Published 6 November 2016 ● Last Updated on 30 September 2020

Gifting has always been around, but when I was growing up, I remember receiving gifts only around a festival or on my birthday. The scenario today seems very different. All of us seem to be in a frenzy of gifting as there are multiple occasions to give and receive gifts. First there are the regular (and very enjoyable) teas/ coffees /lunches one attends, then there are kids birthday parties, 30th/40th/50th birthday parties, housewarmings, farewells and of course let’s not forget the 20th / 25th anniversaries .… suffice it to say that the list is rather long and hence the occasions to gift are aplenty!  Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not against celebrations, absolutely not, on the contrary, I truly believe in celebrating every moment in life, but it’s the gifting culture that we have built along these celebrations that has begun to bother me. We receive and give gifts so frequently nowadays that the joy and, dare I say, the excitement of gifting or receiving gifts doesn’t exist any more.

The environmental impact of all these items we accumulate along with the wrapping and accessories used for each gift is significant too. We try and teach our children to be environmentally responsible and yet caught up in this gifting frenzy, we ourselves are so irresponsible. Do we really need all the things we get as gifts… probably not and I know that recycling or passing on of gifts is probably a norm, then why not break away from this norm altogether.

I’ve been thinking of some ways of sensible gifting, if I may call it so. A few things we try to do as a family or are shifting towards are –

1. Wrapping gifts in newspaper or gift bags – Wrapping gifts in newspaper not only helps recycle newspaper but also becomes a fun craft activity for my 8-year-old daughter. We paint, color and draw on the newspaper to make it look attractive and give it a personal touch. Gift bags on the other hand can be reused several times. The gift bags could be made from cloth or recycled paper. We often buy plain brown bags from Art Friend or just make our own [How to make your own wrapping paper and bags?and have a blast decorating them ourselves.

Recycle old paper
Recycle old newspaper: Christmas gift wrappers and bags.
Get creative once you have wrapped the gift with newspaper

2. Gift cards – I know there is a feeling that gift cards are impersonal [and apparently bought by the less imaginative] but honestly I feel they make great gifts for kids, teens and adults. Across all ages we suffer from the ‘problem of plenty’, however, a gift card gives the person receiving the gift the flexibility to buy whatever they really need at a later time. Almost all major retailers have gift cards that you can buy. Gift cards from Smiggles, Typo Royal Sporting House, Kinokuniya, Takashimaya and the like make good gifts.

3. Consumables – If you are a baker of sorts, home-made goodies like breads, cookies, jams etc add a personal touch to the gift. You can even outsource the preparation by buying food items like healthy salad oils & dressings, dips, dried fruits, exotic teas etc. These make great gifts too. Of course while gifting consumables you must take into consideration the person’s tastes and preferences. If you can’t figure anything out, the good old bottle of wine [online wine stores in Singapore] is a great fall back option, it’s difficult to go wrong with a wine bottle :-)!

Flourless cookies made with oats and maple syrup
My kids loved these – I needed to bake a fresh batch the next day!
banana cake with honey
Make your own Healthy banana cake with honey (Psst: you don’t have to be a serious baker)

4. Potted herbs or small plants like orchids are my personal favorite- I prefer potted plants to flower bouquets simply because potted plants can be everlasting. The plants along with a nice flower pot can be easily purchased from the wet markets or any nursery like Far East Flora (Thomson road or Queensway). If you want to be more exotic or have a higher budget, pick up a terrarium. Terrariums serve as decorative or ornamental items. ‘Love in a Bottle’ has many terrariums, which you can order online or buy from their outlets at Millenia walk or Kallang Bahru. Another store selling terrariums is ‘Cat Socrates’ at the Bras Basah complex and Katong. These stores also have DIY kits for terrariums.

An easy tutorial turn old cigar boxes (or any other wooden box) into a desktop garden for succulents / cactus. Jazz up your coffee table or use the idea for a housewarming gift!
You can make your own planter too for gifting 🙂

5. Books – If you’ve recently come across a good read, why not share it with others too?  Books are great for spreading the joy of reading. Though not a very popular gift item for children, gifting books to kids is a way to encourage them to read and possibly expose them to a new genre/ author. Besides large book store chains like Kinokuniya, Popular & Times Bookstores, there are several quaint bookstores like Books Actually & Woods in the Books at Tiong Bahru or Littered with Books at Duxton road which carry unique titles.

Ye olde dictionary! 4 book hacks to repurpose old books. Use them to store bookmarkers!

Not every occasion warrants a gift. Lets break away from the norm and be sensible & responsible in our gifting. Lets count our blessings more often, respect each other’s sentiments and bring back the joy of gifting again.

Article by the same author: Sourcing organic/fresh food in Singapore.


Akshi has two kids and is constantly seeking out ways to make the living habits of her family healthier and more sustainable. She is an innovative cook and a master baker. Akshi currently freelances for a B2B market research firm. Previously a banker, she has worked across India, USA and Singapore. In addition, she actively volunteers with the SPD and Touch care services in Singapore. 



  • Very Impressive and quite true to an extent . It gives us some food for thought to think differently and somewhere make a conscious beginning .

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