Friday, November 17, 2017

Presents...For Much Less

    Unless you're a bazillionaire (or spend like one), it's easy to look at the list of people you want to buy gifts for...
     and feel a little frightened.

How are you going to stretch your budget to cover everybody? 

Sometimes -- you shouldn't. Not every friend expects a lavish present. In fact, most would be happy you didn't -- because they can reciprocate in the same way.

Waltzing onstage: a batch of present ideas priced at $5 -- or less.

Handmade can be best. Many people have neither the time nor talent to stitch a small purse, or embroider something. If you can, and do it well -- do it.

'New' is relative. A basket purchased at Wal-Mart looks no different than one from the thrift shop. Also, look for items there still in the box. (I've found many, with the price tags still on.)

If it's vintage or antique -- highlight that. (Vintage, by the way, is 25 years or more. Appraisers and historians argue about the 'antique' label: some say 50 years or more, others, 100 years.)

Do 'gift basket' groupings. Multiple items look even more impressive, particularly when surrounded with tissue and arranged in a small basket or box. After all:

It's all in the presentation. Plastic giftwrap, ribbon and specialty tags don't cost much -- and make modest presents look like a million bucks.

Note: I'll be mentioning Tuesday Morning a lot -- I just started working there as a seasonal temp, and have noticed a number of interesting items. (Thereafter listed as TM.) But you can find many of these at your local stores. Don't forget thrift shops, dollar stores and the antique mall -- they often have unique items that can't be found in the plastic tzochke bins at other places.

                     FOR LESS THAN $5 (or even just a buck)

*A nice brandy snifter or crystal wineglass -- accompanied by a sampler bottle of wine, bourbon or brandy. (The bottles are running a buck each at our local Bubbles liquor store -- I'd get the glasses at the thrift shop or antique mall, but you can find them for $2.99 or less at TM.)

*Make your own moonshine. Last year's batch worked out to roughly $1.50 a pint.

*Christmas wreath or swag. Wire forms are cheap -- or make your own with a wire clotheshanger. Use trimmings from your backyard, including firs and evergreens.

 Keep it plain, or add a string of LED tiny lights and a bright red bow.

*Vintage handkerchiefs. (Add a copy of my Hanky Panky method, if they're quilters! Or add a comment with your contact info, and I'll send you a basic handout.)

*A sampler of items. For the scrapbooker: trims, scissors, specialty paper or stickers. For the stitcher: embroidery floss, thread, buttons, fabric squares. For the jewelry-lover: charms, beads, pliers and decorative wire. For the biker (motorcycles, I mean -- but it would work for mountain bikers, too): bandanna, wax or polish, reflective light, sleeve/pants guards. For the pet-lover: treats, a new feeding dish, chew rope or collar. The list can be endless, once you visit the clearance section, discount stores, etc. (Think 'small amounts:' a fat quarter at the fabric store, versus a yard or two, for example.)

*Snowmen pops: frost a package of Oreo cookies and dot on faces with frosting, chips or candies -- stick them on popsicle sticks, then tie with ribbon. Done!

*Giant gingerbread man or lady -- these are also good, made with my grandma's secret sugar cookie recipe Add a bowtie of decorative ribbon, then wrap in plastic.

*For kids: The promise of a trip to the dollar store -- and a fast food snack afterwards. Limit purchases to one item of their choice -- or one for every one of their family members. My piano students love this annual 'Christmas present shopping' trip.

*A portable game... plus an offer to play it with them. Add a small pack of nuts and a scorepad.

*Specialty pen with notepad  (TM has small bejeweled pads for $1.99 each)

*A pack of holiday napkins, with a bottle of barbecue or other specialty sauce -- and a recipe.

*Cup and saucer, in their favorite pattern or design.  (Add a teabag and sugar-dipped decorative spoon -- or substitute a small packet of coffee with a chocolate-dipped spoon. Hot chocolate works, too.)

*Package of teabags with a small bag of cookies. Add a paperback or video, for extra oomph. Or:

*Include a package of microwave popcorn with the paperback or video. Or Caramel Corn -- see below.

*Decorative mug -- with a copy of the Cup Cookies recipe below
   (Bonus: Mix the ingredients in a plastic bag. Tie with ribbon and include.)

*Earbuds, in a bright color -- with a CD of Christmas music. (You'll find both of these at the dollar store, for less than you think.)

*Cellphone accessories or tools. A small pack of these is surprisingly affordable -- try TM or other discount stores. The Brick enjoys tinkering with his cellphone, eyeglasses and other items that demand tiny repair tools.

*A $5 giftcard, wrapped in a handkerchief, or a small case you've stitched (or glued) from scrap paper or fabric.

If your time is limited (and for many of us, that's the case), then look for food gifts that can be made quickly, with minimum fuss. One of my old 'keeping food on a budget' posts has some excellent recipes, including Caramel Corn, Cup Cookies (see above), the best brownies ever, and...

these Peanut Butter cookies -- delicious, and no gluten. I made a batch in literally five minutes -- they'll be munched up faster than that.

1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix together and form into balls (squash with a fork for the traditional look) -- bake at 350 degrees for 10-11 min., until lightly brown. Makes about a dozen. (Yes, this recipe can be doubled and tripled.)

Brandy, over at Prudent Homemaker, has rustic-looking Christmas stockings she sewed from...painters dropcloth! These would make an interesting case for your holiday gift -- and something your recipient could use next season, as well.

If you have a lot of recipients to cover, one of Meredith's classic posts on Like Merchant Ships has a remarkable list of ideas for presents at a DOLLAR -- or less. (And they're good ones. I have plans for Paula Deen's House Blend mix myself. See the link.)

Another post of Meredith's gives more  'shoestring' present ideas, as does Charity Grace's thrifty little Christmas.  Moneysaving Mom has 'tons' of unique and frugal gift ideas...some good ones, but more than $5, generally.

I keep a few generic presents handy year-round for birthdays, as well as Christmas. Thinking ahead keeps your budget lean and active...without the frantic need to rush out at the last minute to Get Something. And that gives you more time for enjoying other parts of the holiday.

Be sure to add a note to the giftee, telling them why they are special to you. They'll like that as much -- or more -- than the present itself.


Dani Hecker said...

I just found a batch of vintage handkerchief's my Granmother received in a war wives present exchange. Would love to have handout about your method of using in a quilt!

Cindy Brick said...

Dani, please write me at I'd be happy to send a copy of this your way!