Sunday, December 24, 2006

Let me just say...Heavens yes!

I found this article at I absolutely adore the idea. It's something I feel strongly about. I like thought more than monetary value. I can totally appreciate the time put into selecting presents, and when I have kids, I hope to raise them to appreciate what they have. Ah...a life of simplicity! Here's hoping!

And may all your Christmas gifts be ... secondhand

A few years ago, my daughter wrapped up some Christmas presents for her older brothers. When the boys opened them on Christmas Eve, they found old soccer trophies, action figures and stuffed animals - all items she'd been stealing from their bedroom for weeks. They were a bit horrified she'd been going through their things. But they were happy to have the stuff.

Something old became new again.

This year, I'm dreaming of a recycled Christmas.

I'm not thieving toys from the kids' rooms to put under the tree. But many of their gifts once belonged to children in other families.

When my kids open their presents tonight, they'll find an iHome, Lord of the Rings action figures and dolls - all items they asked for and all items I bought used on eBay or at garage sales.

They won't know that some of the candy Santa is putting in the stockings was skimmed from trick-or-treating on Halloween.

Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for individual sets of Lego dragons, I purchased 10 used sets on eBay for $53 plus shipping. A little boy in Utah was done playing with them. His mom sent them in a huge box that I wrapped and parked next to the tree.

Even better, we're exchanging used gifts with some friends who also have three kids. The rules are simple: Dig through your toys, books and clothes and find things the kids in the other family will like. It doesn't cost any money. It gets the closets cleaned out. There will be no pile of cardboard and plastic packaging that comes with new toys. The kids are actually giving, instead of buying. Everyone gets presents that are new to them.

This isn't the same as re-gifting where you pawn off a gift you got last year as something new you bought for someone else this year. I'm talking about unabashedly recycling for the holidays. And I'm not the only one who does it.

For years my aunt and uncle have had a tradition that all presents must be secondhand. Christmas means a year-long hunt at garage sales and auctions for the perfect gifts. They saved a ton of money and had a ton of fun.

Some Iowans (and retailers) might be horrified by this idea. After all, Americans are trained to buy, buy, buy. Even if they can't afford it.

A survey from InCharge Education Foundation, a nonprofit personal-finance organization, recently found about half of Americans take up to six months to pay off credit-card purchases from the holidays. Parents have an even harder time affording it.

And what does all that spending buy?

Sometimes it's toys that get stuffed under the bed, sucked up in the vacuum cleaner or played with only a few times. With three kids, buying brand new, plastic toys is downright painful for me. They look just like the toys I bought last year.

But if I can get a good deal on something recycled, in good shape and sans the cardboard packaging, I'm thrilled.

In fact, used is the way to go all year.

When my family decided to get a canoe, I placed a wanted ad in the Register. We got one for $50. When my son wanted a video-game system, I asked my friend's teenage son if he wanted to sell his. He did. When my blender broke last summer, I knew I'd find one at a garage sale. Within a week, I was making smoothies.

For the holidays, buying used gifts isn't easy. It requires a lot of planning and hunting and thought - which is what giving to loved ones should be about anyway.

ANDIE DOMINICK is a Register editorial writer. She can be reached at (515) 284-8203 or

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