Not Buying It – Birthday Gifts

The title of this post is a little misleading. I do give Birthday gifts. I also buy some of the component parts to make up the gift. Rather, what I do not buy is the added value that retailers and manufacturers build in to charge us a higher price for the gift.

In fact I love giving gifts. I truly believe the cliché that ‘it’s the thought that counts’. This does not mean to say that just by giving a gift the job is done. It is the effort that goes into it that makes the gift special, regardless of cost. I’ve already posted about how Christmas gifts are exchanged.

Here’s a little storyboard of how such a gift comes to fruition.

Step 1 – Buy the component parts

The above components make up what I call a ‘Me-Time’ box.  A chance to escape from the real world for an hour or so…

All of the items are consumable. I even class the book as such. Once a story has been consumed, it can be passed on. The receipt is included inside the book should it already have been read.

Step 2 – Find a suitably sized box

Not everyone is a decoupage addict, so any general gift box will do. However I really enjoying making these boxes and tailoring them to the gift. This box was covered in pieces of a gossip magazine (not mine!) to give it a feel of ‘taking time-out’. It also is a great way to recycle boxes and old magazines. The cost is purely time and glue.

There are some reasonably priced boxes about should you not wish to make your own. Rather than a gift box, many bargain retailers sell fabulous storage boxes of various designs. These can be used time after time!

Step 3 – Put the 2 together

It goes without saying that the items need to fit in the box!

As it is, this gift costs under £10. Had that been my budget, I’d be done. But I planned on spending more.

There’s a little something peeking out the top of the box. It’s a home-made gift voucher. It’s for a lunch-date – my treat. This voucher could have been many things. A babysitting voucher, a monthly home-baked loaf or cake voucher, even a romantic meal for 2 delivered to the door. This voucher is a bit of a treat for me also. I haven’t spent as much time with my dear friend as I would have liked of late, so this will give us an opportunity to catch up.

Step 4 – The home-made card to go with the gift

However you make the card, it doesn’t matter. The one I made has a clay name tag attached that can be removed and kept. Usually making the cards is an activity assigned to the Kids.

Step 5 – The cake – of course!

After all I do love a home-made birthday cake!

So very simple. This cake cost well under £2 to make and easily serves 10-12.

The whole of this gift is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Home-made added value.

(The Kids added in their school photos’ with their own design frames)

Step 6 – Taking pride in the presentation

This gift was hand-delivered. Confession time, I have a thing for baskets. To me there’s nothing like getting something delivered….in a basket. I totally appreciate it won’t be everyone’s preference, but it’s mine.

Brace yourselves it’s about to get high brow… 😉

I mentioned at the start that this is about adding your own unique value. The value in this gift isn’t what was handed over to the cashier. It’s the time, effort and creative energy exerted into making the whole far greater than the sum of the parts. That’s something money can’t buy.

As Stephen Covey describes it “One plus one equals three or more”. Told you I was getting high brow! It’s an ongoing joke that each Summer holiday I invest in some or other ‘self-help’ book. Last year it was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Oh dear, I’ve only just reached ‘Habit 6 – Synergize’. Perhaps the next book ought to be on efficiency, then maybe I’d get through the books a little faster?

Or maybe I should just drink less wine?

I’d love to hear your ideas on home-made and added value gifts or generally how you do gift exchanges (if at all!) – Please share!

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Don’t forget I am now updating daily on Facebook.

If Facebook’s your thing why not head on over and join the conversation? I’ve a feeling a heart-shaped chicken pie may be making an appearance later!

{ 35 comments… add one }
  • Megyn @MinimalistMommi February 14, 2012, 4:24 pm

    I try and gift consumables and/or experiences too. For the boys’ birthdays, we usually give them one big gift (if anything). This year, it will be a joint present for both boys: a swing set or fort. Or maybe it will just be a large gymnastics mat. Otherwise, gifting is at a minimum. As for the presentation, I’ve stopped buying gift wrap. We make our own out of butcher or shipping paper. Instead of using tape, I’ll tie up the gift with ribbon or string. I’ve been trying to find way to create reusable/recyclable wrapping 🙂

    Love the decoupage idea!

