We live in another country than all of our family, so shipping anything we bought would be almost the cost of the gift, doubling our Christmas spending. Also, we are a generous family and try to donate to good causes. So last year we filled "Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes" instead of buying gifts for our far away family. Then we sent a note inside their Christmas card along with a flat Christmas ornament, telling them that instead of a gift we donated the stuffed shoebox instead. This was a great hit with our family as all of us are older and don't "need" more stuff. One of our family even made a donation of our "gift" to Habitat for Humanity instead of sending us a gift. I was thrilled! (We did send money for our family members with little children to buy a gift for the kids on our behalf. Little ones wouldn't be too thrilled with a gift for someone else as much as one for themselves.)
A consumable gift is great for folks who don't need more "stuff." A store in our area sells soup mixes, dried beans, dehydrated vegetable flakes, and other soup ingredients in bulk. I plan to purchase an assortment to pack in baskets. Perhaps I'll include a pretty cloth napkin in the bottom and a wooden spoon attached to the handle with a bow. It will be inexpensive, practical, and appreciated on the cold winter days that will be coming.
Every year it seems to get a little crazier with the gift giving. As a child, my sister and I used to make our gifts. To this day, my parents still have those gifts. And it's funny how those gifts still spark some great conversations and memories. Homemade gifts mean more to me than anything I could ever receive or give, so this year I have decided that the gifts will be both homemade and very personalized.
If you have small children, get them involved with the projects. You will be surprised at how much fun it will be and how proud they will be when that special someone opens a gift they have made. One year I had all my nephews and niece over. I had them put their handprints on a piece of paper and added a cute poem to it. They helped me frame it and that was their gift to their parents. Tears of joys were flowing that Christmas! The kids still talk about that, and the pictures hang proudly on the walls.
Christmas is more than fancy jewels, itchy sweaters, and things that get shoved in the back of a drawer or closet! Have fun, be creative and spend the time to put your heart into the holiday gift, not just your wallet!
Last year I gave a gift to my relatives (one per household) of an easy apple crumble recipe with an apple corer (about $10). I put the dry ingredients in two baggies, and they supplied the apples, butter, and egg. It was inexpensive to ship and non-perishable, and it came with a kitchen gadget no one already had. I got an enthusiastic response all around.
I love Christmas cookie exchanges, and this is a great way to have fun making a bunch of gifts for those people you want to acknowledge but don't want/need to spend a lot of money on (hair dresser, mail carrier, etc.).
Get together with several friends, with everyone having baked six dozen of their best cookies. Place all the cookies out on plates, and then everyone selects an assortment of cookies to be packaged for gifts. You can either agree to bring your own boxes or plates or have someone buy them ahead of time and be reimbursed.
Give only to the kids and make sure to set a budget. Ask what each child really wants, so money is not wasted. Look and ask on Craigslist for gifts. Freecycle is another great place to find items. One Christmas our family decided every gift given had to be under $5, including the gifts to the kids. It didn't matter how the item was found/purchased as long as it was under $5. It was a blast. If your finances are tight, I would suggest getting over the "it has to be new" mentality and think this is going to be a debt free Christmas.
For years, our family has drawn names for Christmas. We do not put a dollar limit on the item. However, it must be handmade, bought at a garage sale, or bought at a thrift store. Most of the gifts are handmade, which causes the giver to really think about the recipient. The exchange is also very special because we have the recipient in the center of the room opening the gift while everyone watches. Some of the gifts have been very creative. My niece had my dad one year, and she had very little money so she memorized a cowboy poem and recited it for him. She dressed in cowboy attire, including a cowboy hat and guitar (she didn't know how to play but she strummed it for emphasis). She also downloaded some cowboy poetry on a CD for him. She had a great time giving the gift, and he loved it. Some other examples of gifts have been shelled pecans, homemade jellies, canned vegetables, crocheted afghans, quilts, birdhouses, etc. This has been a great success for our family and one we look forward to every year.
I made a decision a few years ago to opt out of Black Friday and every other buying trap that retailers think up. Instead, I use that day and the weekends until Christmas making and freezing cookies, pies, and holiday treats for my family. They take good care of us on the big day, and all of them get holiday treats that are home baked and ready to eat. I also prepare the holiday dinner, fixing it with a nice ham and a turkey as well as all the fixings that they all love. This frees them up for their shopping horror, and I don't have to participate in it. This "big" gift is well received and saves my working family the strain of making holiday goodies. Incidentally, my nephews and nieces stay with me while their parents do their shopping, which is also a "big gift" to them. I love cooking and they don't, so it's a great trade off.
Use Ball canning jars to make gifts in a jar (cake/cookie mix, soup mix, etc.). I love the layers that can be created in the Ball jars. I am starting to use coupons now to buy items like flour, sugar, brown sugar, candy pieces, oatmeal, etc. to make these in December. I checked out a book from the library that gives great recipes for gifts in a jar. Just visit your local library website and type jar gifts in subject line. Request that the books be sent to your closest library. I also love Cracker Barrel's jars full of gumballs, so I am purchasing gumballs to fill jars and give out with cute ribbons for my children's friends' gifts.
Usually time is just as short as money during the holidays. If you have a special friend who is buried with projects, make a special dinner for her and her family on one of those harried days. It's important to give her a day's notice and make sure that what you're making will be palatable to the family. Manicotti or lasagna is usually appreciated and can be sent over to be popped in the oven before dinner.
Here's an easy, frugal holiday gift if you have a printer. Print the meaning of the recipient's name on parchment paper and frame it. Use a fancy font. There are a lot of places to find the meaning of names. If they are Christian or Jewish, find a Bible verse that goes with the name. I make mine 5" by 7" and put in dollar store frames. Do for an individual or for everyone in a family.
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