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Links in email sent before the 27th (through our old email service) will no longer function. Unless you, like me, want to avoid my unimaginative gift-giving default — the ubiquitous gift card.
For the most part, food gifts can be made individually or in batches if you want to give something small to a large number of people. Of course, if you want to get some practice in so you can perfect your gifts, it’s much better to start now anyway!
Make a breakfast basket (syrup and pancake mix), a movie basket (popcorn, candy, and a movie rental coupon), or a gardening basket (a trowel, a gardening hat, and some packets of seeds).
This should be stored for just about two weeks in the refrigerator, so don’t make it too far ahead of Christmas or you might be tempted to eat it yourself! Even though these ideas don’t cost a lot of money, they do require time and thought to implement … something that is sure to make your recipient feel special.
The wonderful thing about handmade gifts, no matter how frugal, is the thought that goes into the making. If you are a knitter, for instance, you could offer to complete that pair of mittens for a family member. Melt the wax in a double boiler, add a fragrance if desired, then support the wick standing in the teacup while carefully filling the cup with wax. Gifts that celebrate family memories or honor a loved one who has passed away may not cost much to make, but they are truly priceless.
Then, there are the gifts that just don’t fit in any of the other categories — but they just might be a good fit for someone on your list! So here is a list for you, in plenty of time, so you can get started planning a frugal, thoughtful and DIY Christmas this year.
Or maybe the weekend carpenter on your list got everything done on the remodeling project except for trimming out the windows. Once the cords are in place, the fabric can be rolled up and neatly stowed away in the luggage. I hope this resource will help make your December a bit more relaxed, a lot less expensive, and still meaningful too. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Recipes for most of the food presents can be found on Pinterest and elsewhere, but here are some ideas to get your tastebuds thinking. Low-cost, basic ingredients turn into toasted goodness and don’t require a fancy kitchen to prepare.
If you have someone on your Christmas list who is in a busy season of life (working two jobs, attending college, or adjusting to life with a new baby), they would appreciate freezer meals.
If you have any food specialty (homemade bread, canned goods, or cookies, for example), most people would love it. Buy large containers of a variety of unique salts (you may have to visit a gourmet food store), and then divide the salts into small Ziploc bags.
Bulk spices can make an affordable and appreciated gift for anyone who loves to cook, or who is moving into a new kitchen.
If you enjoy cooking or baking, how about giving someone a membership to your own “food of the month” club? For flavor so much better than you can buy, make homemade marshmallows for someone on your list! This gift is similar to coupon books or gift certificates but is targeted to your significant other. Who doesn’t have an unfinished craft project somewhere or a remodeling or gardening project that isn’t finished? Create a collection of your favorite holiday recipes, and then include it with a small assortment of samples.
You’ll need craft-store wicks, wax (or old candles) that can be melted down, old teacups, and maybe a fragrance or two.
For those with decent sewing skills, make a tote bag even more user-friendly by sewing an insertable pocket for tote bags. If you are an artist, create small paintings or other personalized gifts of art that you make. If you have graphic design skills, a travel brochure for a child in your life is a fun gift. Look for a lamp at garage sales and, once you find a really cheap one, you can make a neat memento by either hot-gluing pictures to the outside of the lampshade or printing pictures off onto vellum. Okay, maybe you don’t like the look of crocheted doilies draped across the back of an easy chair, so here’s another way to display these amazing old-fashioned beauties! Create your own photo cubes by buying large cubes and using Mod Podge to affix family photos on all sides. You can pick up all of the supplies (flat-bottomed marbles, Mod Podge, and magnets) at your local craft store. For the gardener on your list, make homemade garden markers using anything from painted rocks to old spoons, wooden spoons, or even popsicle sticks! Yet another use for chalkboard paint and one of those ubiquitous plates you find at thrift stores: Make a chalkboard plate for messages or to announce the menu of the day. The recipient of your gift can display their photographs on a fabric memo board that matches their decor. For the photographer in your life, a camera strap cover can make taking pictures much more comfortable if it’s made out of soft or fun fabric. For a gift that is priceless (but costs very little), enlist your family members to write a family history. Make up a family trivia game with questions that help start conversations or help others remember special events with family members.