    • simplybeingmum February 14, 2012, 8:36 pm

      Brown wrap looks fab tied with real ribbon, as can tissue or packing paper. I love brown anyway so it’d be to my taste – sounds great! Brown lunch bags also work as great gift bag tied with ribbon, or even string for a rustic look. I’ve seen paper stamped (with patterns) and painted on – which would be a great activity to keep the Kids occupied. Get decoupaging! It’s addictive!

    • Jo H. February 17, 2012, 4:33 am

      Hi Megyn, you might be interested in this idea for reusable cloth wrap:
      http://myfuroshiki.blogspot.com
      Furoshiki is just flat cloth used as wrap, by folding and tying in different ways. I can think of a few cheap sources – squares cut from old clothing such as full skirts or dresses, old curtains or patterned sheets, or thrift store scarves.

      I have to say, I love these boxes, Jo. I’m a “box person” to begin with, so the thought of being able to turn them into personalized containers just makes my heart sing!

      • simplybeingmum February 17, 2012, 8:57 am

        Jo H – Thanks so much for this link. The wrap is stunning – I absolutely love it. I may see if I can feature it as part of a gift wrap post I plan to do.

        Megyn (I know you’re a FG reader!) what about Kristen’s reusable gift bags. We are soon to have a sewing machine at Chez Wright, and they are probably my first project… however I reckon you could use cloth to make a type of bag without sewing at all. just a square puckered together and tied…particularly if you use non-fraying material.
        http://www.thefrugalgirl.com/2008/12/fabric-gift-bags-from-old-clothes/

  • Megyn @MinimalistMommi February 14, 2012, 4:24 pm

    I try and gift consumables and/or experiences too. For the boys’ birthdays, we usually give them one big gift (if anything). This year, it will be a joint present for both boys: a swing set or fort. Or maybe it will just be a large gymnastics mat. Otherwise, gifting is at a minimum. As for the presentation, I’ve stopped buying gift wrap. We make our own out of butcher or shipping paper. Instead of using tape, I’ll tie up the gift with ribbon or string. I’ve been trying to find way to create reusable/recyclable wrapping 🙂

    Love the decoupage idea!

    • simplybeingmum February 14, 2012, 8:36 pm

      Brown wrap looks fab tied with real ribbon, as can tissue or packing paper. I love brown anyway so it’d be to my taste – sounds great! Brown lunch bags also work as great gift bag tied with ribbon, or even string for a rustic look. I’ve seen paper stamped (with patterns) and painted on – which would be a great activity to keep the Kids occupied. Get decoupaging! It’s addictive!

    • Jo H. February 17, 2012, 4:33 am

      Hi Megyn, you might be interested in this idea for reusable cloth wrap:
      http://myfuroshiki.blogspot.com
      Furoshiki is just flat cloth used as wrap, by folding and tying in different ways. I can think of a few cheap sources – squares cut from old clothing such as full skirts or dresses, old curtains or patterned sheets, or thrift store scarves.

      I have to say, I love these boxes, Jo. I’m a “box person” to begin with, so the thought of being able to turn them into personalized containers just makes my heart sing!

      • simplybeingmum February 17, 2012, 8:57 am

        Jo H – Thanks so much for this link. The wrap is stunning – I absolutely love it. I may see if I can feature it as part of a gift wrap post I plan to do.

        Megyn (I know you’re a FG reader!) what about Kristen’s reusable gift bags. We are soon to have a sewing machine at Chez Wright, and they are probably my first project… however I reckon you could use cloth to make a type of bag without sewing at all. just a square puckered together and tied…particularly if you use non-fraying material.
        http://www.thefrugalgirl.com/2008/12/fabric-gift-bags-from-old-clothes/

  • sharron February 14, 2012, 7:45 pm

    Jo- You are my hero!! I just absouloutly adore your gifts (and cake) Infact the more posts i read the more i think we are twins (except i can’t make cake) I adore baskets and i love seeing things presented beautifully in them. That book was fab, i read that before it came to the cinema and read it within a day. I also loved (also televised) the midwife trilogy and have loved watchin it on a sunday they feel like old friends ( i really shoould get out more 🙂 )

    I try to stick to experiences for gifts for my own kids, x-factor and Liverpool versus Asrenal for my february birthdays. My older boys just have the cash but i always make a fuss for their birthday tea. First off they get to choose what’s for tea, sometimes it’s fast food others times it’s something i make that they love but we don’t have it very often. Then we have cake (shop bought) candles, lights off and a massive Happy birthday sing, money can’t buy that!!

