Non Consumer Gifts

I’ve always wanted my family to do this gift exchange: you bring your favorite bill under $50 or $60 dollars, put it in a hat, and then pass the hat around. Everyone pays everyone else’s bills. Oh the feeling of giving! Of receiving! Of not buying into the consumer juggernaut that is our retail biz. Everyone puts the kibosh on that idea when they think of my brother’s cell phone bill. But see, I put a limit above!

My other random non-retail gift ideas:

– Microlending. Actually Gavin’s, but I’ll post it here. Kiva, and NamasteDirect.
– Events. Tickets to a movie with the person, sometime in the future. I love doing this with my parents- going to opera or a play. Support the arts! And it’s an event, which, for folks who have lots, is appreciated. Then they buy you drinks, you buy dinner, you split the difference, something like that.
– Dinners out. It’s social, and it’s fun. It’s consuming in the real sense of the word of course. I like social presents as opposed to “something to open,” though you can get creative with how you symbolize this under the Christmas tree.
– Tours – along the event route.
– Re-gifting. I see nothing wrong with passing on NICE things that you have to other people. New toasters, good books you’ve read but have no need to own, etc. One year I gave a can opener, one of those nice steel kinds, that was my mother’s, to a brother in law.
– Used books. Why does it have to be new? “I killed a tree for you,” could be the implicit message with getting a new book.
– Playlists – burnt on a CD or on a portable hard drive USB. I just gave this to my sister, who requested “good workout music.” For anyone who likes new music or an introduction to new music, a well written liner note to the mix CD is a great gift. Do some research- appeal to their unique tastes!
– Used art / art. My mom sells stuff all over, and I found something on her Flickrstream, and requested it as a gift. What is wrong with it not being a surprise? I will love and cherish this kitschy sports art, and I will always think it was from her.
– I bought my nephew some books, and bought him a book for some other child, in his name. Available at Borders- great program. He gave a young girl “Heidi.” Go Aidan!
– Custom booklist. I can usually only do one of these a year- a syllabus for fun experimental reading, custom made by me, and bought used books on amazon and mailed all year round. My brother did this with CDs to me, it was great.

And… A gift of a few trips of laundry, a few babysitting trips, a handmade scarf, a handmade hat, an iPod cozy, a teapot cozy, a trip shopping for “a unique sweater” on Grant Street in January.

I know that I’m cutting corners with my schedule when I buy lots of presents, and don’t wait and think about it. Many times the well-thought out gift is better than the hasty, expensive one.

The weirdest gift I’m giving this year (so far) is… a Tlingit sweatshirt.

Next post will be about my Excel spreadsheet on gift giving. Oh yeah.