Sunday, January 18, 2009

Frugal Times

Tuesday, on Inauguration Day, I’ll be guest blogging -- and showing off my picture with the president once AGAIN -- over at the “Working Stiffs” mystery writers’ blog if you care to pay a visit.

But today, in honor of our new president and the belt-tightening measures he’s likely to suggest in the current economy, maybe it's time to reconsider what makes a good hostess gift these days.

Expensive chocolate used to be a wonderful gift for anyone who invited you to their home for a social event. Not so much anymore. The hostess is usually on a diet and she’s unlikely to share the chocolates anyway -- especially if she can re-gift them or return them for cash.

What about a nice candle? It can come in handy during extreme weather events like our recent ice storm, but one candle doesn't give off much light if the electricity gets shut off for non-payment.

A bottle of wine has always seemed like a good choice. But these days it’s important to know if your hosts have given up alcohol because they can’t afford it anymore -- or if they’re drinking too much as a way of coping with their dwindling finances.

With flowers, which can be pricey during the winter, there’s always that awkward moment when the hostess scurries around to find a vase, usually at the very instant her dinner needs the most oversight. It can be even more awkward if her crystal is at the pawn shop.

So what is a good hostess gift these days?

I say slap a big bow on a nice, thick steak and you're all set. A week's worth of groceries in a pretty gift bag also might be a thoughtful gesture. And homemade goodies are always welcome –especially if they’re in the form of a big honking casserole or vat of soup large enough to feed the family for a few days.

If you'd prefer to give something a little more discrete, simply slip a generous gift certificate to the local grocery store or gas station into a gracious thank you note.

In colder climates, consider bringing along a stack of wood for the fireplace or wood stove. Not sure if your hosts own either one? A blanket or heavy socks might be a safer bet.

Think consumables. Think frugal. As long as you remember to wrap your offering in a lovely ribbon, preferably one that can be reused or burned for fuel, you’re golden.


Rosemary Harris said...

For a while there everyone was bringing expensive soaps..a lovely gift..but I now have a lifetime supply, and even - only once, I swear - regifted a nice unopened package from L'Occitane.
I much preferred it when people started to bring me exotic or flavored olive oil. Delicious, useful, cheaper than wine and probably healthier. You can even make your own (less expensive)olive oil gifts by going to Michael's, getting a decorative bottle for about $1. filling it with olive oil and putting a sprig of herbs in it. Um...I like rosemary.

Pat said...

Soap is a good "consumable" though. While you're at Michael's, you can pick up a soap mold for about $2.50 and then take all the old small pieces of soap around your house, melt them in the microwave, pour them into the mold and voila! - another hostess gift -- Dove and Irish SPring together for St. Patrick's Day? Just kidding. I do like the olive oil idea, though. I'm sure the "rosemary" is the crowning touch!