WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Thursday thoughts: Best and worst frugal gifts!

Posted December 6, 2012

 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?


Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • snowl Dec 9, 2012

    The worst was last year when my sister bought me a computer software program she thought that I would like to learn for my career, but in the wrong format. She then returned the software, but kept the refund, and never gave me the correct format for my MAC....So, NO gift was what I actually received.....and it's not the thought that counts in this case. P.S. I would never think of re-gifting anything....that's a thumbs down!

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Dec 7, 2012

    doraellie - that was hysterical! Great story.

    brassy - that is too cute. I guess she thought you needed to start sewing with the easy stuff. :-)

    Thanks to all for sharing!

  • Nancy Dec 7, 2012

    Faye said - "Linda, you may not be able to sew but you are so incredibly generous with your baking and your time. "

    That is SO true! She is amazing in her constant energy and giving to those in need year round, not just during the holidays! Linda, I need to 'run into you' at HT one of these days :)

  • doraellie Dec 7, 2012

    One year I wanted to give my college aged daughter membership to an auto club so I strung three little A's on a piece of yarn and wrapped it brightly in a jewlery box. Come Christmas morning I saw her open then stare confusedly at the gift. In the jostling one of the A's had come off - she announced "I think Mom enrolled me in Alchoholics Annonymous but I don't drink". Then lifted the cotton and saw the missing A!

  • brassy Dec 7, 2012

    When I was in high school, my grandmother gave me one of those sewing kits where you thread a shoelace through holes punched in a piece of cardboard.

  • scoutmomof2 Dec 7, 2012

    My boys and I will start this weekend. Chocolates, truffles, maybe fudge, cookies, pastries, breads and possibly pies. I did make a bunch of jam this year but my teens have rapidly depleted the supply. I also need to go after work and pick out some nice yarn, knitting a scarf for my youngest son's girlfriend this year (he wants to make her chocolates) and some tins or trays for the cookies (my ex in laws still love to get them). Next year I think I will start early and sew some quilts for my boys (they love quilts).

  • alwaysab Dec 7, 2012

    I love to bake cookies and make fudge as gifts for some of my co-workers and extended family members.

  • dad6 Dec 7, 2012

    The best gift I ever received was from my college roommate. She worked at a large retail store int he cosmetic counter and she was able to hoard away about 40-50 samples of expensive perfume and other small sizes of lotions, cosmetics, etc. She put them in a cute, bulging gift bag. I think I dipped into that bag for many years and could probably still find a sample or two in an old suitcase : )

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Dec 6, 2012

    Love everyone's comments! Thank you again for sharing them.

    Linda, you may not be able to sew but you are so incredibly generous with your baking and your time. And Nancy makes up for all of us who can't sew! Thanks Nancy!

    astamper - such a cute idea on the humane society donation. Love the dog treat touch.

  • emtpcrafter Dec 6, 2012

    and yesi have accidentally regifted to the sender. ooops