When it comes to giving gifts, there's an old saying: "It's the thought that counts." If you believe that the most important part of a gift is the thought that goes into it, the time has come to start thinking of what you want to give this season.
We hear many cautions about not slipping back into the consumption frenzy that brought our economy to the state it is in: Change our habits, don't be taken in by the too-good-to-be-true marketing messages, live within your means. Instead of just flashing your credit card at the multitude of shopping choices, why not take some time to think about how you want to express your feelings for friends and family this year.
Instead of just buying a product, look for ways to get double or triple the benefit from the purchase. For example, if you buy a basket made by a local artisan, you are not only getting a basket to give but also supporting a local business and a traditional enterprise, and you are bringing Nature into your friend's home. If you fill the basket with fruits and vegetables from the Farmers' Market, your secondary benefits are supporting local farmers and adding to the recipients' health by providing fresh food.
If you do some research and find out what different companies do with their profits, you can select businesses that give to charities or projects you believe in so that the money you spend on purchases goes to help others.
If you look into the country of origin of your prospective purchases, you might be able to make choices that enable you put your money into economies that are taking care of their people and the environment. You might be able to support their indigenous people's traditions, too.
Buy jewelry from an antique store, and you get treasures that have a history. At the same time, you are allowing someone to clear out their drawers and closets.
Buy art supplies and gather photos to assemble an album especially for a friend or family member. You can also assemble a music collection for your friend's iPod. The choices you make will reflect your friendship.
If you decide you want to buy a very special gift, make it even more special by spending some time checking different stores, learning about the details, talking with the salesperson, and finally selecting the most perfect one.