It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Even though it’s only November 3rd, it actually is looking a lot like Christmas, and has been for a couple months now in some cases. That is if you have gone into a department store or even Home Depot.

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I started thinking about Christmas back in August actually and had my list for everyone written before I went back to school at the end of the month. Even though I haven’t made much progress on the list yet, it does save me time having it all there ready to go.

I made my list in Evernote. So I have a list of everyone’s name, then next to their name is the gift, the link(s) to the tutorial or product and then links to things like fabric choices, etc.

When it comes to choosing gifts for everyone, well it can be a bit complicated and stressful even. A few years back it wasn’t so bad because all I had was my small family and usually a few friends. But then came the addition of Tommy and all of his family. Now I end up doing gifts for 20+ people.

Although Tommy splits the cost of everything with me, I usually do most of the actually making. Yup, I make about 90% of my gifts. I have no choice now actually, because when I caught the whole crafting and sewing bug a few years back, I made homemade gifts for everyone. Now everyone can’t wait to see what things I made, so it only means I have to up the anity every year.

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I’m all about not supporting the economy at Christmas. So anti-American I know, especially in this economic crisis and all, but I really could care less. The only people you will find me supporting at Christmas are natural toy makers, Etsy vendors, and JoAnn Fabrics and Fabric.com, only because I need fabric to make stuff. Really it’s more or less that I get tired of all the commercialism and materialism that tends to surround Christmas.

As a result, I’ve come up with a few rules that I follow when choosing gifts for people, not only at Christmas, but anytime of the year.

  • It needs to be useful and practical. Have you ever gotten a gift from someone and you can tell that they just kind of got it for you because they didn’t know what else to get you? I know I have, and personally, I rather have someone just tell me that they couldn’t find something for me than spend money on a silly trinket. As nice as the statue of the dolphin may be, all it’s going to do is collect dust folks, so let’s move along y’all.
  • It must be made of natural materials, may not contain plastic, or require batteries. This a rule that I follow mostly for the kids, but I try to follow it when choosing adult gifts also. I’m not a fan of plastic in general, and much prefer the nicer look of natural fibers or wood, plus I never have to worry about a baby brother chewing on a BPA, lead painted toy. Anything that requires batteries drives me nuts, so forget it. No one needs a toy that looks like a computer and “teaches” your child the ABC’s. It’s called buy a wooden alphabet puzzle and sing the ABC’s!
  • It must serve an educational purpose and be open ended. Again, this a more of a children’s gift type rule. Being a teacher and all, of course I’m all about educational stuff, but it’s not just because of that. I find that kids these days lack an imagination in a major way, which I believe strongly is a result of the fact that so many kids are not required to use their imagination when they play. My niece received a doll house this year for her birthday, and the darn thing had a million sound effects to go with it (and required batteries). What happened to having to make the doorbell and toilet flushing sounds yourself? Open ended simply means that it does not have one set purpose. When combined it can become many different things and serve many purposes. Playsilks are one of my favorite examples of an open ended toy. If all else fails and I can’t think of something appropriate, a book is always a good choice and one of my favorite gifts to give!
  • It should be handmade by me, or someone else, whenever possible. This is why I’m a huge Etsy fan! Not only are these vendors extremely talented and creative, they are also wonderful to work with, make high quality stuff, and I love supporting a small business owner. I also love to make things myself, so if it’s something I can make, even better!
  • When all else fails, make a donation to a charity in their honor. Don’t you think that someone would much rather you donate the $10, than spend it on that dolphin statue? I know I would, and I’ll be highlighting some ways to donate later.

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Now yes, I do break my own rules sometimes, but I try to meet most all of them whenever I can. And by no means am I saying that you should follow these also. But I have found that I have spent significantly less when I started following these rules. Tom and my combined budget has been about $300 the past two years and I have come in way under each year (this is buying for 20+ people and has included the 3 birthdays that fall in December remember).  Plus, I have found that I am more excited to give my gift each year because I have put so much thought and time into them.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be highlighting some gift ideas that fall into my rules posted above. Many of them will be things that you can make, and if you have a bit of a fabric stash already like I do, it means you may not spend anything on a gift for someone! Talk about a budget saver (I’ll all about saving money, can you tell?).

After all Christmas is coming, and will be here before you know it!

And if you have a goose, it’s getting fat too!

*Pictures taken on 34th Street in Baltimore.

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