Share your inexpensive holiday gift ideas, win $25

By Will Chen on 10 December 2007 (Updated 18 December 2007) 59 comments
Photo: laffy4k

This is the season to be inventive. Instead of buing expensive gifts, why not find thoughtful and inexpensive ways to express your sentiments?

Share your frugal imaginative gift ideas for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate! **This drawing has ended.  Congrats to Megan, our winner!  Thanks so everyone who participated.

While the Wise Bread elves are busy cooking up more holidays savings for you, here are 7 of our most helpful gift giving posts of the season:

If you must spend some money (not that there's anything wrong with that), here are some of this season's best gift guides from around the web:

Share your gift ideas with us in the comments and you will be automatically entered in our weekly drawing to win a $25 Amazon.com gift certificate. Deadline to enter is 12/16/07. Only one entry per person will be counted.  **This drawing has ended.  Congrats to Megan, our winner!  Thanks so everyone who participated.

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Guest's picture
Teresa

Baked goods---breads, cookies, cakes, are awesome to give as inexpensive and thoughtful gifts.

Guest's picture
Barbara

A handful of hole punched, filled-in recipe cards of some of your favorite meals, or even better, meals that you've made for that particular person that they really enjoyed. Always include a couple of blank cards too so that they can start their collection.

Guest's picture
Lisa

my new son - he's 4 months and wonderful. And inexpensive gifts for me this year are picture frames with a picture of my son in it! Of course, I'll let people know they are free to change the picture.

lghbob's picture
lghbob

Not really creative, but worthwhile, easy, inexpensive, and while your giftee might not understand at first, you'll be thanked again and again thru the years.

White man's athletic sock (prefererably new), ribbon (any kind but metallic or plastic) and the cheapest rice you can find at the store.

Fill the sock with rice... (fill... don't spill 'cuz rice tends to bounce and make a mess). Shake it down and fill again to the top of the sock... Then tie the ribbon to close the open end of the sock.

To use... microwave the bed buddy for from 1 to 2 minutes until it's at the right temperature

You now have a warm and cozy bed buddy to ease pain or just to keep the bed warm.  Therapeutic, just to hang it around the neck to relieve tension.

Cost... about $.50 for the sock, maybe $1.25 for the rice... and $.04 for the Christmas ribbon.

Don't get it wet before you microwave it. : )

Should last for many years... and guaranteed to please.

 

 

 

my opinion only

Guest's picture
Guest

Ah, I love those things. I would put it in one thin sock, however, tie that one and put it in another one. It would keep the rice from falling out.

Guest's picture
Kim

A few years ago I typed up all the family recipes, my favorites meal recipes, etc. I also took pictures of some of them after I made them. I then took pictures of my family from various holiday meals of the past. I identified where each recipe came from ("Great Aunt Elaine's Stuffed Chicken" or Tuna Casserole from Such and Such cookbook). I whipped them all up into a small booklet (which also included my "memories" associated with some of these foods). I gave away 10 of them to family. They were very popular. Also made a good way for me to declutter and have all of my favorite recipes in one place. I had the covers laminated at a copy place after I printed it out. I had them spiral bound the booklets. A fairly cheap gift, not too hard, and much appreciated.

Guest's picture
EB

The little blurb before the comments section is for last week's drawing, about being thankful.

My frugal gift idea: Dollar store mugs or glasses (if they have nice ones - Dollar Tree does!), filled with recipient's favorite candy, done up all fancy with a piece of ribbon nabbed off last year's gifts. Kinda lame but good if you can really hit the nail on the head with the favorite candy or other content.

I LOVE this website, BTW.

Will Chen's picture

Thanks EB!  Good catch.  =)

Guest's picture
Hishtafel

If you are part of a church, chances are you know a teenager or college kid trying to raise money to go on a mission trip. Hire that teenager to do cooking, housework, babysitting, etc for your giftee, and everybody wins.