    Sharron x

    • simplybeingmum February 14, 2012, 8:39 pm

      ‘The Help’ is on my reading list but haven’t got to it yet…must read faster and drink less 🙂
      Birthdays at Chez Sharron sound fab… something they’ll remember!
      I’ve a challenge for you… I reckon I could easily illustrate how to make a simple birthday cake. It really is easy (honestly)… It is a planned post anyway. I’m going to be talking cakes in the Spring, as I have a couple to do…

  • sharron February 14, 2012, 7:45 pm

    Jo- You are my hero!! I just absouloutly adore your gifts (and cake) Infact the more posts i read the more i think we are twins (except i can’t make cake) I adore baskets and i love seeing things presented beautifully in them. That book was fab, i read that before it came to the cinema and read it within a day. I also loved (also televised) the midwife trilogy and have loved watchin it on a sunday they feel like old friends ( i really shoould get out more 🙂 )

    I try to stick to experiences for gifts for my own kids, x-factor and Liverpool versus Asrenal for my february birthdays. My older boys just have the cash but i always make a fuss for their birthday tea. First off they get to choose what’s for tea, sometimes it’s fast food others times it’s something i make that they love but we don’t have it very often. Then we have cake (shop bought) candles, lights off and a massive Happy birthday sing, money can’t buy that!!

    Sharron x

    • simplybeingmum February 14, 2012, 8:39 pm

      ‘The Help’ is on my reading list but haven’t got to it yet…must read faster and drink less 🙂
      Birthdays at Chez Sharron sound fab… something they’ll remember!
      I’ve a challenge for you… I reckon I could easily illustrate how to make a simple birthday cake. It really is easy (honestly)… It is a planned post anyway. I’m going to be talking cakes in the Spring, as I have a couple to do…

  • anexactinglife February 16, 2012, 7:03 pm

    I would love some pointers on making cakes. I am OK with the cake batter but whenever I try to spread the icing, the knife gets full of crumbs 🙂

    • simplybeingmum February 16, 2012, 7:29 pm

      I can give you an easy tip regarding that now. With buttercream or fudge icing (I believe it’s called frosting in the US) it’s important to put a lot on initially. Don’t go into this sparingly as it will drag the cake underneath – causing crumbs. I’m very generous (with particularly) the first dollop on top! the bit you spread shouldn’t drag the cake, rather it should smooth over the icing underneath. This is harder to explain that I thought! Also don’t make the icing too thick as the harder it is to spread the more it drags underneath. Frosting should go harder once applied to a cake, so go thinner rather than thicker. I’m making the same cake again tomorrow, so will try and get some photo’s. There’ll be a more in-depth post on cake-making and decorating soon!

  • anexactinglife February 16, 2012, 7:03 pm

    I would love some pointers on making cakes. I am OK with the cake batter but whenever I try to spread the icing, the knife gets full of crumbs 🙂

    • simplybeingmum February 16, 2012, 7:29 pm

      I can give you an easy tip regarding that now. With buttercream or fudge icing (I believe it’s called frosting in the US) it’s important to put a lot on initially. Don’t go into this sparingly as it will drag the cake underneath – causing crumbs. I’m very generous (with particularly) the first dollop on top! the bit you spread shouldn’t drag the cake, rather it should smooth over the icing underneath. This is harder to explain that I thought! Also don’t make the icing too thick as the harder it is to spread the more it drags underneath. Frosting should go harder once applied to a cake, so go thinner rather than thicker. I’m making the same cake again tomorrow, so will try and get some photo’s. There’ll be a more in-depth post on cake-making and decorating soon!

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