Even if you have very basic sewing skills, you have the ability to make a memory pillow for someone on your list. Does your grandmother have a box of faded, old recipes that have been in the family for a few decades?
Family dates, such as, birthdays and anniversaries, are hard to keep track of, especially as families grow. If you have children who love to draw or color pictures, you probably ran out of refrigerator real estate months ago. Planting a little bit of cash in a savings account now can yield a lot of fruit in the future — not to mention the ongoing opportunity to teach someone about the benefits of saving. Kids are attracted to dirt: making mud pies, playing in sandboxes, and getting grass stains. Did your child come home with lots of broken, paperless crayons when school was over for the summer? Make your own memory game cardboard boxes that you save (from cereal boxes, perhaps?) and glue paper on top.
Create one of several dime-store games, such as, you could tightly connect a few wooden blocks and glue a picture on top. We mentioned food gift baskets already, but don’t overlook other types of gift baskets. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, GE Capital Bank, and more. Use a colander for a basket, add some garlic bulbs, gourmet noodles, and a wooden spoon — a little taste of Italy. Granola blends can be customized easily to suit your taste by adding different ingredients like raisins, nuts, cinnamon, dried cranberries or cherries, sunflowers seeds, coconut, wheat germ, etc.
You can find gingerbread house kits or, if you bake, you can certainly build a better house from scratch.
These infused oils need to be stored in the refrigerator, so include storage instructions with the oils.
Infuse vinegar for two to four weeks with berries or herbs and package them in interesting bottles. Split three vanilla beans in half with a sharp knife, place in a clean glass jar, and then cover with vodka. Adding lemon or orange zest, a vanilla bean, or lavender to sugar can impart complex notes to baked goods. If you make this, prepare by getting your ingredients ahead of time, but don’t make it until the day of (or day before) your gift exchange. Give new parents a gift certificate for a night of baby-sitting so they can enjoy a night on the town.
Let your recipient redeem a coupon for a dinner out, for a back rub, or for an evening together watching their favorite movie. If you notice your father-in-law’s landscaping is overgrown, offer to spend a Saturday as a gift.
Find some spray paint (leftover from another project, preferably) and spray over the old Christmas scene.
Pretty single teacups (with or without saucers) can often be found at thrift stores for less than a dollar. Give your friends the gift of warmth with a homemade hand warmer you personally made for them.
Attaching the pocket to the tote bag straps from the inside will hold the pocket in place while creating another area of storage in the bag. Various tutorials online give detailed instructions which require roving and a special felting needle.
Customize it by photoshopping the recipient onto cheap stock photos of world landmarks, such as the Great Wall, so it looks like he’s traveled the world.
Create a photo accordion by folding up cardstock like an accordion and gluing photos to the cardstock. While sewing a Christmas stocking is slightly more complicated than making bean bags, it is still an easy project and might be treasured for years! Spell Christmas-themed words or the recipient’s name with Scrabble letters and hot-glue them to a doubled ribbon. It will, however, carry a lasting value unmatched by any tangible gifts or even experiential gifts!
Start now by contacting friends and family members and asking them to send memories and old pictures of the person who will receive your memory jar. Using a heart punch, cut words out of an old dictionary that describe your loved one (thoughtful, kind, spontaneous?) and frame the words. If you have a loved one (or one of your friend’s has a loved one) who has recently passed away, get one of their old shirts and create a memory pillow out it. You can make personalized calendars online by adding special dates and pictures of family members. What about giving a child an old binder that you have decorated with special paper or stickers and filled with plastic page protectors? Personalize it with fabric or paint it yourself, or let your children personalize letters for their siblings. The child could take their own pictures, you could help upload them to the site, and they could write a few sentences per page. Cut objects out of felt (lettuce, hamburger, bun, tomato slice, for instance) and let the child put them together to make a hamburger or a slice of pizza.