~Q

Guest's picture
DivaJean

My best presents this year are for my in-laws: my mother in law and my sister in law. We are all quilters and dabble in the sewing arts. My mother in law and father in law rented a house in Maine for all of us (our family & my sister in law's) this summer for a week. I hand embroidered different icons of Maine for quilt squares (lobster, various boats, lighthouses, etc) and pieced together some nice wallhangings as a momento of our vacation together. The best part of it is: the fabric is all free for me (another family member is an upholsterer and gives carloads of fabric twice a year- what I don't use is passed on). I use thicker fabrics for free quilt batting too. These two great gifts cost me about $2 each- for the embroidery thread and machine sewing thread- and a ton of time. Thankfully, I have plenty of time, even with 4 kids. My bus ride to & from work gives me about 30 minutes of good "stitchwork" time. The tough part is getting the machine work time in at night- but I'm almost done (and will certainly be in time for Christmas!).

Guest's picture
Guest

Original Music- Video. I went on myspace music and found an relatively uknown artist that I really liked. I was able to purchase some of her home made CD's which sounded just as good as studio to me for $5 bucks a piece. She was thrilled and so was I!

I also have made CD's for my family. One liners, Stories, and some holiday music as well. Loads of fun and everyone loves them. Be creative - add personal video - you tube it! It's free and you can share your creativity with the world!

Guest's picture
StaceyRae

I've been working with my 3 year old son printing off coloring pages off the internet to make a special coloring book for his 8 year old brother.
It's an inexpensive gift from one brother to another teaching patience (the printer prints way to slow) and diligence (would he like the darth vader pic close up or should we hold out for one full body?)
We plan to color a cover and assemble it this week. I think the 3 year old will be more excited about giving this gift than receiving the one his brother is planning (he's been secretly painting a ceramic santa for the 3 year old.)

Guest's picture
Guest

My mom and sister both make handmade greeting cards. I always ask for a set of cards for Christmas and my birthday and they are happy to give them. They figure a dozen cards costs about $6 and around an hour to make. They usually make me two each of six different designs.

I second (fourth?) the idea of baked goods. Cookies, snackmix or simple candy are always well appreciated. For families with young kids or relatives coming in, I've made casseroles before too. Many casseroles can be made ahead of time and frozen. I usually use an aluminum pan, write the reheating directions on the foil covering and include the receipe in the card. Add a bow and you're not only giving the gift of a meal, but you're also decreasing someone's stress level and giving them a bit more time to spend on other things rather than prepare the meal.

One of my high school kids puts together a box of homemade cookies, a jar of hot chocolate mix and a mug together for all the youth leaders at church. I know I really appreciate that. I take the cocoa to work to help me get through cold mornings or long afternoons.

When my grandmothers were alive I made up a couple of different types of cookies and packaged them together for them. They liked it when others baked for them (they were always baking for us) and seemed to really enjoy it when I made THEIR receipes.

When I was in college, a friend of mine did my laundry for me for Christmas one year. That was one of the best presents I got. Especially since finals were right before Christmas, it gave me one less thing to worry about. This might not go over as well with people who aren't college kids, but similiar ideas could work. Clean someone's house (or at least the bathrooms and main living areas) before they host a holiday party. Shovel a neighbor's driveway when it snows (or, if you live farther south, rake their leaves). Wrap someone's Christmas gifts.

Guest's picture
Mel

No gifts for anyone. It doesn't get cheaper than that!

Guest's picture
Snit

When a grad student, I had to live on next to nothing so I became quite clever in frugal gifting. My family all live in cold climes so for their gifts, I woke up REALLY early, swiped their car keys from their pockets, and dragged my mother's vaccuum cleaner out and cleaned the insides of thier cars thoroughly. I put new air fresheners in and then the real work began: hours of chilly scrubbing, getting the salt and dirt off from their long trips home. They were so grateful! I was so exhausted but it was worth every second (there were five cars to do -- not surprising that my own clunker stayed dirty until spring..). Oh, and I cooked a lot those holidays, taking pressure of my mom.

Just being a loving family member is a good gift, I guess. And a bit of hard labor always helps. :)

Peace to you all in this holiday season.

