I went to a holiday party yesterday. I am broke, I have no car, I stocked up at the grocery store for 3 weeks of careful menu planning and really didn't feel like I could spare much of my food for a potluck, I recently moved so I already got rid of all my extraneous "stuff" that might have made ok secret santa gifts. This could have been a time to go into pity party "Oh poor me, alone for the holidays, family 3000 miles away, no money, no car, stuck at home with the dog and Netflix for company." But instead I decided I was going make the most of my unique talents and make it festive without spending a dime!
First the Secret Santa gift - it needed to be something that could be appropriate for a man or woman since we didn't know who would get our gift. So on Saturday at noon I went through my massive yarn stash and pulled out a half a ball of red, half a ball of grey and half a ball of black. I grabbed a pair of needles and just started a-knitting. I made up the pattern as I went along and ended up with a fast, beautiful, striped scarf with awesome multi-length tassles. The funny part is, I hadn't quite finished it when my ride was supposed to get to my place. So instead I wrapped up a ball of yarn with a note saying "IOU 1 COMPLETED HAND KNIT SCARF" and took the scarf on the needles to the party to keep working on. I was knitting on it all evening with everyone admiring it, but I didn't let on my little secret. One gentleman in particular was really fascinated by it, kept asking me questions about it, how long woud it take to finish, all this. When it came time for the gift exchange, HE was the one who ended up pulling my wrapped ball of yarn which I promptly grabbed from him (because I had just run out and had 2 rows left...LOL!) and 20 minutes later was able to gift him with the finished product and he LOVED it. So, gorgeous Secret Santa gift completed and it was yarn I already had around as odds and ends from other projects.
Cost to me - $0...actual cost of yarn used, maybe $3-5 tops
Part 2 was needing to make something for the potluck. I usually like to make cranberry sauce, but when I was at the store Saturday bags of cranberries were $3 each and that just seemed like more than I could justify on my budget to make a side dish. But what I DID have in my fridge was a pitcher full of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes bread dough. I mix up a batch of this every couple of weeks and have it to make fresh bread throughout the week. So I grabbed a double size lump of dough, let it rise for 2 hours to make it nice and airy, and baked it up. Sliced the whole loaf up into small pieces and put it in a basket. At the party I had multiple people tell me it was the BEST BREAD they had ever had! Half whole wheat, no sugar, as basic a flour/water/yeast/salt recipe as you can get, but it was just as good as anything you get from the fancy bakery downtown for $6 a loaf. I had people swiping the leftovers to take home whcih was fine with me, because I had already baked a second loaf to keep for myself :-)
Cost to me - $0 (the dough was already mixed and sitting in the fridge)...actual cost of the ingredients in the loaf, about $0.50
So...without putting a penny out of my pocket I was able to go to the party, enjoy the company of good friends, a FABULOUS meal, and just the all around warm feeling of being with people you love around the holidays AND bring a gift and a contribution to the potluck without spending any money out of my rather empty pockets.
I guess the lesson is, you don't have to be fancy! Would I have liked to fix up a gourmet, fancy, gorgeous dish of bacon wrapped dates or mini stuffed potatoes or tiny spanikopita bites, maybe. But that bread was made with love and probably tasted better than most of that other stuff would have anyway. Would I have liked to give a big gift basket full of goodies from a local store or a gift certificate to everyone's favorite restaurant as a gift? Maybe, but the scarf came from my hands, my heart, and will keep someone who needed a friend and needed a scarf warm this winter. I think my simple offerings that were made with my talent and my love were more welcomed and appreciated than anything I could have thrown money at. And that is a good lesson to remember year round!