Monday, December 10, 2012

Do you give gifts at the office?

The ABA Journal recently asked attorneys about their holiday gifting:
"The season for law firm bonuses, holiday cards and related gift-giving is already upon us.  
"So this week, we'd like to ask you: Do you give gifts at the office? If so, who are your recipients, and how much do you spend? Do you just buy for the person you report to, the people who report to you, or for co-workers who are truly close friends? Or all of the above? 
"Tell us instead if you opt out of shopping altogether and hope your co-workers do the same with regard to you. Or if you just bring in some baked goods and call it even."
The Paralegal Mentor is curious about happens at your office for the holidays. Do you give gifts? If so, to whom and how much do you spend? Please answer in the comments below.

To read the ABA Journal article, follow this link.

Friday, December 7, 2012

25 Excellent Clutter-Free Ideas for Holiday Gifting

Elle is ready for Christmas. Are you? The holidays are looming and it's time to think about gifts.
Since we all talk about how we need to get organized and clear out the clutter, it only makes sense that more gifts should be clutter free -- in other words, consumable-- so no one's stuck with more "stuff" in January.

Recently I asked readers "What is your favorite clutter-free gift (or gifts) to give or receive?" Here are some of their great ideas (and a few of mine):

1. Gift Cards/Certificates. This was mentioned the most. My granddaughter will be getting one from Visa or MasterCard so she can shop anywhere she pleases. My grandson will get the same to use on a school trip planned for January. 
  • My advice is to do something similar unless you know what the recipient likes. In past years I've purchased gift cards to Starbucks, Target, Home Depot, Cabella's (The Don can always find something there), iTunes, Amazon, Macy's, Bed Bath & Beyond, and to a major gas station.
  • If the recipient has a hobby, send them a gift card (or certificate) so they can purchase supplies from the store that feeds their addiction. Let's see if The Don reads this and gets me a gift certificate to our local quilt store.
2. Brown Sugar Vanilla Body Scrub! A fun, zero calorie, non-clutter way to pamper yourself.

3. Coffee.
Give a pound of a nice coffee or a pack of the cups used in a Kuerig (or some similar brand). People also enjoy tea and hot cocolate mix.

  • My office used to give a pound of "Pointner Blend" coffee that was named after one of the partners. It was 1/2 pound Columbian (caffienated) and 1/2 pound Hazelnut decaf ground together. It's delicious! Once the Pointner Partner departed, we switched to Snickerdoodle flavor.
4. An experience. Choose a balloon ride, cooking class, dogsled ride, a play, a fishing trip...the list goes on. A day at the zoo or state park passes would be wonderful family gifts. How about tickets to a game or to a concert? One year I gave The Don tickets to an Olivia Newton John concert -- he's been crazy about Olivia since she sang Hopelessly Devoted to You. Another year I gave him tickets to a NASCAR race.
5. Homemade Treats.  Jellies and jams, cookies, a coffee cake, a quiche, white chocolate covered pretzels, fudge, etc. See today's featured recipe for a cookie mix that is so nice to have on hand.  Also look for these 3 recipes on this site Hot Fudge Sauce, Aunt Nancy's Granola and Vinnie's Favorite Hot Chocolate Mix.
6. If you don't cook, purchase food Gifts. American Spoonfoods is headquartered in our area, as is Cherry Republic. Both have a wide variety of products that will fit any budget. A reader suggested Kringle from O&H Bakery in Racine, WI. One year someone sent us tamales...delicious! Omaha Steaks are also nice.
7. A cute USB. These always come in handy and some will make you smile. Other computer supplies are nice, too. Vince gave me a PowerMat last year and I love it. While these both qualify as "stuff", they're so useful that I had to include them.
8. Donation to favorite charity in someone's name.  This also works well when someone passes away or has a birthday, anniversary, etc. My mother makes a donation to Hospice in our family's name since that is one of our favorite charities.