Guest's picture
Lesha

Bake chocolate chip cookies and wrap them in different colors of cellophane such as the traditional green or red and tie a ribbon on it. :)

Guest's picture
paidtwice

homemade food. jam! jam rules. people love homemade jam and it is super easy and makes a ton.

it may cost $10 for the fruit and $10 for the jars but then you have 12 gifts for less than $2 apiece.

splurge... buy a pretty ribbon :)

Guest's picture
Erica

Furnace glass rings made with sterling silver wire. They cost around 4 dollars a piece and the labor is pretty cheap, considering you make them yourself!

Coupons for a free night of baby sitting or offering to make a homemade dinner for a friend is always great.

Homemade treats in brown paper packages tied up with string. This gift always seems to bring a smile to someone's face. You can make dozens of cookies for close to nothing!

Guest's picture
Kristen

I have a lot of coworkers to buy for and I try to keep the cost of the office presents to a minimum. This year I found some cute cheap necklaces on Amazon for $5 per person. Each are different and reflect each girl's personality. I made them more exciting by wrapping them in cute bags I had around the house.

For my one male coworker I packaged a bunch of coffee and tea samples I have been collecting through the year and put them in a cute bag...cost $0 dollars!

Guest's picture
Jess

Homemade food is always a good gift for the holidays, but not just Christmas cookies. Find several dishes/candies/jams/cookies that you know the person likes. Create a recipe book out of cards and ribbon, and on each one paste a photograph or two of you and the recipient sharing good times together. I've had this one go over really well with friends and family :)

Guest's picture
Megan

Cookie assortments are well received. Another great gift is baking mixes or cocoa mixes, the sort where you layer the ingredients in a jar and tie with a ribbon and the recipe. For my friends with kids, I often offer my babysitting service for free. It's a great deal for both of us - they get a wonderful night out alone and I get to spend the evening with some of my favorite kids!

[editor's note: Megan is our winner!] 

Guest's picture

Like other commenters, I intend on baking my way into people's stomachs (and hearts). However, my favorite frugal gift this year is homemade hot chocolate. I have two friends that love chocolate (and one makes a cup of hot chocolate every day). I found two Christmas-themed glass jars at a thrift store (50 cents a piece) and with about $6 of materials, I have enough hot chocolate mix to get each one through at least one month of winter!

Guest's picture
Chris

Every year (for the past 4), I have made a Merry Chris-Mix (haha - get it) CD for my friends and family. I give out over 100 per year. It never fails to produce a smile, and I even have people emailing me in November asking me when this years' Chris-Mix is coming in the mail.

Guest's picture
Barbara

I know i posted earlier for this blog, but small crafts from leftover things can be a sweet little touch sometime.

Last year, I had a neighbor give me a "reindeer" made out of three wine corks, a little bit of that fuzzy twine stuff glued on for antlers, and three beads glued on to make the eyes and the nose. It was kistchy, but cute and I still have it with all of my christmas stuff.

Also hanging in my apartment is an old bamboo window shade that has fake flowers held in place all over by a little bit of silver twine. A friend knew how much into tropical and asian decor I was and made it to make me feel like I was always in the tropics. She took the fake flowers she had in her place and cut off the stems (well, most of the stem, but enough to hold it in place) and made this terrific wall hanging for me that covers the really ugly thermostat on my wall.

I guess the point is that sometimes you look around and realize there are things in your place you don't really want anymore, but with really imaginative ideas, can turn them into great gifts. That old saying "one person's trash is another's treasure!" is really true.

Guest's picture
Debbie M

This year one of my friends is getting a "Hot Fuzz Gift Pack." He liked the movie. The "Hot" part of the gift is hot fries, which he likes. I may also add a hot chocolate packet. The "Fuzz" part of the gift is fuzzy socks for him to wear ON HIS WIFE because she likes to put her cold feet on him and he doesn't like that. (I did get her commitment to try out the socks, so long as they are soft and not an ugly color.) The packaging (once he takes off the wrapping paper) will have a lot of hullabaloo about what's hot and what's fuzzy plus some over-the-top marketing mumbo-jumbo for humor value.

