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Feelgood for the Holidays (the budget-friendly edition)

Yesterday I heard a series of interviews with Americans about their holiday gift plans. Responses included phrases like “Wal-Mart,” “Gift Cards,” and “one big gift instead of 10 small ones.” Clearly, families everywhere are rethinking their gift-giving traditions. My own family has had The Talk about how this year we’ll have to reign in the spending; some relatives will have to forgo gifts altogether. Always, the discussion is heavy with sadness, resignation, even guilt.

If you’re in the same boat, there’s no need to be glum, chum! Instead of filling your brain with which big-box store is offering the best sale on crap you’re not even sure Aunt Deloris will like, use that cerebral space to get creative this season! I promise you, this year has the potential to be not only the most affordable, but also the most enjoyable one yet. How? By deciding as a family (or office group, book club, etc) on an eco-friendly/budget-friendly/helping people-friendly theme. Let me explain by throwing out a few examples:

Arghand Collective

1.  Theme: Fair Trade Festivities. Thanks to companies like Arghand, WorldFinds, World of Good, and Ten Thousand Villages, there is an endless list of affordable gifts for men, women, and children. Even better, all of your purchases would benefit others who are experiencing the kind of hardships we will never know in this country no matter how bad the recession gets. From wallets to wall clocks, someone is making them to support themselves, their children, and their community. And how fun will it be to tell their story to the gift’s recipient?!

2. Theme: Christmas by Etsy. Search “upcycled” on Etsy’s home page, and over 3,000 items appear. Like this children’s wall clock, made from an old record (for you young pups, a record is like a CD, only bigger and way harder to play in the car), and available for a mere $18. Etsy has unleashed America’s creative side, and the result is a limitless inventory of truly one-of-a-kind gifts.

3. Theme: Goodwill To Men (and everyone else in the family). Last week, I shot a commercial for ARC Value Village, a non-profit second hand store akin to Goodwill, where all items are donated and all profits go to help Americans with disabilities. After we wrapped the shoot, I decided to go shopping and see what they might have in the way of holiday gifts. I stopped when my cart got too full to hold anything more. Both Goodwill and ARC receive top-notch donations not just from individuals, but also retailers needing to unload inventory. At ARC, one of the wealthiest families in the Twin Cities had just donated a bunch of high-end clothing; were I a size 4 I could have had a field day with those donations alone. From vintage dishes to enormous, brand-new stuffed animals, you and your family would have a ball challenging yourselves to purchase all gifts from a Goodwill or similar shop.

4. Theme: Give the gift of talent. At our house, the last thing we need is more stuff. What we do need is some DIY assistance. We would be overjoyed if, instead of receiving more things, a family member offered to refinish our daughter’s antique dresser, or remove the psychadelic wallpaper in our bathroom. Consider a Christmas evening spent with each family member giving the gift of time and talent. Not into taking down wallpaper? Offering to watch your sister’s children overnight: Priceless. Or spend a day playing Scrabble and baking cookies with Grandma. Make fun cards describing your gift as an added touch.

Of course, we may have run out of time for you to coordinate this kind of an effort. If your family is like mine, trying to coordinate anything with the family would be like attempting to get cats to line dance. In that case, consider adopting one of these themes on your own, and regale your family with tales of how you chose their gifts. Perhaps you will inspire them for next year.

Written by Terri Bly

Terri Bly is the founder of The Nature of Beauty, LTD, an all-eco website, shop, and spa. She is a freelance writer, currently residing in Minneapolis.

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