Shoebox Show-and-Tell

Hooray!  Show-and-Tell time, featuring:

My Shoebox!

(as part of Operation Christmas Child.  Remember???)

OOH! Stuff!

Ok, so I wouldn’t be the Ginger Penny Pincher if I didn’t provide you the details, including prices, of how I acquired all this stuff for my shoebox — which by the way, is intended for a girl, aged 10-14.

(Per the Samaritan’s Purse website, you’re supposed to pick the age and gender, so I picked this because I figured there weren’t as many people picking the older age group… but I just made that up… I don’t know if it’s necessarily true.)

Before I went shopping, I turned to what I already had.  Being a dance teacher for last three years, I’ve accumulated a lot of the typical “teacher’s gifts.”  Of course, I love these gifts (I do! — and love the gesture even more) but I don’t need three dozen packs of note cards or twenty scarves or fifty bars of decorative soap or whatever.  I can only write so many notes and take so many baths, and… well, I don’t really feel you can ever have too many scarves, but in this case, you know, I wanted to be giving :)   So… yes, I am guilty of re-gifting.  However, in my defense, these are things that probably would have gone to Goodwill eventually, and I think as long as it hasn’t been used, what’s the harm?  I’m sure the recipient will appreciate these things more than I ever could, and that’s what it’s all about.

So… I looked through what I had that had either never been used or never been opened, then completed the shoebox with a few store bought things as well.

Here’s a step-by-step:

(I show you these things not just to show-and-tell brag, though I really like that part; I want to show you how EASY and economically effective these can be!)

I could have gotten a plastic shoebox, but I didn’t see any that were quite big enough, so I settled on one from a pair of Josh’s enormous shoes.  Here’s the before of the very spent shoebox.

Yeah, gross.  However, it was the perfect size, i.e., BIG — so I fortified it with some staples and tape and covered it in red paper and green stickers (so festive).

Here’s a run down of the box’s contents:

Teacher's gifts, re-gifted! (Don't judge me, you've done it before.)

These are all teacher’s gifts, with the exception of the two necklaces. I’ve always thought the scarf was pretty, I’ve just never worn it (in fact, it still had its tags).  The beaded bracelets were also a teacher’s gift, but again… I just never wore them.  The beaded necklace with the silver heart was actually something I had when I was a little girl, and I thought now was a good time to pass it on.  The other “silver” necklace is actually the locket that came with the VHS tape of The Secret Garden (remember when that movie came out in the early 90’s?).  I never wore it when I was a child, but for some reason never got rid of it.  Again, I felt that now was the time to pass it on.

More re-gifting… I got the chalk board at Dollar Tree about a year ago, and the package of chalk has never been opened.  I drew a design on it and stuck it in the bottom of the box — and it fit (another reason I picked the Bigfoot shoebox).  The sparkly, fuzzy green zippable pencil bag was a teacher’s gift from a long time ago and I filled it with peppermints (because you can send hard candy).  The stickers are leftover from a camp I did this past summer (Look familiar, Spring?), and you can’t tell because of the glare, but the bit of yellow in the lower left hand corner of the picture is a set of notecards and matching envelopes (again… teacher’s gift… the notecards are covered in pink and purple sparkly butterflies with flowers and cupcakes.  No, really. I didn’t make that up).

When reading up on OCC the first year I did it, I was (pleasantly) surprised to hear that most kids’ # 1 requested items were school supplies.  (Love it!)   So, I combined forces with CVS and my unusually extensive office supply storage of items that have never been used/opened and Voila!

The pencils, pencil sharpener, and erasers were all CVS purchases.  The crayons were in a pack that I’d never opened (I’d had some sort of art project in mind, but never followed through).  I took these out of the box and tied them with ribbon.  I couldn’t help it. Must. Be. Crafty.

The highlighters came from home but had NEVER been used (I’m a bit of a highlighter hoarder) so I tied them with ribbon (I tried to stop myself, but I vouldn’t) and TA DA!

You probably didn’t need a close-up, but I gave you one anyway.  That was kinda thoughtful, right?

After school supplies, toiletries are the second most requested items.  Well, given that I have a box literally overflowing with gift soaps (thank you parents of all students I have taught, past, present, and future) I felt I had most of this department covered.  The toothpaste seemed an obvious choice — it is the only liquid-like thing you can pack in the shoeboxes — along with a toothbrush — not pictured, but believe you me, it’s glorious in all its pink-ness — and a package of cotton swabs.

And there you have it!  Re-gifting and one very brief shopping trip later, I have a shoebox for a girl, aged 10-14.  Yay!  Here’s the itemized price list (and another excuse for me to make a list):

Scarf:  FREE

Silver heart beaded necklace:  FREE

Silver locket:  FREE

Green stone bracelet:  FREE

Beaded, stretchy bracelets:  FREE

Chalkboard:  FREE

Chalk:  FREE

Star stickers:  FREE

Sparkly/Fuzzy green zip-up bag:  FREE

Peppermints: $0.99

Sparkly butterfly/flower/cupcake notecards with matching envelopes:  FREE

Crayons:  FREE

Two packs of highlighters:  FREE

Pencils:  $2.77

Eraser multi pack:  $2.87

Sharpener:  $0.99

Brightly colored paper notebook:  $2.67

Two other smaller notebooks:  FREE (these were teacher’s gifts, too.  I don’t think I mentioned that before.)

