Gift Ideas for Tight Times

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by susiestar, Aug 15, 2011.

  1. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Budgets are very tight all around these days. This year I have discussed with husband and the kids a new approach to gifts. We will still keep the limit for my parents ($10 or $15, depending on the agreement that year.

    We find things all year round that we enjoy, whether it is a new pencil or pen, a type of gum (the stride gum with B vitamins is much loved by my husband and the kids are enamored iwth the Up 2U gum by mentos), or a new candy bar or other small item. Instead of a big gift, we are getting an extra of these things we like throughout the year and I put them away in a specific drawer. then we will use these as a way of saying not just Merry Christmas or Happy Birthday, but also that we were thinking of you all through the year. I have written a note about each item and why we thought of sharing it to go in the gift.

    what items would YOU pass on to your loved ones?

    I will have Sharpie pencils and pens, EOS lip balm and maybe EOS shave cream in vanilla if I can find it on sale, retractable lip brushes that I found at Big Lots for $1, Aquafina lip balm, Dove Ice Cream Miniatures (only 70 cal each and SO RICH), Yardley Lavender Soap bars sewn into pouches that I make, composition books with graph paper instead of reg paper, graph paper post-it notes, and the little pouches I sew for drink mix straws (crystal light type thingies). Plus pouches for tampons that I sew for J and her friends.

    IF I find NICE metal or plastic drink bottles I may include those. Not everyone gets one of each thing because that would be expensive and not everyone would want each thing.

    What new/cool/old favorites can you suggest and where would you find them cheap?
  2. crazymama30

    crazymama30 Active Member

    I find lots of deals online. Headphones are always good, kids seem to go through them like water. I have lots of deal a day websites saved in my book marks.

    I also like to look on for good deals. I am not much of an ebayer, but have had great luck with amazon. For us, I have found that if I look online I can get good deals on what we want, much better deals than if I buy it here.

    I also shop at our Big Lots store and the Grocery outlet. Grocery outlet will get really good makeup deals, and they do carry some household and other items. Don't know if they are around in the midwest, our stores out here are much different.
  3. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    I used to get the kid's meals and put away the toys. At the end of the year all the toys went into a stocking as a gift for my niece (this was before I had Kiddo). I also cruised the clearance aisles all year with an eye out for things that I knew someone would like.
  4. 1905

    1905 Well-Known Member

    I use up the freebie toiletries that I get during the year for difficult child. I get him a stocking at the dollar store and put razors, shampoo, toothpaste, etc....things he would spend his money on. I also buy him clothes from Kohls, using a 30% off coupon code, combined with the sale prices they have before Christmas. I have to order on-line though, so he has to come over my house and pick out what he needs on my computer.

    I guess recently we try to keep things very minimalistic, not a bunch of ****, just something small and specific- I hate to return. I'm always on the lookout for freebies to hang on to. husband and I never exchange gifts and we just stopped giving gifts to extended family members.
  5. keista

    keista New Member

    I don't really do gifts for extended family or friends. That's just the way "we" all are. BUT if I do come across something new/cool/cheap and it calls to me, "Hey, buy me for so and so" I do pick it up. For example I bought a record player that plugs into a computer to convert records to digital for my dad 2 years ago. The thing retails for well over $100, but I got it on sale at Kohl's (if you haven't discovered Kohl's you've got to!) Not only was it on sale, I had a 30% off discount, AND I got $10 kohl's cash back on it. So ultimately I paid about $45 for it and my sisters split the cost with me so $15 each. Well, Dad nearly refused to accept it, he actually did at first because it was "too expensive" I pretty much had to tell him how much I paid and that the sisters and I split the cost. He finally accepted it, and I'm glad because he REALLY wanted it.

    Last year it was laptop cooler pad with additional USB plugs. Found them at Tiger Direct for $9.99 - got him and his wife one too, split 3 ways. They went gaga!

    Gifts don't have to be expensive, but I do think they have to "fit" I personally get very frustrated when new friends, who have NO money, spend their money on stupid generic gifts for me. I do accept them graciously, but I'd rather get something like Susie does - a super small token item with a thoughtful note, or nothing at all.

    I think your plan is AWESOME!
  6. keista

    keista New Member

    Oh, and a few years back, Target was having a sale and gift card promo on those nice candle air fresheners. If you used coupons you ended up with an overage. Needless to say I ended up with a closet full of the stuff. That year ALL the kids' teachers AND bus drivers got "fresh air" gift baskets.
  7. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Well........thanks to coupons and sales.......people will be getting some interesting things this year. lol

    I needed a "filler" one day at walgreens and found eyeliner pencils on clearance for a quarter.....picked up Nichole 8 of those, she LOVES them. (I never could get the darn things to work)

    I got 3 either AirWic or Lysol automatic systems free......they'll go to someone, maybe both Nichole and katie as I know Nichole loves them and Katie could probably use it.

