I don't know about each of you, but one of the challenges I face is distance. My family is spread across the USA from coast to coast (Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Washington). As a result, I don't see everyone often which makes gift giving a real challenge. I am married to an engineer and so I have been taught that sometimes the best solutions come when you think totally outside the box.
I believe it was about 4 years ago that I was struggling with the "what to give/make for everyone" in mid November. I came up with the idea of and Advent Box. What I did was put 24 small gifts in each of my "family boxes". These gifts were each individually wrapped with a note inside that had some sort of personal message. For example, one day may have one individual packet of hot cocoa for each member of the family and a note saying, "with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, take time today to sit and relax and remember you are loved". The outside of this daily gift would have a date that this was to be opened, say Dec 15. The gift on Dec 25 would be a bit more substantial, yet small and usable, (like a calendar).
To keep this project under control (cost wise) and to help ensure that it was a well received, I created some parameters for myself. For cost control, purchased items were to be no more than $0.25 or $0.50 per day. If I had made food goodies in my kitchen, these were to be given during the first 7 to 10 days (Dec 1-10). Also, food gifts were limited to a serving or two per family members (i.e. 1 or 2 cookies per family member). Finally, unless there were small children in the family that I would include a bit more to be opened on Dec 25, I would limit the contents to fit into a flat rate shipping box to keep postage costs under control.
The first couple of years, I kept my advent boxes limited to readily consumable food items or useful items that would be used (i.e. birthday candles). After a couple of years, I found myself struggling to come up with new ideas. To rectify this, last year, my daughter and I put our heads together and decided on giving themed Advent boxes. Our theme? Spices. We purchased spices in bulk online and broke them up into small quantities (spices are MUCH cheaper this way.) Then, we decorated lunch bags for daily gift bags. In each bag, we put approximately 3-4 Tbsp of a spice and labeled it. We also included a recipe that used the spice. It was a big hit!
For your budgetary numbers, we purchased 1 pound of each spice and spent $250 on spices. I had enough spices to create all 8 Advent Boxes, have some of each spice for my home, and give almost complete sets of spices to 5 other families. So although the initial cost of the spices seemed really steep, each gift was actually about $20 before shipping (and these are family gifts!). I purchased my spices at
Their spices are good and fresh and a nice value. Also, you don't have any shipping costs in the US if you purchase I believe $40. My Spice Sage also has rotating free spices (if you spend I believe $25 they will include a free spice in your order).
Now, I am back at the drawing board thinking about what to make/send out for 2011. Ideas? Also, I am thinking about changing this idea into an Epiphany Box. Thoughts?