Considering the Ethics of Thrifted Gifts
The current buzz in the frugal-living blogosphere is the topic of thrifted gifting. I suspect this is because, with Christmas over, everyone can brag about their purchases without ruining surprises. In my opinion, it’s the surprise that makes a thrifted gift work. Others weighing in:
My parents were very creative in their holiday gift-giving. I remember my dad sanding what looked like Lincoln Logs. We thought they were great but Dad told us he was making them for the boy down the street to earn some extra money. Only now do I realize that we were the only children in the neighborhood. My brother got Lincoln Logs for that year for Christmas, of course. Because they were handmade my parents could afford a greater quantity which was important for sharing with siblings.
I also remember finding a doll in my mom’s sewing room and wanting to play with it. Mom said I couldn’t because she was sewing clothes for the doll and would be donating in to the giving tree. I was heartbroken but I was comforted by the thought that helping the poor was very glamorous, like the March girls helping the Hubbles (Little Women- we were obsessed). Imagine my surprise when the doll was mine at Christmas, accompanied by an entire wardrobe.
I can accurately argue that my Barbies were the best-dressed. While my friends had Barbies eternally wearing what they came in, mine had a whole shopping mall to choose from. We (my sister and I) had three different wedding ensembles, each with three bridesmaid’s dresses, an assortment of prom dresses, and, our favorite, labled jeans. Mom took the GUESS? and Z-Cavarichi labels from our old jeans and put them on clothes for Barbie. Our old swimsuits became t-shirts that actually fit over Barbie’s head. I wanted to grow up to be a Pastor at the time so mom made my Barbie a white robe and used different colors of ribbon so the scarves could change with the season: blue for Advent, green for Pentecost, etc. It’s all very funny looking back now, but I loved it at the time.
Now that I’m an “adult” I do my own Christmas shopping. Between siblings we exchange $5 gifts. In the past I’ve given mostly food and nail polish, but thrifted gifts would be appropriate in this context. Thrifting would allow me to give my sisters Fossil purses or vintage records. I would love to receive a sock monkey or vintage crochet leaflets. To me, thrifted or handmade gifts mean more because there is more work in obtaining them.
To keep thrifted or handmade gifts from being tacky, it is important to give according to your means. If I were to buy $250 jeans on a regular basis or carry a $400 Coach purse, giving a Fossil purse that I paid 25 cents for would be inappropriate and rude. But because I am more than happy with my own thrift store finds, I think it is okay to give them too.
And because I have joined the Compact for 2010, it’s thrifted gifts all around this year.
I like having this “excuse.”