Keeping family gift-giving fun and affordable

By: Canadian Living

© Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©


Keeping family gift-giving fun and affordable

By: Canadian Living

Gift-giving stress - the cost, the time it takes to search for perfect gifts, the pressures of having to buy more and more gifts as families expand. We asked you how you keep family gift-giving fun and affordable. Here are the best of your replies.

• I make up professional-looking gift certificates for meals or evenings at my place.
Not only is this a gift of a meal but also a gift of my time and company, which makes the gift one-of-a-kind. I've given out the following gift certificates:

- Watch a movie and eat munchies at my apartment (cheaper than going to the movie theatre).
- Have coffee and homemade dessert (cheaper than going to a café).
- Have a home-cooked meal (can't be purchased at a restaurant).

-Susan Chung, Toronto

• One thing we do that's a lot of fun is play a little game. Everyone has to buy a small gift (under $10), wrap it up and bring it along. Then everyone gets three name tags (we usually use words like tree, christmas, etc.) Matching tags go into a bowl. As your first tag is pulled, you have the option of taking a gift from those not selected or taking one away from someone (if you already have a gift you exchange yours with them). This goes on, around and around, until there are no tags left and everyone ends up with a gift.

As you can imagine, half the fun is decorating your gift up to look like it's something really fantastic! Last year my father wrapped up a BIG empty box (he had slipped some lottery tickets into the cardboard top). Well, everyone wanted it. My daughter finally ended up with it. You can imagine her face when she opened it and couldn't find anything.

He insisted there was a present - she just had to look! After virtually taking the box apart, she found the lottery tickets, scratched them and ended up winning $25! So it really did end up being the best gift after all!
-Lori Pennell, via Internet

Page 1 of 6 -- Bake a gingerbread house, or donate to a local toy drive this year. Find more gift-giving ideas on page 2

• I have given family gifts such as a basket containing a jar of layered M&M cookie mix along with some cookie cutters, napkins and a Christmas CD. Other years I've given a gingerbread house kit, which contains a prebaked house and the trimmings along with a Christmas CD to play while decorating. And I've given 22 copies of the hilarious Christmas book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.
-Virginia Brucker, via Internet

• I find gift giving fun and affordable by buying or making Christmas tree ornaments for my friends and family. Each year they get a special ornament from me to hang on their tree. When the children are old enough to leave the house, they will have 20 ornaments for their tree from me with love. They always seem to look forward each year to seeing what ornament I got for them this year. And I have no stress this way because I don't have to wonder what on earth I can get them this year.
-Alisa Petrisch, St. Albert, Alta.

• We have our child choose one gift that he would really like to donate to the toy drive for less fortunate children. This keeps us grounded. Also, we go through our son's toys and bag up little toys (in good condition, often from fast-food outlets) and we donate to the local women's shelter for the children who have left homes with nothing. Basically, we attempt to balance what we buy for ourselves with what we give away. I believe it is important to make children aware of those less fortunate. We choose one special gift for Santa to bring and one for Mom and Dad to give. Wherever possible we shop early and keep under $10.
-Susan Adam

• My husband has a large family. I usually pick a theme for presents for the girls.
Last year it was angels. I was able to get a gift bag with angels on it. I filled the bags with the following items:

A pen, stationery, keepsake box, ring, magnet, socks with angels on them, and a crystal glass angel from Avon.

Each bag of treasures cost me a total of $20. I set a limit for each child. I start with the bag, with usually costs $1, from the dollar store. Then I look for items that fit my theme, and fill it up. I find that by giving the girls basically the same thing, there is no fighting over who got the better gift, and they know I paid the same amount of money for each one.
-Judy Murray, New Brunswick

Page 2 of 6 -- Find great gift exchange ideas on page 3
• Our family has implemented Kris Kringle for our gift exchange. Adults are the only ones included, and everybody buys for the children in the family.

We limit the amount of each gift to $50 and encourage creativity. This year my father is taking my grandad, who is now in a home, to the tavern for the afternoon. An inexpensive yet priceless gift for a nearly blind, aged man. We also exchange special pictures in nice frames, a special book or scent. You can also offer to clean the house for aging parents, take someone to a movie of their choice, or give a gift certificate for a manicure or a couple of 15-minute massages. For shut-ins, take them to their favourite restaurant, café, or watering hole. Time together is the greatest gift of all, especially to our parents and grandparents.
-Diana Hyman Tottenham, Ontario

• My husband's family gift giving had gotten completely out of hand. The shoppers (myself included) were beginning to hate Christmas and we were completely out of ideas and money! We tried to reduce but found even gag gifts were costly, and someone still had to do the shopping.

So last year we called a halt to all gift buying and did a trivia contest. My sister-in-law acted as the statistic taker and compiled all the questions via e-mail. We separated into groups (young and old in one group) and set a time limit. There were many memories renewed about certain questions, and we are repeating the process this year and are busily coming up with new questions. We find it a lot less stressful for the women in the family, as we do most of the preparing and shopping. It's fun!
-Correspondent from Paisley Branch Library, via Internet

• In order to make Christmas gift giving fun and affordable, I begin in January. Whenever I see a sale or reduced item that I feel would be appreciated by a loved one, I buy it. I also make Christmas gifts - whether it be crafts, a basket of goodies I put together myself or a tin of my delicious Christmas baking. These sorts of gifts are especially meaningful, both for myself as the giver and for the recipient.
-Kathryn Dykstra, Lindsay, Ont.

Page 3 of 6 -- Create special scrapbooking and holiday baking memories with tips on page 4

• All my family lives in Australia, and it's been 11 years since I spent Christmas with them. So I try to send very special gifts to make up for the distance.

