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Monday, November 19, 2012

10 alternative gift ideas

Gift giving season is upon us! Given that we are in a tight economy and many homes are over run with clutter, I wanted to offer a few ideas for the sort of gifts that you can feel good giving and that put your hard earned money to work for a better world.

For the last few years, we have scaled back our gifting and now give a big bag of goodies to each family on our list. The bag is decorated by our children in a theme they think the recipient family will like and then it is filled with a variety of the following:

Our favorite food finds from the year - We love food and always have new finds we want to share, like a certain chocolate bar or mustard or cool pop, and the best part is these items will not add clutter to a house.

Handmade goodies - We make bath salts, felted soaps, picture frames, dog biscuits, embroidered pillowcases, food items, homemade candy and more. Click here to print out my laundry soup and pit paste recipes. Also, buying homemade gifts from Etsy or local artisans directs money into the pockets of creatives (which is where I like it to go!)

Local artisan items - The local farmer's market is filled with awesome gifts. I try to load up on local honey, specialty spaghetti sauces, homemade jerky, knitted items, cutting boards, and handmade soaps. These not only make great gifts for the recipients but pump money right back into our local economy.

Books - For the readers in my family, I love searching for just the right book that I think they will love. 

Gift certificates to local businesses - I am not always a fan of giving out generic gift certificates, but love giving them out to local restaurants or shops. A GC to an independent comic shop or book store would be great for any young teen. We give out gift certificates to the historic movie theatre each year. 

Gift certificates for events - I love making up gift certificates for events. I recently gave my Dad a day trip to a photography museum and craft brewery. Not only did he like both, we have a great memory of a day spent together. 

Board games - A new board game (with lots of fun treats) will offer many evenings of fun to the recipient family, and maybe they will invite you over to play.

DVD of the year in pictures - My husband makes a DVD with music and photos from the year and we give it to grandparents and relatives who are far away. This is always well received.

KIVA loan gift certificate - This is such a great gift for the business man who is so hard to buy for. I gave one of these to my dad a few years ago and it was fun to hear the updates on his borrower. 

An item we already have that the recipient has been eying - My mom and husband have been gifting each other records from their collections on birthdays and "just becauses". Family heirlooms and special items make awesome gifts, especially if it is something the recipient has expressed an interest in.

Please leave your alternative gift ideas in the comments. I would love to hear them!

I am taking off the rest of the week to play with my chickens, eat, rub my belly and write. I will see you next week. 

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And as always, please feel free to email me any questions at amybarbo at gmail dot com.



  1. I love these ideas! Thank you. My extended family used to do a big Kris Kringle gift exchange, but once most of the kids were grown we changed it to a collection. With whatever money we collect we choose a family in need and give them a nice boost at Christmas - whether we give cash or gas gift cards, presents and clothes if they have children, etc. It's a nice way to give without getting any more stuff in return!

  2. I've pinned these great DIY activities for my young kids.

    I also really love the personalized books from MarbleSpark

  3. In my family we give gifts to charity instead of each other. One brother gives something to each person at a local homeless shelter (they get to ask for one thing--it is usually something like shoes), and I give toys to children at a low income preschool. We also both organize a larger gift-giving through our places of work. My parents let everyone pick two charities for them to give a certain amount of money to. Since some of us are really right wing and some are really left wing, my parents get the wildest junk mail.

  4. Wonderful! I really like these gift ideas. So sick of the Christmas gimme me me thing. Pinning it.

  5. These are great ideas! I really love making gifts for Christmas. I think this year I am buying thes leather picture frames, and I am going to create melted crayon art to put in them, so my parents can hang them in their offices. I do love the DVD idea, though. Maybe, they'll get both! Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. My favorite gift is a donation to Heifer Project. My kids give whatever they can afford that year and they don't have to think of anything to give to me. We're all happy.

  7. This is a great list! We have tried several ideas on the list and will try several new ones!

    One idea I can add is the idea of kidnapping a loved piece of clothing that has been decommissioned, and repairing it with a beautiful mending job. I made an elaborate patch for a pair of my husband's favorite shorts, and he loves to wear those shorts again now. I have wrapped up the repaired clothes the same way that I wrap up any other gift and they are appreciated as much, if not more than other gifts.

    1. amber! that is an amazing idea! i love that so much!


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