By Scott Prater
Ah the holidays; a time for celebrating and enjoying the company of friends and family.
Unfortunately for many of us, this holiday season comes in the midst of a stagnant global economy, where prices continue to rise and salaries remain fixed.
“This phenomenon doesn’t have to be unpleasant for folks, however,” said Christina Stump, community readiness consultant and financial counselor at Schriever’s Airman and Family Readiness Center. “Instead, active duty members, spouses and their families can use this time of year as an opportunity to get creative.”
The key to creating personalized gifts is to think about the person receiving the gift and then think outside the box.
Compilation music compact discs, scrapbooks and photo collages are all relatively cheap and can remind a gift recipient of special moments in their lives.
“Personalized gifts can be really inexpensive and be much more meaningful than something you picked up at a store,” she said. “I’ll never forget the year my friend made me a cookbook collection where she drew recipes from all my family and friends and presented it to me in a special package. Granted, it took some time on her part, but it was the highlight of the season for me.”
People with marketable skills can also take advantage of their talents when it comes to providing gifts for family members.
“Say you’re a computer wiz or you’re a spectacular organizer. Maybe a friend or family member can use your services,” Stump said. “It’s as simple as creating a little contract that shows how many hours of service you’ll provide to that person. Tie it up with a pretty bow and slide it under the tree.”
One doesn’t necessarily need to hold a special skill when it comes to gift giving though. Anyone who can mow grass or shovel snow can offer their labor, especially to those who have trouble doing these chores themselves.
“Thinking outside the box can lead to all sorts of clever ideas,” Stump said. “Instead of going out and buying a product someone may not even want or use, think about the things your gift recipient really enjoys, things that may not even need wrapping. Try finding out who their hairstylist or masseuse is and buy them a session.”
Even folks who normally buy gift cards as gifts can get a little creative while supporting their local economy at the same time.
“Many local, mom and pop type shops offer gift cards and many times people can get gifts there that they couldn’t find elsewhere,” Stump said. “Buying from local bakeries and restaurants helps strengthen your community as well and a lot of people realize that.”
Most people have heard the phrase, time is money. Well, in holiday gift giving, putting in the time can save an awful lot of money.
Elena Gresham, a Team Schriever spouse, began making jewelry gifts for her friends and family several years ago after a fateful shopping trip to Manitou Springs.
“I stepped into a creative bead shop, got a short lesson on stringing beads together from the owner and have been making my own jewelry ever since,” she said. “Now, I make jewelry out of metal and inexpensive gemstones. It requires some skill and artistry, but it’s definitely something people can learn.”
She often visits metal recycling shops to find raw material, like copper, and says she can make an attractive necklace and earrings for $4, something people might find for $40 to $50 at a retail store.
For those who prefer to stay on the simple side, Gresham said that people can make attractive pieces with string and the colorful beads available at beading websites and retail stores.
“It’s really easy to get started making jewelry,” Gresham said. “There are a ton of magazines and crafts books available at stores and the library and there are a ton of websites where people can buy materials and watch how-to videos.”
She points out that websites even exist for people who like the look of hand-made items but don’t necessarily like to put the work in to make them.
“Sites like www.etsy.com have tons of jewelry and knitting items that are of similar quality but run cheaper then something you might find at a hand-made store,” she said. “On the other hand, if you like a local craft store you can often find coupons for that store online, so I recommend for people to go to the website first.”
Whatever the preference, it’s important to gain some knowledge about the recipient before giving a personal or practical gift.
Andrea Hernandez, Stump’s colleague at the Schriever A&FRC, happens to like tea, so her friends often make personal “for-you” baskets that include a wide selection of tea for her to try.
“Providing your gift recipients with dry ingredients and a recipe in an attractive cup or jar makes a fun gift as well,” she said. “They can take it home, add an egg or milk, bake the product and then be able to keep the container for their kitchen. It’s really an inexpensive way to provide both an interactive and lasting gift.”
So avoid the craziness at the shopping malls and big box stores, think creatively and save money this holiday season. For more creative holiday gift giving ideas visit or call the A&FRC at 567-3920.