Toothpaste:  $2.57

Toothbrush: $1.00

Cotton Swabs: $0.99

3 soaps:  FREE

For a grand total of:  $14.85 (plus tax)

OOH! Stuff!

See?  Philanthropy is not just for rich people.  :)  And of course, this is not to say that you should be cheap when putting these boxes together, rather to prove how thiftily it can be done.

After I make the (encouraged) $7.00 donation, I won’t be out more than $22!  Small price tag, big impact.

In fact, here’s an example of the impact it has:

Yeah, good stuff.  So… if you’re interested, it’s not too late, but it will be “too late” after November 21st, this Friday, so get a move on it!

For more info, check out their website:

And please pass on any pics of your own shoeboxes and you can do your own Shoebox Show-and-Tell!!!



Two good causes, y’all!

As we close the week, I wanted to remind you — lovely and handsome readers — of two good causes that are at the forefront of my mind/heart:

Operation Christmas Child!

I posted about this one last Tuesday as part of the series “The Twelve Weeks of Christmas.”  Operation Christmas Child, a Samaritan’s Purse project, provides Christmas gifts (packed inside shoeboxes) to underprivileged children all over the world.  These shoeboxes are provided by folks like YOU and are collected at churches all across the U.S.  (but you must check to see where your closest drop-off location is — it may not be just down the street).

Just as a reminder, National Collection week for the shoeboxes is NEXT WEEK, November 14-21!  Since the weekend is almost upon us, I thought this would be a perfect time to give you one extra nudge :)  You have the weekend to work on them!  yay!

Petition and Protest over Shorter University’s Lifestyle Pledge

I mentioned this issue on October 1st, and I also urged readers to sign the petition, if they felt so inclined.  At the time, we had less than 1,000 signatures; now we have almost 5,000!  Our cause has made local and national news (Fox, CNN, Washington Post, Time, etc.), and we’ve even had some celebrities tweet their opinions over the matter, as well.  Tomorrow, there will be a peaceful protest by students, alumni, former faculty, and other supporters at 10:00 a.m. in front of the campus.

If this is news to you, please check out my previous post where I explain the issues of the Personal Lifestyle Statement and recent artistic censorship.  If you agree with any of it, please sign the petition.  We are gaining some serious momentum and can’t slow down now!

Of course, if you’ve already signed it, THANKS!  If you haven’t Facebook shared it, Tweeted about it, or spread the word in some other way, please do so;  we have signatures from all over the globe (not just Georgia!), so word-of-mouth and social media have definitely made a difference!

Have a great weekend!  Check back on Monday — hopefully I’ll have my OCC shoebox pics up!

*** I did it!  I posted every day this week like I said I would!  Ok, it was only for one week, but… baby steps.  Think I can do it next week, too?

Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 4: Operation Christmas Child

***Check out the previous installments of this series, “The Twelve Weeks of Christmas” here!

Ok loyal GPP readers, put your Focus pants on.  Today is a very important post!  This installment of “The Twelve Weeks of Christmas” has nothing to do with giving gifts… to people you know, that is.  This one’s all about giving to others, specifically those less fortunate than us.

In a mere two weeks, hundreds of churches, schools, and rec centers all across America will be collecting shoeboxes full of gifts for impoverished children around the world in a project called:

I think the name is a little weird, but whatever.

This project was created by Samaritan’s Purse, whose mission statement is given below (website):

“Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.”

Regardless of your beliefs, it can’t be denied that Samaritan’s Purse does some serious good!  One of their many projects is Operation Christmas Child, which they have been doing for over 20 years.  Of course they accept in-kind donations, but I think it’s more fun to assemble a shoebox full of gifts with a child in mind.  These shoeboxes go directly to children in need (they’ve got the videos on their website to prove it), so for those who are less than excited about donating to charities, knowing that the majority of your donation goes to support the overhead of said charity, you can rest assured;  such is not the case with Operation Christmas Child (OCC).  In fact, the only expense you have to make that does not go directly to the child is a $7 “donation,” which in reality is used to pay for international shipping.  The individuals who work at the churches and other donation centers are usually volunteers, if not employees of the particular location, so you are in no way compensating them with your donation.  Warm feeling of do-goodery? Check!

