Yum Hey What's for Dinner Mom?: How to Give Less


How to Give Less

And the power of gifts that go away.
   When I was a kid it was super awesome to just get stuff, didn't matter what it was, the more the better. I loved it all and tried to reciprocate in kind. Giving, to me is the best part of Christmas, I love to give things to people I love. I always have. I think, I shop all year, I plot and plan. I have always tried really hard to be the best gift giver ever, it is a joy to me to find the right thing for exactly the right person.

 Then I hit this point as I grew up where I realized a couple things;

  1. I'm getting to the point where I want to pick out my own stuff
  2. If someone gives me something I don't care for, as an adult I'm stuck with it because to donate would be to offend
  3. If I give something to someone and it's not the perfect thing for them they in turn are stuck with it  because again to donate would offend
  4. some people do not have my taste or get my eclectic sense of what belongs together--and that's ok(no really it is says the woman who has 7 plastic blow mold  santas tucked around in her house every year and 10 matching santa cups on her bathroom window sill) 
Have you ever had someone show up at your house and look around for the gift they gave you? That is exactly what I am talking about right there. The "where is my gift" eye sweep. It's either happened to you or you've done it, admit it. It's just human nature. But good grief on the other hand how can we possibly expect for our loved ones to keep every blessed thing we ever gave them? We'd be buried in crap, and as much as I love to get gifts some of them purely are crap. Yes, yes it's the thought that counts but does it have to be $9.97 plastic humming bird vase with flashing lights and sporadic music that is THE thought? 

And if you're still reading this and NOT offended please keep reading.

There has to be a better way!

I hit upon this idea that my gifts of love, from the heart, did not have to be slippers the recipient might hate but keep anyway or a nifty chickadee knick knack they have to dust every week whilst glowering and thinking of me. Dust collectors BE DAMNED! I did not want to do that to the people I love. I wanted to give them something lovely, something useful, something they didn't have to keep.

 I came up with these basic guidelines for me to give by
  1. it must be useful in some way-it can not be a dust collector 
  2. the gift can be a consumable 
  3. it can be a thrifted treasure again if it is useful to the person--I love this division and try to gift give from here A LOT
  4. homemade things are nice as long as they are useful or consumable--my husband and one boy made vegetable collecting baskets for my mother and I last year--highly useful and very awesome!
  5. a gift card will be a last resort, yes they are wonderful but they tend to be a bit impersonal, although I love the idea of a cup of coffee from a good friend as an "I'm thinking of you" gift so don't count them out--just use sparingly
  6. a gag gift--if it's a joke present I let them know it does not have to be kept they can donate it or pass it on--I really stress they should donate it or pass it on to someone else as a joke--last year a friend of mine gave me a wal*mart pez dispenser as a gag--I laughed so hard! I still have it and I'm passing it on to a friend this year--hope she laughs!
Some of my favorite gift ideas working from those guidelines are
  1. consumables  cookies, a dinner ready to bake(Shepard's Pie is my stand by!!), a basket of fresh eggs, breakfast in a basket(eggs, local sausage, loaf of fresh bread), jams and jellies---things loved ones can enjoy and then they go away!
  2. flowering bulbs are a great gift to give and receive--they can be pre-planted by kids, put in a special painted or decorated pot, a ready to bloom plant is a lovely addition to any holiday decor and when their done blooming it can be cut back, pulled out and dried for next year or thrown out by the recipient or passed to a gardener who can use it
  3. new books from the local bookstore are a wonderful gift--they can be read and returned for store credit, which I tell the recipient so they don't feel weird--or they can be passed to a friend or simply donated books are meant to be shared
  4. magazine subscriptions work well too, one of my favorite to give is Mother Earth News, friends with kids might like Family Fun 
  5. Local made consumables are a wonderful gift to give-chocolates? yes please!! Local Beers or Wines are always appreciated We have a local coffee roaster and his blends are delish!
  6. favorites can be tapped for presents--do they have a favorite tea? Why not buy them several boxes and some special honey
  7. candles--use them and they are gone--I get yummy ones for the people who like that and plain beeswax for the ones who prefer natural scents
  8. herbal remedies for maladies they might be suffering with--I gave my oldest son a bottle of sleep deeply from our local herbalist--it helped him sleep when he went to tech school and it was not something he would have bought for himself or even known about

My kids of course get a new toy or two each year but they also get things they can use, like shovels, sleds or science kits to make them think. One lucky boy is getting his own watch this year, analog of course, a suggestion from his teacher. My husband and I have decided to give recycled-upcycled-thrifted-homemade-or highly useful presents to each other this year. I shall not dust and think spitefully of him.

