plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

December 3, 2008

5 frugal Christmas gifts with flaws

Filed under: shopping — Tags: , — plonkee @ 9:19 pm

There are some great frugal gift ideas, that when you try and use them, turn out to have flaws. This doesn’t mean that they don’t work in any scenario, just that on closer examination, they don’t work for me. These are my findings so far:

1. experience gifts

I wonder whether I know different people to everyone else. I’m not sure that I know anyone who would appreciate season passes to the zoo. Museums and such like are often free. Most people I know are not blessed with excess time to take advantage of National Trust membership, and I’m wary of booking theatre tickets when I’m not privy to their schedules. Vouchers are ok, but you need people to take advantage of them.

I’ve had two experience gifts in the recent past, one was a voucher for a Red Letter Day experience of my choice, the other was a Spa Day. I never got round to using the voucher because there was nothing that I was particularly sold on doing, and I didn’t have anyone to share the experience with. The Spa Day was more successful because my sister also got one, and we went together – I could receive this again, but would only want to give in similar circumstances, and I don’t have a pair of people to give to in this way.

2. crafts

I’m not a crafty person, so it would actually be a ridiculously large investment of my time if I was to make a gift. I probably fall under the same category as my recipients – I don’t actually have more time available than I have money. I have a friend who knits – she’s making a baby’s cardigan and something for her mother for a few months (on and off) and they’re coming along very nicely.

I haven’t received a homemade gift for a long time, and it’s something for which I’m thankful. Traditional crafts, whilst I appreciate the amount of time and care that goes into them, are just not my style. For example, I know that quilts take forever to make and are really beautiful, but I have a chrome and glass aesthetic going on. I would really rather not have them, and that people gave things like that to those that appreciate them.

3. gift of the month

This is a truly nice idea. You wrap up say a plate of Christmas cookies, and include a voucher for 11 new plates of cookie, one for each month. However, the only way to do this frugally is to do it yourself and therein lies the problem. I live more than 100 miles from my closest family, so this is just not a practical gift for me to give, however great it is otherwise.

4. holiday themed gifts

I don’t give these, in case other people have the same reaction to them that I do, which is “beautiful, but when am I going to use this?”. Seriously, there’s some nice Christmas stuff on the shelves at this time of year. But how many turkey platters / tea towels / aprons does one person need? And are people into traditional red and green, or Scandinavian style, or jewel toned elegance? Do they entertain at Christmas? Where will they store it for the rest of the year? Will people still be using cranberry soap in July? Most importantly, do they already have this stuff?

5. goats and heifers

A really, really lovely gift for the people that have everything is to buy a goat for a family in Africa in their name. I honestly think that this is a nice thing to do. But, my aunt did this once, and whilst she’s otherwise not known for her great presents this wasn’t appreciated as it could have been. I’ll admit it because it’s true, my family are not the major charity donating type, and it felt slightly *holier than thou*. Although I like it, it’s not something I’m planning on doing as a gift as I just don’t know people who would appreciate it. I’ll just make a private Christmas donation instead.

Of course, all of this sounds a little ungrateful. But really I’m not – when I receive a gift it really is the thought that counts and I appreciate the love that goes into all the un-useful gifts I’ve received just as much as the useful ones. It’s simply that not all gifts work for me.

There’s nothing I can really do about gifts people give me, but more importantly, I need gift ideas that take into account the recipients lifestyle and tastes, as well as taking into account my lifestyle and budget. Not every great gift idea that you find will work for your friends and family.

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