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How to Throw a “Window Shopping” Party, or, Give Gifts without Paying a Dime

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Many of us find some of our greatest pleasure in giving gifts to others—material treasures like books or jewelry, but also emotional must-have like friendship or a listening ear. But buying presents can cost a lot of money. And there are some emotional supports you just can give.

A “window shopping” party is a fun way to spend an evening with friends and express your generous desires without breaking the bank. With envelopes, a stack of recycled magazines, and scissors you can give your friends everything you’ve ever dreamed of giving them without paying a dime.

  1. Collect as many magazines or newspapers as you can. Ask guests to bring any magazines they have laying around. If possible, try for variety—a Vogue, a National Geographic, and a Good Housekeeping provide three very different kinds of gifts. Craig’s List can also be a great resource for free, used magazines.
  2. Provide at least one pair of scissors for every two guests, or ask them to bring their own.
  3. Write each guest’s name on a large manilla envelope. Alternatively, use gift bags (which you can stuff with a sheet of tissue paper at the end of the evening) or small, wrapped boxes with a large slit on top for each guest.
  4. Over snacks and cocktails, invite guests to cut pictures from the magazines of things they would like to give other guests. The pictures can represent something concrete (a ring) or abstract (a happy marriage). Guests can also give words or phrases.
  5. After a pre-specified amount of time (or, for a more casual evening, when the “gift givers” seem to be slowing down), give a five-minute warning. You may want to ask guests who are finished to help you trash (or recycle!) scraps on the floor or table.
  6. One at the time, give each guest her box to unwrap and open. Allow her time to enjoy her “gifts,” ask questions, or share her favorites before giving the next guest her box.
  7. When everyone is finished, you might want to discuss the experience. How did it make people feel? What were the most thoughtful gifts?

Receiving the perfect gift from a friend is almost as heart-warming as giving the perfect gift yourself. A “window shopping” party is a unique, low pressure way to show each other how much you care.

How do you show your friends that you appreciate them? Let us know in the comments.

One response »

  1. What a great idea! And it sounds like it would be tons of fun, too! I can just imagine the laughter and amusement from some of the “gifts” that could be chosen….


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