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Sensational gifts for not so much money

Neither threats of rising inflation nor constricting credit woes can dampen the holiday spirit, but they can tighten the budgets of even the most enthusiastic gift-givers.

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You don't have to take a "bah humbug" attitude if you're feeling a financial pinch or even just want to simplify your celebrations. Frugal holidays can still be filled with beautiful, thoughtful sentiments that will warm the cold winter months.

Choosing the right gift
Gifts can be inexpensive without being cheap. Cheap is slapping some wrapping paper around a container of travel-sized soaps and lotions pilfered from hotels, and considering the obligation fulfilled; inexpensive is considering the tastes and personality of the recipients and finding something appropriate that happens to not cost very much.

"It doesn't have to cost a lot of money for it to be a thoughtful present, in fact, some of the most thoughtful presents don't cost anything at all," says Sherri Athay, gift consultant and author of "Present Perfect."

Frugal but highly respectable gifts:

Accessorizing your present can be an inexpensive and interesting way to add some pizzazz. For instance, when giving to a cook, you could get a nice mortar and pestle and include some herbs or fancy peppercorns. Or for the bird-watcher in your life, you could present them with a new birdhouse from a craft store, hand-paint it yourself and include a disposable camera to snap photos of their new avian friends.

Presentation
Looks matter. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear but you can dress up something modest such as a scented candle and bath oil.

"Anytime you can embellish it or do some creative packaging, it enhances the gift. A lot of it just has to do with the presentation and passing along the sentiment that goes along with the gift," says Athay. This can require some ingenuity. Whether you choose to do something as simple as buying a pretty bag and stuffing in some tissue paper or going all out and covering a cardboard box with paper and decorations; anything from beads to ribbons or pictures, the effort can make a big difference.

Regifting
It's the thought that counts -- as long as the thought being broadcast is not, "I have nothing but contempt for you so here's a crappy gift someone gave me two years ago." Since the term was coined in the "Label Maker" episode of "Seinfeld" that originally aired Jan.19, 1995, according to The Internet Movie Database or IMDb.com, there's been a lot written about the practice of regifting. Needless to say, regifting has been widely accepted as the phrase has worked its way into the lexicon.

"I think that if you're passing along a present that somebody will enjoy and it meets all the criteria that you would use when buying a new present for them; then, by all means, pass it along," says Athay. "As long as it's perfect for the person you're giving it to, it's fine."

 
 
Next: "Would Uncle Bert like a cap with a picture of his dog?"
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