Monday, October 29, 2012

Inexpensive Christmas Giving

My grown kids have asked that we come up with a less expensive Christmas this year.  Could we exchange names and thereby cut down on spending?
I totally agree. This past year’s events reminded us all that family is more important than anything else.  Things can be replaced; time with family can’t.
The couples in our extended family will exchange names with each other, and the kids (siblings and cousins) will exchange names.  We are to keep it all secret (we’ll see how long that lasts) until we open presents.  We are placing a spending cap on the gifts as well.
The individual families may give to each other, but everyone has been asked not to give outside their own household. This way others will not feel obligated to reciprocate.
I am proud of them because I have always objected to the commercialism and greed that accompanies this season.  Christmas is about family and not about trying to outdo each other or going into debt. I like what this teaches the children and grandchildren.  

I am looking for suggestions, but here are some of my favorite inexpensive gift-giving ideas:
1.    A sock exchange.  I used to belong to a group of ladies who gathered every year to swap Christmas socks.  We each bought a pair of Christmas socks to give away at a Christmas party.  We gathered at one house with our socks gaily wrapped in a gift bag.  We also brought a party dish to share.  We’d place the bags by the front door and wait for everyone to get there, then we’d pick out one bag, put on our new socks, and walk about all night in our Christmas footsies.  Our annual group picture was not of our faces, but of our stockinged feet.
2.    This exchange idea could also be done with a pair of regular winter socks, funny t-shirts, Christmas ornaments, or home baked cookies.  This can probably be upscaled to include inexpensive bottles of wine, movie tickets, or homemade theme baskets, but I like the idea of keeping it inexpensive. Anyone can spend money; it takes genius to give a great inexpensive gift.
3.    White Elephant exchange. A white elephant gift is an item that someone gave you that you might be able to regift to someone who will appreciate it more. You can only pray you don’t end up taking it home again. You decide beforehand in what order people, one by one, will chose a gift, how many times the gift may be “stolen,” and how many times a person can have something “stolen” from them. You need a minimum of six people to play this well. Our writing group, for example, exchanges books we don’t want at our Christmas White Elephant, while the others go home ecstatic over their new “finds.” 

Teaching children the selflessness and joy of giving isn’t easy.  To make it a true gift that comes from them they have to be the ones invested in the process: earning or saving the money, planning and searching for an appropriate gift, and keeping it secret since the attention should not be focused on them but on the other person.  What better way to teach them that the love and effort that goes into the present is more valuable than a gift purchased with one swipe of Mommy’s credit card?
Lofty ideals? I will let you know how it goes.  


  1. I love what our writers group does at Christmas--everybody brings a book that they have read and enjoyed, but are now ready to share. The books are wrapped, and swapped, and stolen and frozen...always a fun time.

  2. Our family (on my side) exchange names among adults. The exchange is a nice round conservative $ but nothing extravagant. sometimes it's 1nice gift or a few things if you hit a sale. ;-) It works for us too. Keeping it a secret is always fun!

  3. I love finding meaningful or fun but inexpensive. It makes the point that it's the gift not the gift tag that makes it invaluable.

    Thanks, ladies, for sharing.

  4. Some years back at a family Thanksgiving meal, my step father announced that there would be restrictions on any further gift giving to him. No batteries, no instructions, and no need to create storage for the item. In a family filled with Aggie architects and engineers, this unexpected request presented quite the challenge to gadget-loving guys (and the wives who shopped for them). The first year we gave Pa a scholarship. We all chipped in and created a cash scholarship for a graduate of his high school. He was invited to their spring gala and asked to present. A precious young woman could now afford text books at our local community college. She and her mom were effusive in their thanks. (We were embarrassed and wished we had given her more money!) The next year we gave him an engraved "brick" celebrating the year he graduated from college. SFA invited him to the unveiling of the patio where his brick was laid as his was one of the oldest graduating classes represented. His only regret was not having THE oldest brick on the patio as he had been drafted into WWII prior to graduation and didn't finish until after his tour of duty. Then we gave him a trip to West Virginia, the only state in the contiguous states that he had not visited. Then we lost him, but his legacy of non-gift giving has continued. Last year, we all "gave" each other live stock through Heifer International. My "gift" was chickens. This year we are all "giving" each other clean water through World Vision.
    Now before you think we are just angels...we each have a stocking. Stockings filled to the brim with wild and crazy small gifts from family members - who shop all year to find just the right small, but odd personal gift. Silly note pads, postage stamps, strange flashlights (a favorite gift from my youngest sister), our favorite candies ordered from Australia, and colorful socks. Photos from our childhood reprinted and framed, knitted items from me, small packets of lovely coffee or tea, $2 bills, and always a roll of quarters in remembrance of Pa who started putting rolls of quarters in our stockings while we were in college so we could do our laundry. The opening of stockings is a laugh filled afternoon and a celebration of each family member that we look forward to, and we don't miss the "big" gifts.
    All this to say...look into Heifer International and World Vision.

  5. Thank you, Jo Anne, what wonderful ideas and memories.