Special Delivery! Book Excerpt: Thrifty Gifting

27 Feb

Eesh. What a couple of weeks it’s been. Been drivin’, baby showerin’, workin’, writin’ and doin’ just about everything else besides updating this blog. Have I made awesome crafts? Yes, but I also lost my camera charger and haven’t been able to take pictures of any of the awesomeness. Wah waaaaah.

After about a week of procrastinating or, as I’ve taken to calling it, brewin’, I decided to give my readers (AKA: Mom and Boyfriend) a preview of a chapter that I plan to put in the Thriftfulness book, should I ever talk one of those publishing folks into putting out such a thing.

So here it is, an excerpt from my word processing file, behold the rules of Thrifty Gifting (Shifty Gifting to be Revealed at a later date)!!! Hope you enjoy!

The Rules: Thrifty Gifting vs. Shifty Gifting

There are many excuses we use for not giving thoughtful gifts. The top three are probably No Time, No Money, and I’m Not Good at Thinking of Ideas (a veiled variation of No Time combined with another popular excuse, No Skill). Other excuses include It’s Just Been So Hectic Lately, She’ll Return It Anyway, We’re Still Paying Off the [insert purchase here], I Never Really Liked Him, and the classic I Bought It Because I Needed to Spend 10 More Bucks for the Free Candle. We’ve all used some combination of these free-passes to blah gifts for our loved ones. Because I am the youngest of five children, I milked the I’m The Baby excuse as long as I could.

But there comes a time, friendo, when it is no longer appropriate to give your sister a snowglobe made from a baby-food jar and soap flakes. It’s around the same time your dad stops gushing over your slip-shod paper valentines- you’ll know it when it comes. You may be broke. You may be busy. You may be dreadfully dull and/or so socially inept you don’t even know how to speak to others much less impress them with a gift. In other words, you may be a party pooper. The rules to gift-giving still apply to you.

That’s the bad news. The good news? I can help you! Below are the Do’s of thoughtful and thrifty gift-giving for the penniless, the workaholics, and the severely socially awkward*:

*: Note to the socially awkward: Stalking is a never a good gift idea, no matter how much time you put into it.

Thrifty Gifting:

1. Drop the Be-Dazzler AKA Pay attention to the person you’re gifting

Maybe Gramps really does enjoy the be-dazzled western shirts you’ve been giving him for the last six years. That doesn’t mean your brother, your boyfriend and your mailman will too. Know the basic likes and dislikes of the folks you gift. Often, people tend to give gifts that they would like instead of thinking about the person on the receiving end.

To help you get ideas, keep a gift journal and write down things you notice about your friends and family, as well as whether or not certain gifts went over well. For example: Jerry hoovers down anything with chocolate in it; Bertha doesn’t display the popsicle-stick mobiles I made her in her house,etc. This can be tricky if you’re not specific. For example, your friend may keep mentioning that she doesn’t know how to cook for one which may mean she would like a box of recipes filled with one-serving meal ideas…but it may also mean she’s depressed about living alone and doesn’t want to be reminded of the fact that the hosts of Dancing with the Stars are her only dinner companions. This would be when it comes in handy to have written down that she also enjoys driftwood carvings and the musical stylings of the late Luther Vandross.

2. Secret Closet, That’s What You Are AKA It’s OK to Have Standbys

I personally feel that it is acceptable to have a stash of standby gifts that would be suitable for several different people. No matter how diligent we are at writing birthdays down or how much thought we intended to put into the office gift exchange, sometimes we forget to get the gift. Or sometimes we do something really crappy to someone and need a last-minute Sorry Dude gift. Or sometimes we’re invited to a dinner party last minute because we weren’t on the first draft of the guest list (just a hypothetical…). In these extreme cases, it can be helpful to have some old faithfuls tucked away.

3. Stash it, Keep it, Get it, Bop it AKA Save Your Crap

Roommate/marital strife though it may cause, you should save it, whatever it is. I sincerely believe it will come in handy one day. I always have on hand a variety of scrap fabric, lots of good paper, yarn, and other veritable knick-knacks that I pick up along the way. When I am at a thrift store or a rummage sale and something speaks to me, I will usually buy it because a.) It’s fifty cents. and b.) I just know in my heart of crafty hearts I can find a good home for it.

