I have two guilty pleasures: Watching "The Bachelor" and buying high-end magazines this time of year just for their annual gift guides. Of course, I could never afford any of their suggestions, but I can't help but get a kick out of the one-percenters trying to one-up each other. The stress must be unbearable. How do you choose between a silk-lined submarine and a trip to outer space?! Each year the gift guides get more lavish, more shocking and more expensive. A $12,000 pen is a mere stocking stuffer nowadays, and an obvious sign you're new to money.
Some of the highlights from this year's guides include a $335,000 tiara that doubles as a bracelet (so now it's practical!) from Tiffany, a private island valued at a mere $2 million and, my personal favorite, a pregnant giraffe for $80,000. Since it's expecting, it's two gifts for the price of one!
While I actually really would like a pet giraffe, I tend to be a more sensible shopper. So here's my gift guide for those of us more into meaning than money. Added bonus -- these gifts also support important community programs.
1. How about a little hope for the holidays? The American Red Cross offers a variety of symbolic gifts you can purchase for those on your gift list. Shoppers can buy things like infant care kits for babies in emergency shelters, comfort kits for wounded warriors, or water containers used when natural disasters disrupt a community's water supply overseas. Catalog purchases come with greeting cards shoppers can send to a friend or loved one, letting them know a donation has been made in their name. The purchase of each gift item is a tax-deductible contribution that supports the mission of the Red Cross. Here in Utah, the Red Cross provided services to over 500 individuals affected by house and wildfires, recruited and trained over 100 volunteers, provided lifesaving education to more than 10,000 people and provided support to more than 700 active and veteran military members and their families in 2013. Visit www.redcross.org/gifts for a list of ideas.
2. Reduce, reuse and recycle with a present no one will want to regift. The first Park City-themed reusable bag is now available at the Recycle Center and several local businesses.
The bag is a product of a proposal. Earlier this year Recycle Utah proposed a ban on single-use plastic bags, and both the city and the county agreed it sounded like a good idea. After all, disposable plastic bags are bad for the environment and our health. So the folks at Recycle Utah created an environmentally preferable, organic cotton, machine washable, made-in-the-USA reusable bag, depicting the Summit County lifestyle, to help encourage people to use less plastic. At just $10 per bag, shoppers can cross a lot of people off their list and give a little gift to the planet at the same time. Visit www.recycleutah.org for more information.
3. Got an animal lover on your list? Honor a friend or family member's pet with a customized brick from Friends of Animals. These permanent engraved bricks line the walkway of the organization's rescue ranch. Starting at just $150, it's a great way to help homeless pets while showing you cherish your own. Order information available at: foautah.org/buy-a-brick.
4. No doubt there's someone on your list who loves and frequently uses Park City's awesome trail system. So consider buying him or her a membership to the Mountain Trails Foundation. Membership starts at just $25 and includes a host of cool incentives. Not to mention, your donation helps keep our trails in tip-top shape year-round, and supports efforts to create more trails for everyone to enjoy. Find membership information at: www.mountaintrails.org.
5. Put a live performance under the tree this year with tickets to one of the exciting shows put on by the Park City Institute. For as little as $20 you can enjoy music, dancing, ballet or even a raunchy puppet show. Your ticket purchase helps support efforts to continue bringing the performing arts to our community. For a list of upcoming shows, visit www.ecclescenter.org.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.