I linked this post to the Natural Mother Network Seasonal Celebration.

Peace and Love-



  1. Fabulous post! I don't know which part I love more...the first part where you tell it like it is, or the gift suggestions. My favorite gift idea is the potted bulb.

  2. AFFIRMATION gosh was so worried when I hit post that it was not going to go well! thanks for your words of kindness :)

  3. No need to worry, this is a GREAT post; they were all very familiar feelings for me too!! I make cookie boxes for people every year and (so far) no complaints. I also like making polar fleece sox and hats as gifts.

  4. I don't think you need to worry, I feel the same way.
    I'm partaking in a secret santa exchange this year and it had a set budget and "wishlists" made and I ignored both. I'm crafting my little heart out with repurposed and thrifted items. sure, she's getting a bunch of really random things, but they're all things I know she'll like and are suited to her. I think that's better than blowing the whole budget on one plastic, made in china, cheap-o thing b/c it fit a set budget dollar amount.

  5. In these hard times for many, it is also a good idea to pool all the names and have people pick just one person to gift. Or have everyone in the family agree to forgo individual gifts and pick a charity to support, like make a dinner for a food insecure family or donate gifts to a local shelter or something. That way everyone has a feel good moment. We do Christmas stockings in our family, all the gifts are anonymous and little, plus there is candy, so that is fun to play with.

    I have fond memories of reading Little House on the Prairie and how excited they were with an orange as a gift. Simpler, poorer times to be sure, but so meaningful.

  6. I love this post! We have been doing; this in my family since I was a little girl. Of course, I got toys, my daughter got toys, and my grandson will as well - but wechoose ONE exciting new gift and then everything else comes from a yard sale - in fact, we have a contest: The most perfect gift for the least amount of money. I'm proud to say I usually win! And then, we give my mom (who has everything she could ever want) one of those copy paper ream boxes full of things she won't buy herself now like big bottles of Ibuprofen, cough drops, a favorite lipstick, Skin So Soft - things that have now become expensive on her limited income. Then, as a family we adopt some seniors. Many people across the world adopt children but seniors are so lonely and many have no one. Anyway, this was a great post and I'm so glad to know there are many others like us!

  7. I'm right there with you! Over the years I've learned that cash is king (both giving and receiving). I try to attach it something small, charming, and personal either homemade or thrifted. I also offer help for free in the form of a handmade certificate, like 1 night of free babysitting for my friends or 1 free housecleaning (for my guy friends that will wait until it's super bad and then hire a professional).

    Oh, and gift cards to the local movie theater are great, too.

  8. Every year I freak out about Christmas gifts. My husband receives gifts from a large number of people and I just don't feel comfortable about giving back.
    I have decided to give to the children and grandchildren and immediate(and I mean immediate friends). Giving to everyone and his brother has gotten way out of hand. Some people seem to give just to have a reason to spend money.

  9. I am totally with you here and love your ideas, the bulbs and candles, items that can be used and enjoyed. Thank you so much for sharing this with us at Seasonal Celebration Sunday! Rebecca x

  10. Agree! I also give books I think others will like and love charitable donations to my favorite non-profits in my name!

  11. Thanks for sharing this post with me. I totally agree. The last couple of years we have spent money just to make sure things are even, and whatever last minute thing we toss on is *never* loved. I am changing my mindset a lot about gift giving. -Jamie

  12. Too much of anything is dangerous, annoying, and suffocating. Look at what we have too much of, and offer something less. Your stakeholders will thankfully take it.

    irene of Where to buy cowboy boots


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