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Third Annual 10 Day Give Starts Friday

September 30, 2010 · Filed Under Giving · 9 Comments 

Friday is the first day of October but it is also the first day of the “10 Day Give.”  If you are not familiar with it, the 10 Day Give is a challenge conceived by Bob over at ChristianPF.com.  Its purpose is summed up succinctly as a way to “get our minds off of ourselves and start thinking about how we can help others.”

If you read the title of the post, you know that this is the third annual 10 Day Give…so if you haven’t done it before, this is the year!  And if you have participated previously, keep the momentum going!  I was a bystander the first year but did participate last year…only I didn’t do a great job of actually helping others.  I didn’t “actively participate” all 10 days so this year I’m trying to do a better job.

So, I guess I will say that this post serves as my challenge to you (and even more so to me) to participate in this year’s event.  So what does that all mean? Well, head on over to the 10 day give site to get more info and sign up but it’s pretty much what you already think it is.  For 10 days starting October 1st, try to give something to someone each day (that’s it?  yep, that’s it…pretty simple).  It could be money but it doesn’t have to be.  It could be a gift but it doesn’t have to be.  Sure, you could buy someone a coffee or lunch but you could also give someone a gift for no reason or do something for someone or spend your time with someone.  Get creative…get inspired…get motivated…and get going (No, actually, wait until Friday…just kidding).

First stop: head over to ChristianPF and find out more information about the 10 Day Give and add your name to the list of participants.

PS: Most of this post was actually written to inspire and motivate myself…but if inspires and motivates anyone else then all the better!

Some Cost-Savings Tips for Christmas Gifts

December 9, 2008 · Filed Under Frugality · 3 Comments 

Everybody likes getting gifts, and most people like giving them as well (c’mon, admit it, don’t you love it when you have that perfect gift for someone…for me, it doesn’t happen too often but when I have that awesome gift, I’m practically more excited for them to open it then they are!)  Of course, buying gifts for the people you care about takes time and money, both of which are finite resources.  The best way to allocate your time is to get started Christmas shopping early.  Funny, starting early the best way to get good gifts without spending a ton of money as well…but it’s way too late for that now!  A good way to have the money for your Christmas gifts is to set a budget and save up for it throughout the year (but it’s way too late for that now too!)  Ok, so maybe you didn’t do that this year (we did…sorta – we started saving in September after paying off my wife’s student loans).  If you did not, make sure you set it up for next year (heck, go ahead and do it now even if you don’t schedule your automatic transfers to start until January or February).

Now, if you don’t have a big stash of cash saved up for gifts, I’d like to suggest some ways to show you  care for your friends and family without going into debt.

1. Do a Gift Exchange

Instead of everyone in your family buying for everyone else, pick names and have each person buy gift(s) for only one other person.  We’ve done this on my wife’s side of the family for a few years and I think it really works out well.  Instead of having to stress over the time, effort, and money to buy everyone gifts, you can focus your time and money on getting a really good gift for one person.  As a result, each person gets some good gifts and everyone saves money.

2. Make a game out of it

On my side of the family, we’ve done a "gift game" for a number of years.  The basic idea is that each person brings a gift to put into the game (when we do it, each family contributes three gifts).  There are variations to how it is played, of course.  My mom usually hands out a number of little slips of paper with different numbers on them and then draws numbers from a hat (bingo style!).  When your number is called, you can pick a gift from the pile or take one from someone else.  When you are out of numbers, the gift you have is the one you keep.  It is not as personal as doing a gift exchange, but it is a way to save money and have a little fun.

3. Do an ornament exchange or card exchange or <insert item here> exchange

Instead of gifts, decide beforehand that everyone will be exchanging some item like ornaments.  You can then try to find some meaningful ornaments for each other.  Everyone saves some money while at the same time getting a gift that adds to their Christmas decorations.  Maybe the ornament idea wouldn’t work very well if you have a uniformly decorated like my parents.  (My parents literally took home the display model tree with the lights and ornaments already on it – man, talk about convenience setting it up each year!).  If not, try to get each other some really cool Christmas cards.  You should be able to get some really fancy cards without spending as much money as on small gifts.

3b. A Photo-Exchange

My wife’s family also does a photo exchange with their extended family (My wife’s maternal aunts, uncles, and cousins).  Someone agrees to be the point-person and buys (and maybe decorates) small albums that are provided to each family.  We typically get the really inexpensive albums where you just slide the pictures into the plastic sleeves.  Everyone then sends out a picture of each person in his/her immediate family to everyone else in the family.  I think this is a really neat and inexpensive way to keep up to date with the extended family.  We’ve done it for a few years now and it is fun to look back at some of the earliest pictures.  (As a side note, my 19-month old loves grabbing the albums and sitting down on her little chair and paging through them.  It is hilarious to see even though, as you might imagine, she has destroyed most of the albums).

4. Create Homemade gifts

A great way to give unique, useful and/or enjoyable gifts that show people you care about them without spending a ton of money is to create your gifts.  Food is always a good bet: create a pancake mix kit, roast up some almonds, bake some cookies (always a big hit), cupcakes, or brownies, make some buckeyes (yummy – if you don’t know what a buckeye is, you gotta find out – I was turned on to them by my wife when we first started dating.  She’s from Ohio, so I’m sure they’re called something else in other parts of the country/world). 

You’re only limited by your imagination here.  Be creative and make it fun – you’ll save money while simultaneously creating an out-of-the-ordinary gift. This can be extend to all kinds of areas beyond just food.  Create small gift baskets of lotions, bath salts  (not sure what that is…my wife gave me the suggestion), etc.  Create a small personalized picture album.  Buy a plain photo frame and paint it or decorate it.  Again, the options are endless!

