Ultimate Gift Guide for Sustainable Giving!

The holidays are just around the corner which means many of us will be buying gifts for our families.   I for one love the holidays as a time to spend with family and to give gifts to those that I love, because it is my love language! However, I am of the opinion that much gift giving is rooted in consumerism. So as a part of the Ultimate Gift Guide 2013, I am here to share my Ultimate Gift Guide for low-impact families or anyone trying to stick to a budget. Seven ways I save and still give: I buy used, I buy clearance, I buy sustainably made, I buy local and small, I buy durable, and I think outside of the box.

(Disclaimer: The following post contains affiliate links to products I personally recommend and love. Purchasing through these links supports my family both during the holidays and all year long. Thank you for your purchases!)
 While I like buying sustainable for my entire family, this articles will focus on kids. Remember, gift giving is about the intention and not money spent.

Ultimate Gift Guide for Sustainable giving

Buy Used: Shop around at your local thrift stores and find great deals on toys that your children will love. Ask each store when they get new shipments in and if they carry the leftovers from chain stores. One GoodWill near my house sells the leftovers from Target so I get new Target merchandise at Thrift prices all the time. I have gone into stores on the day they got in new toys to find brand new items and awesome toys that all the pieces were there! Attending a local Just Between Friends sale is also a great way to score gently used toys and clothes. Scan craigslist and see if there’s a great item, OR put out an “in search of” ad on craigslist — be sure you include your max price. Graze garage sales and online garage sale sites such as local facebook swap groups.

Toys from garage sales, thrift stores, and craigslist

After calculating most of the toys I have obtained second hand, on average I only spend 10% of the original cost.

Buy Clearance: Buying clearance means that you are not indicating to the manufacturer that they need to make more of that product. This is a great way to get some new items at discount without feeding the beast of consumerism.

Affiliate Advertising DisclosureBuy Sustainably Made: Find great products that are made of wood and not plastic, that are painted with natural paint, and/or that utilize renewable resources. One of my favorite toy brands is PLAN toys. They make great wooden toys with vibrant, but natural colors. Another great toy manufacturer is HABA. Their toys are great quality and I highly recommend them; my daughter has loved their magica rattle since she was 4 months old. Make sure that you are researching where they are made. Standards and guidelines of manufacture are hugely important! For instance, while Melissa & Doug products can be great because they are wooden, I choose not to buy them because they are made in China and have been known to have lead in their paint.

Buy Local/Buy Small: Buying local means that you are putting money back into your economy. Buy small means buy from a small business (or someone you trust like a mom blogger [wink*wink]). No, these don’t necessarily help with consumerism, but it at least benefits the community in which you live or supports people you care about. Participate in Small Business Saturday this year and pay in cash if possible! This helps those local shops that you love stay afloat because they’re not having to pay card fees. (My favorite OKC-based stores? Love Well Handmade, Green Bambino, Tail Feathers Diapers, and The Changing Table)

How to choose sustainable toys.

Buy Durable: Buy something that is quality made. This means that maybe a child doesn’t have 10 gifts to open, only 5, but that each one is of a high quality. When you choose to buy quality toys and merchandise, the idea is that you won’t have to replace them (or as often). It’s the same reason why I invest in nice jeans; I have had the same great pair for years with no signs of wear and tear.

A Few Companies I like

Think outside of the Box: This suggestion is both literal and metaphoric. Remember that the holidays (and any time really) is about spending time with family and not necessarily money.

  • Take time to make some gifts; one better, make gifts that can be made again (like those jars of all the dry ingredients for cookies). Check out these great ideas for babies and toddlers from another Ultimate Gift Guide Contributor.
  • Buy gifts that encourage family time! Buy board games, family story books, family devotionals, and more.
  • Find museums that are fabulous and buy passes for the family. Look for museums that have a national network because then the family can potentially use it on vacation too. (My two favorite OKC Museums are the Science Museum OK and Sam Noble Museum of Natural History)
  • Make coupon books to offer your time or service to your children. Make sure they include the things you aren’t as excited about, but that your kids truly love and appreciate. (For instance, my mother hated playing monopoly. However, she agreed to play it all day on New Year’s Day each year).

For more on learning to buy second hand, including how to buy secondhand on Amazon, please visit my guide to buying secondhand and clearance.

Ultimate Gift Guide Button

Get more holiday ideas at the Ultimate Gift Guide 2013! Browse on pinterest and look at links online.

Happy Shopping! 



  1. Leslie says

    I didn’t know that Goodwill carried new items. What a great tip! Which Goodwill do you go to?

    • Kara Carrero says

      I go to several, but the one that gets a lot of news items is the one in MWC.

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