the cheesy wall calendars you can pick up at the mall. I love giving Cavallini easel desk calendars as they are useful for referencing dates, compact, sophisticated and nearly everyone has a desk, right?

Coffee
Featured Vendors – Stumptown, Peet’s
Along with wine, this makes a great gift for anyone who loves their caffeine. Buy them a pound, ground or whole bean, and call it done. Try your best to find a local brewer with decent beans. If you can’t, I recommend ordering from Peet’s or Stumptown.

Home Accents & Hostess Gifts
Featured Vendor – CB2
Buying a unique (albeit cheap) home accent can be fun. A vase or some cool glasses. Take your pick. I have linked to CB2’s gift giving page.

I recommend Paper Source and Papyrus for great wrap and ribbon.

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