"Gift giving should be a joy for both giver and receiver," says Marilyn King. Impossible, you say?
Not impossible. Not if the gifts you give are easy on your pocketbook and are something the person you care about can really use.King, a Utah State University Extension home economist in Salt Lake County, offers ideas for "Gift-Giving to Strengthen Families and Economic Well-Being."
The best gifts are usable, inclusive (the receiver doesn't need to buy something else to be able to use it), improve the economic situation of the receiver and encourage development of skills to save money, King says.
For example - and she has dozens of examples on display at the extension service offices in the Salt Lake County Government Complex, 2001 S. State - King suggests home-canned gifts, along with an Extension Service brochure on how to can.
Or how about a big storage tub of wheat - along with a few recipes? Or a big tub of honey?
Newlyweds might appreciate a booklet on "Housecleaning on a Shoestring," and a bucket, sponges and all the supplies to make the cleaning recipes in the brochure (things like ammonia, baking soda, alcohol, etc.). "Not a glamorous gift," King says, "but one that will get used. And how many more glamorous gifts end up in a box in the basement?"
Another gift that would promote economic well-being is the gift of a savings bond or money in a savings account. King knows one grandfather who gives each of his children's families a game for Christmas - so they can have fun playing together, thereby strengthening family ties - and then puts $10 in each child's saving account.
"For dieters or diabetics on your list," King suggests, "how about getting our `Low Sugar Cooking for Diabetics' brochure and making one of the recipes and giving both as a gift?"
King is giving the single women on her Christmas list an emergency car kit with a light shovel, flares, an aerosol tire-inflator and a container of kitty litter - even better for traction than sand.
To strengthen family ties, cost-effectively, King suggests giving children a book - along with a written promise to read to them a chapter a night. Grandparents could give a book and make a tape of themselves reading it aloud.
Or how about a coupon booklet promising work to be done around the home?
Or the gift of a family photo?
The Extension Service carries two booklets you might want to pick up, "Homemade Family Fun," and "Gifts You can Make for Young Children." (Most of the brochures sell for a quarter; few cost more than one dollar.) King says she is giving her nieces and nephews a packet of paper this year. "Not just any paper. I'm including pieces of tin foil, wax paper, newsprint, construction paper, brown paper - along with a booklet on things to make," hoping "this will really spark their creativity." She'll also make paints.
These are just samples of King's suggestions. And, in her speeches, she offers a reminder: the true gifts of Christmas are those that come from the heart.
"Don't forget the gift of acceptance," she said. "I know a family who gave their daughter an award when she came home from school and said she played with a little girl that none of the other kids liked or would play with.
"How about the gift of listening? Or of teaching someone a skill that you know? How about deciding to give someone you love the gift of a good example, by working on your own bad habits?
"Could you give your friends and relatives the gift of seeing the best in people? Could you give them the gift of your time - making a mental promise to call them once a month? How about the gift of privacy - is there a young mother you know who would appreciate you taking her children for a walk so she could treat herself to a long, uninterrupted bath?"
King talks about a family she knows, a family that loves costume parties and birthday parties, that decided to give a struggling neighbor family the gift of planning and carrying out a birthday party for each of their four children during the year.
"Gifts like these are good for the emotional health of the giver and receiver," King said.