By: Martianne Stanger
The holiday season is upon us, and although it might bring joy to our hearts, it can also bring woe to our wallets. That is, unless you have experienced the Evolution of Free Christmas as my extended family has.
Yes, my siblings and I have chosen not to temper our eagerness to enjoy the delight of our children unwrapping gifts at our family parties with the dread of opening whopping credit card bills come January. Instead, we have opted to key into love and laughter over price and, I admit, sometimes purpose.
In case your family would like to do so as well, I thought I would share our gift exchange ideas from the past two years:
The Store Draw Exchange: An idea for the time-pressed, which allows you to make all your purchases at a single store without breaking your budget.
Prior to your party, brainstorm as many inexpensive shopping venues as there will be families involved in the swap. Think Dollar Tree, Target’s Dollar Spot, Family Dollar, Ocean State Job Lot, Flea Markets or the Christmas Tree Shops. Write the names of these stories on slips of paper. Then, have each family draw one slip. Whatever store is drawn is where all your gifts must come from. (If you love Yankee Swaps/White Elephant Exchanges, do it now. Steal your favorite or most convenient shopping venue from another family.)
Store decided, write down the names of every member of your extended family that will be at the party and head out on your mission: to find something “silly” or “thoughtful” for each person on your list. In one day, at one store, with one economical register total, your shopping can be done!
Wrap up and tag your gifts and prepare for the smiles and laughter of discovering what funny gems each person found at their respective inexpensive stores.
Free Christmas: An idea for those rich in creativity but poor in cash
To prepare for the exchange, have every person involved come up with an idea for securing free gifts – freecyled items, recycled items, something from your personal toy box, a prayer, a recipe, something from the beach, something from the woods, freebies from stores and so on. Write these on slips of paper and have each person draw one. (Again, if you like Yankee Swaps/White Elephant Exchanges, do it now, securing your favored free gift category.)
Before your holiday party, your job is then to come up with gifts for everyone else in your extended family based on the slip you drew. You can interpret the slip however you wish, so long as you stick to the primary “rule” of not spending any money on your gifts.
For example, last year my niece got “Something from the Beach,” so she made ornaments for some of us and sand snowmen figurines for others of us using items scavenged from the beach supplemented from things in her mothers craft supplies. And, since one person in our family drew “Recycled” last year, we crafted recycled CD spinner toys and homemade crayons among other things. And, for “From Nature,” we had fun finding pinecones, painting them with glue and shaking them in glitter to make ornaments. We also gifted things we would otherwise purge since one of drew the “Freecycle” slip.
Wrap your gifts in recycled gift bags, shopping bags, scraps of cloth or other “free” wrapping. Tote them all to the party and prepare for oodles of laughs and good-natured chaos. Why? Because with this exchange, every person gets a gift from every other person, so many surprises are unwrapped.
Whatever you do for your gift exchange this year, enjoy!
For my extended family Low-Cost/No-Cost Gift Exchanges are a keeper. The love, laughter, and low-to-no budget involved is something we’re making a tradition of!