Once I packaged cookies as Purina Human Chow.

Man, I wish I could think of creative ideas like this more often. Maybe I should try harder.

**

I also once gave away a couple of totally awesome books that were out of print. Which means I had to buy them used. Which means they were inexpensive.

Guest's picture
Mary

I just got finished making a batch of chocolate truffles with a friend. Truffles are super easy and extremely decadent, especially if you splurge a little and get the higher quality chocolate. The store was having a sale yesterday, so the ghirardelli chocolate was only about 25 cents more per bag than the generic stuff. You can coat the truffle centers in cocoa powder, powdered sugar, or chocolate shell, and you can roll them in ground nuts, sprinkles, chopped dessert mints, or whatever else. They require a little artistry, which I consider a plus. The possibilities are pretty much endless. BTW, truffles from a chocolatier are usually about $1 a piece (not to say that they're not worth it sometimes, though!)

Guest's picture
CHB

Cheap oversized pretty mugs filled with packets of gourmet hot chocolate, teas, spiced cider mix, little nips of bailey's or peppermint schnapps, and a couple of homemade cookies or store candy topped with a bow - always a hit, probably around $5 each. mmm hot chocolate...

Guest's picture
Guest

We always do something homemade for the holidays. Ususally foodstuffs and try to change every year. Nobody wants fruit cake from you every year. We have done my blend of italian herbs. Just had to plant extra that spring. Ditto hot sauce.If you have a little extra garden space you can even grow loofa. again cheap!! Cookies and candies are cheap as well and great recipes abound on the net. With a multitude of Aunties and grammys and cousins giving to each person is not always possible so we do larger portions for the larger household and it's an everyone gift. We all gotta eat right?

Guest's picture
Rockatiel

For my little brother and sister I made a pledge to myself not to buy them anymore toys or things that they either don't need or would get from their parents already. I wanted to buy them presents that would be unique and help them appreciate handmade gifts. My brother being a small red-neck in training will be getting a belt buckle and key chain made from old shotgun shells created by AWellDressedBullet. For my sister, who recently convinced the parents to get her a mini doxie pup, an art print of said puppy by John Golden. I even framed it for her, with a thrift store frame. Everyone at work is getting a MincingMockingBird magnet for their fridge or whatever! Etsy really is an amazing place to look for gifts, especially for those hard to shop for people.

Guest's picture
Paul

find a gift that a wide range of people on your list wouldn't mind having then buy them in bulk, so you can save money!

Guest's picture
Dwight

One of my coworkers has supporting her family on one low salary. Her gifts? Bags of soup mix that she made from lentils and other dry goods. I was grateful and the soup tasted great on a winter night.

Guest's picture
peggy

As most people have mentioned, homemade concoctions, mixes or baked goods are almost guaranteed hits. If you are especially handy with Photoshop or other picture-morphing software, you can create your own cards and mail (or email) them to people.

One year, I honestly had no clue what to get my mom, so I gave her an "IOU" card which she could "redeem" at any time when she wanted me to do her a favor/help her out. I never thought she'd use it but she did! She asked me to take her shopping (since my dad has negative tolerance to shopping) so I acted as chauffeur and bag carrier for her as she shopped her heart out (not literally, of course).

Guest's picture
ryan

I will always give something like tickets to a local play, zoo, or whatever, and include a disposable camera. the camera is only $5 or so, but they always seem to appreciate it.

especially those with kids.

Guest's picture
Sara

Go to a Ross or other discount store, and find a nice cozy blanket. (i just found a beautiful brown faux suede one for $4.99) I plan to paint their monogram on the bottom corner. You could easily stitch on letter, or use iron on letters, depending on the material of the blanket. Fold or roll the blanket back up, tie it up with a nice wide ribbon, and there you go! A gift that looks much pricier than it is.

Guest's picture
Jen

I'm a grad student, so I find that I often have to make up for gifts with creativity what I lack in money.