Before you head out for a shopping spree that may, in some, way, help you relive your childhood — hold the phone.  There are some very important things to consider when packing a shoebox:


Image taken directly from

First, you want to decide what gender and group you are shopping for.  OCC breaks it down into six different categories:

  1. Girl, 2-4 years old
  2. Girl, 5-9 years old
  3. Girl, 10-14 years old
  4. Boy, 2-4 years old
  5. Boy, 5-9 years old
  6. Boy, 10-14 years old

After you have determined how many shoeboxes you want to fill and what age group and gender it will be for, get a shoebox (or shoeboxes)!  Of course, in the GPP upcycling tradition, I would encourage you to reuse a shoebox that you have lying around your home.  However, if you do not have one, a great solution is to go to the dollar store and get a shoe-box sized plastic container (with a lid of course).  These are great for the kids because they can be reused and will last longer than a cardboard shoebox.

Feel free to decorate the boxes, but remember that on the day you go to drop off your shoebox, the volunteers will inspect its contents –  make sure it can be opened before it’s shipped.

Shopping time!  Now… of course this blog is all about saving money with style, but there is no reason to be less than generous on occasions like this.  That said, I have learned that all children, regardless of their socio-economic status, race, religion, or nationality, love A LOT of the same things.  Not to gender stereotype, but girls love dolls and boys love balls (I should write a song about that).  All kids love coloring books, school supplies, sparkly things, notepads, candy, sunglasses, flashlights, stamps and ink pads, hats, stuffed animals, the list goes on.  Adults often lose their sense of imagination as they get older, but kids really do appreciate the simplest things, regardless of their cost (as mentioned previously here).

Perhaps more importantly, all kids regardless of… all those things I mentioned above… all NEED some of the same things, too: soap, washcloths, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, and other hygiene items.  While most kids in the U.S. take these things for granted, many kids in “developing” or “third world” countries request these items above all others.  To make a great shoebox, strike a balance between items that are necessities and items that are great, fun gifts!

Of course, there are some items to avoid, and they are listed on the OCC website.  I’ll save you the time and paste them here:

Used or damaged items

war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures (many of these kids live in war-torn countries)

chocolate or food (hard candy is OK; I think OCC is concerned about melting)

liquids or lotions (leaking is the concern here, but bar soap and toothpaste are perfectly fine)

 medications or vitamins

breakable items such as snowglobes or glass containers

aerosol cans

In addition to OCC’S list, I’d like to add anything that requires batteries.  Unless you can send a lifetime supply (probably won’t fit in a shoebox), and considering that most recipients of these shoeboxes don’t have easy access to these things – it just seems a bit unfair to me.


Taken directly from

As I mentioned, I think it’s important to be as generous as possible in situations like this, but sometimes money is tight.  Every year, when Josh and I go shopping for our shoeboxes, we like to go to Dollar Tree first.  They always have great toys, school supplies, and toiletry items for… ya know… a dollar.  Of course they don’t carry a lot of name brands like Barbie, but who cares??

Then, we’ll usually follow up with a trip to Wal-Mart or Target to find anything else that we really wanted to get (and of course, handmade items are great, so long as it will be clear to the child what the item actually is).

I know the OCC list of no-no items says nothing “used,” but in my opinion, this doesn’t matter as long as the items are clean and look new.  Therefore, I usually will go to a thrift store and see what I can find in “like new” condition.  For girls, I like to get a little bag and fill it with girly things like barrettes, jewelry, headbands, et al (I don’t get scrunchies or hair ties because many of these children are malnourished and quite frankly, can’t grow their hair to any measurable length).  Thrift stores are great places to find these bags, because women who get those free cosmetic bags – as part of a promotion from Clinique or Estee Lauder (or where ever) – often donate these to thrift stores.  I fill these up, stick them in the shoebox, and it’s like 2 gifts in 1!

After you have filled up your box(es), you are encouraged to send a picture of yourself and a note to the recipient.  Then, print off the necessary label(s), affix it to your box, wrap a rubber band around the box, and take it to the drop-off location on the specified dates.

This year (2011), the National Collection Week is November 14-21.  You can look on their website for drop-off locations in your area, but keep in mind: even though the dates are 14-21, different locations do different things.  I had an almost-horror story last year when I went to drop off my shoeboxes:  The church that was my closest location actually stopped accepting shoeboxes after 1:00, however I didn’t know this (I thought they were open until 5:00).  Fortunately, when I got there at 1:15, they were still willing to accept my shoeboxes. (Huge sigh of relief!)

The moral of the story is CALL AHEAD to see when they are accepting shoeboxes; don’t just assume it’s the same hours or even the same days as all other locations.

OCC Processing 1

Taken directly from

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that Operation Christmas Childs is a great idea, not only because it’s an easy and thrifty way to make a big impact, but… it’s kinda fun!  Again, here’s their website for more info:  Operation Christmas Child


So… get to work!  You only have two weeks!!!  Of course, I’d love pics of your shoeboxes filled with all the goodies, so  pass those on to me: and I’ll post them here.  I’ll be sure to post mine in a couple of weeks as well!

You can leave comments below:

Do you plan on participating in OCC this year (or have you in years past)?

Do you know of any other charities or projects that are GPP friendly, specifically small price tag, big impact?