5. Save on shipping

I like buying gifts even though I don’t like spending lots and lots of money.  I do, however, get really annoyed at having to pay exorbitant shipping fees to get the gifts to out of town friends/relatives.  (I’m spending almost as much on shipping as I did on the gift – what a waste!)  So, if you do end up buying gifts for people out of town, here are some tips for saving money on shipping.

Take advantage of free shipping offers

Obviously, there are numerous retailers that will provide free shipping on certain orders.  This is a great place to start…but don’t get carried away.  Remember that the point of this exercise is to save money…it doesn’t help to get free shipping if you have to buy more than you wanted to or if the cost of the item is more expensive than getting it somewhere else even if you do have to pay shipping.  Check out sites like FreeShipping.org to see the different retailers that offer free shipping deals.  ChristianPF provides some other tips on saving money while doing your Christmas shopping .

Shop and ship early to avoid crazy shipping costs

Another obvious way to save money is to shop early and use lower cost shipping options.  So, that means, get out there and get your shopping done…today!  It is getting late, but you still have some time, depending on where you are shipping, to ship your packages at lower rates.  If you wait too long, you will be shocked by how expensive it will be to ship your packages 2-day air of (gasp!) overnight!

How about a gift-buying exchange

Instead of buying presents and shipping them to a friend while he/she buys gifts and ships them to your family, try a gift-buying exchange.  Decide what you want to get for your friend’s family while he/she (he/she is so onerous….let’s just pick "she" for this section) decides what to get for yours.  Then exchange lists and you do her shopping and wrapping while she does yours.  My wife has done this a bit in her family and it certainly saves on shipping.  If you choose to do this, be considerate.  Don’t just tell them to "buy something nice."  Instead, tell them exactly what you want to buy and where to find it.  Of course, it isn’t much fun to say, "go buy yourself a new sweater."  So, still shop and ship your friend’s gift but exchanging the purchasing for everyone else in your respective families should save a bunch of money in shipping costs.

6. Skip the gifts and apply the money to a reunion later in the year

For those families that can’t be together but would like to be together, you could try skipping the gifts (or cutting down on them) and agreeing to save that money to create a vacation where you can get together later in the year.  Maybe not as fun at Christmas time…but I’m sure that a vacation together would be even more fun that opening some gifts from far-off friends at Christmas.  Memories make really good gifts.

Hopefully this post has provided some good ideas or inspired you to create your own.  If you have some great ideas, please share with us!

Here are some more tips on this topic from ChristianPF and BibleMoneyMatters and some tips for being prepared for next year from Gather Little By Little .

Photo Credits: futureshape and Pink Sherbet Photography
and jlz

A Twist on the Traditional Christmas Present

December 5, 2008 · Filed Under Random · 3 Comments 

This is such a busy and hectic time of the year as we prepare to wrap up 2008.  In the midst of the Christmas season, there are so many things going on.  One of the more time-consuming (and money-consuming) tasks is, of course, gift shopping. Since our young kids started preschool a few years back, their teachers have been added to our list of people for whom we’re buying gifts.

Giving homemade gifts

In the past, we’ve tried making our own gifts for them to make them a bit more personal and to keep the cost down.  One year, for instance, my wife found a great recipe for wholegrain pancakes.  She then bought some decorative glass containers and layered the ingredients in them and attached a copy of the recipe.  I thought it was a pretty neat idea and it was a little more personal than buying a trinket plus it was less expensive.  The trade-off, of course, was that it took much more time to prepare.

Who doesn’t want to get a goat for Christmas?

For the last few years, we’ve taken an entirely different approach for these gifts.  We have started buying more "useful" gifts for them like goats, chickens, sheep, blankets, etc (You should see the look on their faces when they see the goat!).  Ok, so obviously we don’t actually give any of the animals to the teachers.  We purchase them in the teachers’ names to be given to needy people in various parts of the world.  The organizations provide gift cards to give to the recipients that inform them a bit about the organization and what was purchased in their name and what benefits it will provide.

There are a number of organizations that utilize these "gift catalogs" to make giving donations more real and tangible.  For the past few years, we have been buying these gifts through World Vision’s Christmas gift catalog .  We have sponsored a child through World Vision for a number of years, so it was natural for us to buy these gifts through them.  Gospel for Asia also produces a gift catalog with the same idea in mind.

Do you think your teacher would like a water buffalo?

We usually allow the kids to pick out what they want to give each of their teachers so it’s a little bit of fun for them too. I actually find it quite interesting to see what they pick ("And why do you want to get a llama in Mrs. X’s name?").  There are other gift options as well.  Beyond animals, for instance, World Vision has categories for food, shelter, HIV prevention and AIDS care, health care, education, and others.

Of course, these gifts are much, much more expensive than creating homemade gifts or even giving "normal" gifts.  So, though these take a lot less time to purchase, you will probable end up spending more money.  We feel it is worth the extra money for a few reasons, however.  I really feel that it is a more meaningful gift for the recipients. In fact, we have gotten very good feedback from all of the teachers to which we’ve given such gifts.  Maybe I am being naive, but how many mugs does a teacher need to get each year?

What other gift can do as much good for someone who needs it?

Also, I believe this is certainly one of the most useful gifts you can give. You are directly impacting a family’s life somewhere in the world by providing the ability for someone to feed his/her family and earn some money for other expenses and also, if you use one of the Christian organizations, to hear about the gospel and the love of Jesus Christ.  They also open up your children’s eyes to the great need that exists in our world and ways that they can start being generous to others.

So, yes, these gifts are more expensive.  At the same time, I do feel that they are great gifts to give in honor of someone.  They are meaningful and beneficial for a number of reasons.  I encourage you to take a look at the catalogs and to read about the impact these organizations have on the lives of people in need around the world.

Photo Credits: RBerteig

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