Heartwarming Christmas Gift Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank
As the holidays approach, some of us may be gulping in dread over the debt we’re apt to incur - or in fear of disappointing someone we love because we’ve been so off the mark on previous gifts. With less time to do - well, anything - these days, how do we reclaim the tradition of gift giving as a sign of appreciation and heartfelt respect and avoid just throwing something in a gift bag last minute?
Perhaps the question to answer is not, “What should I get them?” but rather, “What would reflect my feelings for them?”
We’ve gotten so used to the importance of gift giving being placed on just getting something over using this time of year as an opportunity to show the people we care about how much they mean to us.
You don’t have to be sappy, and no, some of us are just not good at matching presents to people, but if you want to make a concerted effort to wow people this holiday season, let’s look at this whole thing differently. To start with, why are you getting them a present in the first place?
Custom vs. Meaningful
It’s really easy to throw a few gift cards in an envelope, as custom still seems to be that it’s better to bring something - anything in fact - than to arrive empty-handed and realize you were actually supposed to exchange gifts with your second cousin’s sister’s great aunt at the Hanukkah buffet you were last minute invited to.
We might not be able to avoid the ‘courtesy gift,’ but when it comes to those you’re closer to, the key to making a connection with your intended and the gift you present them with is to touch their heart. From this perspective, a better word to keep in mind as you make your shopping list may be meaningful.
Meaningful - meaning,
- Having a serious, important, or useful quality or purpose or,
- Communicating something that is not directly expressed.
Sometimes the best gifts are ones they did not include on their Wish List. That can indicate you have been observing, listening to and engaging with them throughout the year - and you know them well enough to go out on a limb and select something that really suits them. In short - it shows you care on a deeper level.
Last year, my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I remember looking out the window at our yard, considering the hours of work ahead to rake, weed and clean up. “Can you do the yard work this weekend so I can finish my book?” I ended up with a sweater, but while I was later slogging through mouldy old leaves, I really wished he had listened to me, it would have meant a lot more than something I could have bought myself. He later said he didn’t think doing yard work was enough - even though I essentially gave him permission. In this case, he’s more comfortable with the custom.
It can take some time to change a custom, but remember that it’s in your hands to decide if it’s important to do so in your own world.
What Would They Really Like?
Keeping the level and depth of your relationship with your intended receiver in mind is a great guide – the better you know them, the easier it should be to decide on an appropriate gift. For example, it’s a lot easier to shop for someone if you’ve been to their house and have seen their taste and the colours they prefer, as well as items they may have mentioned they need to be replaced or updated.
When we talk about mindfulness, we think about things like being connected to the world and people around you, as well as with yourself and your own values and goals. Maybe money is less of an issue for you, but this year you want to focus on providing individual, curated gifts only to those you love most, leaning towards the meaningful component than the usual custom.
Another way to look at how we present gifts bearing real value to the receiver is to consider what it is that makes them feel special and important in terms of your relationship…aka - what do they find meaningful? If you have someone who feels getting any gift at all is simple recompense for their friendship, anything you buy and wrap will be meaningful to them, because they place importance on the giving itself, not what’s inside.
Think back to gifts they’ve given you. Ask them about some of the most memorable gifts they’ve gotten in the past. Check out their Pinterest page. Go shopping with them and see what they are drawn to. At the office, what’s on their desk? What do they talk about at lunch? Start observing more closely and they’ll tell you without you having to ask.
Give the Gift of Time
Remember when you were little and had no money, but wanted to give your folks a sweet Mother’s or Father’s Day gift for a birthday or holiday? Did you ever make your own coupons? For example, THIS VOUCHER IS GOOD FOR ONE MASSAGE FROM SARAH (No expiry date). It might sound weird and will definitely depend on how well you know the person, but I guarantee at least one person in your life would appreciate this approach.
Don’t underestimate the importance of giving someone more time. In this day and age, we often have more disposable income and it’s common for people to see something they want and buy it, rather than wait around for Santa. For some of us, we may be working and going through school while helping out with a sick family member and may not have one extra dollar in the bank - or minute in the day.
If the gift of time is something your intended will be really appreciative of, consider when and where you could jump in and make a difference in their life. That may end up being a WalMart gift card! Maybe it’s babysitting their kids while they go grocery shopping. Maybe you offer to do their grocery shopping! Time is the one thing you can’t buy - so doesn’t that make it priceless?
Many of my friends have very young families - and not a lot of time or extra money. One of my favourite presents to give them is a gift card to their favourite restaurant (make sure to handle the reservation too) - and my services as a childminder. It doesn’t have to be crazy expensive and I can even cash in some points from my rewards card to pay for it if I’m feeling strapped.
The point is, I know how hard they work and how difficult it can be to find a sitter and get out of the house. This hits home in so many areas, but overall, it reflects how important they are to me, shows them I want to be a part of their kid’s lives and shows them I recognize how hard they work and that they should be rewarded once in a while. Making their lives a little easier and letting them know I want to be in their lives might be more important than the fish n chips they end up chowing down on.
That’s Nice, But I Need Some Actual Gift Ideas
OK - you came here for an actual list of stuff to choose from, didn’t you? If these deep thoughts have not exactly inspired you with the perfect gift idea, here are some tangible treats that won’t break the bank.
- Jar of affirmations or memories - This one will take more time than anything, but you can personalize and get really creative with it. Take strips of paper, popsicle sticks, whatever you like and write down a favourite memory, something you like about them or an inspirational quote that can set up their day (Check out how this thoughtful man put one together to help his girlfriend, who suffers from anxiety and depression)
- Print their favourite mantra or quote on a canvas in their fave colour. Places like The Canvas Factory will let you design your own colours and pictures if you like, so for the artistically limited, this may be a good choice! (Prices start around $30)
- Arrange for dinner so they don’t have to cook. www.chefsplate.com and www.hellofresh.com both offer different packages and recipes can be as low as $10 per person. They create the meals for you and will deliver right to your door, so you can treat them to a lovely dinner they don’t have to make and introduce them to another option to ordering pizza when they don’t feel like cooking. (Side note: SkipTheDishes also offers gift cards starting at $25)
- Magazine subscription + specialty coffee + mug. This may seem like an ancient tradition, but to those with minimal funds and time, what’s more luxurious than getting a big, glossy mag in the mail and taking the time to sit down with a fancy cuppa to enjoy it every month? Added bonus: it’s like you’re giving them 12 presents instead of 1 - and every time one arrives, they’ll think about you. Most will start around $30-40 per year.
In the mad dash to complete our holiday shopping, we may lose track of the reason why we give gifts at all. Looking at this as an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with the one we’re giving to and to bring more meaning to this stressful time of year for ourselves can be a powerful shift in your world.
There’s no perfect way to do this, but the more effort you put in, the easier it will become. Whatever your ideas look like, if you start to be more mindful of your values and those around you, you can save money, not stress and end up with a huge feeling of satisfaction when you see your intended open their special gift. Good luck - and be sure to tell us what you came up with!
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