Ruly Ruth: Name Drawing and Holiday Gift Planning

"poppet gift exchange." Photo by Jessie Terwilliger. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

With the recession, in my opinion, still in full swing, money’s tight and the economy’s barely holding steady, it’s time to look at Christmas lists. More importantly, looking at alternatives to gifting for everyone on that list. My sisters and I a few years ago started drawing names when we each started having kids. This year we talked about doing whole-family gifts instead, but after one sister pointed out how stressful it can be to budget and buy and send gifts–very time and money consuming, we all came to a truce and agreed no gifts this year.

If you want to start drawing names, that can be an emotional point for some people who are used to buying something for everyone. But we had a lot of fun with it–I’m the one who initiated it, and everyone said they’d be willing to try it, so I literally matched one person to another through the Randomize Excel function (you could also literally draw names–but I hate to waste paper!) or if you’re the one drawing the names and you know of a specific person you’re dying to give a gift to, I’m fine with people “claiming” someone.

The other part of drawing names for us was putting a dollar amount on the maximum amount you can spend on a gift. For me, this did not include shipping and handling, but it could and does for some. My girlfriend had a ton of stuff in her kitchen cupboards that she knew her giftee would love, so she packed that up–and sent it off to a very happy Xmas recipient! And because she considered it already bought for a different purpose, she didn’t count it in the dollar amount. Savvy!

"exchange gifts." Photo by maviscwling. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

"Lanie & Tina, with their 10rmb (~$1.50 USD) exchange gift." Photo by amazingGie. From the Flickr Creative Commons."

On that note, definitely go through gift closets, giveaway piles and check your cupboards for unused items that for others would make a very desirable gift–believe it or not, most of us have great stuff squirreled away. This is an extremely economical way to find gifts for both list-people and name-drawing.

"tacky gift exchange dec 16 2009." Photo by waferboard. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

Another great gift idea especially for parents and grandparents are scrapbook-style items. My parents LOVE our annual calendar we put together on either,, or any other photo site. They run around $15, and are a reminder year-round of our kids and their goings-on through the past year. Another cousin took pictures of her son’s preschool artwork and uploaded it to a printed book and gave that to her parents for Christmas. It’s absolutely precious! The other great thing about items like this is that once you create the calendar/scrapbook, you can have multiples easily made and shipped to numerous recipients. Definitely a gift from the heart!

Another cousin made on her own her own cookbook compilation. It has fun family recipes among her personal favorites. I keep it with my cookbook collection because of the great sentiment that went into that. She printed the pages and took them to Staples or Kinkos to have them spiral bound so it lays flat while cooking or reading it.

Tell us if you and your family are drawing names, coming to a gift “truce”, or buying for everyone–and any other gift ideas! ‘Tis the season to get started! Happy Halloween and holidays in advance from Ruly Ruth!