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Gifts That Help the Local Community

As the holidays are fast approaching, I have been forcing myself to try and get prepared early this year. I want to keep the holidays simple and enjoyable. One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is choosing the perfect gifts for the special people in my life. I like to make Christmas special for those that I love and try to choose gifts that are personal to them, rather than just buying items to fill the space under our tree. This can be stressful, trying to find those items that show how much thought and care I put into choosing each individual gift. I love giving gifts more than I enjoy getting them.

WIth the current state of the economy and the budget always feeling tighter this time of year, I wanted to find meaningful gifts that wouldn't break the bank. This made me think of an email that I had received from my mom recently urging consumers to buy American-made products this holiday season. It also reminded me of my 7-year old recently, after reading packaging for a toy he asked, "Good grief,  isn't anything made in the US?" And yes, he did use the phrase "good grief." So after thinking for a bit, I decided that I would challenge myself to find as many US made products or services as possible to give as gifts this year, rather than the typical  big brand-name items.

We always hear the saying , "Buy American," but at first this seemed to be an incredibly difficult task. It seemed too hard to find American made items in the stores, but as I sat thinking of ways I could accomplish my goal and support our local community I began to create quite a long list...

- Gift certificates to local restaurants, locally owned boutique stores, or independent grocers.

- Rounds of golf for dad or sports lessons for the kids.

- Gift certificate to a salon for a massage or manicure. I know I'd LOVE that one!

- Pay to have your loved ones car detailed (or do it yourself!).

- Purchase locally made crafts and jewelry,  or paintings from a local artist.

- Concert tickets to the local symphony orchestra (even many small towns have a community orchestra!).

- Have family photos taken by a local photographer, frame and share with grandparents and family.

- Shop the local, independently owned book store for the perfect winter time read.

The list could go on and on of great gift ideas that will also support the local community. But if money is tight, there are many other great ways to give the perfect gift while spending little or no money:

- Shovel someone's driveway during the winter months, or offer to mow their yard during the summer months (with my husband deployed this year, I can honestly say this one would be the perfect gift!!)

- Babysit someone's children so they can have a date-night or just some alone time to reenergize.

- If you are crafty, make your loved ones a gift this year. This category is endless...

- Same goes for if you are a good cook, make meals that can be frozen and easily reheated. This would be perfect for the busy family that is always on the go!

- Any service that you might be able to provide, from cleaning to gardening, could be offered and would make a much appreciated gift!

Again, this list could go on and the ideas were surprisingly easy to come by once I was able to stretch my mind and do some creative thinking. There are also many wonderful American made products sold by large companies, whose profits will also benefit the larger community as well. I'm not saying that foreign-made products are bad or that they don't have their place, but so many small businesses and self-employed people are struggling these days, and those are the people who are the backbone of our economy. They are the individuals and families that give back to our communities and whose profits benefit our cities and towns directly. These companies and businesses support our local communities, and without them everyone suffers.

This year my gifts will give in multiple ways...to the loved one who will receive the perfect gift, to the small business or individual artist who created it, and to me with the joy I receive in giving these American gifts.  What better way to celebrate this holiday season! I'm excited to start my holiday shopping and see what great gifts I can find within my local community. I hope that maybe this will give you some ideas of ways to support your local community this year as you shop for your holiday gifts as well!

What are some other gift giving ideas that support local businesses or American-owned companies? 

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