Since college graduation, I don't get to see my best friend very often. Last year, for her birthday, I bought a scrapbook kit from World Market for ~$7 that came with stickers, decorative papers, etc. I had some photos of us from our last vacation printed up, and inserted those throughout the book. I wrote a story (a few sentences on each page) about how she was sad because not all her friends could be there to celebrate her birthday, but then the postman delivered a "magical" giant care package inside which all of us were hiding. Kind of kiddish, but since she wants to be a children's fiction writer, it seemed perfect for her. I think she liked that present better than the ones that cost more.

Another time, I went thrift store shopping and found a tin can in the shape of a giant oreo. I then bought a box of chocolate dipped oreos (my friend's favorite) and stuffed them in the tin. You could chocolate coat them yourself for cheaper (but a little messier). Total cost, about $5.

Guest's picture
Jen

Well, things will get a lot cheaper for me, if I win the $25 Amazon certificate!! Ha ha ha....I mean, ho ho ho!!!

Anyway, my absolute favorite thing to give to people, is a gift "basket" I make up for them.
I put basket in quotes, because most of the time, it's not an actual basket I fill up. It's a clever container of some sort, or a wooden box I found cheap somewhere, a decorative glass bowl...ANYTHING can be the "basket".

For the filler, I get things that they personally like, to let them know it's specific for them. Little clues I pick up all year, from general conversation, shopping together, noticing their home style, etc.

The great part is, that you don't have to spend a lot, at all and you can still make a great gift.
Everyone LOVES my "baskets" every year, and they all hope that I get their name for polyanna.

For example, for my Step Mom this year, I found a really nice, large, blue colored glass bowl at Ross, for only $4.
There's the "basket" part. Useful, and it'll hold everything.
Her favorite color is blue, so that personalizes it, too.
Next, I went to a clearance section, (in any store!) and found 2 nice washcloths, that would match her bathroom. They were almost $1 each, and NICE fluffy quality!
Also at Ross, I found a clearance jumbo coffee mug, in blue.
I rolled up the washcloths,and put them in the mug, in the bowl.
Then while I grocery shopped, I got some unique snack items that she'd like. Stuff no one ever really buys, cause it's different.
Two boxes of "fancy" looking cookies, and that' done.
I bought a three pack of Ferarro Roche chocolates, for .89 cents, cause who doesn't love them, especially a chocolate lover like her. And it IS Christmas, so might as well splurge on stuff, right? Anyone can eat a Hershey bar any time!
She loves cooking, and at Ross, you can find lots of unique spices and mixes, so I got a few of those, for very cheap.
I haven't finished yet, I'll get a few more things for it, but you get the idea.
I stack everything in an enviting way, and the recipient loves going through and discovering every little thing.

You can do great "baskets" for kids, too.
The key, is to keep an eye on clearances EVERY WHERE you go, ALL YEAR. The stuff you find, can be amazing!!!
Locker mirrors, fancy, funky pens, pencils, cute stationary, little toys that would have cost $5, but now are .75 cents....
If you collect stuff like that all year, you can pile it all into a cute container and tie it up for any kid, boy or girl, little or teen.
I remember being that age. Having a bunch of little stuff to go through was the BEST!!
You can group things in color, or make a theme, when you break out all your clearance finds at Christmas time...and if it's for someone special, and you want to do more, you can always stick a gift card in there.

My Step Mom's basket will cost me about $20 when I'm done.
I have saved Bath and Body Works lotions that I got as gifts, and never used, so that's a great filler, also...for free! (Always remember to tape a piece of paper to anything you save to regift, and write on it who gave it to you, so you don't accidentally give it back to them!! You think you won't forget, but you DO, a year later!!)

$20 might be a lot to some of you. (it is to me, too...but I slacked on the clearance shopping all year, and my Step Mom is worth it anyway.)
But believe me, you can make anyone a ritzy looking basket, if you keep your eye out all year long.

Good luck!

Guest's picture
Charise

My family and friends actually prefer the homemade food gifts so much that I have to make them. In particular I make a family recipe for peppernuts (little German Mennonite cookies) that everyone loves. In fact, last year I gave my best friend's Mom a jar of jam and she asked where her peppernuts were. I can't let down my adoring fans now can I? Lol.