When kids give these as gifts to their friends, there is instant delight (and hours of fun)!
If you have some artistic ability, you can draw animals or food objects (just make sure there are two of each!) or you can search online for templates.


Sample gifts of experience: sky diving, scuba lessons, hot-air balloon rides, cooking school, lunch with a hero, etc. Your child’s teacher may appreciate a gift basket full of paper supplies like napkins, cups, and plates for snacks and classroom parties. Begin with a couple of mini-batches to fiddle with your recipe until you are satisfied with the result.
And you can cover them with all sorts of deliciousness like crushed nuts, mints, or toffee bits. Find some tempting recipes that call for exotic spices, then include the recipes with the spices. If your daughter’s closets are out of control, she might appreciate help with organizing too. Don’t overlook things like bike repair, baking, gardening, or your financial know-how. Any of your farmer friends might have some chicken wire to spare, so take the old frame and staple chicken wire to the back. Once the pompoms are complete, you can thread them together with heavy thread and a needle. Using a hot-glue gun, add a layer of felt to the back of a 6?6? (or larger) tile, and you have a useful trivet for bringing a hot dish to the table.
Many tutorials can be found online in many different styles, and they are perfect for both children and adults. Submerge a doily in the glue mixture, then mold the doily over a bowl, glass jar, or blown-up balloon. If you have woodworking skills, you could hinge thin pieces of wood together and use Mod Podge to glue the pictures on the wood. Whatever you use, cut it to be slightly smaller than the marble, Mod Podge it on the bottom of the marble, and then hot glue the magnet to the bottom of the marble.
You can write on each lid with a chalk marker or include a marker with a set of spice jars as part of your gift. When serving cheese, the recipient can write on the tray, labeling the different kinds of cheeses.
Write one memory (or printed one picture) on each of 365 business card sized pieces of cardstock. Children enjoy selecting the fabric, filling the beanbags, and making up games to play with them. You can make this as fancy as you want to, but first start off with a rectangle of scrap wood (or you can purchase this at a craft store). On one page, you could glue objects of different textures (cotton balls, sand paper, aluminum foil, etc.).
Invite friends or family to join in the decorating and then donate some to a local senior center.
Or, get creative and make a custom spice blend for a meat rub, marinade mix, salad dressing kit, dip, or seasoning. Although the vanilla extract is ready after six to eight weeks, you can continue the process for darker vanilla, if desired.
Perhaps an aging family member needs your help sorting through household goods in preparation for an estate sale or moving into a care facility.
Use wool, cashmere or felt material; but instead of filling the bags with beans, fill them with ceramic pie weights. The great thing about this (besides being cheap) is that you can give it multiple times to the same person. Fold each in half and secure with a bit of tape, then place them all in a big, decorated jar. If you don’t feel like measuring out where each peg will go, you can put a piece of graph paper over the wood. A different page may have shapes made out of foam or felt glued to the page, with the same shapes NOT glued to the page.
Ask a friend to tell you which of your skills may be in demand and then figure out how to offer this skill to others.
To use these toasty treasures, simply microwave them for a couple of minutes and then slip them in your pockets.
Every morning for the next year, the recipient can take out a card, open it, and see what other people cherished in him or her. The gift could be paying for the photo storybook or the child can make the book to be given to someone else.
You can place them in a muffin tin and bake at 250 degrees for about 10-20 minutes, or until the top layer has melted.
A wife, mother, daughter, sister, or aunt might appreciate a pajama-themed basket with soft slippers, romantic comedy, and an assortment of teas. Add some cheap rhinestones to glitz up the mirrors for the girls or a masculine etched pattern for the boys. Your pegs can be push pins or small nails (although nails could be painful) and you’ll hammer these in according to the pattern you have determined.
If you have sewing skills, you can sew a book out and use felt, Velcro, and other materials. Spoon mixture into cookie cutters, then place the cookie cutters into the freezer for about 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container and let your children give them as gifts to their friends and younger siblings.



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