Non-Commercial Gift Giving Ideas

November 30th, 2010 by Dionna | 4 Comments
Posted in Adults, Children, Community Service, Compassionate Advocacy, Eclectic Learning, Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature, Environmentalism, Guest Posts, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlers

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My husband and I don’t buy a lot of stuff. We haven’t taken any of the official “buy nothing” or “buy only non-commercial” pledges, we just try to buy used, make do, make our own, and shop locally. It can be hard to keep to our shopping guidelines during Christmas. Some members of our family don’t want any gifts or are happy with handmade ones, but there are a few who only want the things on their lists.

How do you stay within your personal guidelines without disappointing your loved ones? Or, how do you find something that is within your budget and shopping goals that won’t make your sister (who really only wants a Prada bag) annoyed?

Handmade Gifts

I’ve found that it’s much easier to give handmade gifts now that we have a child. Each Christmas the grandparents get ornaments made by our daughter. The first year, I traced her handprint on a muslin circle. The last two years, I’ve used her art to create ornaments. For Mother’s & Father’s Days this year I let her paint with acrylics on blank canvases from a craft store, so that the grandparents could have some ‘real’ art too.

Every year I make a book of pictures of the previous year in our daughter’s life. We use Blurb, but there are many different companies that offer the service at different prices and they all seem to do a great job.1 Some of our family members live far away and don’t keep up with my blog, so they love this way to keep up to date with her life. Right now I write all of the stories to go along with the pictures, but I’m looking forward to when my daughter is older and can contribute her own stories.

This year, my sister and I also created a book of our family history with accompanying pictures. Interview your oldest relatives about family history, their lives, and what they remember about their parents. We’ve been amazed at what we’ve learned just by looking through our grandmother’s letters to her sister and from things written on the back of pictures.

If you have an older child, help them create their own story with illustrations to give to family. Blank books can be purchased or you can make your own with regular paper and some card stock for the cover. Kinkos has long arm staplers that will let you reach the inside fold of large sheets of paper; you can use them for free in the store while you are making copies. You can also buy your own long arm stapler through Amazon. they are great for many craft projects. Or you can use a straight stitch on your sewing machine to make a sewn binding.2

Gifts from the Heart

Give experiences. There are lots of suggestions for this online,3 here are a few that I enjoy giving:

  • Is someone on your list pregnant, elderly, has an upcoming surgery or spousal deployment? Fill their freezer with home made food. This can be especially helpful for people with food restrictions. The internet makes it easy to find recipes for any kind of diet you need.
  • Run errands for a busy or housebound relative.
  • For someone who really likes shopping, pack a picnic or take them out for lunch and spend time with them at their favorite mall,or offer to watch their kids while they go out alone.
  • Do they love to entertain? Offer to cook and/or clean up for their next party.

My final refuge for picky recipients is charity. Charity Watch has information on how to give wisely. Give your time or money in their honor to a cause that is close to their heart. You may even find that the recipient wants to volunteer with you. Some charities are more or less able to accommodate children, so ask in advance if you can make it a family affair.

All that being said, sometimes the only way you can make someone happy is to buy them exactly what they want. In those cases, I buy something from their list that is in our budget and not from a corporation we refuse to support. My highest priority for Christmas is to let people know that we love them and think of them, and I know that some people feel love in different ways.

Further Resources

Etsy a shopping site devoted to handmade items. You can search by location if you want to keep your carbon footprint low.
The Crafty Crow collects kids craft ideas from many blogs.
Sew Mama Sew sewing focused blog, that is currently doing a series of posts with ideas for people with lots of different ideas.
Poppytalk a Canadian idea blog with it’s own handmade marketplace. Many places they link to also ship to the US.

What ideas do you have for making your own gifts or for finding gifts that are not commercially made?
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I am honored to host today’s guest post from Shannon. Shannon is a stay at home mother to Moira, 2. They love to bounce, craft and spend time outside. Shannon has been making presents for her family for as long as she can remember. One year she and her sister made a whole gift basket of food including two kinds of mustard and pink pickled onions. She blogs at Pineapples & Artichokes about crafting and parenting and she blogs with friends at Food & Laughter about cooking.

Photo credit: Author

  1. Here are a few other companies you might want to check: Picaboo, Snapfish, and lulu.
  2. SouleMama has a lovely post about how her kids approach this project.
  3. For example, check out this post from Dionna. It was written from the perspective of helping someone undergoing cancer treatment, but many can also be great holiday “gift of service” ideas.

4 Responses to:
"Non-Commercial Gift Giving Ideas"

  1. Nice to have some ideas that don’t involve baking cookies!!
    Thanks!

  2. mamapoekie   mamapoekie

    I am giving framed pieces of my daughter’s abstract art (she’s 2,5)
    I also sewed a fish hand puppet for my niece and we’re giving some chocolates to my brother.
    If possible, we get other christmas presents at the market of artisanat here in Abidjan, by which we are supporting a whole network of african sellers and artisans, so that’s a nice thing too

  3. Melissa   vibreantwanderer

    What a fantastic collection of ideas! Thank you so much!
    Some members of our extended family are really strapped for cash this winter, and others are just plain busy, so we have let everyone who would normally feel obligated to give us gifts that we don’t want to exchange anything material. We’ve asked for photos of their families and a recipe for a favorite food or a favorite tradition instead and we’ll make them into a book. We’ll send out photos, too, and are still brainstorming on what else to include … you have given me some fabulous ideas.

    • What a great idea. I have been trying to figure out how to share my husband’s grandmother’s pie recipe with the rest of his family. Something like that would be a great way to do it.

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