Meaningful gifts on a budget

Making the most of the season means spending less money and more time with family and friends. It’s about savoring the still small moments and creating space to be intentional and thoughtful rather than consuming and spending.

Gift giving this time of year can sometimes be difficult. My heart is much bigger than my wallet. Every family has its own traditions. For our kids we follow the 4 gifts tradition: something they need, something to read, something to wear, something they want. Our extended families draws names for the purchase of a big gift and then we each bring a $1-2 stocking stuffer for everyone. This is helpful for everyone’s budgets and in past years stockings are filled with chocolate, socks, and all other types of fun goodies. This year I felt inspired to create more meaningful gifts while staying in the $1-2 budget per stocking stuffer.

Here are some ideas that require little money, but are thoughtful and personal. I would love to hear what you all do to stay on budget while still giving intentionally.

Blackout poetry 

My sister inspired me with this one. She purchased an old book for $1 from a thrift shop and found some frames for $.25. Create fun, whimsical, thoughtful poetry from a page of a book, frame it, and wrap it up. You can personalize each poem for every person on your list.


Coffee or tea cup with tea and a line a poetry 

Here in the midwest hot drinks and blankets are necessary for making the best of winter. Buy some unique tea cups or mugs (I thrifted mine for $.25-.50) and some of your favorite teas. Fill the mugs with tea bags or looseleaf if that’s your jam then attach a line of poetry or an encouraging note to the handle.


Stamp art 

Slightly similar to blackout poetry, this one requires an old dictionary, stamps, and an ink pad. I found an old Webster’s for $1.50 and bought some stamps on clearance for $2-3. I’m using a bunch of old frames that have been collecting dust and have been handpicking pages with fun words or meaningful words to use.


Coloring pages

Maybe you’re not super crafty or don’t have time to dive into a big project this season. If you have book loving family and friends or friends who love to color, there are shops on Etsy where you can purchase a digital file of coloring pages for $1.50. One of my favorites is Carrot Top Shop. She has characters from Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Austen, and many more classics. Purchase, print, and roll up with some beautiful ribbon and maybe even a few new colored pencils.


Cloth bookmarks

For all those who love sewing and stitching. My mother-in-love finds the softest, highest quality wool sweaters or flannel shirts from thrift shops and creates the most gorgeous bookmarks. If digging through racks in thrift shops isn’t your thing, craft shops have packs of flannel you can purchase for this homemade gift. Plus you can get as creative and personalized with the patterns or pictures you create.


Homemade hot chocolate mix

The best hot chocolate ever is homemade. When I worked at a restaurant in high school I discovered the Hershey’s recipe on the back of a cocoa tin. Mix up a big batch, fill little mason jars, and attach instructions for mixing for your sweet tooth loving friends and family.


Jars filled with old fashioned candy

There’s something nostalgic and sweet about a jar full of peppermints or rootbeer candies. I love the bags of old fashioned candy sold at Hobby Lobby and other shops. Save up a few jam jars or sauce jars, buy a bag of animals from the dollar store, spray paint the lids and animals your preferred color and fill the jars with candy. It’s super fun for the little kids and big kids in our lives.


Handwritten letter

It will take some time, energy, and thought. A handwritten letter to friends and family full of encouragement, musings, reflections on the past year, and hopes for the year to come will be treasured for years to come. You don’t need beautiful handwriting or expensive stationary to write a meaningful message. Check out this Instagram account for some inspiration in the letter writing department.



5 weird things I wish I was paid to do

Last week I wrote 5 Secret Confessions in which I detailed things I really can’t stand doing and need intense self-bribing in order to accomplish. This week, I dive into the weird, slightly OCD things I wish I was paid to do. This is a non-exhaustive list so no judging.


Read books

Can someone please pay me to read books – not any and every book, just the books I’m interested in reading and enjoy reading. My “to-read” pile is ever growing and increasing while my time to read is quickly diminishing.


Purge and organize

Ask anyone in my closest sphere of family and friends and they will probably share their traumatic April-induced-purging experience with you. Something in me rises up when there are piles and boxes and corners full of disorganized, untidy messes. Growing up, my sisters definitely felt the brunt of this passion. Is it too late to apologize? Either way, leave me alone with an untidy mess and nothing will give me more satisfaction than bringing order to that room – at the expense of throwing too many things away! Can I pre-apologize to my kids and all they will have to endure?


