10 Charitable Alternatives to Gift-Giving

My first serious boyfriend and I had an unusual Christmas tradition during the time we were together. Each year, instead of buying each other gifts, we’d pick out one of the stuffed toys from the World Wildlife Federation Store to purchase, each one symbolizing the adoption of an endangered species in the wild. Even though it was a small gesture it felt good knowing that we were spending the money on a good cause rather than purchasing more stuff for our home.

Because it’s all stuff, really, and it’s not really Christmas if we can’t find it in our hearts to spread the spirit of giving to all of the people, plants and animals in need. Please consider donating to any of these worthwhile causes, not because any of these charities know me or asked me to say that (because they did not) but because it will make your heart grow three times larger.*

  1. Show your love and spread awareness by sending out Christmas cards from one of the many of the sets that are available for purchase from a variety of charities around this time of year. These gorgeous cards from the David Suzuki Foundation promote the importance of bio-diversity and would make the perfect gift for any gardener. Mouth and Foot Painting Artists also offer a wide variety of cards (and more!) and are recognized worldwide for their amazing skills.
  2. If it’s an actual gift that you’re looking for, consider shopping at a site that supports female artisans. Check out these colorful handcrafted baskets and delightful stuffed animals made by Ugandan women as part of the organization Children of Hope Uganda.
  3. The Filipino artisans who sell their gorgeous shell ornaments on the World Vision website were able to do so with a micro-loan they’ve received through the organization. Your purchase not only helps to build their business, but also enables them to continue to develop the necessary skills and experience they need to pay back their loans.
  4. Around this time of year, many big brands introduce special edition products, the profits of which (or a portion thereof) are donated to a particular charity. Some of these charitable gifts are available year-round: check out David’s Tea Me to We Tea, Lush Cosmetics’ Charity Pot and IKEA’s SAGOSKATT cuddly toys.
  5. Some brands exercise their philanthropy year-round, so why not take the opportunity to make your purchase count? Brands like TOMS, Philosophy and Bloom and Give will make a charitable donation on your behalf each time you make a purchase. (The Body Shop is running a similar campaign this holiday season- each purchase made during the months of November and December will help their Bio-Bridges program help reforestation efforts in several countries across the globe.)
  6. If you’ve lost a loved one during the past year, why not take this opportunity to make a charitable donation to their favorite cause in their name? Or consider a memory gift offered by organizations such as A Living Tribute, which plants a tree in memory of your loved one that also helps restore Canada’s forests. (Check out the The Arbor Day Foundation if you live in the U.S.)
  7. There’s a growing trend to give experiences instead of gifts at Christmas, so why not do something worthwhile with your time together and volunteer for a cause that’s near and dear to your heart? Organizations like volunteermatch.org will help eager volunteers find local charities that could use the extra hands.
  8. Don’t feel like making a donation but still interested in creating awareness? The American Red Cross offers a vast array of first aid and emergency supplies on their online store, as well as apparel, accessories and training kits.
  9. Want to make a donation but don’t know where to start? Search the Charity Navigator to learn more about your local charities, and see how they scored on financial heath and accountability. Similarly, Givewell.org will search its database for charities to determine which ones need your help the most.
  10. Or just give a gift to someone else and feel good about knowing where your money is going: organizations such as UNICEF and Charity Seeds offer “gifts” tailored to promote literacy, education, better healthcare and emergency preparedness such as water purification tablets, vegetable seeds, or backpacks for schools. If you’re low on funds, grab a few friends and get them to donate all their unused toiletries to give to women’s shelters across the world via The Shoebox Project.

*I made an effort to try and include charities, organizations, products and brands with my international audience in mind. However, several of the links I’ve provided have been based on my particular location (Canada). I apologize in advance for the detective work you might have to do in the event that you aren’t redirected to the appropriate site when you click on the link.

Happy giving!

B

There are so many worthy causes out there and I’m sure this post does not begin to cover them all. If I’ve left out something that’s important to you, or has a made a difference in your life please let me know at keepingbusyb@gmail.com and I’ll try to incorporate all your suggestions into an updated post.

Or maybe you’ve got some more awesome ideas for products and companies that give back so you can feel better about your gift-giving this holiday season. Leave a comment below with your recommendations!

Holiday celebrations can be fun, but only if you can ensure that things go smoothly. While there are never any guarantees when it comes to social gatherings, there are still plenty of ways to get your holiday game on. Click here to read more of them, or click here or here to read about some of the other best practices I’ve been trying to put into my place in my life.

Shop on Boxing Day the Smart Way

After all the hustle and bustle and spending way too much money before Christmas, it seems illogical that so many people would be so interested in doing a whole lot of shopping after complaining so much about the Christmas rush. But being a girl who’s careful about she spends her pennies, here are the rules for all of those brave enough to venture out Boxing Day shopping.