9. A State Parks Gift Package.  This reader purchased one for her son and his wife. It includes an annual pass to all parks in their state, magazine subscription and a $100 credit for any of the state park inns. Proceeds support their state parks.  Check your state's DNR website.
10. Movie Tickets. Most theaters have gift certificates or buy real tickets to a new movie.
11. Time. Spend time with a friend or family member - maybe go to a show or dinner out. Time is the most valuable gift you can give.
12. Fun Munchies. Another reader asks people for fun munchies for her work lunches. She nearly always bring a lunch to work and gets bored with her own stuff.  She's gotten fruit cups, juice boxes, tuna kits, shelf stable meals that just need a microwave, bags of chips or kettle corn, fruit gummies, candy, powder drink mixes for her bottled water, granola bars, you name it!  These are things that take pantry space, but not for long.  They make preparing her lunches more fun and don’t cost a lot for anyone to buy.  AND they don’t gather dust!
13. Useful handmade items. Pot holders and dishcloths like your grandmother used to make are fun. Also check out these Bowl Buddies -- simple to make and will keep their fingers from burning when they heat a dish in the microwave. 
14. Services. Ideas include organizing, oil changes, car wash, snow removal, spa treatments or any kind of service that offers gift certificates.
15. Wine. White? Red? Pino Noir? Champagne? It will all be used and the bottles will be recycled.
16. Picture Books. Again, not totally clutter-free but watch them melt when you give them a book of memories from a trip, a party, a special occasion -- so simple to produce at Shutterfly.  Or how about a gift certificate to have a family portrait made?
17. Something they would get themselves.  A month's worth of the gardening service or maid service that they already use. You could also buy them a professional carpet cleaning. For something a little less expensive, purchase prepaid credits to get their digital pictures printed.
18. A Gift of the Month. Try a gift-of-the-month club for the gift that keeps on giving. There are gift-of-the-month clubs for every taste. Your gift recipient will receive fresh food or other items each month. In addition to food of the month clubs, you can also find spa items, wines, flowers and DVDs that can arrive every month (A year of Netflix, anyone?) You don't have to commit to a full year since most allow you to give for 3, 6, 9 or 12 months. Chocolate of the Month? Cheese of the Month? Wine of the Month? Flower of the Month? Beer of the Month, Fruit of the Month? 
19. Travel accessories. How about a personalized luggage strap from IDmyBag? Another gift that will protect your friends and family is an id bracelet to wear when they're running or cycling (and really should be worn all the time). This may save their life in the event of an accident.

20. Magazine subscription. My kids would be so disappointed if they didn't get their annual subscription to People! Tailor the subscription to their interests and you'll be a hero. Another gift that keeps on giving -- and then can be passed on or recycled.

21. A Movie Rental Night. Buy a six pack of their favorite beverage (the kind with  plastic bottles and cardboard carrying case). Remove the two middle bottles. Stuff a couple of bags of microwave popcorn in one of the vacant spaces. Put a couple of bags of candy (M&M's?) and a movie rental gift card in the other.

22. Dinner on the town. In Atlanta several restaurants have joined up to offer The Ultimate Dining Card. Recipients can choose from several wonderful restaurants...and the cards can be reloaded. Is there something like this where you live?

23. A Membership (or contribute to something they want to do). This might be a membership to a zoo, museum or aquarium -- or even a health club. As for contributing to something they want to do, my sister had a great idea: she paid for her son and his wife's entry fees to a marathon they want to run. Those fees are steep these days.

24. A dessert every month -- that you make. Who wouldn't love having a cake, cookies, a pie, Banana Pudding (with the vanilla wafers), a cheesecake, etc. showing up at their house once a month? If you love to cook, give them your own gift certificate. You have the fun of cooking and whatever you make can go on someone else's hips!

25. Treat yourself! During this very busy time of the year, treat yourself to something you would really enjoy. A massage? A pedicure? A few hours to play golf or tennis? Lunch with a friend? Whatever you choose, just be sure it generates no clutter. DO NOT play the "one gift for them and one for me" game or you'll be overwhelmed with "stuff" in January.

Your challenge: Sometimes the most difficult part of gift giving is the indecision: not being able to decide what to give. This is a waste of time and you end up doing last minute shopping. Once you have an idea, don't waffle. Buy it or make it and then move on. Another time saver is to give the same gift to several people.

Do you have any additional ideas? Tell me...just enter your suggestion in the comment box below.