Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gift Guide on a Budget :: Local, Fair-Trade, Charity, Homemade, Second-Hand, Events

If you're not bothered at all by how consumerism seems to take one hand as we walk towards Christmas...
um, well, I don't know. But I think you ought to be.

I love Christmas, I do...

But Christmas gifts seem to get me in a peculiar way. It seems like so much of the time, we are desperately searching for an item to give someone and end up giving them something they don't need. Being a budget-minded-college-kid (think - cheap, cheap, cheap), spending money on something you don't feel good about can make Christmas gift shopping a drag, and get your mind in all the wrong places.

But there are seven types of gifts I can support and rely on:
local, fair-trade, homemade, second hand, charity, events, and activity inspiring

That's it.
And that's what my gifts have been this year.

Normally, you think of local or fair-trade items being pricey. You would love to get someone something that supports the right people (your neighbors or the people making the product, not the corporation) but you feel you can get more bang for your buck if you go to stores like Target.

Not so!

Trust me, I am cheap cheap cheap! And I find possibilities in both.

Here's what this looks like for me.


Local, for me, tends to become local artists or gift cards to locally owned restaurants (consumable gifts have their place when accompanied by an experience).

Local music artists are fun to support and have a lot to offer. You can often buy from them directly and its definitely a gift that'll be enjoyed (if you can match the tastes of your recipient).

Have you neglected the local baker down the road? The cafe? Now's your chance to support them. Go grab a gift card, encouraging the recipient to explore this new edible experience.

There's also usually craft fairs set up in all communities. While I love these, I tend to strike out in finding gifts that are functional and match the needs of my family and friends - but still, definitely worth checking out.

Fair Trade

Fair trade. Fair trade.
I hope you know how important it is.

Fair trade means the people who do the work get the money they actually deserve and have earned. It means that the hours a man or woman might spend labouring on the item will help them take care of their family.

Good & Fair
Photo by Patricia Chang.

There's all sorts of fair trade options - but one of my favourites is Ten Thousand Villages. I visit the shop over on Granville Island, Vancouver, BC, but they have an online store too.

Ten Thousand Villages has wonderful items even I can afford. Yes, some are pricey, but you just have to do some looking.

This year I'm giving out a few "Serenity Incense Box Sets" to the folks I know that are into that sort of thing. I bought a set for myself and was really pleased. I love lighting up a stick each day in my room to calm things down.

I'm also a huge fan of the "Star Valences" made in Bangladesh. I've got this hanging in my doorway. It's affordable, fun, and perfect for the right person. They're a lot cuter in person, I promise.

Other things I've gotten from this shop are musical instruments (because you can't go wrong with a musical instrument gift in this family).

Next time you need some of the basics (underwear, etc) - try going to Good & Fair (although, I admit they are a bit pricey - it's worth it). They get their cotton from sources where the workers get to work in a safe facitility, have rights, are paid just wages, and their kids get to go to school for free.


This is where I spend most of my money. I like donating money through organizations like World Concern and Love146 in honour of friends instead of giving the friends a physical gift.

With World Concern I can do things like buy a goat or educate a child, and tell my recipient that that's what's happening as their present. I've never had a negative reaction to this. People tend to be really into this.

If you don't know about Love146 - you need to go there now. If you don't know the facts about modern day slavery, you need to educate yourself now.
- 27 million people are enslaved
- Over 1.2 million children are trafficked annually
- Over 100,000 U.S. children are forcefully engaged in prostitution or pornography each year

Just make sure a charity is legit before giving. There are awesome ones that will use your money for what you intend it for and there are others that pay the bosses big wages.


Simple enough. Sew up a cute apron (my mom rocks at doing that) or a fun skirt  or, if you can, knit up a hat.

Sew together a bag.

Bake some treats.

Take some photographs and print them out. Put together an album for them.


My oh my is this a fun one! I've been gettin' second-hand gifts since I can remember (my grandparents are the King and Queen of Garage Sales!).

Garage-sales and thrift shops are the perfect place to find a gift for super cheap. There's an unlimited supply of gag-gifts and actual useful items that have already been owned. So by buying them, you're not adding to the problem of adding more crap tot he world. You're using the stuff that's already there.

Random CD's, tablecloths, kitchen tools, books...

Anything that makes you think of the person.
Like, I got my brother Hans Brinker on VHS for his 24th birthday. Yes. He liked it.

And when an item is only $0.25, I don't even have to think twice before buying it and throwing it under the tree. If they like it, great! If not, they can pass it on to the next truck in the neighbourhood, put it on Freecycle, or donate it at another thrift shop.


I love the gift of an event.
A meal.
A movie.
A concert.
A museum.
A ferry ride.

Do something and make a memory.
Don't just clutter the shelves.

Activity Inspiring

This is one of my favourites for kids.

These can be as simple as craft supplies, games, and musical instruments.
Kids like gifts.
I like giving gifts that they either create with or share with others.


So that's the basic gist of my Christmas gift shopping this year.

Not too expensive - and the recipients aren't just benefiting at the loss of others.

1 comment:

  1. That's a lovely Christmas tree! And those are some lovely little stuff. Totally digging into those star valences ! : )


Your words make me grin.

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