Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Alternative Registry

As you may have gathered from snippets in previous posts, I'm going back into the classroom next year. I spent three years teaching third grade in rural Louisiana through Teach For America, two years teaching 6th grade reading and writing at KIPP Academy, one year teaching a part-time class at YES Prep Public School, and one year teaching at a public Montessori school (grades 1-3) in Denver. But most recently, I've been working as an educational consultant.

Teaching is a profession that is very hard on the wallet:
  1. You don't make very much money to start with.
  2. You end up spending most of it on stuff for your kids/classroom.
I have so many ideas about how to engage and excite my 1st-3rd graders next year (all while increasing their achievement levels). For example, I want to buy a flip camera so the kids can create their own videos.

The problem is that so many of my ideas involve money. As a small part of the solution, I decided to set up a registry, so my friends and family (as well as my students' families) know what we need in our classroom. And anyone who has some spare dollars to donate to a good cause can contribute something interesting to our classroom!

For our wedding, Matt and I used My Registry, but I wanted to try something different for my classroom registry. I decided to go with Alternative Registry because I love their mission:

Do you want to plan an event that emphasizes time spent with loved ones and de-emphasizes store-bought gifts? Do you want to give a special gift to someone you love that focuses on the bond you share, rather than something that costs a bundle and may not be what they really want?

We all love giving and receiving gifts; it’s important to our culture and good for the spirit. When the gifts we buy don’t match our values, however, they can distract from, rather than deepen, the meaning behind an event, despite the best intentions of those involved. The cost to gift-givers—not to mention the environmental impacts—also adds up quickly.

Fortunately, for many brides, grooms, parents-to-be, and other gift recipients, less truly is more. By encouraging non-material, second-hand, homemade, and environmentally friendly gifts, we seek to continue the proud tradition of gift-giving while helping celebrants focus on what matters most: a joyous commemoration with loved ones that honors the important moments in their lives.

The website was very user-friendly. I added a lot of different items from a huge variety of sources. I love registries that let you upload things from all over the internet as opposed to a single store.

The downside of this registry is that it hasn't been as user-friendly for my guests. One of my friends tried to buy a magazine subscription for my class but she e-mailed me in a panic because the registry reported that she had ordered two subscriptions. One of my former college professors e-mailed me to say he had ordered the items according to Alternative Registry, but it had never asked him for money. He didn't realize you actually had to leave the site to purchase the item. This registry seemed more confusing than My Registry, even though I support the cause more. Also, My Registry lets you upload photos of the items, which makes it more appealing.

What has been your experience with online registries? Any you strongly recommend?

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Lisa said...

Hi Sara,

We're using the New American Dream's alternative gift registry for our wedding. You can upload photos of your requested gifts! When you click on "edit gift item" there is a little tree icon below the post that says "insert/edit image." You can use this feature to upload images from the web.

Like you, we found that some guests were confused because you can't buy items directly from our registry like you can with traditional registries from department stores. So, we used the "event description" section to write a "How to Use This Registry" note to our guests that they will see when they first log on to our registry. It has helped to solve that problem.

Hope this helps!

Gretchen said...

Since you'll be in the classroom, you should check out donorschoose.org It lets you write a proposal for materials you need for your classroom that are then funded through donations. All you have to do is have your students write thank you notes and take a few pictures of your students using the materials once you receive them. You should definitely check it out!

Gretchen said...

As for the wedding registry, we're registered with myregistry.com. It lets you put on anything you want from any website. It automatically loads the pictures, but gives you the option to change them if it gives you the wrong picture. And you can buy directly from the registry because there's a link on each item that will take you to the website where you can buy it. We haven't received any gifts yet, but hopefully people will understand it.

megan said...

I just used TheKnot.com's wedding website, which let me put up more than one registry. We chose the normal Bed, Bath and Beyond and Target registries (with minimal items)...but we also chose JustGive.org for charitble contributions. However, each transaction has a $10 minimum because the site charges $5 per transaction. We also registered with HoneyFund.com, which is a free honeymoon registry (and what we're really hoping for!). it doesn't accept payments form anyone, but is set up like a real registry, and guests can either mail you or bring their gift. the guest can even check off their intended gift.

love-v said...

I love the idea of a classroom registry! At my former school our PTSA had something similar. Teachers posted a wish list of items they wanted or needed in their classrooms and parents could donate or purchase items. I started a knitting club and posted my need of yarn and needles for beginning knitters and got a box full of stuff from someone's knitting stash.

For our wedding, Trevor and I used myregistry.com too. I think that it was either confusing or that most of our guests were old-fashioned because we got most of our hits from in-store registries. I think that it confused people to look at myregistry and purchase items from a variety of places. Either that, or people wanted to actually go into a store and see the items they were selecting. We just wanted to make sure that our friends and family got the best price for any items they chose to give us, that was the biggest bonus aside from the huge selection offered by a site like myregistry.

Kelli said...

We used New Dream's registry plus Target, Honeyfund (as another commenter noted), and Amazon. I have mixed feelings about having done Target. We found that probably almost half of the "stuff" gifts was stuff we didn't register for, INCLUDING things from Target that we hadn't placed on the registry. We also got a lot of gift cards from Target. I'm sure I sound very ungrateful by writing this comment, and that's not the point - people were very generous and we appreciate that a lot. But I think we misled people by creating a Target registry, because we don't actually like Target very much. We mistakenly thought everyone would buy stuff off the registry, so we put things there to make it easy for those who didn't go online. But if we had it to do over again, I would skip Target. 1) Because the guests would have gone there anyway without our encouragement.
2) Because a lot of people ignored what we had registered for anyway.
3) Because it gave them the idea that we wanted a lot of stuff from Target, which wasn't true.

ANYWAY! I love New Dream's registry, and we put non-tangibles like plants from people's yards on there and a few other things, and we got some of it. But one lady at work was like, ooh, you have an "Alternative Registry?" We think she thought it was some kind of intimate registry or something - she sounded a little shocked about the whole thing.

Well, in closing for this long and somewhat off-topic comment, I hope you will send your feedback about the registry over to the folks at New Dream. They do a lot of good work and I'm sure they want to do the best job possible at it. I love the other commenter's idea about putting an explanation at the top of the registry. That's thinking ahead - well done.

Keep writing!

Becca said...

Sara - is this your actual classroom registry? I didn't see which items had been purchased yet (if any) just in case we out here in internetland wanted to help out with your classroom. I've been a teacher too, and first year classroom development was very hard on my pocketbook. Also, I love some of the items you've listed! (Butterflies! Birds! Hands-on Science Fun!) Your 1-3 graders are going to love these activities!

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Becca: Yes it is! I've been deleting items as they get purchased because I don't want to confuse users (the site puts a little one in one of the columns when something has been purchased--it's not very conspicuous). P.S. When are you coming to Houston again? I really want to meet!

Alyssa said...

Hello, I love this blog and am planning my own small DIY wedding for the near future. I also am considering becoming a teacher after I finish getting my degree. One thing I wanted to comment on after reading your registry list was the fact that you have a photo printer and scanner as two separate items. I am sure you have more reasoning behind it, but might you consider getting an all in one photo printer? Most models have the capability to plug the camera's memory card right into the printer and print without a computer near by, some also have screens so you can see what you are printing. It is a little bulkier than the small printer you had up there, but they also give your the option to print larger photos. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

I'd just like to second the notion of Donors Choose. We've used it often in my school to fund anything from science and art supplies to field trips. It's definitely worth checking out!

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