    Aubrey and Kayla will get these two enormous stuffed horses (you can sit on them to watch tv ect) I got at a yard sale 2 for 8 bucks, they sell for over a hundred. A little Nana tlc on some seams and they're good to go.

    Oliver has a stuffed lion that's adorable, tag still on. yard sale .25 cents I'm sure he'll love it cuz Connor and Brandon love it. I got 2 lions for .50 cents. And his afgan I'm currently working on and more than half finished with. (I forgot how long the darn things take to make)

    Hmmm. I just realized I bargained myself into a corner again.........I also have 2 sets of those wooden magnetic "paper dolls" picked up at 2 different yard sales and both look new, plus doll clothes to sew. Darn it girls are just too easy to buy for! (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) Kayla likes them too but I'm pretty sure she's outgrown them. I'll have to figure something out about that.

    Brandon has his stuffed Mater from a yard sale. AND Nana found the old lil people farm........AND Nana is busy collecting the animals ect for it. It's nearly complete. And after what I'm paying for the darn animals and people if easy child let's him lose it I'm gonna whack her.

    And I'd have to dig out my xmas box to see what else I have in there.........I know there are the books that were sent to me.

    easy child is going to get a hat and scarf made by me. She liked Nichole's and Aubrey's so much last year. Her husband probably will too as he works outside in the cold and it's supposed to be one of the nastiest winter's ever.

    Nichole is for sure getting some crocheted dish cloths. She needs them really bad and she likes the crocheted ones best........and they cost hardly anything to make. Quick easy and cheap.

    Katie.......she might get some of the dish cloths too, not sure on anything else.

    Nichole's clue yet, still hoping something will come to mind or I'll discover something between yard sales and store sales.

    Alex.....will have his spiderman afgan. I don't think it will cost much to make......and it will help him give up the nasty blanket he drags around the house.

    Evan might also get a lil people farm......I've yet decided after seeing what the animals for Brandon's is running me. I may find him an alternative. I just have to think of him on Brandon's level and anything I buy is pretty much perfect.

    I also plan to make each person something, including the kids.

    Odd thing's looking like they're going to wind up with more stuff this way than when I just went out and bought them gifts. lol

    Oh........and awesome news!! We're getting a dollar tree store here in town. YAY!!!
  8. 1905

    1905 Well-Known Member

    I also do this: Snyders special dark pretzels, and I buy bags of those choclate wafers you melt- put a bag in a glass bowl,microwave for 1 minute and 30 seconds, dip pretzels in- lay them on wax paper on my kitchen table. 2 bags of candy wafers make 80 choc covered pretzels.- $4 for choc, 2.50 for pretzels, $1 for the goodies bags and I have 10 gifts! Everybody loves these.
  9. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I dont get to shop yard sales anymore. For some reason...I dont see many plus I just cant do them much and flea markets around here arent good for small things. I have gotten some reasonable things a time or two but not often.

    I have decided I am going to do more shopping at Big Lots this year. Im also setting a max limit. I wont have Keyana staying here so her stuff wont be here anymore so it will have to go home with her so I will have to think about transportation on her gifts.

    Lisa, I bought her a set of those magnetic paper dolls at toys r us when she was down in July...she loved them. Of course, they are rather expensive brand new.

    I really should start looking now. I know I should start crocheting them some hats but I need to finish the baby's stuff first. LOL.
  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    These are cool ideas and many are things we have done in the past. A few years ago that fancy flavored popcorn place that Oprah raved about did a sale thing and I got about 4 of the sale packs (each had 8 bags of their fancy shmancy flavored chocolate or whatever covered popcorn) and those were part of the gifts. I also learned to make my own as I find it rather odd to pay so much $$ on popcorn. The pretzels covered in chocolate are always a hit and to really make presentation of them look amazing consider rolling them in crushed peppermints or fairly balls (the little round ball type sprinkles) or nuts and then drizzling white chocolate over them. One or two pretzel rods in a clear bag looks amazing and like you spent a fortune.

