smart spending

15 fab -- and cheap -- gifts for Dad

Playful father and son
Highlights
  • Is Dad the outdoorsy type? Take him on an adventure.
  • Handmade gifts are always welcome.
  • Show him you are grateful, with a picture of you!

No need to plunge into debt showing your devotion to dad this Father's Day.

Here are 15 tiny-priced -- and even free -- gifts that will tell Pops he's tops this weekend:

1. Tell Dad to take a hike -- with you! -- Strap on those backpacks (or fannypacks) and take in the wonders of nature, whether it's the wilds of the woods or the greenery of your city park. Cap the day by hoisting a glass or a mug -- your treat, please -- at a cafe or coffee shop.

2. Give father an al fresco feast -- What's more fun than a fancy meal in a four-star restaurant? Why, a picnic, of course. It doesn't have to be a big production and you don't have to travel far. Got a backyard? Spread out a tablecloth or even a big beach towel, bring out a batch of Dad's favorite treats and dig in.

3. Get jumpin' at the gym -- The popster could probably use a little more exercise, but few of us respond well to nagging, and sweating solo can be lonely. How's about you and Dad bonding and deep-knee bending a deux at the local Y? Check around and find one with a swimming pool, sauna or whirlpool. (No surprise sign-ups for classes, please. Instead, make the offer in a nice Father's Day card -- this way, Dad can consider and have a chance to check with his physician.)

4. Remind him of the little boy still inside -- Go through the family archives, and find a photo of Dad as a tyke or as a schoolboy. Frame it and enclose a note, perhaps saying "Forever young at heart." Or, heh-heh, "You haven't aged a day!" (The latter is recommended, if you still owe him for, say, school loans.)

5. Show him your smiling face gazing up at him every day -- Take a plain glass paperweight. Trim a photo of yourself so that it's slightly smaller than the weight's base. Affix the photo (face-up, of course) to the weight with clear tape around its borders. An added piece of ribbon can help cover up the tape.

6. Make him a memorabilia book -- Corral all those old photos, ticket stubs, matchbook covers and bits of flotsam of a family life well-lived and arrange them in a scrapbook or photo album. Don't forget little captions, jokes and other personalizing touches.

7. Give him words to live by. Is there a poem, song lyric or religious verse he finds especially uplifting? Recreate it in needlepoint or cross-stitch or have a calligrapher letter it on heavy-stock paper, then laminate or frame it.

8. Here's an 'extra, extra' nice gift -- A subscription to his hometown newspaper or to a publication dedicated to one of the passions in his life. To find some of the more obscure periodicals he may not even be familiar with, check out titles at your nearest book superstore or do some research online.

9. Be charitable -- Does Dad love his four-footed friends? Consider a contribution in his name to a humane organization or to any other pet (no pun intended, honest) projects. He will be especially touched if you haven't previously shared his enthusiasms.

10. Put on a show -- Have a "family night" with different family members showing off their performing skills, or lack thereof (it's the spirit behind it). Perhaps a little basement karaoke?

11. Ask Dad to teach you -- No matter how old the old man's gotten, he's still better than you at something, whether it's throwing a ball, fishing or golfing. Ask him to teach you his special skills. His self-esteem will soar, and you'll have a terrific bonding experience.

12. Spend a dollar -- and give him the dream -- Yep, we're talking a lottery ticket, or two or 10. Perhaps enclose a note reading, "You helped me fulfill my dreams. Hope this helps with yours." And remember, if he wins, it's all his!

13. Spend a dollar -- and give him the goods -- Have you checked out the discount stores? Many of them are loaded with things that look like they cost dollars more.

14. Play it again, Sam -- Call the disc jockey at dad's favorite radio station and request he play Pop's favorite song, along with your very special dedication. Make sure you call in advance, then visit daddy-o to listen in or take him for a long drive with the radio tuned to the station.

15. Free for you and me! -- The digital age has led to a world of free online greeting cards. You can send one of these, or if you go to TheFreeSite.com, click on "Seasonal Freebies," then "Father's Day Freebies," you'll find access to digital Father's-Day-themed greeting cards, postcards, desktop wallpaper and graphics you can use -- all free, free, free. Wheee!

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