Colorful Spending: Gifts That Give Back

The figures are in and as we approach the holiday season, the world’s economic state can be summed up by four simple words: “We’re all still broke!”

I could offer up some additional colorful words to describe exactly how I’m feeling about my own personal finances right now- but in the spirit of the season I’m going to play nice (Santa is watching after all).

So with bank accounts lowering and stress levels rising (almost as fast as the prices for food and gas), it’s easy to see how one could lose sight of that ‘giving and thankful spirit’ that this time of year is supposed to be all about.

I’m determined for my own sanity not to let that happen.  Whenever I begin to feel stressed out, I vow to take a breath and to remember how truly grateful I am for my family’s health, for the crazy cast of characters I call my friends and for the not quite clean-but always welcoming house that I am fortunate enough to call home.

So with less cash to spend and more gratitude to give, I spent the weekend surfing the net for gift ideas. Products that will bring a smile to those that I love, all while helping to make the world a better place. I figure this way everyone can profit a little from my (not always this thoughtful) spending habits.

Here are a few of my favorites so far- I hope they will inspire you as well!


1. American Flamingo needlepoint pillow from Michaelian Homes ($150)- choose from a variety of beautiful John James Audubon’s bird images licensed directly from the Audubon Society and help support their fight to protect these beautiful creatures.

2. Fair Trade Napali Hand-knit Stocking Cap ($12.95).  Super cute and for every cap sold through The Rainforest Site, they will fund the preservation of 1145.0 sq. ft. of  land.

3. Lush Hand & Body Creme Charity Pot. Chose any of their beauty products and with the proceeds LUSH will donate to carefully selected charities around the world that support animal rights, environmental protection and humanitarian concerns.

4. PeaceKeeper Eco-Sensual Lip Balm ($3.89). PeaceKeeper Cause-Metics is the first cosmetic company to give all of its after-tax, distributable profits to women’s health advocacy and urgent human rights issues- so pucker up and feel good about it.

5. Mother Earth Seed Necklace ($48) from the Women’s Peace Collection.  Sales of this and their other stunningly beautiful fair trade products help to fund their commitment to empower women through sustainable enterprise. Each product comes with a card describing it’s unique story.

6. Hope Grows Seed Packet (for a $10 and up donation).  If you love her colorful prints, you’ll love all she’s doing to raise awareness for breast cancer research. So gift your favorite Vera Bradley fan with one of her colorful bags and stick this pink flower seed packet from the Vera Bradley Foundation inside as an added special touch.

7. Flock of Ducks ($20), make a donation in your sister’s, mom’s, wife or favorite girlfriend’s name to the Heifer International and let her help supply a family in need with animals that can help to feed and support them for years to come.


1. Tom’s Shoes (Remarque $46).  Hip and thoughtful because for every pair of shoes sold- Tom’s donates one pair to a child in need.

2. Henckels Steak Knives and Wooden Case ($79.99 through the Food Network) For the manly man- every set sold Henckels makes a donation to Share Our Strength- an organization helping to end childhood hunger here in America

3. Vintage 13 Marino Estates Cabernet Sauvignon ($13.99) available through Event Wines, not a Dolphin’s fan? No problem choose from other favorite sports hero’s own labels- with 70% of pre-tax profits going to the celebrity’s charity of choice.

4. Nike’s LIVESTRONG duffel bag ($40)- great for the gym and 100% of Nike’s profit goes to the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s fight against cancer.

5. Orvis’s Malpai denim shirt ($79). Let him channel his inner cowboy, plus for every shirt sold, Orvis has pledged a donation to the Malpai Borderlands Organization which is helping to preserve ranching lands in Arizona and New Mexico.

6. Whether he’s a Democrat or Republican, he’ll get a ‘kick’ out of this- a gift of a donkey ($100) to a village in need through Oxam America.


1. Start off the season by teaching your kids the gift of ‘believing‘.  For every letter placed inside of  Santa’s mailboxes inside Macy’s, the store will donate $1 to Make A Wish Foundation.

2. Kid’s love caring for animals-choose from over 100 different species and Adopt An Endangered Animal in your child’s name ($25-$100) through World Wildlife Fund- wait till they get to tell their friends that they have a panda for a pet.