    Part of the idea for all the different little things is to convey the idea that we were thinkng of them all through the year. My father always HATED holidays like bdays and Christmas. Mostly the gift giving part (and forced cheer at Christmas - HIS perception of the season) was his objection. My mom had to force the issue or he would not ever have taken part in gifts for holidays. I was there when she finally got fed up and asked him WHY he was such a jerk about it. He thinks we should celebrate those we love every day, not just one day a year. It really floored her and changed how she saw a LOT of things he did. That is the idea behind this - to give small things that we think of throughout the year. The benefit to the budget is definitely welcome, of course, but I just really like this idea. Of course, after grandkids came my father's entire opinion/attitude/behavior about holidays changed completely, lol!

    crazymama - some of those sites are faves of mine. I just got 2 shirts from tanga that are AWESOME. Very good quality too. thank you's was for the first day of school and I let him wear it to get his schedule - it says "Don't make go all expelliarmus on you!". The one I got for Wiz says "Ask me what's for lunch". Then it has a zombie face printed on the inside so you pull the shirt up over your head and it is a zombie picture over your face. husband thought it would be great for thank you, but pushes a joke to death and I could see it being a problem at school.

    Woot is awesome because on their site they let people post deals they find all over the internet. WHile most isn't stuff that is right for us, I have gotten some excellent deals through them.

    If you are looking for a specific item and are well aware of the retail price, ebay is an amazing place to get deals. If you don't know the price you would pay in a regular store it is really easy to get ripped off. Some people get caught up in the auctions and pay stupid prices.

    Another thing we are doing is magazine subscriptions for some people we wanted to give something to but didn't want to pay a lot for.

    Lisa, they have amazing deals on candles and air freshener type things that are really nice (not like the old plastic thingies from when we were kids, lol - the ones that all the little old ladies I knew crocheted things to hide!). Those aren't something we do because so many of us have smell sensitivities. Ditto colonge/perfume. I send those samples to my aunt when I run across them - she lived near you and loves smelly things. Her current husband (she is the one married 9 times though she did marry 2 of the men twice - NOT at the same time, lol!) gets a real kick out of the various guy samples taht they get in the mail from me. It is a way to send gifts for no money and keep the "thinking of you all year" thread going.
  11. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    The best gift I ever gave my dad cost me ink and a small photo album. I researched his time in the Marines and found his ship logs and Pics and printed it all out and put it in the photo album and gave it to him for Xmas. Some of this stuff he had never seen before like the ship logs. It showed every place his ship had been in the south pacific and brought back a ton of memories. It also had actual pictures of his ship at sea and under attack while he was on it. I guess Jamie now has it. I should have made two copies...sigh.
  12. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    Some great ideas here!!!

    My cousin is more a sister to me. We're very close and we both understand the budget restraints thing. I started to collect freebies (online, shop promotions etc) and I'm going to buy a dollar store stocking before Christmas and fill it with freebies I've collected that I know she will love. She thinks its great that I'll be spending so much time working to sleuth the web for those freebies for her. I also plan to sew the stocking shut since she's a secret peeker!! It is going to drive her insane that she can't snoop so I'm sending it for under her tree at LEAST 2 weeks early lol.

    For a few good neighbors and for easy child's teachers, I'll be packaging a jar of homemade sugar free jam in a small basket with a package of specialty crackers and a mug (dollar store) and a single serve package of good quality hot chocolate. I love the idea of the chocolate pretzels! I may have to find a way to incorporate some of those into my small token baskets.

    There are 3 families I like to send a small gift too but it usually gets so costly and often I can't do it. This year, each family is getting a small basket from the dollar store. I may use those pretzels in them! Along with a gift code I'll pay for so they can have a month of Netflix. I'll throw in a bottle of water per person and tape a flavored juice packet to each bottle (Nestea or Crystal Light). Voila, a movie night in a box for the whole family for about $10.
  13. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Janet, that is a seriously wonderful gift!!! You could always make a second one for yourself - I have long thought that we should make the time/money to give ourselves a gift at the holidays, something like that that holds a lot of meaning for us. Not to toot our own horn, but simply to acknowledge, to ourselves, all that we really do.

    Janet, a gift that you could give your kids would be to sit with a tape recorder or video camera and tell all those stories that you remember from growing up and from when your elders told you. I am sure that Jamie and Billie would not value it, but I think Cory would and in years to come your grandkids would. I bet Keyana would right now. Esp stories about when seh was little, was born, etc.... It would last long after you have passed and would be a way for the family to not lose those stories.

    We have some recordings of my mom's dad and stepmom that are very precious to us. some were just letters on cassette from a time when their hands were bad. We also have recording of my dad's gma telling the old family stories. Dad put them onto CD and sent them to his cousins. They were inexpensive but so very very precious to all of them/us.

