Embrace the True Spirit
November 25th, 2016 by Pam Blair
If you are handy with a sewing machine, gifts are at your fingertips. You can give your time to help someone make repairs, or you can lovingly create one-of-a-kind, personalized gifts especially for your loved ones. Photo by Brandon Pomrenke

If you are handy with a sewing machine, gifts are at your fingertips. You can give your time to help someone make repairs, or you can lovingly create one-of-a-kind, personalized gifts especially for your loved ones. Photo by Brandon Pomrenke

Abandon the holiday shopping madness and limit materialistic gift-giving

Advertisements fill the airwaves, creating a spend-spend-spend and shop-’til-you-drop mentality that plays with our emotions and our budgets.

Children clamor for the latest toy. Teens insist the newest electronic gadget is more than a want. They absolutely need it. Last year’s model is out of vogue.

Christmas morning can become exhausting as packages are ripped open and then quickly forgotten as the recipient moves on to the next gift.

According to recent polls, the average American spends about $800 on Christmas gifts. That does not count the money spent on travel, extra groceries, eating out, decorations, and small gifts for teachers and others who provide us with valued services.

The true spirit of Christmas and the holidays can be in danger of being washed away by the tsunami of materialism that makes us crave stuff we didn’t even know we needed.

Perhaps you want a break. The motivation could be financial, spiritual or both. Maybe you simply have a desire to pull back from the holiday madness and stop ceding control to retailers.

If so, consider gifts that are nonmaterialistic or that have a deeper value for the recipient or others.

The 12 Deeds of Christmas
How about giving the gift of yourself? Time spent visiting with someone could be far more precious than any item you could buy.

Regardless of your age—whether a child or adult—you have more to offer others than you may realize. What do you do with ease that others find a challenge or a chore?

Give a gift certificate of you. It is memorable and appreciated.

The options are limitless, but here are 12 ideas:

  • Car wash. Clean the inside and/or the outside of someone’s vehicle. They will smile and think of you as they drive their shiny car around.
  • Baby-sitting. What parents could not use a night out? How terrific to have a few baby-sitting coupons from a trusted friend or family member. Plus, you get to spend time with the kids.
  • Electronics repair. If you are a whiz in the digital world, someone can use your help.
  • Home cleaning or organizing. Books about tidying have topped the New York Times best-seller list, so a lot of people must share the desire to have a clean, organized home. Give them a hand.
  • Handyman. Paint a room in someone’s home, make repairs and do odd jobs around the house.
  • Dinners or desserts. Whether you are a gourmet cook or lean toward homemade comfort food, share some tasty gifts.
  • Yardwork. Some people love mowing, weeding, planting, trimming and raking. Others would be grateful for a volunteer to tackle those jobs.
  • Carpool. Parents are pulled in many directions. If you have time to spare, help out by picking up the kids.
  • Make the kids’ lunches. It is a relatively simple chore, but one less thing a busy parent has to do—and offers kids a nice change of pace.
  • Sewing repairs. Not everyone is talented with a needle and thread. If that is one of your gifts, eliminate the hassle and cost of a friend having to take projects to a seamstress.
  • Tutoring. What subjects do you enjoy? Kids usually behave better for someone other than their parents, and professional tutors are expensive.
  • A family recipe treasure-trove. Collect recipes and photos from friends and family, and assemble a cookbook. You can make it by hand or put together a digital collection.

Make One-of-a-Kind Gifts
The genuine happiness and smiles during unwrapping and revealing a gift are priceless—and there have been some pretty impressive gifts in recent years: iPads, iPhones, TVs, Beats headphones and other hot items snagged during Black Friday.

Consumers do love materialistic purchases, but what happened to good, old-fashioned crafted gifts?

Homemade gifts are some of the best things you can give because they capture the love and admiration you have for that special someone.

Get your creative juices flowing and start crafting one-of-a-kind gifts this holiday season. Here are some ideas to spark your imagination:

Layering up. Food items—especially sweets—are a great go-to for homemade gifts. Customize a food package layered in a Mason jar. Maybe it is your own cookie mix, with each ingredient carefully measured out and stacked on top of each other.

Want to make a special hot chocolate mix? Layer a Mason jar with four sections: one-quarter hot chocolate powder, one-quarter fluffy marshmallows, one-quarter chocolate chips, topped with one-quarter peppermint candies.

Tie a festive bow around the top of the jar. Be sure to attach a tag with directions and a sweet message. Small touches make all the difference.

Need ideas? Check Pinterest for inspiration.

Keep the memories alive with photos or memorabilia from a happy time spent together. Make a photo album with scrapbook or construction paper. Personalize it by narrating each photo with a caption recalling the special time. You can even make a complete storybook.

A shadow-box frame also is a perfect medium. What you can put inside is limitless—from movie and concert tickets to fun souvenirs you got on a vacation together.

