As we are getting closer and closer to Christmas, I’ve been getting quite a few emails from folks who are looking for some inexpensive or frugal gift ideas. This year is tough financially for many of us and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and crafting and cooking to come up with some fun and interesting gifts for everyone in our family. I thought I’d share some of my own ideas and then invite you to share yours as a comment below.
Here we go …
Bath & Body:
Epsom Salts Bath: In pretty color plastic bag (found in party stores in goody bag section) pour 1 cup or more, depending on the size of the bags. Use matching twist tie, and embellish with pieces of ribbon, tulle, and little flowers. Or use clear bags and embellish with raffia bow and sea shells for a natural theme. These are great gifts for teachers, domestic helpers, co-workers, day care workers, etc. Epsom Salts are a sometimes forgotten luxury that really works to relieve sore and stressed muscles and weary bones. Instructions are: Run a nice deep, hot bath, pouring in 1 cup Epsom salts under running water and swoosh around. Quietly soak for at least 20 minutes. Write the instructions on a small gift tag and tie on bag with ribbon or raffia.
Epsom Salts Foot Soak: This may be more appropriate for a male gift recipient. (A lot of men don’t take baths… they don’t know what they’re missing out on, but oh well.) Put the Epsom salts in a clear plastic bag (found in party stores in goody bag section) and tie with twist tie. For a masculine look, you could put the plastic bag inside a small, brown cardboard craft box; you’ll find them in craft stores, around the decoupaging things. Tie either a raffia or jute string around the box, attach a card with the instructions for a foot soak after a hard day’s work.
Milk Bath: Using powdered milk, package in pretty color plastic bags (found with party supply stuff in goody bag section). Close with the matching twist tie, add pretty ribbon, flowers, etc. or raffia and seashells. Print instructions on a gift tag and tie it to the package. Optional: For a little larger gift, purchase a pretty tin or a cardboard craft box (found in craft stores). Purchase a small, natural bath sponge and put both the bag and the sponge inside the tin or box and tie with ribbon or raffia.
Soothing Baking Soda Bath: This is more of the same idea, just using one of my favorite bath ingredients. Package it pretty and flowery, or package it using more natural materials.
Brown Sugar Face and Body Scrub: I would look for “Dixie Crystals light brown crystals” when I buy the brown sugar. It has a nice “sparkle” and is a pretty color. Package it similar to the other bath products (Epsom salts, etc.). If you package a cup or more, you may want to include a pretty little spoon (look for unusual ones at flea markets or antique shops) so it can be measured for a face scrub. Just tie it into the ribbon along with instructions: Rinse face with warm water. Put 2 teaspoons of sugar in your palm, add a little water, and massage gently over face and neck. Rinse well. For Body: Put 1 cup of sugar in your palm, add a little water, and massage gently over wet arms and legs to exfoliate.
After-Spa Robe: For a young girl, buy two bath towels, lay together (wrong side, if there is one, facing out, unless the towels are fringed, then sew them face out. Sew short end of towels together, leaving a space open in the middle for her head. Then starting about six inches down the long side (for her arms), sew both sides closed, but stop about six inches from the bottom to allow for walking ease. Now, the size of the towels and the space for the arms and head will depend on the size of the child. Just use your judgment… maybe eyeball a t-shirt in her size and measure the neck and arm space. You could also make a Spa Package gift. Box together her new After-Spa Robe along with a pretty bag of “Milk Bath”.
Coffee Or Hot Chocolate Mix: Use one of the beverage mix recipes found here and then package it in a mason jar. Top the jar with a small square piece of cotton and tie a ribbon around it. Get out some card stock or a piece of heavy construction paper and write the instructions on how to use the mix on the paper. Punch a whole in the corner of the card and tie it to the ribbon on the jar. Depending on the recipients taste, you can make anything from fancy coffee mixes like Swiss Mocha or Cafe Vienna to a rich and delicious hot chocolate mix or even some spiced tea.
For an even more stunning presentation, measure the ingredients out into the jar and layer them. For the hot chocolate mix, top the jar with some mini marshmallows.
Chocolate Coated Coffee Spoons: Search the flea markets and antique shops for pretty, unique spoons. You may also use a plastic spoon for simplicity. Purchase any kind of melting chocolate. Chocolate chips will do. You may also want to crush up some peppermint candies to coat some of the spoons. Melt the chocolate slowly over very low heat. I put a pan on to boil, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the stove. Then carefully lower a smaller pan containing the chocolate bits into the larger pan. As soon as you see the chocolate start melting, start stirring. Remove your chocolate filled pan from the hot water as soon as the chocolate seems about half way melted and continue stirring until it melts all the way, and cools down a little. Now, dip your clean, dry, spoon into the melted chocolate, and place it gently on a cold cookie sheet. (If you have parchment paper, that’s great. But do not use waxed paper or tin foil as it will stick.) When you’ve done all the spoons you want, put the cookie sheet in the refrigerator until the chocolate hardens. Remove the chocolate spoons from the cookie sheet by gently bending the cookie sheet until they ‘pop’ free. You may use little plastic ‘goody bags’ you find at party stores, or purchase small candy bags in candy making area of craft store, place spoon in and tie with ribbon so handle sticks out of top. Optional: Dip spoon in chocolate and carefully dip into crushed peppermint candies for a Chocolate Peppermint Coated Coffee Spoon. These are great gifts for Mother’s Day.
Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Sticks: Buy tiny pretzel sticks. Purchase any kind of melting chocolate. The way I melt chocolate is: Melt the chocolate slowly over very low heat. I put a pan on to boil, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the stove. Then carefully lower a smaller pan containing the chocolate bits into the larger pan. As soon as you see the chocolate start melting, start stirring. Remove your chocolate filled pan from the hot water as soon as the chocolate looks about half way melted and continue stirring until it melts all the way, and cools down a little. Dip each pretzel, first one end then the other, so you leave a bare spot in the middle, into melted chocolate and lay out on parchment paper on cookie sheet. Put cookie sheet in refrigerator until cold and set. Lay a pile of pretzels down and form a ‘stick pile’. Tie your ‘sticks’ together in the middle, gently, with a little raffia to form a little bundle of sticks. Then put in plastic gift bag and secure the top with raffia. You should use candy bags for these pretzels; you can find them in the candy making stuff in the craft stores.
Muffin, Cobbler or Brownie Mix: Mix the dry ingredients for a batch of muffins or brownies or even a cobbler. Pour everything into a plastic bag. Use some scrap fabric or a kitchen towel to sew a simple bag. Add the plastic bag with the mix along with some instructions on how to use the mix and put it into the fabric bag. Tie with a pretty ribbon and your gift is done.
You can easily make this into a bigger gift by adding a little homemade recipe booklet, or some recipe cards, an inexpensive baking pan etc. To make a pretty gift basket, keep an eye out for baskets in various sizes in thrift stores or at yard sales. Arrange everything in the basket and tie a pretty red bow to the handle.
Food Gift Basket: Make a batch of muffins, cookies, brownies or fudge and arrange them in a pretty basket. Of course you can also make a combination of all of the above. Include some beverage mixes as well. For a cute small basket, buy an inexpensive holiday mug (I like to look for these at the dollar store). Then scoop some coffee mix or hot chocolate mix into a small bag and stick it in the mug. Tie a ribbon around the bag and stick a small card with instructions on how to prepare the mix in the mug and you’re done.
Assorted Picture Framing Ideas:
“Thumb-Body” Loves You Frame: Purchase wood frame, it can be totally unpainted or already painted, as long as you can add your child’s thumb print in paint to the surface of the frame. Using acrylic craft paint, take a paint print of your child’s thumb and carefully press it on the surface of the frame. You may want to practice this a few times, and you’ll want to keep a wet paper towel handy just to wipe off the prints that don’t work right away. When you get one on the frame that you like, let it dry completely. Then go back with a Sharpie and draw dots for eyes and a smiley mouth. That’s all there is to it. You’ll want to take a Sharpie and write “Thumb-Body Loves You” along the edge of the frame. All it needs now is your smiling child’s picture. Good Grandparent gift, Mommy, or Daddy, too.
Picture Matting Refrigerator Frames: For that mess of pictures and art work on your refrigerator… purchase matting for picture frames in assorted colors and sizes, and purchase stick-on magnets (available in strips that you can cut to suit your needs). Cut and stick the magnets on the backs of your matting, making sure you have enough so they will stick to the refrigerator without sliding around too much. That’s all you need. Now when Grandma gets that picture for her refrigerator, she can “frame” it and anchor it to the refrigerator in one step. This is so inexpensive, you could put together a little assortment and present it as one gift. How nice to have a whole refrigerator turned into an art gallery.
“You Always Have Time For Me” picture frame: To let someone you love know that you appreciate the time they spend with you. Scrounge around flea markets for old watches that don’t work anymore. You might even ask your friendly jeweler if they have a drawer full somewhere that they want to get rid of. Once you have an assortment, find a picture frame that compliments them. You’ll probably want a metal one, but you’ll need to keep in mind the right glue. (Check your hardware store for glue that sticks metal to metal.) Now, glue your watches (just the faces, remove the bands) around your frame in an artful way. Frame the picture of you, and the person who always has time for you, spending time together. What a wonderful reminder to that special person that you know how important it is to spend time with people you love.
Family Tree: The size of this project will depend on how many pictures you’ll want on the tree. Find a nicely shaped branch with limbs, clean it up, trim it nicely, and be sure it’s dry. Take a clay pot, and cut florist foam to fit inside. Stick branch into foam. You may have to wedge in more foam to make the foam tight and the branch not wobble. Now, go outdoors, and take some spray acrylic sealer and lightly spray on the branches just to seal them and make them a little shiny. Choose a picture for each member of the family, glue a piece of paper ribbon on the back and tie it to the tree. There is your “Family Tree”. This is a good idea for Mom or Dad’s office, but keep the size in mind! You may want to keep the tree smaller and make small copies of the pictures and tie those up instead of the full size pictures.