    Years ago in a truly tight budget Christmas, I took the recipe cards my gma gave me and xeroxed them and put them in 3 ring binders. I sent them as gifts and so many of the relatives told me how much they meant. They were in my gpa and/or gmas' handwriting and it brought back many memories. Recipes are especially great, in my opinion, because readign them brings back memories and more flood back as the recipes are prepared!
  14. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Susie, I like that "thinking of you" all year long thing. Your dad had the right idea.

    And I'm going to try that pretzel idea, easy child and Nichole are gaga for chocolate covered pretzels.......even if it's just something to have here on xmas day.

    Oh, I forgot, I found katie 2 Stephen King books that look new for a dime. And I picked up a Little Mommy cradle and babybuggy. Now I don't know what I'm going to do with those. They look brand new right out of the box, but I paid .50 cents for the pair. I just couldn't walk away from it. But I think Aubrey is too big, the more I look at it, that baby buggy is short, she is tall. I don't think toys for tots takes used toys anymore but maybe our local food pantry that also does xmas for kids will. It would make some little girl very happy. I have enough of this type thing for the grands playroom.

    See what I mean about buying for little girls?? lmao

    I LOVE Odd Lots!! But watch their toy prices around xmas, some of the stores put them on sale cheaper. But I bought a ton there last year really cheap.

    easy child is doing this too this year. She has always done it to some degree, some people in sister in law's family are really hard to buy for and honestly she has one sister in law whom you can't please no matter she'll pick up something she might like at a yard sale instead of paying big bucks for something in a store. win/win If her sister in law doesn't like it she can get rid of it and easy child is not out much. This year it's whole hawg. This accident has put them into a major financial bind.

    For xmas Darrin only wants one thing from Santa. It's thing item from Call of Duty. Not sure how to describe it. But in the game they have these wooden mystery crates with question marks on the lids, inside are special guns to kill zombies. He thinks that is soooo cool. easy child has tried to talk him out of it, tried to tell him that it's only part of the game it's not real. No go. I'm so proud of myself. While cleaning the family room I found an old wooden box husband's bro had made for mother in looks like what Darrin wants......just needs the question marks painted on it.....and to fill it with some toy guns, which I found at our Town & Country store!! The box is easy child's anyway, she forgot all about it because she kept it here due to no room. lol easy child decided to try to do it for him because it would be a special place to keep his to keep his toy guns and nerf bullets.

    This in my opinion makes xmas fun. It's not the price, it's the thought and often the effort to get or do just the right thing for someone.
  15. 1905

    1905 Well-Known Member

    I get that chocolate at Michaels (the art's and craft store) The chocolate goes on sale at Christmas time, for 1.99 a bag. They are so easy to make! In 5 minutes you can make 80 pretzels! I put one bag a time in the glass bowl (melt for 90 seconds), and after it all melts, put in the pretzels a few at a time, then I take them out of the bowl with 2 forks. They only take a few minutes to harden, you can put sprinkles on them...or anything really. I make these for everyone, they are so cheap, easy and yummy. Plus there is no baking or mixing ,measuring, or mess. You have to use the Snyders special dark pretzels! (if you want)
  16. keista

    keista New Member

    That box sounds like an amazing idea. It will be truly one of a kind. I've worked with Call of Duty games, figure and toys, and never came across such a box. I think it'll be a big hit.

    Janet's post reminded me of a great gift idea that you can make FROM the little kids. A few years ago, I had each of the kids make 4 drawings. I used them to make a family calendar. Used some free calendar making software I found. Included each family member's birthdays and anniversaries. Used a picture of the kids for the cover, and printed it all at home on glossy presentation paper. The most expensive part was getting them bound, but it was less than $4 each (plus there was a cash back bonus from Staples) So for under $5 each EVERYONE (even the super distant cousins) got a great gift from my kids.
  17. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Last year I put together bean soup in a jar, cornbread mix in a jar, and along with homemade applesauce, made gift baskets. I also made gourmet dog biscuits, decorated with sprinkles, which were a big hit.
  18. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Mary I want your dog biscuit recipe please.

    And the soup beans, cornbread thing is so cool!! Now see, I'd not have thought of that one.
  19. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    A really cool cheap thing for kids, takes more time than $$, is a dress up suitcase. I started this with Wiz. I got a hardsided suitcase from a thrift store, made sure the inside was nice (not a big one but not a tiny one) and I cut up a bunch of pics from magazines and old calendars. Wiz's had a Harry Potter theme. I used white glue (reg Elmers, NOT NOT NOT school glue as it is not going to hold, just plain white glue from the school supply sales) and decoupaged pics of Harry, etc... on the outside. I used acrylic paints (in the little bottles at Walmart or michaels, etc... but if you have latex house paint it is also fine to use) to add flourishes and sealed it all with a layer of water based sealer (sold with the little bottles of paints). He was six or 7 when I did that and he still has it for storage and it still looks great!

