Holiday Shopping Ideas Outside The (Cargo) Box

Christmas shopping is difficult enough without extra challenges to boot. News stories about supply chain issues affecting holiday shopping are rampant. Complications include reduced workforces, lack of resources, and roaming cargo boats loaded with colorful, merchandise-laden rectangular boxes.

According to an article published by The Wall Street Journal, in October stores started telling us that we were already behind if we hadn’t started knocking things off our list. Despite the dismal outlook, this is an opportunity to think outside of the (colored cargo) box. Here are some holiday shopping ideas to help with your list, all while supporting small businesses and leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

Shop Local – Think small-town-Hallmark-Channel Christmas shopping. Support your local small businesses while using this as a chance to enjoy the local flavors of the day.

For family or friends who love vintage – check out the local antique shop. Give gift certificates to area restaurants or coffee shops. Visit area vineyards to get native wines and make a creative basket with cheese and crackers. Our mom-and-pop hardware store is one of my favorite spots for those hard-to-find gifts.

Even in a small town, there are lots of options. The pandemic has hit small businesses hard, eliminating some forever. Not only will you end up with unique and thoughtful gifts, but you will also be giving back to your community.

Farmer Markets – Speaking of local shopping, don’t forget the farmer’s markets. This time of year, many are open at special times, offering homemade goods and folksy items that make great gifts. This is another great way to support your community.

farmer s market

Music Lessons – Give the gift of music. My in-laws run a local music shop, giving lessons in-person and virtual, and selling instruments and strings. Our two boys started lessons out of COVID boredom, but it ended up becoming a passion for them both.

If your hometown doesn’t have a music shop, consider getting virtual lessons elsewhere. A gift certificate for a month of lessons would be enough to get their feet wet and see if it’s a good fit. Who knows, you might be helping someone with their bucket list!

Art lessons – Give creative expression through art. Choices such as Paint Nights, individual or group art sessions, or a Pottery Night Out make this a gift option with variety. Just like music lessons, this is available in-person or virtual, and for all ages.

girl in art class

Home Improvements – From updating wall colors in a room to adding new landscaping accents. Consider gifting a certificate for service from a local handyman, painting business, or landscaper. What about a gift card to a local interior designer or the option to update curtains or rugs? Man-cave? She-shed? Now is the perfect time to set that in motion and present it as a gift. Winter months can be difficult for some in the home improvement field, so you may find specials or discounts on local services.

home project text on the ladder

Photography Session: A camera is a SAVE button for the mind’s eye.” – Roger Kingston

Take. The. Pictures. The same exact moment will never be available again. Gifting photography to someone is a gift that gives forever. Family photos, a special event, group pictures, special holiday shoots, and yes, boudoir.

Men, listen up, gifting a boudoir session is a boost of confidence for your lady and serves as a reminder of the beauty you see daily.

A flirtatious black-and-white photo of my grandmother leaning against a classic car was enough to convince me. I realized that one day I want my grandchildren or great-grandchildren to be surprised, and maybe even shocked, to find a spicy photo of me in my younger years. In the meantime, it made a great surprise gift for my husband over dinner.

Many photographers offer mini sessions that cost less than a full session. Flexible times and various options for redeeming make this a great, ever-lasting gift.

Child’s Room Remodel: An updated room is refreshing and fun, especially as our tastes and interests change. For kids, this can be a great gift opportunity that is unique to them. Make a decor-themed package with some paint color charts and supplies in a paint tray. Wrap it all up in some colorful cellophane, along with a cute note inviting them to be the designer. Have fun picking out the matching decor together and watch your child’s creativity flow during the process.

A few years ago, we did this for my daughter’s birthday. She asked for a pink ceiling and teal walls (yikes!). Since it was her room and her gift, we went with it. Much to our surprise, it actually turned out fantastic. A new fancy light fixture, curtains to match her new colors, and an updated extra fluffy comforter. With that, her overhaul was complete, and she couldn’t have been more delighted with her gift.

For younger children, this could also (secretly) be a gift for parents too. Allowing them to create the perfect cozy nook for relaxing can be the go-to area when your child needs to calm down. Pinterest (gosh, I love you) has so many awesome ideas, from tent-style corners and canopies to mini furniture sets. New books, pillows, and string lights give a sense of peace and security.

(Download the Calm Down Choice Board to post in the special area, or keep it until needed.)

Trips: Another memory-maker gift. This year, we are presenting the kids with a surprise camping trip. The kids begin to pack for their adventure immediately after receiving the destination announcement on Christmas morning. I enjoy that it is something to look forward to once the Christmas rush is over, before the mundane sets back in.

One year, we gifted our kids year-long passes to an amusement park. In 2019, we took a relaxing beach trip that included a small indoor water park at our hotel. Since travel is in the off-season, you will find cheaper rates and typically quieter stays. I love the fact that it creates lifelong memories for our family instead of a cluttered living room packed with an insanely large number of toys and gadgets.

Holiday Shopping Idea Trip

Second-Hand Stores – You never know what you will find – new items, unique items, or items for a room remodel. Even with Facebook Marketplace, or similar reselling options, you will find new or like-new items in your area that cost far less.

We have a second-hand store that benefits local firemen and a thrift store that helps fund the Rescue Mission shelter in the nearest city. Their pages often feature items in excellent condition that would make perfect gifts. These types of stores are also great places to find quirky or rare items for the person on your list that has everything.

store with different goods on display

Holiday Shopping Idea Craft

Get crafty – Crafty gifts require time and effort; which shows the recipient that you put in special thought to make it personal. Handmade quilts (my favorite), ornaments, or a show off your baking skills with a cake or variety of goodies. All of these can be great gifts. Kids can join in on the action and make their own crafty gifts to hand out, too.

Last year, I struggled to find something different to give my family. Our historic building in the backyard was deteriorating, so I used boards that had fallen off and broken into pieces. The wood from the 1900s was a rustic base to add sheet music featuring the recipient’s favorite song. I added some hooks to hang keys, leashes, or whatever they would like to use it for. The cost was next to nothing because I already had everything on hand, but it held a piece of history, along with music dear to the heart.

So, use this holiday shopping dilemma as an opportunity to support your local small businesses, get creative, and make great memories while doing so. Just remember to think outside the box!

6 thoughts on “Holiday Shopping Ideas Outside The (Cargo) Box

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  1. That’s a very nice list! I love second-hand stores. Traveling isn’t so great right now during the pandemic, especially here in Europe with our fourth wave and Omicron around. But I’m doing more crafts with my son, and we are baking a lot, too.


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