I bought a membership to the National Trust recently and it reminded me that there’s a whole world of potential gift possibilities out there that do not involve spending vast quantities of cash on cumbersome crap that the recipient may well end up carting down to the local charity shop. I’m not talking about giving your loved ones one of those charity donation gifts like an Oxfam goat – such gifts are a lovely idea if someone has asked for them, or if you know there’s a cause particularly close to their heart that they would love to think they were helping. If you’re not careful though, they may be smiling through gritted teeth and thinking, “Where’s my body lotion/socks, you sanctimonious sod?”
No, what I have in mind are gifts which will allow your friends or family to enjoy doing something they love, whilst at the same time saving money. These gifts may also have the welcome side effect of benefitting the finances of a worthy cause. They will also save you the bother of wrapping paper. I present to you, the gifts that keep on giving……
1. National Trust membership
It has to be number 1 on “Parklover” doesn’t it?! I got my membership for £35 on the internet, a special offer if you do it by direct debit. That will get me into most National Trust properties for free, or at least at reduced rates, as well as removing parking costs. There’s at least 4 properties within an hour’s drive of me that I’d really like to visit – this would probably cost at least the above figure. The beauty of the membership is, that it will also encourage me to go exploring, in order to “get my money’s worth”. Membership of English Heritage would also make a great gift.
2. Annual pass to a zoo or safari park
I bought my parents annual passes to Dudley Zoo last year (as well as passes for mme and Mr Parklover). I worked out that we only needed to go there 3 times to have saved money – and we would be quite likely to go at least 3 times in a year ( I think this year’s tally is 5 so far!). Most zoos and safari parks offer something similar e.g. Chester, London.
3. Become a “Friend” of an art gallery, museum or arts centre.
I paid for a friend to become a “Member of Bury Met”, our local theatre and arts centre, for her birthday this year – she’ll get invitations to special events, first option on tickets for some events and a discount in their very good cafe bar, Automatic. Most galleries, museums etc operate something like this (e.g. Manchester MOSI, Harris Museum in Preston), but what you get as a “friend” varies alot. Some of them offer the chance to get involved as a volunteer, which may appeal to someone you know. The membership also helps to keep your favourite cultural hangouts going. Result.
The real thing is much better than a CD/DVD! Furthermore, if you plan to accompany the recipient, then you get to enjoy the evening too. This is great if you know someone’s tastes really well. It’s appreciated as a gift that has taken some thought but, depending on your loved ones tastes, it can be surprisingly cost effective. I always used to take my parents to the theatre a few days before christmas – before I had CJ! I’m looking forward to renewing the tradition once she’s old enough to come with us.
5. Newspaper or magazine subscription
I have a relative who has bought me a magazine subscription for Christmas for the last few years. I don’t have to pay for my favourite monthly read and he doesn’t have to think about what to buy me. Everyone’s happy! Get 12 issues of Lancashire/Worcestershire/Yorkshire Life etc for £25 (order by 11.12 for christmas!). Alternatively, find a newspaper subscription to fit your budget e.g Guardian subscriptions range from a measly £13.50 for a month’s weekend subscription, to £308.69 for a 12 month 7 day a week subscription.
Have you bought any gifts like this for friends and family? Anyone out there got any brilliant tips?