The holiday season typically causes some trepidation around here. There is the challenge of balancing Chad's and my different holiday traditions, but there's also the struggle with the consumptive aspect of the holidays. Every year, I strive to come up with meaningful home made gifts that reflect our values and provide some alternative to mindless consumerism that seems to drive us all during this time of year. However, I almost always plan more projects than I can handle and, faced with no better last-minute alternative, I find myself in some big box retail or mall with all of the other last minute shoppers, feeling slightly ashamed/ guilty and questioning the importance of spending significant amounts of money on largely disposable stuff. It really comes down to a time/ values trade off that I'm not always comfortable with.
This year, however, I feel really good about the balance we struck between home made items and strategic purchases. The formula that works for us is as follows:
- kids' gifts: We bought toys we thought the kids would like on Amazon and took advantage of the free two day shipping (and $4 overnight shipping for, ahem, last minute shoppers). Although this doesn't get away from the mass produced gift route, shopping at home in your pj's sure beats trucking it on down to the mall and fighting over the last Elmo doll or Ipad or whatever. We tried for a mix of educational/ creativity-inspiring gifts as well as things that we know the kids are really into. We also made Angry Birds ornaments for Chad's nieces and nephews. They were super fun to make, and they were a big hit.
- adult gifts: This is where we really tried to limit our purchases. We stuck with mainly consumable or reused/ reusable items. Exceptions were made for photo gifts from Snapfish (we did photo collages of favorite photos throughout the year for parents). The rest of the gifts were a mix of food items we made (apricot preserves, crackers, hand-cranked pasta, peanut butter cups, marshmallows) and food items purchased from Trader Joe's and Huckleberry's in Spokane. Rather than buying baskets to package these items, I bought a fistful of wool sweaters from the Goodwill and converted them to bags. I arranged the food in shallow cardboard boxes and set it in the bags. Here's how two of them turned out:
Although it was time consuming to make the bags and the home made goodies, it was really an enjoyable way to pass the time. Chad and I had a great time making the pasta and crackers, and I chatted with friends or listened to This American Life while I finished the bags. I prefer all of these activities to traipsing around a mall. I'm looking forward to building on this trend for the holidays next year.