    I did one for Jess that I painted the entire outside with pink paint and used glitter and paint to decorate instead of pictures. That one was a samsonite type hard sided suitcase (Wiz's was more old fashioned, different type not sure what) and I sanded the outside a bit to make sure the paint would stick. Just by hand with some medium sandpaper, could even use an emory board if you didn't have sandpaper. I used the acrylic paints, then used full strength white glue to put the glitter on. After the glitter was dry I put a layer of white glue all over the paint and decorations to seal it in. It actually is still in good shape and hasn't even lost the glitter. White glue is usually really cheap this time of year, just be sure that it isn't school glue. Not sure why but the school glue won't even hold paper for me and I hate it. LOL.

    These suitcases let the kids keep their dress up clothes, costumes, etc... in one place and they feel all grown up. One year I made several for a friend's kids and then learned that she sold them for $50+ instead of giving them to her kids. I have thought about doing them for craft fairs, etc... but never really have the time.

    The pretzels can be any kind to be covered in chocolate. I like the rod type because they make a really dramatic presence in a gift. I have been known to use them as the bow on gifts. husband went NUTS the year I dipped them in peanut butter and then in chocolate. Personally I would not ever use those chocolate wafers. I use chocolate chips and heat them in a metal bowl over barely simmering water because it is so easy to burn chocolate in th emicrowave. I know most directions say to use full power, but it is much better to use 30% and 1 min increments. Remember that chocolate will hold it's shape when melted in the nukulator until it is stirred, so you cannot tell by looking. We just got 6 pounds of pretzels at Sams for crazy cheap. they came in 1 pound packages inside a box so they stay fresh.

    Another gift that many seem to like here is chocolate dipped tortilla chips or pringles. I add a bit of cinnamon to the chocolate before I dip tortilla chips and they are awesome. There is a fancy schmancy chocolate co here in OK that sells choc covered potato chips and the prices are nuts - esp when they are so easy. I use pringles because they are easier to package after they harden and they look cool.

    We also use the little twist or waffle weave pretzels and put a dollop of melted white chocolate or white almond bark on them. I either put crushed peppermints (the red and white ones) on the top or when lazy I just mix the crushed mints into the white chocolate and put them on the pretzels. they are crazy good. I did this first almost 20 yrs ago and when I don't do them I get people whining about it, so I do them each year. It literally takes about 20 min to do 2 pounds of pretzels AND wash the dishes up after.

    For ANY project with chocolate, if the temp is too hot for your finger it is too hot for the chocolate. I took a lot of candy making classes as a teen and this is crucial. Also do NOT get water into the chocolate or it will seize up and be gross. IF you get just a tiny bit of water, try a teaspoon of crisco - NOT BUTTER or MARGARINE OR OIL. Pure vegetable shortening only. It MAY rescue your chocolate, but may not. The almond bark is much cheaper than the white choc chips and tastes pretty much the same, but the brown almond bark just doesn't taste much like chocolate to us.

    My ex-sister in law made bark using hershey bars, a dollop of peanut butter and peanuts. She just put it in big spoonfuls onto wax paper to dry and it is really good. I prefer to just pour it out into a wax paper lined cookie sheet and then break it into pieces, but either way it is great. Peanut butter can be added because it is so oily and has little water.

    Another fairly cheap gift is a simple fudge recipe. Alton Brown has a peanut butter fudge recipe that you make in the nukulator and it is super easy/good. I put it in a pan or cookie sheet and use little cookie cutters to cut shapes. One year I got a bunch of little tree shaped cookie cutters and I poured it into those and gave them with the peanut butter fudge. This is a link to his recipe:

    Now that I think about it, the year I did the peanut butter and choc covered pretzel rods, I dipped them in the peanut butter fudge recipe, let it set and then into the chocolate, NOT in just peanut butter!

    These are great ideas, let's keep sharing!
  20. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    For little kids, I've purchased mittens, hat, and scarf at thrift stores, added carrots and coal, and decorated a box (not quite as elaborate as the suitcase, though) to make a "snowman kit."
    I love getting chocolate in any form. :)
    I've purchased a bunch of fabric at yard sales and given it to friends who sew.
    Books are always good in my family. You can get full priced books at yard sales, dollar stores, and other places.
    Great ideas here! Thanks for the info.