Xmás o menos

I was bummed when I realized that I wasn’t the first to think of this title; doesn’t that just suck when that happens? Anyway, when it comes time to decide between a gift for my neighbors, or saving for my retirement, as with both, less is more. A little can go a much longer way, if your crafty, and I don’t just mean savvy with a glue gun.

Because after the season ends, it gets pretty hard for me to justify the gag gift purchased for my neighbors’ nieces’ roommate, twice removed. The following are three ways to buy thoughtfully without resenting every credit card bill that you have in the new year. I encourage you to add to it in the comments section.

#1) The family gift
Also known as the couple’s gift. If you have siblings, friends or even neighbors with large families, this method is a lifesaver! I used to drive myself crazy trying to remember the ages of all my nieces, nephews, cousins…kids, mine or others. I would drudge through one aisle after another trying to find something that was sufficiently cheap enough without appearing so, fighting my every instinct to cancel Christmas and ride off into the sunset.

But where one $5 gift per person just leaves me with more gifts to wrap, one $20 family present that everyone can enjoy turns out to be more thoughtful than I initially thought (major bonus points, but who’s keeping score). Even if you bloat the budget to $10, $15, $20, $50…bajillion per person, you can’t replace the time together that a family is starved for throughout the year and really only gets a quality dose of during the holidays. It’s the only time of year that our dining room table gets completely cleared off, space is made for guests and games. Extra chairs are dug out of the garage. Yes, a few relatives may visit that are…colorful.

And one stupid board game has the power to unite everyone around the table, television or living room floor. Ideas include: board games, movies, group video games, craft projects, sports equipment, popcorn machine, snow cone machine, really anything that’s intended for more than one person.

#2) Bulk shopping smartly
Even a box of cuties and a bag of walnuts can go a long way replacing candy in stockings and gift baskets. Plus, they provide an opening to discuss The Nutcracker with the whole family when your 2-year-old finally puts those words together, but keeps launching walnuts into the wall! Good times…!?

The dollar store is loaded with packs of everything from Werther’s candies to silly straws to kazoos. This is small scale bulk shopping, which I find so much more enjoyable than the average Costco trip. Pretty much anything with the label “Not for individual resale” is perfect for multiple gift baskets and stocking stuffers. Just divide it up and watch the haggling—I mean fun—begin. Because, just like Halloween candy, it’s all negotiable. And no one will think less of you for only allowing one kazoo per household.

#3) The “Freebie”
Do you have a friend or relative that you know is going to need your help or expertise in the new year? You know what I’m talking about. The neighbor that knows you work with computers, and ALWAYS seems to be taking out their garbage at the exact same time as you, roping you in for 3 free hours of IT work and one very ruined Sunday afternoon.

Maybe you’ve already changed the oil in your sister’s car the past 3 times, each time WAY after it should have been done. Well, give her an out and take credit where its deserved. Mine were these are DIY coupons, from 101giftcertificatetemplates.com.

Since this gift is DIY, I recommend you keep it fun and/or funny, since its intangible. Include a condition like “One free oil change with minimum donation of 6-pack of beer.” Because if I have to hear about my husband’s saintly sacrifices to debug our dog walker’s laptop, I might as well include it in her holiday bonus and save her the trouble of asking for help AGAIN.

I figured that last one out after gifting my elderly auntie some cleaning coupons in the hopes that she would call me sooner, BEFORE the ant metropolis moved in under her sink. It worked so well, that my community senior center printed blank ones to hand out for grandkids to fill in and color. It was amazing and the possibilities are endless with kids! Let loose their spirit of giving to soar…and not have to take out the trash for a while in the process.

By Kelly Fitzgerald