I also love to crochet and I've made several snowflake ornaments and I'm making a purse for a friend of mine.

We are making a big trip back to California for Christmas so our budget is small this year due to traveling costs. I suppose you could say we are part of the gift since everyone will get to see us.

Guest's picture
Badgerette

I'm makin' homemage granola this year & putting it in dollar store jars. I bought organic dried blueberries, currants & coconut, plus seeds galore. I plan on making 3 batches. Retail granola is expensive, but making it is cheap & everyone loves granola!

Guest's picture
Margo

Last year, I sent surprise gifts to a couple girlfriends who had moved out of town. In the package? Handmade sachets in a yummy sent, a nice bar of soap, a simple pendant I found and attached to a silk cord (cheaper than a chain), and a multi-pack of handmade greeting cards to "share the love"

I'm making the sachets again, this time for family members. Who doesn't love nicely scented lingerie?

Guest's picture
Guest

Sorry, the above was meant to be in response to the bed buddy idea.

Guest's picture

A THROW(BACK) PILLOW

THE PATTERN: Presuming you're old enough to know what a record album is, you likely have one or two or can find one at the Salvation Army / Goodwill / swap meet / flea market / junk shopping.

THE MATERIAL: You can either continue your "shabby chic" shopping or look in your own closets at home for the next thing you'll need. A funky (looking not smelling) T-shirt that you haven't worn in years.

(Maybe you outgrew it, maybe the art outgrew you.)
Whether it's a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band concert souvenir or the logo of Camp Woodchuck, or just a whimsical cartoon character, just find something that sparks the imagination and will be loved in your friend/relatives' home.

If you're looking for "nostalgic" / "vintage" look at Goodwill or even the clearance racks of Old Navy or Target. The largest expense of this project might just be a $5 poly/cotton jersey blend t-shirt. But most charity shops may have a clearance rack or irregular rack you can snag a 50 cent or quarter bargain.

A bag of rags/shirts can also be found most of these places.

MAKE IT WORK : Simple pattern, simple project. [You don't even need a sewing machine for this.] A needle & thread/sewing kit from a five and dime/dollar store, scissors and magic marker are the only other materials you need.

Trace around the record album to make a nice 12" square to cut from both sides of the shirt. (You don't need to use both sides for the same pillow, a red shirt with a soda pop logo with a plain white T or contrasting back will look good too.)

Make a generous cut around the album tracing, sew with a nice bonding stitch, with "the good sides" in, leaving enough room to turn the project "right side out" to stuff. Use clean rags, towels, other T shirts, or cotton fill to stuff the pillow(s). Finish it off with a nice hidden/masking stitch and you're done. Embellish as you wish with buttons, tassels, etc, but it doesn't need to take hours to finish or be as time consuming as a jigsaw puzzle. Just work on it until you'd want to get it as a gift.

You now have a homemade item with a personal touch, perhaps a kitschy cool retro look. You're cleaning out your closet, and you're sharing a memory.

Guest's picture

I just blogged about this too! I've got about a dozen different gift ideas you can put together yourself below! Think outside the box and put some thought into it, and you'll surprise yourself:-))

http://lifelessonsmilitarywife.blogspot.com/2007/12/running-out-of-gift-...

Guest's picture

I just blogged about this too! I've got about a dozen different gift ideas you can put together yourself below! Think outside the box and put some thought into it, and you'll surprise yourself:-))

http://lifelessonsmilitarywife.blogspot.com/2007/12/running-out-of-gift-...

Guest's picture
sandy

my son (11 years old) notices things in the grocery store that he has never tried. he kept passing the coconuts(whole fresh ones) and saying he would like to try one.

last year i bought him one and wrapped it up for christmas. it was a hit! he lauged and lauged and kept saying, i cant belive i got a coconut for christmas?? and he got to crack it open, drink the milk and try it. SO for about $3 i got a cheap x-mas gift that was a hit. this year i am trying to find some ohter "odd" thing he has pointed out and never tried to wrap up for him.

