Now that Halloween has passed, Christmas is fast approaching. What a tricky time for a frugalista and a...greenie (haven't found myself a good nickname there)? How to wade through the commercialization and over-consumption that is the Christmas beast? Better yet, how to do it as the parent of two young children?
I'll start with the second first: we give our children very little for Christmas. Sacrilege! What we do give is second hand where possible and generally consists of books or music or a toy. The grandparents (they've got 6) will shower them with more than enough gifts and so we keep it very simple at home. The boys are 1 year (K) and 3.5 years (F) and so far this is working well for us.
What about my husband and I? We are very good at not buying indulgences throughout the year for ourselves and try to save these wants for special occasions. In the past we have stuck to a strict budget when buying for each other and buy a few small gifts that we're sure the other really wants: again things like books, music, DVDs, games, etc. Lately my husband is getting harder to buy for because he has less time for reading and playing. Back when we were both working we would also buy a gift for the two of us ("the house"). This year we may even forgo gifts for each other and just get something for "the house": most likely a digital SLR camera as it's something we would use constantly.
What do others get us? Our family likes us to create wishlists for every member of the family. This is a great idea, but the more we simplify, the shorter these lists get. Making them for the boys is even harder since they "need" very little. As F gets older, he's better able to vocalize his wants, but we try very hard to teach him that wants are not needs and that we don't get everything we want, which is okay. Luckily he still enjoys simple pleasures and even favourite fruits get him very excited. Our youngest, K, needs next to nothing and wants less. Most of what he has is handed down and he couldn't care less. It's a wonderful age! Above all, we encourage gift-givers to give the kids preloved (used) items and not to overindulge.
What do we get the rest of the world? Now there's the tricky part. For nieces and nephews I've made things like hats and mittens when they were young:
We ask for wishlists when available or find something thoughtful and useful (perhaps even educational or creative) and keep the budget low. For adult family members, over the past several years, we've been making baskets. Here are some previous examples (I can't believe I didn't get pics of last years when I made biscotti, cookies, sauces, and other yummies!):
These include items to be consumed (food and drink) and, increasingly, homemade items. I love to cook and bake (obviously) and so I tend to give many baked goods and things that can be frozen and consumed later. This year we have a pressure-canner which I'm hoping to use for soups and chilis and the like. (I'm very excited about this and will definitely blog about it.) And I'm working on a way to present these baskets next year without cellophane (which was always on its second life when I used it).
Aside from comestibles, I've found it difficult to think of useful items that can be homemade. I don't want to give silly useless, or tacky things that must be displayed. That is not green and it is not frugal. I was thrilled today to find (at my new favourite blog Domestic Cents) a listing of 50+ Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas. Nicki gives lost of unique ideas and links to wonderful sites. (I said to myself, not for the first time, as I was discovering yet another fascinating blog, "how am I supposed to do anything else with my time?") I'm loving Skip To My Lou, Bella Dia, Geekware, Stardust Shoes, I could go on and on. Go, have a look around, and if tell me if you've gone down the homemade route before.