Monday, November 17, 2008

Tis a Gift

Last year, we did not buy oodles of gifts for our children. We find they rarely remember gifts from year to year. What they remember are the experiences we share. So last year we took the kids to Chicago for New Year's Eve. We booked a great hotel room with a kitchen and free meals. Each child chose a fun place to visit. My daughter—as you can see above—chose to visit American Girl. My son chose ESPN Zone. After our outings, we stayed up late, snacked, and watched holiday movies. It was an experience we won't forget. 

As you think about your holidays and assess your gift-giving budget, consider what kinds of gift-giving rituals are meaningful to you. Talk with your family and friends about it. So often we keep doing the same thing because it's what we have always done—even when what we have been doing no longer works.
Choose a ritual that works this year. It doesn't have to work forever—just for now.

Here are some fun, affordable gift ideas I have collected over the years. 

Give the gift of service. One year a friend gave me a loaf of home-baked bread each month. Oh how I loved that monthly delivery! Another friend offered to sit for our kids. Another great gift. What can you do to support friends that costs you time but not money? How about cleaning their house, running errands for them, baking cookies, or working on a home improvement project. Use your imagination!

Give experiences. A few years ago, I gave a friend a beading night at my house. We sat at the dining room table munching on snacks and making bracelets. How fun! In return, she invited my daughter and I over for an art night. I won't try to explain the project we made. Suffice it to say—we had fun and got just the tiniest bit messy. How about teaching a friend how to bake bread or taking them sledding?

Give memories. Create a photo album, a photo collage, a memory box, a journal, or a letter. A few years ago, I gave each of my children their own photo album—stocked with some of my favorite photos. They are the most-read books in our house. I heard about one family who wrote questions in a journal for their grandparents. A year later they received the same journal back from their grandparents—filled with the personal, memorable stories!

Give from your abundance. What do you own that needs a new home or that looks like it belongs with someone else? Give it away! I often give art, gently-used books, scarves, and jewelry to friends. When you give something that you've owned, include a note that explains why you are passing it on. Maybe, "Every time I see this scarf, I think of you."

If you have a great holiday gift tip, please leave a comment! I'd love to hear from you.

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