by Emma Chow

Around this time of year people go shopping mad, filling up the car parks of shopping centers, flooding city strip malls and dropping huge amounts of cash on gifts for everyone from their best and beloved, to the man who reads the water meter. Or maybe you’re like me and you order everything online, and so spend the next month staring out the window waiting for the postal delivery guy to arrive with the inevitable fewer boxes than you were expecting. I’m not going to bore you with the alleged story of the origination of Christmas, nor will I try to sell you the now Coca Cola owned version of Santa bearing a mystical abundance of perfect gifts for one and all, despite the fact that his apparent workshop at the North Pole makes only toys. But Christmas doesn’t have to be about mountains of stuff, money being spent, and people outdoing one another on attempts at gift perfection. This year could be the first year that you make Christmas about giving from the heart, not necessarily the hip pocket or even make some great changes out there in the world. Here are ten top alternatives to buying presents.Home made food gifts:

1. Home Made Food Gifts

Ah, you knew that was going to be our number one answer, didn’t you? MamaBakers do so love to cook, and our recipe archive is full of recipes that would make great little gifts for loved ones, straight from your own kitchen. Home-made food gifts are wonderful because you can make them exactly to dietary requirements, they are preservative free, they are made with love (or at least some “like”), it’s much cheaper than store bought fancy food gifts, you can package and label them creatively and with a personal touch. Read this article here for 5 recipes that make fantastic food gifts.

2. Crafted Gifts:

Are you craft and creative? A dab hand at crochet, knitting, cross-stitch, weaving, wood carving, carpentry, jewellery making, pottery, sewing or some other awesome hand crafted eendeavour A home made gift is a beautiful and very desirable thing to receive. A home made apron, or a little hand-bound cookbook of favourite recipes, a hand knitted scarf, or an end table made from reclaimed wood? I could go on. My partner is on the list of grandchildren still waiting for their first hand-made quilts from his paternal grandmother. I think the day we get it, I will most certainly cry. Hand-made speaks buckets of love.

3. Give something of your own:

This is a bit of an old fashioned one, and something that can be particularly poignant for children. Instead of going out and buying something new, look at what you have; beautiful things that have meaning or something useful that someone else is going to enjoy much more than you will can be the best gift of all. You could part with a much loved piece of jjewellery- whether precious or costume – and pass it down to a daughter, daughter-in-law, niece, grand-daughter. A book read more times than you can count which has brought you a lot of joy, could be a great gift for a close friend who could benefit from the story. The list goes on.

4. Save for a Family Holiday:

We recently spent a happy two nights in Meetung, Victoria with my partner’s extended paternal side of his family, 16 of us altogether. We rented 4 small houses in a resort by the lake and had a good time taking walks, swimming, eating out and generally enjoying each other’s company. By pooling your resources and not spending on presents, together a family can afford to hire a house or a few cabins in a lovely seaside or country location and enjoy a holiday together, or even afford tickets to go overseas.

5. Buy something you all really need:

Did I tell you the story about when our 2 indoor bunnies managed to get behind the TV cabinet and chewed to bits the cables for the DVD player and stereo (but oddly not the 10 year old gigantic old TV)? For Christmas this year, our little family bought ourselves an early present of a new flat-screen LCD digital TV and a PlayStation that services as video game console, DVD player. Considering the entire package cost several hundred dollars, we explained to the children that this would be our family Christmas present to ourselves, but that they would both receive some small things on Christmas Day. Namely books.

6. Donate money:

Charities such as The Smith Family have Christmas appeals running at the moment. By donating money to such charities rather than spending it on unnecessary things, you could really help families in need, particularly in a time of year when desperation can be at it’s highest.

7. Buy from a catalogue of donate-able gifts for third world communities:

Awesome charities like UNICEF and OXFAM do “Charity Gifts” which give you a more concrete idea of what your money will bring to these communities. Currently OXFAM have things like $98 for clean water for a school in South Africa, $150 for a Donkey or $35 to provide support to a mother with HIV and her unborn child. UNICEF have things like $47 for 10 Mosquito Nets to protect children in Africa or $75 for 90 sachets of emergency milk for infants. These packages also often come with cards that are sent to your home address or to a loved one’s address, which explain what the donation will be used for

8. Sponsor a child:

World Vision, UNICEF, Save the Children, The Smith Family and other notable charities run programs where for about $20-$40 per month, you assist a child in a 3rd world country and their community. With some of these charities you are provided background information about the child you have sponsored and receive some correspondence from them so you can see how your money is helping them achieve a better life. This can be a great way to teach children to really appreciate what they have in the world, and that the cost of a toy that may not last the month, can actually have a huge positive impact in someone else’s life.

9. “Adopt” a wild animal:

Organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund have symbolic species adoption programs where your donation of $55 or more can purchase an adoption package that includes a plush doll of an endangered species of your choice, adoption certificate, photos and things like that. So much better than just buying a stuffed toy and leaving it at that. A great way to engage children in understanding how endangerment and extinction work.

10. Rescue a pet from the RSPCA:

This one requires a lot more thought and consideration, but can result in reward and enrichment for your whole family, and the animal. Remember that when you get a pet, it is your responsibility for it’s whole life, not just for Christmas. Failure to realise the full responsibility of owning a pet is how a lot of the animals ended up at the RSPCA or other rescue centres. But if your family is looking to get a pet, please adopt from one of these places rather than sustaining the business of backyard breeders and pet shops. Many animals need a loving home and as a Christmas present to your family, to be loved and enjoyed for many years to come, you could provide a better life for an animal and teach your children the meaning of being responsible for the care of someone other than themselves.

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