Secretly I love Christian, commercial Christmas. Sure, some people are jerks, but I legitimately see that most people are happy and excited for almost a whole month, and as an empath that always rubs off on me whether I intend it to or not. Then factor in the part that Yule, one of my favorite sabbats, plays and sprinkle in extra time with my favorite people with "regular" jobs since suddenly they have flexible schedules and time to goof off on my schedule and I am a very happy little queer through much of December. One frequent problem that I KNOW most of my readers share with me though is when I sit down to make my "who to buy for" list and cross reference it with my budget what usually follows is a few days of internal screaming, invasive thoughts equating my worth as a friend/partner/daughter to that of my bank account and the sudden desire to take out ten new credit lines. So in lieu of a Gift guide addled with specific products and companies, here's a "how to gift" guide for those of us living more modestly. Please feel free to submit your own tips and tricks on how you successfully do gift-giving occasions on a dime (or less).
Nurture that Nostalgia
Regardless of your own age, you probably have some people on your "nice" list that have fond memories of Mix CD's, collages commemorating special events, framed photos, and scrapbooks. Use any combination of those things I mentioned, and you've created a highly personal, extra wallet-sparing gift. Your mom/grandma/etc. would especially love a scrapbook, and I promise your new girlfriend will be super endeared to an old school mix CD with her current favorite love jams and yours cohabitating. Another way to hit that nostalgia button (which almost always wins the gift-giving, let's be honest) with minimal (but some) expense is to hit up thrift stores specifically looking for vintage band, movie, or comic book t-shirts, out-of-print board games in decent condition, or the absolute silliest first run Lisa Frank figures you can find. One of my sisters does something like this for me on years we decide to exchange gifts, and I am the proud owner of a Taylor Hanson biography and Ask Zandar board game, and frequently point them out to guests.
Gift Cards, Coupons, and BOGOs.
I know what you're thinking--gift cards are a TERRIBLE gift to give when you're broke. I'm not suggesting you buy gift cards, I promise. However, you're probably sitting on a few that you've received that you're not into or just haven't used for yourself, not to mention all the coupons and BOGOs sitting in the "promotions" tab on your inbox right now. You can definitely use those to stock up for the holidays instead of pushing yourself to eat food you're not into or buy crap you don't need. If it's a restaurant, offer to take someone to dinner on you. Most other places, even coffee shops, have stuff you can buy if you really want them to have something under the tree from you. Bonus: use the odd amount left to snag something small for yourself after all. Self-care is important around the holidays.
Use Your Skills
I'm not above gifting someone I know walks on the witchy or weird side a half hour reading, or an hour if I really love them. Or tickets to shows I produce or have an "in" at. They were probably going to buy them anyway, so you're saving them cash and giving them a unique experience they're not going to get elsewhere. I actually use this one sparingly--only for people I know will be absolutely thrilled by it and need the hour to focus on themselves. Maybe you don't have anything that tangible to offer, but a handmade card with a note that your gift is driving your burned out mom friend's kids around one weekend a month for the next three months, or that you'll deep clean your chronic pain-ridden friend's apartment are still incredibly generous, super well-loved gifts.
We aren't all crafting mavericks (though if you are, what are you doing here? You've got this holiday on lock!), but in a world of Pinterest almost anyone can make the moistest brownies ever or put together an essential oil blend of one of your sibling's very favorite scents.
I know on the surface this seems more expensive, but local businesses usually offer sales throughout most of December, not just on certain days. If you scour, you will find really marvelous gifts for big box store prices. However, going even smaller is a surefire way to hit the nail on the head every time. Head out to as many craft/art fairs as you can squeeze in. Someone always has a sale or hand made merch they're trying to sell out before the end of the year. I once found a saint candle of Wednesday Addams for $8. I bought it for me, so this isn't the best example, but it does illustrate my point. Search Etsy for good deals and those having sales, or Ebay for stuff that's still in print and in stock. It only gets pricey for out of print things or big "must have this season" gifts.
...AND Don't Stress About Holiday Parties & Potlucks
I usually end up with a couple odd bottles of alcohol I'm not crazy about, and while I would never show up with a third of a bottle of mediocre liquor, what I LOVE to do is pour that mediocre liquor into a really yummy juice (or three and maybe some ginger ale) I either made myself or got on sale and make a unique cocktail for the event. I also strongly recommend big batch cooking. For example, stuffed shells, vegan, vegetarian, or not, are surprisingly simple to make if you don't mind the time involved. I'm very likely to sit down and make several casserole dishes full at once, since the time spent isn't that much more, and freeze any that I'm not going to use immediately. Just reheat them before the appropriate event and go! This works great for soup and homemade bread (which are much easier to make than people think) too. And remember, if even that's beyond your capability, there's no shame in being the grocery store chips and salsa bringer, because you know what exhausted, drunk holiday party-goers love? Grocery store chips and salsa. I know. I often am that party-goer. You can also, like in the stock photo below, get a standard amount of food and make individual cups--it looks much more personal and time consuming, and it's not a ton of energy or effort.
These are some of the ways I survive the holiday season with my generous spirit and dignity in tact. Essentially it comes down to creativity and heart, two things I know most of you have in spades. So get thinking and feeling, dig through that promotions tab or that weird section of your wallet, and you'll know exactly what to do.
Blessed be, and though I'll talk to you soon, happy holidays to you and yours.