Most of us would agree that the holiday season is fun, but there is no denying that it gets expensive. All the food, decorations, family gatherings, and (of course) gifts really begin to add up.
I love giving gifts to my friends and family. It’s a good way to show them that I love them and care about them. People who identify with gift-giving as a love language know what I’m talking about here. I adore seeing the joy on people’s faces as you hand them a wrapped-up package. The only problem is that I’m terrible at actually picking out good gifts for people. I’m just not good at finding the right thing for the right person. As a result, I usually rush around getting generic gifts the day before I have to give them out. In addition to not resulting in the most amazing gifts, this approach is stressful and expensive — stores know that they can charge a premium to desperate shoppers.
So last holiday season, I decided to put effort into developing strategies that will help me to find good gifts for my loved ones. Here are some things I like to do to make gift-giving simpler, less expensive, and more meaningful.
1. DIY from what you already have.
When I was in high school, I had a thriving herb garden. So when it came time to organize gifts for my favorite people one holiday season, it made sense to put together a small herbal bouquet. It was beautiful, nice smelling, almost free, and everyone appreciated how unique it was.
People love receiving a homemade gift, as it carries more value than the wrapped-up item itself. When I’ve received homemade gifts myself, I’ve been touched by the thoughtfulness and effort that the person has put into it — I know that the person really cares for me.
It’s a good way to show off skills and creativity (or pretend that you have them). And of course, it’s almost always much cheaper. The first Christmas I knew my now-sister-in-law, she didn’t have much money and gave out batches of rocky road baked goods as Christmas presents. Needless to say, it was delicious, and we welcomed her to the family with open arms.
Baking is a time-honored tradition when it comes to homemade gifts — cookies, brownies and chocolates never go untouched. Bonus points if you can make them holiday-themed with peppermint or red-and-green cellophane wrapping. Artistically-talented people can make cards or decorations, as it’s the time and effort put into the gifts that make them special.
2. Do something nice in their name.
What do you get for the person who has everything? A goat.
No, I’m not suggesting that you buy livestock in bulk and deliver them to your friends’ apartments — that would be very expensive, and probably not well-received. However, you can buy a goat that gets delivered overseas to to a family that will appreciate having a goat. It will make a huge difference to their lives, as they will be able to drink or sell the nutritious milk.
There are heaps of gifts out there you can give someone to make an impact. There are humanitarian gifts, such as school supplies, mosquito nets, emergency relief supplies, and yes, goats. For the greenies out there, you can adopt a wild animal to help fund the conservation of its species. And of course, you can donate money to charity in your friend’s name.
Even though you don’t give someone a gift that they themselves will use, it can be just as meaningful and special. My dad loves bikes (he gets up at 5 AM on the weekends to go riding!), so one birthday, I bought him a bicycle. This bike was sent to a kid living in a poverty-stricken area who could use it to ride to school, enabling them to get an education. My dad was deeply touched, as it combined both his passion and compassionate heart. Selecting a charitable gift that serves a purpose which the recipient cares about can be one of the most meaningful and appreciated gifts you can give.
3. Make a thing into an experience.
We often hear the expression that “experiences are more valuable than things.” I feel that as a generation, we have really taken that message to heart, which is why giving a friend an experience as a gift can be so rewarding for both parties.
Although there are a number of places where you can buy vouchers to send your friends sky-diving or white-water rafting, these can be super pricey. Instead, home-grown experiences can be just as fun, as you get to do something unusual and enjoy the time together. Take a friend to a museum or botanical garden (buy her ticket or better yet, see if you can get in on a special day with reduced prices), and pack a picnic for the two of you. If you are in hardcore money-saving mode, there are lots of free events and activities out there. By applying some creativity, it’s possible to find a cheap, fun and special way to spend a day (or evening) that will be far more rewarding than a generic scented candle.
I have something that has become a tradition with one of my friends. Every year we go out and enjoy a lovely day perusing the shops and exploring the city, and I will chip in for a quality bag for her. She really likes bags, and if I tried to get her a present in the “normal” way, I wouldn’t be able to afford one of the quality she likes, nor would I be able to pick the right style. This way, she gets a great material gift and we spend a fun day together.
4. Regift what you truly will not use.
The concept of regifting can be a controversial one. On one hand, if someone goes out of their way to give you a sweater, a notebook, or a box of chocolates, it can feel incredibly rude to pass it on to someone else. However, I feel like if you aren’t going to use it, giving it to someone who will is the best practice.
That said, there is definitely a wrong and a right way to go about regifting. It’s important to make sure the initial present-giver knows that you appreciate their thoughtfulness. If someone is kind enough to get you something, let them know that they have your gratitude.
The past few Christmases, I have received a few scented candles, because apparently that’s what 20-something women like. And while I do appreciate the thought that is put into it, I just don’t use candles. However, I do have a couple of friends who adore candles and can discuss scents endlessly. It makes sense for me to pass the candles onto them rather than let them sit in my cupboard gathering dust.
Theses are just some of the strategies I’m implementing to make one of the hardest parts of the holiday season — finding decent gifts for people — a little bit easier. Because it is so worthwhile to me, I think it is worth investing time, effort and a bit of cash into.
Hannah is a science student living in Sydney, Australia. She loves reading fantasy novels, hiking, and drinking tea (though not all at the same time).
Image via Unsplash