Archive for the ‘gifts’ Tag

Passing On the Best Gift I Ever Received   1 comment

What do I consider to be the best gift I’ve ever been given? The gift of college, fully paid by my parents (well I did have a small scholarship). Especially in today’s world I am incredibly grateful to have been able to go to the university of my choice, focus on my classes without needing to work during the school year, and get a college degree without having a loan to pay off afterwards. This is a gift that I really, really, really want to be able to pass on to my children as well. My parents did this using savings in bank accounts and CDs. We’re going to add another investment option to our arsenal: a 529 plan. Years ago when I first heard about 529 plans I didn’t think they were that great because I thought it meant you were picking the state where your kids would have to go to school. Having been given the choice to go anywhere in the country, except for schools located in-state or near home, I couldn’t imagine setting that kind of limitation for my kids. But when I realized that the invested money can be used for qualifying education expenses anywhere, I changed my tune.

To be honest, we’re not fully taking advantage of all the potential benefits of a 529 plan. Really the only benefits we’re taking advantage of are the tax-exempt nature of the distributions and the hopefully higher rate of return than a simple savings account or CD. Depending on the state there are other benefits available (I think typically only to residents) like tax deductions. This will seem kind of random, however, but we’re not enrolling in the California 529 plan, or the New Mexico 529 plan. We’ve enrolled in the DC 529 plan. It’s because SRI (socially responsible investing) is very important to me, and the DC plan is the only one (as far as I know) that is managed by an investment firm dedicated to SRI, Calvert. My Roth IRA is through Calvert and I really like the work that they do. TIAA-CREF, the plan manager for California ScholarShare, has some SRI funds but I don’t know that those funds would be part of the 529 plan. I don’t know if Oppenheimer, the plan manager for The Education Plan (NM) has SRI funds. By investing through the plan managed by Calvert I can rest assured that all of the funds in the plan are SRI funds. And I know that I am comfortable with the positive and negative screens that the company uses, and with the shareholder activism in which they engage.

Now we just have to manage to put enough money into savings in the next 18 years to be able to pay for whatever college will cost in 2030.

Posted October 17, 2012 by mayakey in conscious living, money, pregnancy

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Wrapping Gifts With Calendars   Leave a comment

Several years ago in my quest for a way to have beautiful/interesting gift wrap that does not waste resources I stumbled upon the idea to use old calendar pages, and I have to highly recommend this. They don’t work for every gift, but it is part of the “arsenal” of gift wrap. Arsenal may  be an odd choice of words, but I think that it is appropriate since different types of gifts/gift giving situations require different strategies for wrapping. My arsenal contains gift bags, newspaper, butcher paper (from buying things online), tissue paper, calendars, paint, stamps with colored and metallic inks (although I haven’t used them in a couple years so they may be dry), ribbons, and various silk flowers and leaves from my old bookcase decoration. Oh, and this year there is one particularly large box that will be covered in a sheet as a visual shield since nothing else will work.

I gather from reading comments this year on various Facebook posts and blogs that lots of people just can’t stand the idea of not wrapping gifts with a roll of wrapping paper. I’m  not going to say that using wrapping paper is horrible for the environment and no one should do it, because that’s just not true or helpful. One could easily say the same thing about buying wall calendars or sending out Christmas cards, but for me the spiritual satisfaction of those things is enormous. Besides, I totally understand the desire to make gifts look beautiful. I spend quite a bit of time on the quest myself. The idea to use old calendars to wrap gifts came about because I love a good calendar and a pretty gift. At the end of the year I always felt bad tossing a calendar that I thoroughly enjoyed into the recycle bin. It occurred to me that many calendars have images that make for good/fun gift wrap. And there’s something that I like about using my husband’s old pirate or Darth Vader calendars to wrap gifts for him, or wrapping my mom’s gifts in old goddess calendar pages. It’s more personal than a generic roll of gift wrap that is the same for all of the gifts. For those who object to the look of newspaper or plain paper wrapping, a calendar page can also be used on just the top/front of the gift to spice it up a bit.

There is one type of person who should probably not try this strategy, though, and that’s the person who needs to get every edge and corner perfectly folded and match the patterns at the seam. Calendar pages are heavier than typical wrapping paper, so it can get difficult folding corners sometimes. They do have the hole at the top of the page and the torn edge at the bottom, and depending on the situation these may end up visible. Sometimes the best part of the image is in a corner of the page, requiring some creative wrapping to frame the image on the gift as desired. To me it is worth it and the act of wrapping the gift has become part of the gift itself.

For all that I recommend old calendars as gift wrap, I also have to recommend being more open-minded about gift wrap. Simplicity is ok. A few years ago I went to a few gift exchanges with gifts wrapped in plain paper with a nice ribbon, and I noticed that my gifts were the last to be chosen. It was almost like people expected plain paper to house lame gifts. I am rather offended by that notion, especially since I put effort into every gift and I find plain wrapping to be simply beautiful. Simplicity can be very beautiful.

Posted December 23, 2011 by mayakey in frugal living, resource use

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