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5 frugal Christmas gifts with flaws

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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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15 comments for “5 frugal Christmas gifts with flaws”

  1. This is so true, of course the annoying thing is that this list is different for everyone, I love to get vouchers for restaurants and spa days, and frequently give crafty gifts- but only to my mum and gran who are crafty themselves and appreciate it.
    The gifts I dread are “useful gifts” including but not limited to; socks, pajamas and scarves (I have more than enough of all) and “consumables”; fancy biscuits that I’ll never remember to eat before they expire, and the ubiquitous box of Belgian truffles that everyone thinks you’ll like because you eat regular chocolate bars (I’m just not that classy- I only eat Galaxy and flake).
    Wait, now you’ve got me sounding ungrateful!

    Posted by Looby | December 4, 2008, 3:00 am
  2. I’m with you on the scarves. I’ve got more than I need but I’m still quite likely to get another one for Christmas.

    Posted by plonkee | December 4, 2008, 12:11 pm
  3. @ Looby, your comments made me laugh. I love pajamas, scarves and “consumables,” especially wine! It’s the perfect example of what is a terrible gift for one person is great for another. I guess that’s the trick (and the hard part), really knowing your friends and family and what they like.

    @Plonkee, I’m with you on the crafty gifts. I’m not crafty, and most likely those gifts end up in a closet causing clutter.

    Posted by Kristen | December 4, 2008, 3:33 pm
  4. I gave NBA tickets to a family one year. Father and sons. Well they had a fight cause one son had plans with his gf the night of that game. I found out I caused this unpleasant circumstance inadvertantly. KInd of like giving a puppy - I should have asked first.

    Posted by Air Jordans | December 5, 2008, 3:05 am
  5. I bought a Roar and Snore experience for jack for his birthday last year and he absolutely loved it!! Granted it was really for me and him. But I think an experience present would be ideal for a couple during Christmas for the both of them to do it. Save thinking of separate things to buy them. :)

    Posted by jill | December 5, 2008, 11:02 am
  6. Aww c’mon…how could anyone not want a goat? Wait…it has to live in AFRICA? Why do I suspect the African in question would rather have an iPod?

    This is hilarious. Reminds me of the time my best friend received, from a neighbor in her homeowner’s association, a collection of hand-knitted candle covers in the shape of hideous little Santas. (Don’t ask!) And of the time I was guilty of giving my son a free massage from my own masseuse. Baaaad Mom! He would’ve been better off with a gift certificate from Best buy.

    This year he’s getting two hand-blown glass steins (awesome) and a collection of microbrewery beers.

    Posted by Funny about Money | December 7, 2008, 1:47 am
  7. My favorite thing about shopping for my friends and family for the holidays is trying to figure out what they really would like … it’s almost like a game. And I think that’s also part of the reason why I shop for Christmas presents year-round, you just never know when you are going to stumble upon the perfect gift for [insert name here].

    And just in case you need some reassurance from your readers, I don’t think you sound ungrateful. Christmas gifts are only “perfect” when they fit the tastes of the people they are given to.

    Posted by Maggie | December 9, 2008, 3:22 pm
  8. This is funny. I love consumables, haha. I hate crafty gifts because I am not a decorator. and gag me on the holiday gifts.

    but i love the goats and heifers, and really any other donation. then i don’t have to deal with where to put the gift, and someone else who needs it more can have something nice (and yes, the african in question would rather have the goat).

    My dad gives me a couple of bills every year. Much appreciated.

    Posted by deepali | December 9, 2008, 5:40 pm
  9. Cookies of the month can still work at a distance, provided your recipient doesn’t have diabetes or diverticulitus and you don’t know that you need to avoid sugar and nuts. Otherwise, box them up and ship them. It works fine with many cookies. Alas, some are best eaten absolutely fresh.

    Posted by Kat | December 9, 2008, 6:19 pm
  10. You had me going there when I got down to Heifers and goats… made me jump right to that paragraph. I like the gift of the month idea. Very creative!

    Posted by Rob | December 10, 2008, 8:38 pm
  11. Some great ideas, another one is to provide an emailed joke a day for an entire month or year. Laughter is a great gift and always appreciated.

    Posted by Wedding Gifts | July 4, 2009, 5:00 pm

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