Rightsize the holidays by focusing on what really counts

Homemade Holiday Gifts

by Shaunna Privratsky


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The holiday season is fast approaching, and you haven't even started shopping. Instead of Christmas cheer, all you feel is dread as you envision the crowded Mall, the harried clerks, and the high prices.

Don't throw in the candy cane, yet! There is a simple, inexpensive solution to your gift-giving dilemma. In today's more cautious economy, it is a welcome departure from spending way too much and paying for it for months into the New Year.

The secret is finding or making homemade holiday gifts for everyone on your list. I used to do this, years ago, when I was a full-time college student holding down three part-time jobs just to make ends meet. You just have to decide on one gift and make multiples to save time, money and your sanity.

If you know your way around a glue gun, there are endless homemade holiday gifts that would be easy to whip up and get mailed off before the snow flies. Last year, my sister-in-law sent a clever arrangement of two ribbons surrounding four glass votive candles. All it took was seams sewn between the holders. You could vary the ribbon and the color of the candles for different people.

Another crafty idea is creating memorable Christmas ornaments. Purchase clear ornament balls and add trim, lace, beads, or family photos. Create designs with glue and glitter, paints, or special markers. Send a set of three, six, or a whole dozen to friends and family.

If crafts are not your thing, then try mixes in a jar. There are easy recipes on the Internet. Popular gifts include hot cocoa, cappuccino mix, pancake batter, cake mixes or cookies. You just hand print or type the recipe and any extra ingredients and tape to the jar. Finish it off with a ribbon or scrap of fabric tied or glued to the lid. You can even get fancy stick on labels at hobby stores.

If you like to garden, the fruits of your labor are the ideal gift. Who wouldn't love a jar of homemade salsa, canned tomatoes, beans, corn, delicious jellies, jams or syrups? You can often pick up canning jars from garage sales or thrift stores. They are as good as new after a thorough scrubbing.

Baskets of goodies are another well-received gift. Make it a family affair, and bake dozens of Christmas cookies and treats. Other popular goodies are homemade Chex mix, pies, or homemade fudge. Freeze until you are ready to send, and add a note that says "Open Now." Thrift stores or party stores are an excellent source of containers, baskets, or fancy plates. Choose plastic or lightweight items for easier and cheaper shipping.

Mugs are another great idea. You can find just the right one for each person on your list for less than a dollar at second-hand shops. Fill it with a hot chocolate packet, an exotic-flavored coffee packet, or tea. Add a fancy spoon with a ribbon, which is also easy to find at thrift stores for pennies.

Picture frames are a big hit, especially filled with personal pictures. Find an old photo of your brother playing dress up when he was five years old. He'll get a kick out of the floppy hat, high heels and lipstick. Or give that great picture of you and your Mom in the sunset on vacation. Grandparents especially like pictures of grandkids doing silly or cute things.

Finally, you could always go with gift cards. They can be really practical and appreciated, especially if anyone on your list is going through a rougher financial period. Try to give cards that will be easy for your recipient to redeem, and that they would enjoy. They will be able to pick out exactly what they want or need.

No matter if you spend a little or a lot, don't feel like a Scrooge. Your family is not going to love you less if you don't go into debt; in fact, they will admire your ingenuity and savvy spending. You are not downsizing Christmas. Instead, you are rightsizing the holidays by focusing on what really counts, which is time spent with loved ones. Create lasting memories by taking the guesswork out of giving.


Shaunna Privratsky became an expert in personal finance out of necessity. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

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