As we all try to stay within our holiday budgets, let's share our favorite frugal gifts to give and receive. And while you're sharing, let's hear about the craziest or worst frugal gifts you have ever received (or given!). Your helpful ideas may just end up on the WRAL noon news or WRAL-FM with Bill and Lynda next week!
Here are some frugal gifts I have given and received in the past:
Do-it-yourself tower of treats: It’s so much fun to open up a stack of gift boxes filled with different treats inside each box. If you buy one of these towers from a retailer, you will probably pay $25 - $50 or more. If you make your own, you can cut the cost dramatically and still give a fun gift with fantastic presentation. Michael’s usually has sets of stackable boxes for around $6. If you use the 40% coupon from recent weekly ads, you will only pay $3.60. Then fill the boxes with homemade cookies, brownies or fudge, fruit, candies, chocolates, movie rental gift certificates, popcorn, candles and more. The choices are endless but the reaction is always the same: “Wow”!
Gift baskets: People love receiving gift baskets. There is something irresistible about lots of goodies packed into a cute basket and covered with cellophane and curling ribbon. Look for bargains all through the year and make themed gift baskets geared towards the people on your list. For the person who loves to watch movies (or any teens on your list), put together a Movie Theme Basket with movie rental certificates, microwave popcorn, candy bars and soda. Other themes include a Baker’s Basket, Chocolate Lover’s Basket, Coffee or Tea Basket, Sewing or Knitting Gift Basket, Gardening Gift Basket, Bath and Beauty Gift Basket (great for college students) and Kids Craft Basket.
Homemade treats: Some of the most popular frugal gifts during the holidays are edible treats. Choose from cookies, fudge and brownies baked from scratch, hot chocolate mixes in a mug, soup mixes in a bowl, fudge, pies, homemade bread, fudge, quick bread mixes in a loaf pan and little gingerbread men. The Sweet Potato Cream Cheese Pie (pictured above) that I gave as a gift last week was a hit! You'll find the recipe HERE.
Hobby related gifts: Many folks have hobbies they love. Some people collect coins, stamps or glass horses. Some are train enthusiasts or enjoy taking pictures. If someone on your gift list has a hobby, find a gift that will contribute to that hobby, without breaking the bank. Buy a magazine subscription for the train collector, rolls of film or photo paper for the photographer, specialty scissors, paper and stickers for the scrapbooker, exotic spices for someone who loves to cook. Gifts that help a person enjoy his or her interests are always a winner.
Picture perfect: Some great ways to share your family with loved ones is through framed photos, scrapbooks, photo albums and digital photo frames (split the cost with siblings for a gift for the parents or grandparents). Many photo centers in malls (like JCPenney) offer high quality, low-cost portrait packages for around $20. These often include multiple sheets of the same picture with larger and smaller photos. These are excellent for gift giving in an inexpensive (but lovely) frame from a craft store like Michaels (remember to use your 40% off coupon!). Take your own pictures and have them printed through one of the drug stores using the many coupon codes available this time of year. Head to their websites for the codes or sign up online to receive e-mails when there is a new code available.
Arts and crafts: Nothing says love like a piece of artwork from a child or a handmade scarf (which would probably take me 800 years to produce). Drawings from the grandkids in inexpensive frames, handprint concrete stepping stones (these can be found in kits for under $10 at most craft stores), knitted scarves, and crocheted blankets all make for impressive and lasting gifts. Stores like Five Below have a number of craft kits that are all $5 or less. There are some cute bracelet and necklace craft kits your kids can make and then give the crafts to their friends as gifts.
Corny coupons: It may sound corny to give a coupon you made on the computer but it’s an ideal gift to the right recipient. Consider the new mom who could really use three hours of free babysitting so she can go to the store all by herself. Or consider a coupon for a homemade dinner for that same new mom who has no time or energy to cook. Sometimes just helping with the everyday responsibilities is the best gift of all. Coupons are also great for kids. Consider a coupon book with coupons for an afternoon at the park, dessert at the local ice cream shop, a trip to the museum, their choice of movie rental, etc. None of these outings needs to be expensive and they are great ways to spend time with the kids or grandkids.
Donations to charity: Some folks would rather not receive a gift themselves but would love for the money to be spent on a donation to a favorite charity. You don’t have to donate $10,000 for the gift to be meaningful. Any donation is deeply appreciated when it is to a charity about which the person cares. For instance, we give to the Gynecologic Oncology Program at Duke Medical Center in Durham each year in memory of my mom, who had ovarian cancer and was treated at Duke.
What frugal gifts do you like to give and receive?
What are the craziest or worst frugal gifts you have received (or given)?
I always chuckle/cringe at the stories about people accidentally re-gifting something to the person who gave them the gift originally. Has that ever happened to you?