College Connect: ‘Tis the season of exchanging gifts

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The winter holidays are supposed to be a time of giving thanks and celebrating the company of family and friends. I always get a little stressed out, though, at the thought of exchanging gifts. When I was younger, my parents would give my three sisters and I some cash, drop us off at the local mall and we’d spend the day in alternating pairs, buying gifts for the family.

Since I’ve become financially independent, my budget is a little tighter, and I get an icky feeling in the pit of my stomach when I know I’m just buying presents for someone to maintain the status quo.

I’ve spent the past few years practicing giving alternative gifts: nonmaterial items or things that tend to be homemade and more heartfelt. Here are some of the best budget-friendly gift ideas I’ve seen:

  • + Give an experience. Instead of buying something for someone, give them an experience, or really, a wonderful memory. Maybe you plan a picnic or do a sport together. The important part is to do all of the planning in advance so the gift-receiver doesn’t have to worry about a thing. You can also look on Groupon or Living Social for discounts on local activities for couples.
  • + Use your skills. Think about what you might be able to create for someone based on the skills or resources you already have. For my partner’s graduation, I offered to design him custom graduation announcements as a gift because I love to design and already have the necessary software. I made the announcement cards with some input from him, and I bought matching envelopes for a cost of mostly just my time.

I’m also an experienced knitter, so I’ve been known to whip up hats or sweaters with leftover yarn in my stash for quick, easy gifts to give loved ones. If you’re the crafty type, try looking at websites like Etsy or Pintrest for inspiration.

  • + Regift. This idea might seem like a no-go at first, but not all secondhand gifts are ugly table clothes and disowned garden gnomes. Of course, make sure you never give a gift to the person to gave it to you. I find items such as books or unused home good make good regifting candidates. If you’re giving a book, it would be a nice touch to write an inscription on the inside. Add a personal touch, and don’t regift just because you’re feeling lazy. Make sure it’s something the receiver would love to have, like old costume jewelry for a child.

Alexandria Baca is a graduate student studying journalism at the University of Missouri.

SABEW - Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication,
Arizona State University

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