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Merry Christmas!!! Finding the right gift…


I’m reminded that Christmas is just around the corner.

Perhaps it’s because my husband is blaring Amy Grant’s ‘Tender Tennessee Christmas’ in the other room.

No. I’m not joking.

His happy-go-lucky Pollyanna ‘I love the earth and all holidays’ attitude is for the most part a wonderful thing…

But thoughts of Christmas in October simply make me (and anyone within 50 yards of his subwoofer) suicidal.

I have to give him credit… it is an important reminder that we have to start thinking about Christmas gifts now. Since I’m broke and can’t spend 50 bucks on the last remaining blockbuster gift card in the Vons checkout on December 24th, I’ve got to make my plan of action. I’ve got to start taking left over change from payphones, digging through the neighbor’s garbage for recyclables, or compiling leftover foil for a life sized foil ball. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 29 years on this earth, it’s the fact that everyone needs a foil ball the size of a Honda.


Hmm. Well, what was the best low (or preferably) no cost gift you ever received?

Last year my siblings and I compiled letters from us to our parents telling them how much we appreciated and loved them and had them printed and bound at Shutterfly.com (Walmart.com also provides the same photo type books we used). But I’m out of ideas! Help!


  • Reply brooklynchick |

    are you crafty? I have received homemade soap, homemade dream catchers….I know how to make marbled paper so I often give that as a gift.

  • Reply Mysti |

    I am one of those sick-o people who start planning in October too. I am half done with my shopping!

    Not sure who you need to buy for or age ranges…but…

    Home made coasters: get a ceramic tile at home improvement store (about $0.19!!). Buy a ceramic paint kit (about $7) and some felt (usually 4/$1). Paint away!!! Cover the back with felt. A set of 4 or 6 wrapped is cute! The paint will cover plenty of tiles.

    Ornaments – you can get clear ornaments at the dollar store (maybe 4 in a pack). Get some sparkly paint and decorate. Or you can put a feather or other small object in there.

    Home made sachets – I have done this for the kids teachers. You can buy pre-scented beads and premade bags on the internet. If you want to dress it up, add some beads to the string.

    Hey…and if hubby is home during the day, let him find his inner Martha Stewart and get crafty!

  • Reply John DeFlumeri Jr |

    The best advice was a personal, 2 hour lesson about salesmanship given to me bt a sales manager I worked it for. That lesson made me a lot of money.

  • Reply Bobbi |

    We draw names for the adults and only spend on the children under 18 (3). We usually set a limit for our ‘drawn’ name, but last year we gave gifts that were handmade, they could not be bought. It was fun, challenging and meant a lot more to all of us. Everyone loved it so I think we’ll do it again this year. We are at the point in our lives where we don’t “need” anything. Just being together is awesome anyway.

  • Reply Juliana |

    My favorite no-cost gift that I received: one time a friend who does illusions (magic tricks) did a little show for me – it just made my day!

    I make calendars for my family. Some years, I have printed out the bottoms (the grid parts) myself, and then did the top parts and had them bound. That isn’t the cheapest option, but one other option is to get an all-in-one calendar to print. I do digital scrapbooking, and so I have seen a few of these around. One of them is Shabby Princess’ all-in-one calendar. They are sized 11×14 and cost $2.95 for one design that you download, but if you resized it to fit on an 8 x 10 canvas, and added some pictures, you could print the calendar for friends and family with your pictures or pictures of their own families. Here’s a link to her calendar category: http://www.theshabbyshoppe.com/scripts/prodList.asp?idCategory=45

    Hope that helps!

  • Reply Jen |

    Time spent helping people with their errands/stuff around the house. You could wash your parents’ windows, for example. Or food. Are you good at baking? You could bake everyone cookies or pies, especially if you can do so from scratch – buying a sack of flour, Crisco, apples, sugar, and nutmeg could yield you several pies for the cost of 1 or 2 bakery made pies. (I have no idea how much a pie costs from a bakery; or how much flour, Criso, apples, and nutmeg cost, but you get the idea.)

    Is there a Buck-A-Book nearby? (Are they still in business?) My family loves to read, so I can always get them gifts from a book store.

    Your blog is the second one I’ve read today that talks about Christmas gifts – it’s prompting me to start thinking about gifts, and I usually don’t do that until December…

  • Reply Jin6655321 |

    One year my friend, who’s awesome at baking desserts, gave me a box of homemade cupcakes along with my gift. The next year, it was a small batch of cookies, last year, some scone.

    For the life of me, I can’t recall what the “actual” gift was, but I vividly recall the baked goods. If she just skipped the gift and baked me something, I would be totally cool with it.

  • Reply Colleen |

    My favorite gifts received have been edible ones – either cookies, breads, or candies. If you don’t bake, how about a coupon for parents offering a night/weekend of babysitting, for a senior citizen, a coupon for running errands/fixing dinner, for a student – help with homework?

  • Reply Maria |

    I’d give gifts of time–taking on a chore for someone who’d love help with cooking, cleaning, baking, running erands etc. I’d vow not to spend any money no matter what, but to offer my time and energy. For some family members, it might just be babysitting the kids (for free of course) so the grownups can get out, spending a Saturday cleaning and organizing, or helping a friend learn a skill you already have. Good luck!

  • Reply Deby |

    Last year I gave out homemade caramel corn I put in tins I got at the dollar store for my office. Everyone loved them!