  1. Thou shall makest a plan. Brave the surly crowds by planning the stores you want to visit ahead of time and prioritize your shopping needs to the basics you need for your wardrobe or your house. This is the best time of year to try and find classic pieces that go on sale in order to make room for new inventory.
  2. Thou shalt shop intelligently. Check the original price of an item to see if you’re getting a good deal. Phrases like “Save up to…” or “Blowout!” are designed to fool you into thinking you’re saving big when the difference is really only a couple of dollars. And only participate in buy one, get one deals if buying the extra item is actually worth it to you.
  3. Thou shalt consider online shopping. You can scope out sales at your favorite stores ahead of time, and sometimes the discounts online are even steeper. Plus, there may be more availability when it comes to size and color preference.
  4. Thou shalt not be foolish. It’s not worth it unless you really, really love it. When it comes to clothing, I have a rule: if I can’t wear it at least three different ways using what’s already in my wardrobe, I put it down and walk away.
  5. Thou shalt buy your Christmas stuff now! Everything will be at least 50 percent off or more, which means you’ll save money and be super prepared for the next holiday season.

And please, never, ever, EVER return an item or do an exchange on Boxing Day. Some stores won’t even allow it. Check your receipts to see when they start accepting exchanges. Even if it appears possible, don’t do it unless you absolutely have to. You might get beaten over the head with the shopping bags of angry customers if you’re holding up the line debating with a stressed-out, over-worked employee.

But most importantly, be kind and courteous to others when you are shopping (that includes store employees)! It’s not a competitive sport- it’s supposed to be fun, right? RIGHT?

KBwB-BFlower-50

Have Yourself an Organized Little Christmas

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The day after Halloween should be its own holiday: it’s the first day that we can officially talk about Christmas without feeling like its way too soon.

(Americans take note: we Canadians already had our Thanksgiving so we’ve got almost two months of nothing to do except plan for this.)

In actual fact, a lot of the Christmas displays have already been up in the stores for a coupe of weeks. I hate to admit it, but there’s a part of me that’s growing excited. A lot of people may argue that Christmas has become too secular, or too commercial, but I can’t help but feel that there’s some kind of Christmas spirit that lingers out there all the same this time of year. People become kinder, more thoughtful. The daily grind starts feeling a lot more cheerful.

And everywhere there’s this urge to connect- with family, friends and neighbors. Maybe I’m just imagining it, but it’s the one time of year that I feel more than ever like part of a community.

There’s a downside as well to the holidays- the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” and give the most expensive gifts, host the most fabulous parties, and decorate until your house looks like Santa’s little workshop. It’s a lot easier when you plan ahead a little and keep yourself organized. Last year I shared my trick for organizing the Christmas cards I send, and how I organize my holiday shopping. I love figuring out way to become more productive and organized and this season I’ll be sharing a lot more on tips on last-minute gift ideas, party planning and taking time off of work to help things run smoothly.

This isn’t a happy time of year for everyone- the holidays can often bring up old memories and grudges, and many people still have to face life’s challenges despite all the cheer the holidays have to bring. I shared a story about one particularly lonely Christmas last year on the blog, and in the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more ways that I’ve been able to find inner calm and gain perspective during this busy season.

We can’t really talk about Christmas without talking Christmas baking either, and the Swedes have a special tradition every year of making seven different types of cookies. (Eating sweet things makes you nicer, apparently.) Part of my background is Swedish so I’ve invoked this tradition in my household again. I’ll be posting this year’s selections some time closer to the holidays but if you’re looking for inspiration in the meantime, my Swedish Gingersnaps, Maple Butter Cookies, Jam Slices, Rugulahs, Orange Crunch Cookies, Vanilla Horns and Chocolate Crinkle Cookies were all big hits last year. (These posts are all updated with new information, and brand-spanking-new pictures!)

And don’t worry- I’ll still be blogging about business, books and all things keeping busy (not just holiday-related!).

I hope you’ll join me on my quest this season to have an organized little Christmas, and to make the most of this special time with friends and family.

KBwB-BFlower-50I like to talk about the Christmas holiday on the blog because it’s what I know, and what I grew up with. It’s a special time of year for me, but for some of my readers I know it won’t hold the exactly the same meaning. I don’t want to be presumptuous either, and write about other holidays or traditions from other religions or cultures for fear of misrepresentation.

Having said that, I’d love to hear about all of the other celebrations my readers participate in, in their own words! Comment below and let me know what kind of meaning time time of year holds for you (if any!). Or drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com and let me know how to be more inclusive to my readers. Perhaps you’d like to collaborate on a post with me?

And as always, I’m happy to hear your comments and ideas over Twitter, or share some of your holiday projects you’ve been working on with me on Instagram. Pinterest is an especially dangerous place for me this time of year, and I’d love to see what you’ve been obsessing over as well.