3. Go to Toys R Us to buy that ‘hot toy of the year’ (yes zhu zhu pets are a one of them) and buy an extra toy and donate it to the stores Toys For Tots drive (through Dec.6th, cash donations at the registers through Dec.24th)  Then become a fan of Toys R Us on Facebook and the company will donate an additional $1 to Toys For Tots.

4. Gingerbread House Kit ($19.95) from Dancing Deer Baking Company.  A great holiday project for the whole family, plus 35% of profits are given to the Sweet Home project, providing education scholarships to homeless and at risk mothers.

5. Make every mealtime a colorful adventure with Children’s Chopsticks ($10) from Unicef, proceeds from sponsored products help to provide children around the world with the means the live safe and healthy lives.

6. Let your favorite little sports enthusiast pass on their love of playing the game and donate  a Gift of a Soccer Ball and Air Pump ($31.25) and provide some fun and playtime for children living in refugee camps- also through Unicef.

7. Delight them with this cool Retro Scooter in St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital’s signature green($49). 100% profits from products are donated directly to the hospital.

Many of these ideas were found in a great article off of .  I’m sure there are many others to know about and I’m still looking for additional ideas, so If you have one to share please leave a comment-Thnx!

13 Responses to “Colorful Spending: Gifts That Give Back”

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  1. Jessica says:

    This is a great list with some wonderful companies! I love LUSH and was happy to see them in this post. I have been doing my best to get holiday gifts this year that give back and another great company I discovered was Sustainable Sourcing. They have these beautiful organic gift sets (I found one with Himalayan sea salt and organic peppercorns and another with massage stones and bath crystals) that are all made by Green-e certified wind power and they donate 5% of their profits to environmental causes. Another bonus is they are offering free shipping in November so I got a lot of my shopping done already!

  2. juliehoylen says:

    Thanks Jessica- I’ll check out their site and add them to my list!

  3. kate says:


    Thanks for the ideas. I own a pair of TOMS shoes and they are the best. I would buy lots of them if I could. Also, way to go on the soccer balls for the refugees. They are a much needed source of entertainment.


  4. juliehoylen says:

    Hi Kate- Wow I love your site and products as well. Everyone should check it out!

  5. april says:

    This is the home site to many other sites that benefit women and children in need. The products are awesome if you need a wrap-it-up gift. I like the idea of giving $ in my friend’s name to send girls in Afghanistan shoes for the winter. Do any of us really need one more little gift? Great choices Julie!

  6. If you are wanting to buy Fair Trade you should look into Fair Trade Sports. They have a great selection of sports equipment. (soccer, football, basketball, rugby, volleyball, etc) Their RESPECT sports balls really put out a positive message which all the kids, and coaches, love. Plus, Fair Trade Sports has all their after-tax profits going to charity.
    .-= Monica Turley´s last blog ..Faith-based organizations =-.

  7. Great post and excellent ideas! We’re all about empowering women and giving back, so especially love the Mother Earth Seed necklace. Thank you!!!

  8. Michael says:

    Great list of ideas. I encouraged people to do the same on my toy blog, but didn’t do near as good a job as you did here. Time to go rewrite, lol.
    .-= Michael´s last blog ..Zhu Zhu Pets Currently on eBay =-.

  9. I’d like to call your attention to my client, GiveCard, a first-of-its-kind gift card that lets the person you give it to make a donation to the charity of their choice from the Charity Navigator database and spend the rest of the card amount like cash. It’s available at

  10. For those of you still looking for a last minute gift for a special woman in your life, please visit my etsy store . I design and create jewelry donating all the time and supplies so that 100% of the money brought in can go towards a scholarship fund to help young women in Chicago’s inner city go to private high school. Please help us. This is an excellent cause!
    .-= Kerry Wellstein´s last blog ..Art Helping to Educate =-.

  11. Paula says:

    I purchased the November 2009 magazine specifically for the “16 gifts that give back” and wanted to be certain that I did that this year. I was so diasspointed when I got the magazine home and only found 8 GIFTS LISTED IN THE MAGAZINE. I searched and searched and had others search as well…..Did I miss something????Unfortunately I didn’t think of going to this website until now (after Christmas)

  12. searched and searched and had others search as well…..Did I miss something????Unfortunately I didn’t think of going to this website until now (after Christmas)


  1. [...] For Tots drive (through Dec.6th, cash donations at the registers through Dec.24th) Then … Go to Source Date November 23rd, 2009 Filed in Uncategorized No Comments [...]

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