You can keep photos in their original form or cut them into fun shapes and sizes to create a collage.
Include a special message or inspiring quote to add a loving touch.

Sew something spectacular. Handcrafted gifts from you are just as impressive—if not more so—as the stuff from the mall. If you are a beginner, start with pillowcases or a fabric pennant banner. If you are more advanced, consider sewing a customized tote bag, cosmetic bag or pajamas.
Keep in mind sewing can be time consuming, so if you plan to make a few different gifts, start early.

Pairing Gifts With Lasting Memories
Give the special people in your life experiential gifts that will leave them with a lifetime of memories. Think of the things each person likes to do, and tailor a gift to their interests.

If you enjoy buying traditional presents, look for something that complements your experiential gift.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Sports. Buy tickets to a game and wrap up a jersey of the person’s favorite player.
  • Music. Find a concert at a local venue and buy a CD by that performer.
  • Travel. Pair a carry-on travel bag and tickets to a far-away destination.
  • Adventure. Shopping for a daredevil? Give a gift certificate for skydiving, whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, zip lining or scuba diving. Add a T-shirt that has an image of the activity.
  • Pampering. Treat your loved ones to spa days, massages and luxurious skin-care treatments. Include a bottle of nail polish or some slippers.
  • Family fun. Amusement park passes can provide quality time together. Add a board game that is appropriate for all ages.
  • Food. Book a lunch or dinner sightseeing cruise, a regional food tour or a wine-tasting evening. Include a food item or a bottle of bubbly.
  • Nature. Create a voucher for a trip to a favorite hiking trail or park, or a kayaking or canoe trip. Wrap up a water bottle.
  • Fitness. A membership to a gym or yoga studio is remembered at each visit. Include a duffel bag or a mat in the recipient’s favorite color.
  • Gardening. Give a plant or bulbs along with tickets or a season pass to botanical gardens.
  • Museum. Virtually every interest and passion can be satisfied with a visit to a museum: art, space, science, music, history, children, automobiles, maritime and sports. Include a book on the topic.

Give Gifts With Meaning to Help Others

How about trying a gift that is outside the box? Rather than spend hours struggling to come up with a good present for friends and family members, give action-oriented gifts in their names to help people in communities and villages around the world.

Charitable organizations offer opportunities to give a variety of items. Whatever your budget and your recipient’s interests, a match can be found.

Here are a few organizations and gifts to consider:

  • Apopo (www.apopo.org). The Belgian organization trains giant African rats to sniff out landmines and, in some countries, diagnose tuberculosis. For $7 a month, you can adopt a “HeroRat.”
  • CARE (www.care.org). Support a fish farm for $32. Buy musical instruments for a classroom for $54. Beehives are $59. A sewing machine and training is $150. A farm with five animals is $215. An irrigation system is $265. A water truck is $10,000.
  • Communities in Schools (www.communitiesinschools.org). Dedicated to keeping kids in school, this network partners with 161 affiliates in 25 states. For $200, you can give an at-risk child mentoring, counseling and other services for a year.
  • Compassion International (www.compassion.com). Financing protection from parasites is $7. A mosquito net is $18. Garden seeds are $27. A safe playground is $36. A dental kit is $40. A baking class is $230. A computer lab is $1,200.
  • Heifer International (www.heifer.org). For $20, you can buy a flock of ducks, chicks or geese. For $480, buy a knitter’s basket. A heifer is $500.
  • Himalayan Cataract Project (www.cureblindness.org). A donation of $25 can provide life-changing surgery through this organization founded by two ophthalmologists.
  • International Rescue Committee (www.rescue.org). Make a cash donation of any amount to help refugees who are fleeing violence in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the United States.
  • Malaika For Life (www.malaikaforlife.org). Buy a bracelet handmade by women in Tanzania for $12 to $15 to raise money for malaria medicine. The organization was founded by a PBS reporter who contracted malaria while in Tanzania filming a documentary. She realized many in that country could not afford the $7 medication that saved her life.
  • Oxfam America (www.oxfamgifts.com). For $25, you can provide books for kids. School supplies are $30. Irrigate a farmer’s land for four months for $40. A goat is $50. Train a midwife for $150. Help build a girls’ school for $1,500.
  • Trickle Up (www.trickleup.org). The organization lifts people out of extreme poverty through a “graduation program”—so called because people graduate from poverty. Cash donations fund a gift of a cow or other animal, training, a savings account and other support.
  • World Vision (www.worldvision.org). Pay $16 to provide two soccer balls. Five fruit trees are $30. A fishing kit is $50. Three solar lanterns are $60. A foot-powered water pump is $200.

Margo Young, Jeanelle D. Horcasitas, Julia Price and Chelle Cordero contributed to this story through Creators.com.