Sunday, December 9, 2007

Saving at Christmas – Part V

November 6, 2007 Tip: Cash Back or Rebate Websites
November 8, 2007 Tip: Price Guarantees and Price Protection
November 11, 2007 Tip: Retailer Loyalty Programs

December 8, 2007 Tip: Home Spun Gifts (Intro)

Today's Tip: Home Spun Gifts (continued)

I don't know about everyone else, but it seems that I am never finished with gift giving. At the last minute, I always realize that I forgot someone – a teacher, neighbor, coworker or secret Santa. Black Friday is behind us so it's time to complete the gift to-do list while managing to stay within the Christmas budget. It's completely possible with a little creativity. The following are some examples of ways to stretch your budget while simultaneously giving a unique gift.

Personalized Calendars: When I got married, MIL used to create calendars for every family. She used store-bought calendars, but took the time to add all the family birthdays and anniversaries to each calendar. When I would turn to my birthday month, I would be greeted with "Happy Birthday, Nicole!" instead of an empty white square. She passed down that tradition to me when I said I was ready for it. (Yes, she asked first.) It sounds like a simple idea, but I loved the personal sentiment (and the reminders of other people's birthdays!) When I started doing it, I purchased inexpensive calendars at dollar or discount stores, then put a lot of thought into each one. Think of it as mini-scrapbooking.

Greeting Card Baskets: Another MIL-inspired gift. Fill a box or basket with a variety of greeting cards (can be found very inexpensively at dollar and discount stores). Get a few of each kind of card – birthday, holiday, get well, thinking of you, congratulations, etc. In addition, pick up several different blank cards along with one sympathy card. Top off the packet with a book of stamps (non-holiday). This is a great gift for an elderly relative or someone who doesn't have the time/opportunity to get to a store when they need a last-minute card of some sort.

Stock the Freezer: My brother is single and not one to cook. So each year, my mom gives him a gift of food. Usually a membership in her very own "Burrito of the month club". She hand makes burritos for freezing then each month restocks his supply.
Feed the crew: For my other brother and SIL, she gives a "Dinner Party" for them and a few of their friends. My mom and dad create a full dinner at my parents' home and take care of all the arrangements. My parents eat before the guests arrive, then the dinner is just for the guests with my parents acting as restaurant servers. No cooking or cleaning required for the recipient.
Recipe cards: One year, I requested from family members a recipe of the month. Not the typical Betty Crocker recipe either. I wanted a family recipe hand written on a recipe card… a new one each month. It was a nice way to stock my recipe box with recipes that were family favorites as DH and I grew up.
Baked/Canned Goods: It may be cliché, but it's still a great gift. If you have a garden and can your extras, consider giving that as a gift. My mom cans homemade salsa and freezes zucchini bread. For the holidays, she wraps them nicely for a wonderful, thoughtful and inexpensive gift. A friend of mine does jams/jellies and other preserves from her garden. A friend of my mom's made a loaf of pumpkin bread for her neighbor. The recipe she used was from her neighbor's aunt – so it had special significance.
Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix: This is a popular one and very easy! During the holidays, you can find a variety of powdered coffee creamer flavors that aren't around during the rest of the year.

Gift some of your knowledge: If you're a great cook, crafter, scrapbooker, whatever – give lessons to people who really appreciate your talent. Teach someone by example. Help them prepare an anniversary meal, crochet a baby blanket, assemble a special page in a scrapbook, etc. You could even make up kits containing the basic items for learning a particular craft/trade, including a hand-written message of your intent to teach them.

Gift some of your time: Create "chore" coupons to be redeemed at a future time. Examples might be household chores, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, babysitting or dog sitting service, household or automobile repairs. Dog sit for a neighbor so they can save kennel expenses during a short getaway. Assist a friend who is planning to remodel/repaint so the job can be completed quicker.

Heirlooms: If there is a particular item that has been in the family for quite a while and a family member always comments on how much they like it – consider gifting it to them. I told my mom that I would be happy to receive hand-me-downs from my grandmother. She recently gave me two doilies that belonged to my great-grandmother. In the past, I have received candy dishes or trinkets. My MIL gave me some items that belonged to my late FIL and they mean the world to me. I value these things far more than anything that could be acquired from a retailer.

In hindsight, my mom was a good influence of this type of gifting as I grew up. When I was in grade school, she used to bake a lot for Christmas. Not just cookies or brownies either. She did peanut brittle, divinity, maples and all sorts of other fancy goodies. She would purchase deep-dish decorative plates and load them up for each of our teachers. I was child number three and I distinctly recall a few teachers commenting on the fact that they looked forward to my mom's usual gift. My mother-in-law has always been very creative in this way also. A special thanks to Nyssa and Lori for their contributions.

I hope that something strikes a chord or inspires your creativity.

If you have other great ideas, please post them in the comments!


  • Michele

    Thank you so much for the ideas. I especially like the personalized calendar one ... because we are always forgetting bdays, etc. And I LOVE the greeting card basket. My mom is somewhat homebound and it's hard for her to get out and buy cards. This is perfect for her and I'm going to visit her next week so I'm going to make up a basket and take to her. Great ideas.

  • Dave Richards

    Thanks Nicole for the innnovative ideas!

  • Patty

    These are such great ideas! Makes me wish I was a member of your family. :)