see all cities »


Smart gift-giving: Feel good, save money, and support the economy

We are in the thick of the holiday season, and the obsessive compulsion to shop-shop-shop is upon many of us. I admit, it’s been getting to me despite my commitment to stay away from the malls this year. It was as I was getting my gym bag out of my car today that I realized how overwhelmed I’ve become with the holidays: I had been planning to buy my brother-in-law a gift this week, yet there sitting beside my bag was something I’d put aside just for him. I think the constant barrage of advertisements was finally getting to me, and I found myself getting swept up in the shopping spirit. Well, no more. Let me show you some ways we’re having a more ethical, eco-friendly, frugal, and meaningful Christmas.


In the USA alone, it’s estimated that holiday gift wrapping contributes 4 million tons of garbage to the landfills. Crazy, right? Yet we’re all going to contribute, for two reasons:

1. It’s cheaper than a lot of the clever DIY wrapping out there, using fabrics, etc.

2. We’re novelty junkies, and we think each present has to be wrapped in a unique, thematic piece of paper.

My solution: brown paper packages, tied up with string. These are a few of my favourite things. You can get a roll of brown parcel paper at your local box store. Wrap all your presents in this simple paper, then go old-school and tie it with old fashioned twine. Or, if you want a splash more pizazz, get a few rolls of different ribbons and tie up those packages with a bit of festive colour. The best part? These rolls of paper are pretty huge, so you can keep the leftovers and use it year-round for all your gift-giving needs. Too plain for you? Make a potato stamp (easy tutorial here) and stamp for the specific holiday; or buy a cute rubber stamp set and stamp the paper. It takes only a moment of extra time, and it will actually look more suave than the usual whacky-coloured paper.


Project: Priceless (our family of blogs) is very pro-local buying. So is UsedEverywhere! Whether the gifts you’re looking for can be bought off your local Used site, or if you need something fresh from the manufacturer, buying local is easy. There’s a few ways to do this:

1. Schedule yourself with 3-4 major craft shows during the season; bring your gift list, and you’ll find something for everyone. Having troubles with manly gift ideas? Remember that culinary crafters offer a range of BBQ-specific meat rubs and sauces. Some artisans craft wonderful wood statues, ceramics, or even cufflinks.

2. Choose a locally-owned shop and buy ALL your gifts there…or at least as many as you can. It’s actually pretty fun, and if you meet the owner, you’ll get to see what a happy impact you can have on them with your relatively large bulk purchase. If that’s too difficult, choose a couple local vendors to support. Hint: a local shop that carries various local brands may be an easier first attempt at this, rather than, say, one shop that makes only cat sweaters.


Yup, I said it. Re-gift things. Tacky? Not as tacky as holding onto gifts for a couple years ‘til you finally get the nerve up to toss ‘em in the trash. Why not re-gift, say, that set of cupcake-scented body products if you’re allergic to perfumes? If you have a sweets-lovin’ person on your list who’ll squeal with joy over the set, it seems only right to pass it along. Re-gifting, in my eyes, is only tacky if you’re not trying to match the person with the present. Our culture is obsessed with the idea that everything has to be new from the store. Ask yourself why you believe that, and if it really jives with your eco-viewpoint.


In a nutshell: you can make something. And if you’re not crafty, handy, or coordinated: think smart, not hard. You have a best friend? Get a really pretty cigar box (available at cigar shops for $10 or less) and fill it with photos of the two of you. Try the same idea, but with recipes. Get tee-shirt transfer paper and print off your kid’s favourite superhero, then iron it onto a hoodie. Assemble a ‘Guy’s Night In’ package, complete with (locally brewed) beverages, popcorn, pretzels, a magazine, and a DVD, all tucked creatively into a milk crate or toolbox. You may have found some handmade snacks at the craft show to include!


The average Canadian is spending over $600 this year on Christmas gifts, and we produce 25% more waste during the holiday season through all this gift-giving. For your budget, your planet, or your desire to get creative, ‘tis the season to try something new! Once you conquer the notion that ‘expensive, elaborate, and over-packaged is best’, you’ll find a whole new world of gift-giving opens up to you..and best of all, you’ll find people notice the extra effort and will treasure your gifts for longer! Give it a try; I’m certain you’re gonna love it

Jordan Kent-Baas is co-author of the award-nominated blog Project: Priceless—The Free Wedding Experiment, and Project: Priceless—the NEST (the newlywed experience). The wedding experiment harnessed the power of social media to create a 140-person wedding for virtually no cost, while the NEST chronicles Jordan and Brian’s experience as frugal newlyweds. She is a social media fanatic who works in marketing and communications, and aspires to one day be a full-time author. Jordan lives with her fat senior pug and her sweet handsome husband, Brian; she has a passion for crafting, and exploring new activities around the city. Jordan has a dream of one day being a really good cook…in the meantime, she keeps a frozen pizza on hand just in case. You can connect with Jordan via her blogs at, on Facebook at, or on twitter, under her handle @projectpricelss.

One Response to “Smart gift-giving: Feel good, save money, and support the economy”


love those wood duck decoys!


Leave a Reply