Guest's picture
Bluemuse

I make something for my friends every year. Last year it was truffles, the year before it was ornaments- this year i am making them all bath bombs and bath salts!

i picked up some mason jars from the dollar store that can each hold about a cup of bath salts. Here's my recipe:
2 cups epsom salts, 1 cup baking soda, 2 tbsps glycerin (skin moisturizer), a few drops of food colouring, a few drops of essential oils for scent. Mix together in a bowl until you have a semi-fine powder with no clumps.

I made up 4 mixes based on my friends' personalities:
The Sunshine Mix: lemon and strawberry scented, coloured yellow-orange.
The Girly Mix: raspberry and cranberry scented, coloured a dark pink (my favourite)
The Relaxing Mix: lavender scented (relaxing properties), coloured a light purple.
The Wintergreen Mix: mint and anise scented (made strong for a friend of mine who lost most of her sense of smell), coloured light green.

I tied a tag of instructions and ingredients to the jars with ribbon. You can make infinite combinations of scents and colours, and they look incredible! I tested my first batch and they leave your skin feeling great!

I also made bath bombs for them, which fizz up like alka-seltzers in the bath and are better (in my opinion) than the ones from Lush.

Guest's picture
Jessica

I'm thinking of making my husband an audio book or two, by checking out a couple books from the library that I know he's interested in. He has a long commute by car and I know he's always looking for some new entertainment. Likewise, I'd consider looking for used audiobooks as well. A lot of books he's interested in aren't in audiobook format, so this is especially helpful.

I've also thought of giving a gamefly gift certificate (the netflix of video games).

You can do a lot with a theme or assortments-such as sets of coffee, bottles of beers (like micro-brews), and the like. Or a set of movies or books (used or new depending on budget) with a certain actor/director/concept.

Guest's picture
David Adams

Homemade crafts and baked goods are great, but if you only have five minutes to buy a thoughtful gift, think of a magazine that matches their interests, and go to discountmagazines.com or another cheap online retailer and buy them a subscription. Many cost $6 or less. It'll make you a hero, and it's so easy!

Guest's picture
marie

Every year my husband and I make ginormous batches of choc chip/nut/raisin cookies and gingerbread, then package and share them. It's relativley inexpensive, and everyone loves them. I've also done homemade bath salts in the past, and they were well received.

Guest's picture
Valerie

I like giving little plants to less-close friends and office mates. I can usually find small succulents (Jades and such), in a cute pot that they can keep at their desks, at Trader Joe's for under $5.00. This type of plant doesn't need water often, as it stores it in the leaves. The one has grown so large (about 2 feet) that a couple of us have taken cuttings off and repotted them. We are all enjoying one person's gift still!

Guest's picture
Heather

I was lucky enough to pull a somewhat healthy spider plant out of my neighbor's trash earlier this year. He needed a little TLC, which I was happy to give (who throws out living plants?) and lots of baby spider plants followed. I rooted them, transferred them into cute little (and cheap!) pots and will be giving them to six lucky friends and family members this Christmas.

Guest's picture
Bellen

Trying always to find something meaningful for gifts I've done the following:
For a college aged niece: plastic bucket filled with shower things including flip-flops Cost $6.00
For a nephew in his first apartment - 2 hot mitts filled with necessary kitchen utensils (wooden spoons, plastic spatula, measuring spoons & cups, several scrubby sponges, and coupons for dish liquid & other cleaners, and a box of ziploc bags)about -about $5
For my neighbor who picks up my mail, newspapers, etc. when I'm gone - special dinner (cooked and served by myself & hubby). Served at their house but with everything including clean-up & dishes from ours maybe $8.
For my Dad - a photo album with one picture in it and a card promising monthly photos of the grandkids (we lived 1000 miles away) Total for 12 months - $10.
For teachers - homemade English Muffin Bread - always a hit and so easy and inexpensive to make $1.50
For working moms - many years ago a Thermos factory was going out of business in our town and was using up plastic resin making lunch boxes, containers, trays, etc. I bought several in pink, limey green, pale orange. These I filled with cosmetic items in sample sizes, aspirin, bandages, nail file, panty hose, anything they might need in a hurry at work. The packaging was one of a kind, the contents very usable, and the size perfect for fitting into the bottom desk drawer. $4-6

For everyone at any gift giving occasion - unusual wrappings that can be reused - cloth gift bags made from remmants, personalized wastebasket with stencils, decoupaged, etc., mittens or gloves with cocoa packets inside, small zippered change purse or pencil case with lip balm, sample lotions, etc.