Flip Flop Picture Frame: Purchase new flip flops, the simple $3.00 kind at Old Navy will do. As a special beach vacation souvenir, choose a picture from your vacation, trim it to fit the flip flop foot area if necessary, and using craft glue (the kind to use with foam crafts) glue the picture to the middle of the flip flop. You could also do a collage of several pictures, if you buy big enough flip flops! You may want to create something to make the flip flop hangable. Maybe even a pop top from a coke can. Ha! Stepped on a pop top, blew out my flip flop…
Bejeweled Picture Frame: Search the flea markets and the discount clothing stores for interesting old necklaces, bracelets, etc. Purchase a wooden craft-store frame. Paint the frame a complimentary color to most of the jewels. (You could paint it gold or silver.) Purchase glue that will adhere to glass and metal. Arrange the jewels artfully around the frame and glue on. This is a frame that will appeal to Granny or Auntie, especially if you have a picture from the old days that you give to them in this frame.
Clay Pot “Bird Bath” Candle: Buy 4 1/2 inch clay saucer and 3 inch clay pot. Turn 3 inch clay pot upside down and glue it to the bottom of the saucer. You have a bird bath! Add some tiny rocks to the saucer with a tea light candle in the middle. You may also want to embellish the clay surface by gluing on a little sand (use spray adhesive and sprinkle sand) so it looks more garden like.
Clay Pot Candles: Clay pots make a perfect outdoor candle. First, purchase the votives and holders, or tea lights you’ll be using. Then purchase the clay pots and saucers to fit. You might want to embellish the clay pots by gluing on outdoorsy stuff, like sticks, pebbles, moss, etc. This is a nice patio accent.
Fish Bowl Candle: Purchase fish bowl or any round bowl (those beta fish bowls work well). Place glass votive with candle in center of bowl. Fill exterior space with found objects you enjoy, whether it’s seashells, rocks, sand, anything non-flammable. Marbles work well, too.
Knitting, Crocheting and Sewing:
Knit Something: Knit a hat, a scarf, a pair of socks or a pair of mittens. There are quite a few small projects you can get done in time for Christmas. Look through your stash of yarn, grab a pair of needles and get started. I like to browse through knittingpatterncentral.com for ideas.
You can also knit some very cute dolls. I came across this artist a few weeks ago and have been manically knitting quite a few of her dolls. I bought a couple of her pattern books through Annie’s Attic. She has some of the cutes free pattern on the site as well including some cute little baby dolls and a fun snowman. http://www.jeangreenhowe.com/
Crochet Something: You can crochet some pot holders, dish clothes or even a small afghan. Browse through sites like crochetpatterncentral.com for ideas.
I also like to crochet small dolls and stuffed animals for kids. They are fast and you only need leftover pieces of yarn to complete them. Google “amigurumi” for patterns and ideas. I love the patterns found on this website here. I’ve made quite a few of them last year for my daughter and my nieces and am working on more this year. amigurumipatterns.blogspot.com
Sew Something: Sew up some aprons, kitchen towels and the likes as gifts. Last year I made the cutest coasters by cutting two squares of fabric. I’d then appliqué a motive on one of the squares. Layer them like a little mini quilt with some thin batting and add a bias border. I made matching sets of 4 little fabric coasters for my mom and sister and they absolutely loved them.
Eyeglass Case Necklace: Look at the flea markets and discount stores for long necklaces. If you can’t find one long one, you can also put a couple together, but you’ll need some tools, like a small needle-nose pliers if you do. Look at discount stores for an interesting cloth eyeglass case that is open at the top. You could sew your own using some nice quilted material. Open the necklace up and remove the closures from both sides so you just have a closed loop on both sides. Now, using a heavy thread, sew the loops on both ends of the necklace to the outer corners of the open end of the eyeglass case. You now have an eyeglass case on the end of the necklace. Grandma’s glasses are now protected in her eyeglass case, but she knows right where they are.
Dad’s Chair Pocket: Purchase a table runner (check out outlet stores and thrift stores). Lay the runner over the arm of Dad’s chair, with one end tucked securely under the cushion about an inch or two. Now, fold the part that’s hanging over the arm outside the chair over on top of itself until the runner is only hanging about 10-12 inches past the bottom of the arm. Now you know how much fabric you have to cut into pockets. Cut the length of runner that’s you’ve folded over off and cut it up into pockets. Put a couple little pockets on the inside of the chair and a couple larger pockets outside the chair. Pin into place and sew into position. You may want to cover the raw edges of the pockets with fabric glue and ribbon, depending on the fabric the runner was made out of.
Personalized Lamp Shade: You’ll need lamp with plain paper lamp shade and decoupage glue. Choose pictures of person with family, friends… at an event, or enjoying their favorite hobby. Copy on laser printer (ink jet will run). Cut out pictures and arrange on lampshade until you are satisfied. Now, one by one, brush decoupage glue lightly over back of picture and place in position on lampshade. When all pictures are in position, let it dry until pictures are secure. Then, lightly brush coat of decoupage over top of pictures and lampshade. Let dry, and brush a second coat over lampshade. Now, when your gift recipient turns on the light, they’ll be reminded of a special friend.
Ok, enough from me… now it’s your turn. Take a moment to leave a comment with your frugal gift ideas.