Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Gift-giving: "Under the Median" for the Holidays

Ah, the holidays, a time of joy, celebration, and lots of food!  It can also be a challenging time for families who live Under the Median.

It is at times like this that I remember my blog is dedicated to bringing encouragement to folks who work hard and yet bring home a paycheck that necessitates counting each nickel and dime.  So, with that in mind, I'm going to give you my best tips for having a joyous holiday season, but not breaking the bank.

Start Early

Around the end of October, I make a list of friends, co-workers, and family members to whom I will be giving gifts.  Then, I make a list of all the items I have in my "gift stash", gift items that I have stockpiled throughout the year.  Most of these items were bought at steep discounts and clearance prices.  Then, I match up gifts to each person on the list.  Generally, I have just a few "slots" left to fill.  Here's how I keep my Christmas budget within reasonable boundaries, pay cash for every item,  and bless both friends and family!

Christmas begins on.... December 26th.    

I begin buying for the following Christmas on December 26th.   The day after Christmas, prices on Yuletide themed products drop by 50%!  Wait another few days and you'll score bargains at prices 75 - 90% off. 

 Purchase red, green, or plaid napkins and handtowels at a fraction of retail.  Set them aside. Then next Christmas line a pretty basket (which you collected throughout the year at garage sales or second-hand shops) with a couple of the napkins, a holiday mug or some hot cocoa mix or herbal teas.

In a similar fashion, a handtowel can be used to line a basket.  Add fancy soaps and a loofah for a "bath" themed basket.

 Walgreens puts Yardley soaps on sale regularly.  I like both the lavender and oatmeal soaps.  They feel like luxury soap without the luxury price.  Big Lots also regularly stocks Yardley soaps.

Just in case you missed the photo at the top of this blog post,

These are my teacher gifts for this year.  I paired organic herbal teas on clearance for $1.00 a box with a Pampered Chef mini-wooden spoon purchased for just $1.25 each.  I tied each with a festive ribbon.  

One more suggestion!  A handtowel can be used to wrap a bottle of lotion or foaming handsoap.  Tie it up with a pretty ribbon and it's the perfect gift for the holidays.


Shop second hand.

As economy-weary consumers tighten both their pocket-books and budgets, I have noticed an increased proliferation of second-hand book and thrift shops.  For those who live under the median these merchants can be a Godsend when it comes to not only purchasing items which we need, but also for giving gifts.   Yes, second hand stores have come of age!  Goodwill is increasingly stocking brand new merchandise: everything from socks to dishes to clothing to bedding at bargain prices.  While you are there, look for pretty baskets, glass containers, gift wrap, ribbons, and bows.  If you have an antique-lover in the family, you will never find better prices than at second-hand shops. 

Make it from scratch!

When my husband turned 50, I made four different flavors of homemade muffins, stacked them on a tray and took them to his workplace.  I placed a cute sign next to it that said, "Larry is 50 today!  Please enjoy a homemade muffin to help him celebrate!"  I added smaller signs indicating the different kinds of muffins:  chocolate, spice, bran, and lemon.  When I mentioned this to my neighbor she looked at me in amazement.  "You mean you made them all from scratch??!!  No mixes??!!"  I couldn't figure out her consternation.  She continued, "When someone has a birthday where I work they bring in sweets to share.  I have never seen anyone bring in something homemade."  Turns out her birthday was the following week.  I baked her two dozen made-from-scratch muffins to take with her to work.  Yep!  She was right.  She was instantly popular and her co-workers were similarly amazed.

Now to those of us who routinely make everything we eat from scratch, the idea of a homemade muffin, cake, pie, pastry, or tart being out-of-the-ordinary is equally astounding.  But, it turns out that my neighbor is on to something.  In this age of processed, microwaved, boxed food, the act of giving something as a gift that you baked yourself is really appreciated.  So, don't be afraid to break out those baking pans!  Have fun and let the kids help!!  Friends, neighbors, and relatives really like it when your children create the gift tags.  Homemade items always elicit a cheery, uplifting feeling and reminds people that you cared enough to give of your time, effort, and ingredients to bless them at Christmas.

This same principle can be applied to the act of making crafts for others.  Pintrest is an amazing vehicle for ideas for transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.  My hat is off to those who are gifted in the areas of painting, sewing, crafting, and woodworking.  You are all awesome and I hope that I am on your gift-giving list!  

It's the little things that count.  

Remember, bigger is not always better.  Yes, it feels awkward when someone gives me a gift that clearly cost more than the gift which I gave them.  But, I do not live in their home.  I am not their personal financial planner.  I don't walk in their shoes.  I LOVE to give.  Nothing pleases me more than to make someone's day brighter and give them joy.  But, I also know the necessity of living within my means.  I have a theory that God takes special joy in meeting the needs of those who are willing to live frugally and pray for Him to endow them with unique ideas for blessing others.  I can recall countless stories of how I have found just the perfect gift for someone at a price that I could afford.  Finally, remember, the purpose of gift-giving during the Yuletide season is to pay homage to the Christ child, the tiny baby, who would change the world and our lives forever.  When we put gifts into proper perspective, it really IS the thought that counts.

Time for your ideas!  Have you found a way to "knock it out of the park" with amazing gifts that don't cost an arm and a leg?  Comment below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  


Do all to the glory of God,


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