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Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas

by Deana Ricks and Angie Zalewski

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Quick Quiz

What are you likely to have a lot of around the holidays?
Answer: food and fun!

What are you likely to have very little of around the holidays?
Answer: time and money.

Being short of time and money can make gift giving a chore. But we're quite sure ol' Kris Kringle never meant that giving presents would become a bothersome task. Planning ahead is the best defense against the last minute gift crunch, but inevitably a few unexpected gift obligations will pop up. If you are down to the wire, now is NOT the time to learn a new skill, like quilting. That precious baby quilt you hoped to make for your new nephew will have to wait. Instead, look to your current skills and resources for this year's Christmas gifts.

Here are some sure-fire, last-minute holiday gifts for those who find themselves with a long gift list, but short on time and cash:

  • Give the gift of service. Create coupons pledging your commitment to baby-sit, do yard work, make a home cooked meal or pet sit. A certificate for "One back rub every night for a week," or "Keeping your kids overnight on your anniversary," will mean more to a friend or loved one than any store bought trinket.
  • Special Memory Book. For the hard-to-buy-for relative, make a Memory Book. Take a small blank book and write down some special, funny and heart warming memories about that person. If you have more time, pass the book around to other relatives and friends and let them contribute a short note. This is a gift that will be read over and over and cherished for years to come.
  • Reindeer kitchen towel. If you have young children, make this keepsake treasure for grandmas and aunts. Paint the bottom of your child's foot with brown fabric paint, then stamp their footprint on the towel to form the deer's face. Then paint your child's hands green and stamp on the towel as the antlers. Add eyes and a nose with thumbprints. This is a precious gift for any relative who loves children.
  • Photos of yourself and your family. It may sound egotistical but distant relatives and friends love getting photos. And it doesn't have to be a professional portrait. A good vacation picture will do the trick. Slip the photo into an inexpensive frame and you've got a wonderful gift.
  • Refrigerator Art of the Month Club. Deana came up with this idea when her home was flooded with artwork her children created at school and church. She had too much to keep, but it was too precious to throw away. She made an official looking certificate that announced, "You've been enrolled in the Refrigerator Art of the Month Club" and stuffed it in a stocking. The certificate and wording is modeled after the Cake of the Month Club ads you see in magazines. Each month for a year, a piece of the child's artwork is slipped into an envelope and mailed to the gift receiver.
  • Pinecone firestarters. Does your friend or relative have a fireplace? If so, a basket of pinecone firestarters is an inexpensive, useful, and beautiful gift. Collect pinecones and dip them in melted wax. The wax makes the pinecones burn longer. But don't run out to the craft store and buy wax, just melt candle stubs. Arrange in a yard sale basket and attach a note that says, "Help your cozy fire get off to an easy start. Add one or two pinecones with your kindling."
  • Name plaque. Create a "plaque" by printing with your computer or by hand, the recipient's name on beautiful paper. Add the name's meaning in an elegant typeface or calligraphy. Place it in an inexpensive frame for an easy personalized gift. Make one for each family member as a lovely gift set. Another version of this gift is perfect for grandparents. Print a thoughtful poem on the paper and add the grandchild's handprints. This is sure to be Granny's favorite.
  • Freezer meals. A night off from cooking is a gift every homemaker would love to get. Make a double batch of your most yummy casserole. Serve half of it to your family for dinner and freeze the other half. Present the frozen meal in a pretty baking dish with the recipe attached.
  • A great green gift. Do you have a green thumb? Give a gift of a homegrown houseplant or herbs you've cultivated from seeds. Put them in decorated pots or baskets. Tie on plant care instructions with a ribbon.
  • Sweet treats. Fill a canning jar with colorful candies. Tie a ribbon and tag around the neck of the jar and you have an instant gift. Add a note tag that says, "You are a real sweetie" or "I appreciate your sweet friendship." A jar could also be filled with small cookie cutters. Attach your favorite sugar cookie recipe.

Angie Zalewski and Deana Ricks are co-founders of the Frugal Family Network, Inc. They publish a popular thrift newsletter to help people live contentedly within their means and present workshops on stretching the family dollar. (c) Copyright 2000, Frugal Family Network, Inc.

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