10 frugal and fine gift ideas
Stand back from the fruitcake! Repeat: Stand back
from the fruitcake! Raise your arms up where we can see them and --
slowly -- walk back from that shop display of the festively wrapped
Yeah, we know the fruitcake's tempting to snap up
as a gift. It's relatively inexpensive, it's one-size-fits-all and
it unmistakably says "Happy holidays."
Fact is, you can give a more inventive, original and
-- as a bonus -- often less-pricey gift than the traditional confectionery.
The key is to think out of the box. To kick-start your creativity,
cruise through a crafts store, look through your library's how-to
books and magazines, and forage through flea markets.
But why get up from your chair, when you can start
right here with our carefully compiled list of fine and frugal suggestions.
Remember: Presentation is all
Well, maybe not all, but a lot. Now, a cookbook may be a perfectly
fine gift on its own -- but work the ring of a set of measuring
spoons through the ribbon tying up the package, and you've just
kicked it up a notch. Giving a box of socks or a new pair of sneaks?
In lieu of ribbon, wrap the package with an extra set or two of
snazzy shoelaces. A lot of bang for a few extra bucks.
Get best of kind
Only have five bucks to spend? No problem. Just don't do what
our friend "Iris" used to do -- try to get a splashy gift,
such as a big, fluffy sweater, hoping the recipient would think
it cost more, when, in fact, anyone could tell the sweater was marked
down to $5, probably from $6. If you've got only a few bucks, forget
the ratty marked-down "big" stuff -- and get a really
great, exotic bar of soap or the best little blank-page journal
you can. That's what I got one holiday, made of Venetian paper,
and I love it so much, I still can hardly bear to write in it.
Help the hobbyist
Think rolls of film for the budding amateur photog or balls
of yarn for your knit-wit niece are just not "gift-like?"
Think again: There's nothing "giftier" than a necktie
-- yet how many are appreciated? Let's see, that's ninety-one, carry
the one, multiply by 7,300, minus the ampersand ... ah, here's
the answer: Zero! Fact is, there's no better gift than one that
acknowledges the recipient's tastes and talents, especially when
nicely presented with a note saying how proud you are of them and
how pleased you are to contribute to their efforts.
Round up the posse!
Instead of buying individual gifts for close family, or the
gang at the office or the regulars at your favorite pub -- take
them all to see a show, or go bowling, or perhaps visit the new
ice-skating rink in town. It'll probably be cheaper than individual
gifts and generally far less time-consuming (time's money) -- and,
as a bonus, you'll all have a memorable time. (Tote a camera to
capture the fun.)
Go for the gusto
Grab bags: They're not just for office parties. Why not have
one among a circle of friends and/or family members? Everyone enjoys
a surprise and that, not the limited dollar-amount, is the important
thing that elevates this time-honored ceremony.
Take a strip of paper or cloth, and affix a series of head-shots
of you and/or the kids -- add some stickers, glitter-glue or gummed
stars between, if you wish, and have the whole kit and caboodle
secured with a clear-plastic laminate (copy centers, such as Kinko's,
generally offer this inexpensive service.)
Light the way
Give an antique-look cup-and-saucer set (available for next-to-nothing
at many flea markets and garage sales), sparked up special. Place
a small candle, squat enough to fall below the cup's rim, in said
cup. Hang a note by string from the handle, saying something like,
"May your cup runneth over with all things bright and beautiful."
Predict their future
With a tweezer, coax the fortunes out of fortune cookies and
work in those of your own making, such as "This new year will
be your best yet!" and "You will always jingle-rock my
world." (You can also make your own fortune cookies from scratch,
with any ol' cookie dough folded over.)
A tiskit, a taskit ... a store-bought, pre-arranged
Fuhgeddaboudit! Get a straw basket from an odd-lot or 99-cent
store and -- say, for the movie buff on your list -- fill to overflowing
with big "movie-size" boxes of candy, a package of microwaveable
popcorn and a gift certificate or two to the local video parlor.
Wanna get really fancy-shmancy? "Shrink-wrap" it all with
pretty-color plastic wrap from the supermarket.
Make someone an exclusive member of your "You've
got mail" club
This is especially thoughtful for older folks -- or for the
teen going off to college, away from home for the first time, and
maybe a little apprehensive. Print out from your computer, or neatly
hand-letter, a certificate entitling your giftee to a gossip-packed,
fun-filled letter from you every week of the year. This cannot be
transferred and you will accept no other members: This is an exclusive
As the shrinks say: What we love is what we give time
to. And what better demonstration of your time and love than when
you sit right down and write someone else a letter?