Just in Time For the Holidays…

Mrs. B here, and let me just start off by saying, I LOVE giving presents. I love figuring out what my friends and families might enjoy, making or finding the item(s), and then more importantly, watching their faces when they open said gift. I sometimes can’t even contain myself when I have the gift in my possession – sometimes giving hints to my giftee about what they are about to receive. I don’t know if it’s the thrill of the hunt, or the genuine look of gratefulness that I enjoy, but whatever it is, any holiday in which a present is expected (even if it’s not one we personally celebrate), I adore!

So, you might be asking yourself, how does one stay on track for early retirement AND still give away tons of gifts? In my case, it requires a combination of forethought, personal skill/craft and of course thriftiness in either situation. Let’s begin with the forethought portion of this gifting dilemma.

Now some people on the FI journey believe in minimalism, and that’s great. It’s just not how me and Mr. B prefer to live. I like stuff. Lots of it. And that’s fine as long as its always kept neat and organized and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. In an upstairs guest bedroom exists a special space in our house known as the “gift closet.” While this magical space may sound strange to you, it’s something my mother has always done, and it’s pretty darn ingenious if you have the room…

Here’s how it works…The “gift closet” is a filled with items that might come in handy somewhere down the line when I need a present in a pinch. That includes hostess gifts, housewarming presents, children’s holiday/birthday gifts, engagement or baby shower presents, etc. I accumulate these goodies over time by going to garage and tag sales, and looking for brand new items (in the original box or with the tags still on it) that might be useful as a gift. Other times, when big chains like Target or Walmart are trying to move seasonal items at the end of their peak, they put things on super clearance and I buy them up for a fraction of the cost for use the following year. In some instances, I find new items being discarded on the side of the road and those too, if appropriate, go into the gift closet. Here are a few items in the gift closet currently:

  • glass/ceramic platters which are great as hostess gifts. I simply add a homemade dessert or store bought doughnut holes and wrap it in cellophane for a nice presentation;
  • event specific picture frames (like wedding bells, baby blocks, etc.). which are perfect for when we CAN’T attend an bridal or baby shower and still want to give a token gift;
  • wine glasses, which I like for housewarming parties – I use acid etching cream and monogram the new homeowner’s initials on it (more on this in the next section).
  • “Our Family Tree,” which is a beautiful leather bound book I found on clearance at Barnes & Noble for $3.50/piece. I bought 5 of them and when I want an add on wedding gift or we can’t attend, I have the recipient’s information on the inside cover filled in by a calligrapher. The book, which can be purchased at Walmart by clicking here, is still a steal at $7.57;
  • small trinkets like candles, hand mirrors, etc.; and of course
  • children’s books, boxed toys, baby clothes, and stickers (which I also often use for rewards with our toddler).

When the “gift closet” just doesn’t have what I need, I use personal ingenuity and my ability to create as the best form of gift giving. I consider myself quite crafty and during the holidays, I like to challenge my talents in the search of unique gifts. In recent years, some of the projects I’ve taken on included knitting scarves, sewing a travel jewelry case for a girlfriend who loves baubles, acid-etching glassware and pyrex, upcycling vintage jewelry into new beaded necklaces, etc. I also have a group of friends that do a cookie swap during the holidays and if you are a great baker (I’m just eh), that is another perfect example of gift creating as opposed to gift purchasing. Here are a few photos of my final products:

(To make these necklaces, I used vintage brooches as the centerpieces and reclaimed glass beads that I restrung in rows of three)

(For this project, I traced a saying – in this case, Grammy’s Kitchen – onto dollar store contact paper in a lovely foral pattern. Then I cut out the letters with an exacto knife, paint on the acid – I use Armour Etch Acid, available on Amazon – let sit for an hour and then peel/wipe away the remaining acid. And, wellah! you have a permanently etched piece of glass or pyrex!) As I mentioned above, I’ve also done with with wine glasses and monograms/initials.  

(Here is a photo of my zebra knitted scarf, and sewn travel jewelry case made from vintage barkcloth that I always have one hand. For the free jewelry case pattern, click here.)

The internet and YouTube are wonderful in terms of finding free patterns and exacting how-tos for various art projects, and I often re-read and re-watch them a number of times before I attempt a project. Now, that being said, not every project comes out as well as the ones I note above. I’ve had some failed experiments too. But that’s the great thing about creating a gift as opposed to just going out and spending a fortune on designer perfume or forking over a gift card for later use… A giftee will always appreciate the love and time you put into the effort no matter how many imperfecions it has. And, as I mentioned before, seeing the look on my friends and family’s faces when they open my well thought out, and/or well crafted item, makes my heart swell and gets me excited for holidays to come.

Are you crafty or thrifty during the holidays? How do you manage your budget and your holiday shopping list? Feel free to let me know in the comments!



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