I rarely have spent more than $10 on ANY gift and wrapping. From the responses I've seen, my gifts always seem to be a big hit. Just taking some time, putting yourself in the recipient's shoes, should make it easy to come up with some terrific inexpensive gifts. Also, shop in not your ordinary stores - hardware, feed stores if you're in farm/horse country, church bazaars & charity shops, craft stores, fabric stores. All have great gift/container ideas that usually are much less than the chains.

Guest's picture
PW

You can create a series of personal favors on a sheet of paper. The recipient can redeem the coupons for specific favors or tasks throughout the year. For instance, you can make a personal gift certificate for washing the car, doing a grocery run, taking out the trash, doing the dishes, or give a 15 minute back rub.

The more official looking the certificate, the better the effect. Also include an expiration date :)

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Alex H.

I work at Starbucks, so I get free coffee or tea every week. Since October, I've been hoarding different kinds of tea, and all my gifts this year are going to be nice coffee mugs stuffed with an assortment of Tazo tea. The tea was all free, so with my employee discount I only had to spend a few dollars apiece on nice coffee mugs for each of my friends. :)

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Patricia Preczewski

I like to share my time, I will help elderly person clean their house and take then shopping. I also like to bake Holiday cookies and share with my neighbors.

Guest's picture
Sue

My theorem of inexpensive gifts:

Buy in bulk and repackage.

My favorite is to buy a decent tin of olive oil, some cheap glass bottles or cruets (goodwill, ikea, world market) and pull out my trusty funnel.

Other ideas in the same vein: large bags of candy into vintage dishes (goodwill, garage sales), small stacks of tealights (supercheap from ikea) packaged into circles of fabric scraps and tied with a ribbon, buy the "box of frames" from target (i forget what they're called, but its a box of 10 cheap frames in various sizes), decorate the frames with paint if you're crafty, then pop in a nice photo and you've got 10 unique presents.

One more idea that's a little more labor intensive: buy a giant jug of cheap vodka, a bag of organic lemons, put the lemon peals in the vodka, wait a week or two, add some homemade sugar syrup (one part water to one part sugar; heat till dissolved, then cool) and repackage into old glass bottles and voila: limoncello!

Sue

Guest's picture

Personalized gifts are often the best...and often inexpensive.
* A photo collage, photo mosaic, or photo album with photos of something important to the recipient (for example, if they love New York, and you've got a lot of photos you took during your last visit...) or of your memories with the recipient.
* A book of coupons they can redeem with you. For example, "Redeemable for 1 back rub by yours truly." "Redeemable for a chick-flick night / action flick night."
* Give them a fun memory. They say the best thing in life are free, and that's true. Go to a park or wildlife preserve together, or invite them on a picnic. Those are also good suggestions for a coupon book.

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Lorna

For the kids this year I shopped the back to sales and got crayons, markers , glue sticks etc. Each kid gets a box full of new supplies. This time of year all their supplies are running low. They think Auntie and Unk are cool . Auntie and Unk saved money.

Guest's picture
Lorna

For the kids this year I shopped the back to sales and got crayons, markers , glue sticks etc. Each kid gets a box full of new supplies. This time of year all their supplies are running low. They think Auntie and Unk are cool . Auntie and Unk saved money.

Guest's picture
Guest

How about scanning old holiday photos and/or using digital photos to make a Holdiay PowerPoint Gift that can be easily e-mailed to relatives or friends? It could be personalized with music and animation as well.