Tuesday, October 29, 2013

STOP-tober 29th: Gifts

There's no getting away from the fact that there are places you cannot go empty handed. I bet you were expecting a post about giving homemade jam and knitting hat/scarf/glove sets. If so, you were wrong. I know I'm still on the STOP-tober Challenge but in our society when you need to buy a gift you need to buy a gift and this month required a few more gifts than is usually the case.

a. A birthday party. The same five children celebrate their birthdays together because the mummies are good friends. For each birthday the other four mums chip in to buy something the birthday child really wants. So no foraging around for a toy or game that we've not opened, nor picking up something cheap (but substantial) from the market. I paid my 50nis along with the best of them but saved 10nis as I'd actually budgeted 60nis for this.

b. Various invitations to Shabbat meals. I said here that I had enough leftover gifts of wine and chocolate from the Jewish Holidays in September to see us through Shabbat meal gifts. However, we were blessed with more invitations than anticipated so a few boxes of jellybeans were required to make up the numbers.

30 of these babies took five months and lots of television.
Six years ago the colour scheme was blue.

c. My nephew's Bar Mitzvah. As for his two older brothers Theo got a religious item from Israel which I have no idea if you can even get it in England or how much it costs if you can. It's not expensive here. However, as for his older brothers, I made a set of skullcaps for the men to wear to the ceremony and the party. Small outlay for cotton and hours of crocheting. (Btw, I knew this invitation was coming so the gifts were sorted months ago).

Middle nephew chose red, yellow, orange, and black for his Bar Mitzvah.
d. A wedding. It's usual these days to give the couple a cheque. I hate this. Not only does it mean you have to announce the monetary value of your gift but you also don't have the pleasure of choosing something you think they'll like. Ok, and you don't have the pleasure of finding it at a bargain price. I gave up on the present giving when I finally went to a wedding where my gift was the only wrapped parcel. All the others were envelopes posted into a box. However, on this occasion I found I had a gift voucher for a chain of shops. By adding to it I was able to buy a more expensive gift than my cheque would have been and the couple can exchange the gift for the full amount. They got more and I spent less. Win-win.

e. A dinner party. Again, I could have foraged around for something suitable from my stock of gifts but my host didn't need anything like that. It's not dinner with the in-laws or my partner's boss, it's a knees up with close friends and all she wanted from me was a bottle of plonk to help lubricate the evening. Done, and I added a great book that I've just finished and she will appreciate.

Very nice, not too expensive and I feel exceptionally blessed to have been invited to so many celebrations. But this post isn't just a brag about how popular I am. I wouldn't leave you without a list of money saving gift ideas....

1. If you are Women's Institute material by all means go ahead and make your own jam, bake batches of biscuits, knit sets of warm things, and/or sew pretty kitchen accessories. You could also re-pot cuttings from your own plants and herbs. Remember, it's not just for Christmas - always keep a stock of these things for unexpected invitations. I'm just saying as I don't do any of these things myself.

2. Want not waste not. There are things we don't need anymore that we can pass on. I'm not talking about old stuff that's past its best. I mean good quality clothes that DD has grown out of, some of it hardly worn. A few select items that will be greatly appreciated by someone with a younger girl is a fine gift.

3. Books I've read. People don't mind getting second-hand books. It's almost reverse snobbery. It's an especially nice gift if you say, "I loved this and thought you'd enjoy it too." Of course you must have loved it and think they'll enjoy it. Rubbish books go to the second-hand book shop.

4. Embellishing. A small glass vase that someone gave me was the wrong shape and the wrong colour. I filled it with jellybeans and gave it as gift to friends with lots of children. As a vase it was a naff gift but as a bounty of jellybeans it was inspired.

5. Gift cupboards. Like craft cupboards that you can draw from when you feel creative (I imagine as I'm not a crafter), a gift cupboard is full of gifts that you have received, are perfectly nice gifts, but you don't need them. This is also called re-gifting. I have a drawer full of baby clothes that we never wore, some still with labels on. However a gift cupboard can also be stocked when you see a 1+1 offer or bogof of something giftful. As a teacher, I often get toiletries and candles at the end of the year. I try to use as many as possible but even I don't shower in the dark that often.

6. Less is more. Don't cobble together a job lot of different items because you think your gift isn't enough. It's the thought that counts. If you give an adorable little jotter, don't fret about the fact that they came in a packet of 12 for a pound (I'm exaggerating to make my point), hold your head up and give the jotter, beautifully wrapped, with enthusiasm. The recipient will think, what an exquisite little notebook, so handy for my purse. If you panic and add a bar of chocolate and a key ring to the jotter, the recipient will see three cheap shmonskies thrown together and wonder why you bothered.

7. Think ahead. You know Christmas is coming obviously, but you also know that your child will be invited to x number of birthday parties this year, there will always be a colleague having a baby, and last minute invitations to dinner. Buy in bulk or at least whenever you see a good deal, and keep it in your gift cupboard.

8. Something personal. When many of my friends were getting married many years ago, I used to take photos at the wedding and compile a Not The Wedding album with candid shots and funny captions. Like the skullcaps for my nephews' Bar Mitzvahs, they were labours of love, loads of fun to do, and greatly appreciated.

So there you have my gift philosophy in a nutshell. What are your best gift ideas that don't break the bank?


  1. Might you know which Jerusalem second-hand bookshop gives the best returns?

    1. I use Sefer VeSefel next to the back entrance of The Bell Center in town. The sefel has long gone but there is a good selection of books always. I don't know if it gives the best return but it's certainly better than the 2nd hand bookshop that used to be in Baka off Derech Betlechem.

  2. I make wedding gifts at Kad Vachomer or a similar paint-your-own pottery shop. I spend less than I would on a gift or a check, and the gift is personal. I copy the couple's wedding invitation onto the pottery, so I know they will like the design and color scheme. Plus, painting relaxes me, so it's like therapy for me at the same time!

    (I also take custom orders, if anyone is interested. I know this goes against the theme of your post, but hey… a girl's gotta earn a living!)

    I haven't done this in years, but your #8 reminded me that back in the day, I used to take pictures of the kabbalat panim and chuppa and then dash out to a 1-hour photo shop and get them developed and place them at the head table before the couple had a chance to sit down for dinner. Sometimes it was too complicated to get to a shop from the wedding venue, so I'd make an album the next morning and then give it to them at sheva brachot.

    1. I used to make bracelets at the bead shop to give to friends. The beads cost money but I'd get hours of entertainment with no calories included. Of course those were the days when I had hours to spare.

  3. Where did you find the time to make 30 kippot? I've been working on the same one since summer break!

    1. I used double cotton and a 1mm needle so each one only took a couple of hours. Also I didn't have any fancy patterns. I did one a week for about 6 months and a grand finale over pesach whils staying with my parents - i.s no housework or cooking to do and one DD occupied most of the time.