I kept a package of sticky notes with a picture of a bow tie on them and the words “This is a Formal Order” for five years and four moves before stumbling across them when I was making a fancy dinner party kit for one of my sisters and discovering they would make a perfect addition. Now, if I hadn’t picked those sticky notes out of some dirty free box in Lord Knows Where, Michigan, my sister wouldn’t have had any way of communicating to her husband that her request for him to take the trash out before her dinner party was a “formal order”. And how would that have looked, really?

Also keep in mind that the things you saved don’t necessarily have to be used for their original intention. The XXL dress you bought because the print was too pretty to pass up can be cut up and made into purses, or a great skirt, or a shower curtain, our Sumo shorts. You can unravel a sweater and use the yarn to make scarves; use that one awesome boot you got as a planter instead of waiting for fate to drop it’s partner on your doorstep or use a clip-on earring for a broach to clip onto a shawl. So before you pass that plastic actual-size golden retriever statue up, think of it’s hidden potential- huge piggy bank? Garden decoration? Quiet companion?

If you’d rather not die alone because your phone was pinned under a tin filled with “fancy buttons” and no one could hear you screaming through the stacked boxes of fabric pom-poms, I suggest restricting some sort of area in your home for your thrift stash. Organizing things will make it easier to find the amazing things you’ve brought home, plus the bonus of not being known around the neighborhood as Scary Keeps Everything Lady.

4. This Place Smells Like Grandma’s AKA Serious Thrifting

I hope that by this point you’ve realized that I am a strong advocate for the used goods. But you don’t have to wait for the spring rummage sales to start testing your thrift skills. Besides your local Salvation Army, case your area for resale shops, thrift shops, estate sales, and antique festivals. People pitch the best stuff, especially rich people so consider a day trip to Swanksville sometime to case there resale stores. Also, keep your eye out for Amnesty Day, when people put stuff they don’t want anymore in their yard and you are free to take it. Most of the items I own that I love the most and am complemented on the most are secondhand:

-vintage turquoise typewriter (free, Mom’s garage)

-various encyclopedias with awesome collage potential (no more than .50/piece at rummage sales)

– my beautiful velvet couch that I wouldn’t have got the chance to buy if I hadn’t called the folks having the rummage sale and asked if I could come over the night before ($100, rummage sale preview)

-vintage purse with embroidered strawberries on it (free, friend giveaway)

-dead woman’s book of handwritten family recipes ($1.00 resale shop)

-dresses and fabric galore (usually under $8.00 at various thrift stores, Salvation Army’s, Grandma’s house)

You can also thrift among your friends and family. Let people know you’re up for taking crap off of their hands. Ask your friends if you can look through the clothes they’re planning on giving away before they haul them off; tell Mom to let you know when she’s ready to give away her awesome popcorn bowl; check the Free Stuff section on craigslist.com and other web sites when you’re bored at work. If you’re careful not to cross the straight-up mooch line ,you might be surprised how much you can get just by putting word out that you’re looking.

5. You Suck At That AKA Know Your Skill Level

You are fully aware that your best friend’s birthday is a month and a half away. You may even have a plan for what you’re going to make. But the crafter is often plagued with big idea gifts that they don’t actually have the tools and/or skills to complete. Know what you can do and the time it will take for you to do it. It’s tempting to walk around a craft show shouting, “I can make that!”; but take it from someone who thought it would be a good idea to cut the arms off of her favorite t-shirt to “see how sleeves were made”, you probably can’t.

There are plenty of gifts to make for every level of craft skill. Stay in your league. Learning new crafts is great but don’t try and figure out carpentry the week before you want to make a bench for Mom and Dad’s anniversary. You cannot create a replica of the designer dress your cousin was bummed she couldn’t afford when you get frustrated hemming your pants. You cannot make homemade meringue anything without a hand-mixer and prior baking experience. Shred the treehouse blueprints and spend your time making something you know you can do well.


3 Responses to “Special Delivery! Book Excerpt: Thrifty Gifting”

  1. Mary March 4, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    Don’t forget cool Librarian friends as readers! 🙂

    • anniee March 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

      Yes, of course! I can’t forget my librarian audience!


  1. Thriftfulness Turns 2!!! « Thriftfulness - April 14, 2011

    […] miss it’s partner, Thrifty Giving from February […]

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