Last year I sent my dad a memories scrapbook with pictures, clippings and notes that chronicled my year in Canada - including the day we went ice fishing, a map showing where we live (we've moved since he last visited), pictures of our yard, clippings of my softball team's victories and snapshots of each special event. It was so much fun to make and it made him feel a bit closer to my wife and I.

A few years ago I bought a journal and wrote on the left-hand pages only. I kept it by my bed and each night wrote down a memory I had of an event, special time, or even just my favourite foods. I sent this off to my mum and asked her to fill in her memory of the same event on the other page.

The next year I got a new journal from her with each of my pages photocopied and pasted in, then her memories handwritten on the other page. She couldn't bear to part with the journal I sent her so she re-created the book, and now we each have one. It is very special to us both.

I'm now making a book of inspirations for my sister. Every time I find a nice saying, or one of "life's little instructions," I cut it out and paste it in. I can't wait to finish and send it off.
-Mark Davis, via Internet

• My husband has eight siblings, and I have two.
We have 16 nieces and nephews to acknowledge at Christmas. What we do is make ornaments for the adults (this year we made wooden angels) and make up a bag of goodies for all the young ones. Older children love magazines, whether it be scientific or just entertainment.
-Laurie Edwards, Acton, Ont.

• I shop for Christmas gifts throughout the entire year and do almost all of my shopping through catalogues. They have a lot of unique gifts that I never see in the stores, and I can take my time looking over a wide variety of choices. As well, whenever it is possible, I have my catalogue orders delivered to my office, which also saves me a trip to the post office.
-Patricia Englund Saskatoon, Sask.

Page 4 of 6 -- Learn tips for reducing holiday stress on page 5

• I find the huge expense that Christmas represents to be extremely overwhelming and stressful. When my thoughts of Christmas began to represent an unhappy event, something I looked toward with dread, I knew I had to make some changes.

Now I set my budget for the next Christmas right after completing the current Christmas celebration. I keep my ears open all year long for gift wishes for my family and pick up gifts all year long when they are on sale. I enjoy Christmas so much more knowing it's actually paid for when its over; no charge cards to pay off!

The same goes for food preparations. I actually started baking, cooking meatballs, chicken wings, etc., in early September. Now it's mid-November, and I don't have much left to do but decorate. We host a huge Christmas Eve open house, so I don't need the stress of cooking my brains out the week before! I found out years ago that when I had finally completed my cooking and could sit down to watch all the Christmas shows on TV, I had missed them all! This doesn't happen any more. I can enjoy them knowing there isn't something else I should be doing.

One year a friend of mine, a single mom who was working three jobs to support her two teenage daughters, was so far behind in preparations that three of us got together and showed up at her home one evening with a bottle of wine, a nibble tray, wrapping paper, ribbon, etc., and spent the evening helping her wrap all her gifts. We had a great evening, it didn't really cost anything; she was so happy, and we were so rewarded.
-Cheryl McMillan, via Internet

We have set family limits with my sister (for her family and our family) and we (my sister and I) also try to pool our ideas and resources to purchase something special for our parents.
I wrap their gifts in Christmas patterned cloth and reusable ribbons and bows (to protect the environment, and this way even the smallest gift can be wrapped in a much larger box to provide the mystery of what is in the gift!). Somewhere on the ribbon, I mark, inconspicuously, each gift with a number (with the numbers and corresponding recipient hidden away in our fireproof safe!). This way, no one knows (except me) which gift belongs to who. This makes it more fun on Christmas Day, when the presents are given to the recipients. It is quite fun to see them open gifts they thought were not theirs, and watch the gifts being opened by the others that they thought had to be theirs! We also reiterate the true meaning of Christmas (celebrating the birth of the Christ child) and the fun and good feelings in the giving, not just receiving.

-Mrs. Mary Ann Dudragne, Swift Current, Sask.

Page 5 of 6 -- Find ideas for homemade gifts on page 6

• My husband and I have a budget we spend on each other each Christmas. This year it is $75 each. That includes gifts and a stocking! How do we do it? We are big believers in simple living, recycling, and things that matter. One way we have made Christmas meaningful and saved money is to make each other one gift. Last year my husband made me a spice rack and I made him boxers.....quite a feat since he is not a handyman and I don't sew. By avoiding fads, commercialism, materialism, and hours in malls, we create a gift exchange that works for us...both in our wallets and our hearts.
-Cynthia Matthews-Girouard, via Internet

I start my Christmas shopping six weeks in advance. Since we have lots of family, we choose names in October.

We have a lot of friends as well, but instead of purchasing something for all of them, which can get very costly, I make simple, easy Christmas decorations or other small items in November. Purchasing the same supplies to create your gifts in bulk will save money and time. For example, purchase plain glass Christmas balls and paint them with holly, tie silky ribbon to hang, and poof, you're done. I notice when I am making these small, simple treasures, it relaxes me. And our friends just love to receive them.

Purchase items at the end of the season, cards, bows, gift wrap, etc. The cost in savings alone will shock you. But pay cash, not credit. Place all Christmas items in labelled boxes. This makes it easier for storage and when you look at the boxes, they are easily identified.
-Kim Sired, the not-so-stressed-holiday-lady, via Internet

• My absolute favourite thing is to find Christmas buys throughout the year: Little items that are on sale for under $10 each (preferably under $5). Come Dec. 1, I haul out the box I've stored them in since last Boxing Day, place name tags in front of tins and baskets and "shop" for everyone on my gift list. If the tin/basket has room, I add homemade cookies, jam or salsa; crackers, chocolate or soap/bath samples. My actual December shopping is minimal and therefore enjoyable (I despise the pre-Christmas crowds!).
-Karen Tompkins, Essex, Ont.

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Keeping family gift-giving fun and affordable