    Also, in previous years to make some extra money I baked and sold pies for the holidays. It’s a LOT of work, but it put some extra $ in my pocket and people really appreciate a homemade pie they don’t have to make themselves. I’ve only done a couple of times but I still get asked every year if I’m planning on doing it again.


  • Reply Kari |

    One way to cut back on the craziness of shopping for the holidays – set a budget, then just buy gifts for the kids (under 18) and take the remainder of the money and donate it to charity. Most adults don’t need more ‘stuff’ anyway.

    My husband told the family of our plan this year, and expected resistance. However, the response was overwhelmingly positive, to the point that several family members are also adopting this practice.

    I realize it doesn’t cut down on the total cost, but it saves the craziness of holiday shopping and possibly impulse buying. And given the choice between buying some dumb tchotchke at the mall vs. helping someone have a hot meal or a warm coat, it’s no contest.

  • Reply Ashley |

    Low cost:

    Last year I did a lot of shopping for relatives at the dollar store. They have cute mugs and things there. So, for my parents (2 sets), plus some step-family and another aunt, I bought mugs and put a packet of hot chocolate in each. I added a candy cane or other candy I knew they liked. Bags came from the dollar store too!

    I actually had received the hot chocolate packets as a gift from someone else (they were mint ones too, extra special!) I actually gave presents to more people last year and spent less money. Parents usually get gift cards that I get for free from doing mypoints. Mypoints.com is something you should check out and could use next year if you don’t already do it.

  • Reply jonnyk |

    Two of the best gifts I have ever received (both free or nearly free) came from two creative types.
    The first, created by a playwright friend of mine, was a collage created from images he found in various old magazines. The theme was ‘family around the dinner table’ yet each family member was specifically compiled from experiences I had had that year. It was incredible, very detailed, and very specific to me. While I am sure it took a bit of time to build, the cost was little more than paper and glue.
    My second favorite gift, though super-saccharine-sweet, was just a collection of small pieces of paper. Each one contained something the gift-giver liked about me, and each one was placed in the pockets of my clothes without my knowledge. There is nothing like finding that little surprise in a jacket. It makes the rest of your day. It might be perfect for your significant other.
    Love your site by the way. Keep up the good work!

  • Reply Fifth the Northern |

    glass counter guard/chopping surface & sharp knife
    a canister to store coffee & coffee/tea
    a new case for an old musical instrument
    a music stand, music & recording of the music
    DVD with an item,or character found in the plot
    outdoor thermometer, snowshoes or animal tracks bk
    set of pencils, sketch book
    artwork made from Canon CREATIVE PARK
    draft snake, made from discarded lined curtains
    smoked fish, simple wooden box + package crackers
    urban sized telescope, bird watching book
    Ever been into AAA? Basic roadside assistance $70

  • Reply Didi |

    My family decided a few years ago that the adults would no longer buy gifts for each other. We would just buy for the kids (there’s 4 of them). What a stress reliever!! Not having to worry about gifts for everyone was the best gift of all. It’s really fun buying for the kids but the whole family has found that the gift of spending time together was enough. Christmas has gotten WAY too commercialized anyways. Having said that I had received home-made cookies from a friend and loved it! Edible gifts have always been my fave.

  • Reply Sylvia |

    A couple of years ago, my brother-in-law and his wife gave us pre-assembled cookie mixes in mason jars. Everything was pre-measured, oatmeal, flour, raisins, whatever, and in pretty layers, and they decorated the tops with swatches of pretty fabric. The instructions for adding remaining ingredients like eggs or butter were printed on paper and attached with holiday ribbons. Whenever my kids wanted cookies, it was easy to just grab a jar, empty it in a bowl, throw in the wet ingredients and boom–homemade cookies. All of us loved it, and the ingredients, bought in bulk, would go a long way and make a ton of mixes.

  • Reply ellen |

    One year a favorite aunt gave us a floor lamp made from a plaster leopard she purchased at a garage sale for pennies. The “guts” to make a lamp out of it were very inexpensive and it’s not hard to do. It is hilarious and we will treasure it always. The caveat for handmade gifts: know your recipient, and don’t give anything that is not of a quality you would like to receive. I start knitting and crocheting in the summer for my gift “inventory” to keep costs and hysteria down, and only give handmade to those I know want it. That’s most of my gift list, but I don’t waste the time on those who would really prefer gift cards or cash. I check in with those who will be receiving books to make the most of my book shopping dollar, too. I started filling my gift bin in July.

  • Reply Mar |

    If you MUST buy gifts (and I really don’t think that’s what Christmas is about), I would go with either the food idea or the offer of help with a chore. The cookies in a jar are great and we are actually making and selling those for $15 each for about 3 dozen cookies at the church Christmas bazaar as a fundraiser for the youth gathering in New Orleans next summer. I can’t believe my daughter is old enough to attend, but she is, so we are in full fund-raising mode for this. Actually, I can’t believe people pay $15 for them, but they do!

    Again, I don’t think gifts are really required at Christmas; it’s more about spending time together. Is there a free concert or other activity in your area? I bet your parents would love to go to it with you and your husband and just spend time with you, maybe by starting with Ramen noodles at your house first.

  • Reply Kris |

    My family started trading services instead of gifts. My sister is great at gardening, her husband is an excellent cook, I’m good at organizing, my husband can fix computers…etc. So, we get together throughout the year to collect on the “gifts”. We get to spend time together and it makes our lives easier.

So, what do you think ?