Friday, November 25, 2011

10 Gifts You Don't Have to Buy

I want to start by saying that I am a shopper.  I definitely spend my fair share of time at the mall and shopping online.  I have also gotten up at the crack of dawn to go Black Friday shopping.  So this post is not a judgment on shoppers in any way.  But all day today, I have been shocked and saddened watching the footage of all the Black Friday madness that has happened.

Here are a couple examples of the 2011 Black Friday insanity:

In LA, a woman maced other shoppers including children to give herself an advantage to get an XBox 360 on sale.

In Arizona, a grandfather was knocked out and rendered unconscious by the police who thought he was shoplifting.  He reportedly put a video game in his belt to free his hands to protect his grandson from the crowds.
These incidents make me believe that we have seriously gone too far.

Black Friday is the kickoff to the Christmas season, the season for giving. Sadly, this has digressed into the season of buying.  And not just buying, but competitive, violent buying.  I think we've lost the whole idea of what this season is about.

All of this has made me re-think Christmas giving.  It's not that we need to get rid of Christmas shopping altogether, I think we just need alternatives to feeling so obligated to buy so much for everyone.  So I came up with this list of:

10 Gifts You Can Give That You Don't Have to Buy
(or you don't have to spend that much on)

10.  Get together and do something fun.  When I think back and try to remember Christmas gifts through the years, I often draw a blank.  But what I do remember and cherish the most is the memories of time spent together with my family and friends.  You can get together for dinner, go to a play, do a crazy outing together, or just even get together at home with a bottle of wine.

9.  Sponsor a family in need.  This is the second year we've sponsored families through a program called The Lokahi Giving Project that helps struggling families in Hawaii.  There are hundreds of programs throughout the country that can help connect you with similar families.

8.  Make presents for others.  You don't have to have creative skills or any specific talent.  Just make something- make a beautiful card for someone, write a meaningful poem, create crafts, sew a shopping bag.  Trust me, whatever you can do will be cherished.

7.  Do a gift swap.  Each person brings something that means something to them and do a swap!  It doesn't cost anything, there's always a great story behind each item brought, and you can feel satisfied that the item will go to a good home.

6.  Volunteer at a homeless shelter together.  Or some other charitable organization.  Especially during the holidays, there are so many people in need.  It is good for the soul to give to those who need it the most.

5.  Give coupons of service.  Coupons for free babysitting for a busy, overworked mom or dad; a car wash and a tank of gas for a cash-strapped young adult; or an afternoon of help with someone's computer-  all can be so much more appreciated than anything you could buy.

4.  Bake goods to give people.  Seriously, who doesn't love brownies or cookies?  And I swear, I can taste when something is made with love.

3.  Make gifts-in-a-jar.  Another low-cost idea for gifts is to create baking mixes, soup mixes or bath salts in mason jars.  Here's a great site that shows you how to create them.

2.  Make scrapbooks/photo books.  When I do that thing where I think of the things I would grab if my house was on fire, I always think of my photos.  What a better gift to give than a photo book or scrapbook of old photos?  Photo book software has gotten super user-friendly and photo books are now super easy to make.  I love iPhoto's photo books, and I've also had great results with My Publisher and Blurb.  You can also go old-school and make the kind with real photos too!

1.  Spend TIME with those people you love.  This is the #1 thing you can do this Christmas for those you love.  It really doesn't matter what you do, just spend time together making memories.  If you're far away, pick up the phone or Skype them.  Time and attention are really what people truly want.

Finally, Leo Baubata writes the blog, Zen Habits.  He recently wrote a post titled, "The Case Against Buying Christmas Presents," which is an incredibly good read that I highly recommend.

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