Eat salt & vinegar chips

They’re not healthy and I’m fully aware of that, but open that bag, my mouth starts to water, and I eat those like it’s my job. Is there such a thing as a paid taste tester of salt & vinegar chips? I’m pretty sure I qualify as a connoisseur with the amount of times my tongue and the roof of my mouth have become raw from consumption. Side note: my sister and I used to have apple cider vinegar drinking competitions to see who could stomach the most before ending up in the fetal position rolling on the floor in pain.


Be paid to buy every cute paper product at Target, Paperchase, and any other stationary stores

No one knows or understands the agony of following me around Target or any other store with beautiful paper products better than my long-suffering and patient husband. During our time in the UK, Josh was legitimately justified in complaining about the amount of time spent at Paperchase. Rather than exploring more sites or soaking in the culture, I went to this haven for notebook, sticky note, clipboard loving 4 times in 5 days. It’s a serious problem, friends.

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Take naps

I wish I could place all the blame on my kids for my love of naps, but honestly, since college I’ve wished to become a professional napper. The problem is, I also love reading (see paragraph above) and purging and organizing (also see paragraph above). These two other obsessions often find find themselves in direct conflict with my deep love of napping. If I were paid to do each of these things, I could easily fit them all into my day and every problem would be solved. Can I get an amen?

5 Secret Confessions

Half agonizing, half hoping that certain mundane things in life will take care of themselves.

There are certain things I love the result of but not the process of doing. Sometimes I have to bribe myself, trick myself, or challenge myself just to push past my eccentric distaste for doing these basic adult tasks. Please tell me I’m not the only one who would pay someone else to do these things if you had the money to spare!

Making phone calls

If you ever leave me a voicemail, please do not take it personally if I don’t respond. I have the hardest time in the world making phone calls. Calling someone as simple as the doctor’s office or a list of companies for quotes on a project will always drop to the bottom of my to-do list. What usually happens is I wait until the absolute last minute, deadline crunching moment before picking up the phone to call. Can we just have a texting option, please? Kidding! I’m trying to grow in it, but man, that phone just intimidates me for no good reason.

Responding to personal emails

Every time I get a personal email from a good friend living elsewhere, I read it and immediately start thinking of what I’ll say in my response. Then, I leave that email in my (obnoxiously clean and spare) inbox unanswered for sometimes MONTHS on end. It sits there as I go through and respond to bills or other mundane yet essential to clear communication emails. Here’s the thing, I want to sit down and write a thoughtful and meaningful response which takes time, but whenever I have the time I avoid it while still thinking about it and feeling super guilty. Go figure? I’m sure there’s some psychologist out there who can explain this phenomenon to me.

Cleaning toilets (bathrooms in general)

If there is one thing I avoid like the plague it’s cleaning the toilet (and anything else bathroom related). I will leave it until it’s one step away from stuff growing in the toilet. Just being honest. Maybe I should start asking for unlimited bathroom cleanings for Christmas and birthdays. Either way, I love the result of a sparkling clean bathroom, but can’t stand the process it takes to get there. Maybe I need a massive revelation on the ritual of cleaning. Or maybe I just need to train my kids to love cleaning bathrooms…

Blow drying and doing my hair

Friends, since middle school when everyone fell in love with hair products and styling methods, I’ve struggled. I’ve mostly struggled because while I love how my hair looks when I pay attention to it, I’d prefer to do anything but spend more than 2 minutes on my hair in the morning. I’m not sure what this says about me as a person. But since my hair is somewhat curly and quite often frizzy if it’s left unattended to it’s almost always in a ponytail, which we all know is the most fashionable thing since sliced bread. Can I get an amen?

Painting (or any other crafty, do-it-yourself home project) 

Where do I even begin with this one? Let’s just say, I like beautiful rooms and appreciate finished spaces. I’ve definitely been bitten by the HGTV bug and wanted to repaint, repair, and refurbish everything in sight. The thing is, painting, repairing, and refurbishing bring me absolutely no joy until the project is actually finished. This usually leads to me impatiently rushing through the process, so rather than producing something of really good quality, the product is just decent. Do I need to grow in this or just shake it off and embrace the fact I’m not a project person?

Next week’s post: The Top 5 Things I Wish People Paid Me to Do.