Thrifty Gifting – Part 2

A few weeks back, I mentioned that we were sticking to a very, very small gift budget this holiday season. At a time when US consumers are expected to spend around $983 on holiday gifts, a budget of $57 seems like pocket change. Well, okay, yes…it actually is our pocket change. We emptied out our change container and rolled up all of our coins one morning to find that we had approximately $10 to spend on each person on our list. Angie, being even more of a non-supporter of Christmas consumerism than I am, suggested we forgo gifts altogether. Knowing the reaction this would cause among my family members, I vetoed the idea in favor of thoughtful, handmade gifts and experiences instead.

Our first crafts were soap/washcloth reindeer and snowman jars of foot scrub. Inspired by my niece, who said in an exasperated phone call, “All I want for Christmas is to take a bath by myself and enjoy my Sleepytime tea time in peace!”, we decided to add a few more “spa” items to her gift set – snuggly socks and a variety box of tea bags. The socks cost $1 at Dollar Tree, as did the gift tin. The tea bags worked out to 5 cents each ($1 total for 20 bags). Total cost for one spa experience gift set – $5.26. Adding in a coupon for a free night of babysitting – priceless!

I was particularly excited by the gift we found for my sister. She has been gluten-free for almost 3 years now and has grown tired of the myriad of gluten-free convenience foods marketed at the grocery stores. As she said, she wants to reconnect with her kitchen next year; so she has been on the hunt for new cookbooks (for gluten-free moms on a budget). As luck would have it, I found 2 great cookbooks – one at Dollar Tree ($1) and the other at Ollie’s Bargain Barn ($3.99). While that’s exciting enough, in the midst of my search, I stumbled across an out-of-print book we both loved as children and have been looking for for nearly 20 years now. Cost for this treasure – FREE! Gotta love e-books…and the look on her face when she opens this one!

For the little one, we opted for imagination and learning toys. Based on our observations of what she actually plays with, we bought a set of building blocks ($7.50) and a bag of alphabet magnets ($1.87). Her mom suggested a body pillow (to encourage napping), which was fortuitous since my mom had just given me an entire garbage bag full of “flat” pillows. These were throw pillows that she had been using to pad her favorite chair (which has since moved on to a new home, sans the pillows). On Sunday afternoon, I unstuffed the throw pillows and restuffed them into a toddler-sized body pillow that I made from a hooded blanket we found earlier in the year. (Actually we found 2 of these blankets, brand new, still in the package, in the dumpster back in April.) I almost wish we’d found more. The pillow was super easy to make (and super soft) and everyone who has seen it now wants one of their own.

We also made Christmas cards. They cost nothing except our time, since we already had the supplies at home.

Creative gifting does take time and effort. I will be the first to admit, it’s much, much easier to pass out gift cards or fill up a cart at Walmart but I truly believe gifts should mean more than that. Thankfully, we still have a few weeks to go and a few dollars left in the budget to finish up. We’re tossing around a few other ideas, like:

  • A movie night package – popcorn, chocolate covered pretzels, and a RedBox code.
  • A homemade meal box – ingredients or a gift card to cover the ingredients, a recipe, and a reservation card to “save the date” for a fun day of cooking together.
  • A picnic box – same idea as the meal box but instead of a recipe, you include a menu and a location.
  • A coupon book of favors like babysitting, watering the plants, giving a ride to an appointment, making dinner, helping with a dreaded chore, etc.

What suggestions do you have?

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Thinking Outside the Gift Box

It’s holiday shopping season again. We popped into Kroger and Sam’s Club over the weekend to do a couple of side hustles and whoa! both places were almost too crowded to walk though. The back aisle of Kroger, near the turkey bin, was impassable and there must have been a smoking sale on fuzzy blankets at Sam’s because we saw two different shoppers with carts full of them.

While everyone else was spending money, we were earning it (and sampling snacks from the food demos along the way). We made $49 through Easy Shift and Field Agent and both surpassed our goal on the Shopkick app – to each earn a $25 Amazon gift card. Add that to the hotel audits we did on Wednesday evening and we hustled our way to an extra $123 this week. Not bad for the first full week of what we like to call RetailMania, that time of year when people buy all manner of stuff for no other reason than they are expected to.

Sadly, we are not immune to the gifting phenomenon. My nephew has already circulated his wish list. My sister has asked for ours. And yes, we did hit the Dollar General 3-day sale on Saturday looking for building blocks for a certain little someone on our Christmas list. The blocks were 50% off – or $7.50 – by the way, and fit very nicely into the extremely small budget we set for gifting this year. How small, you might be wondering. Let’s just say this…we’re paying for ALL of our gifts with the change we collected throughout the year – all $57.07 of it. That’s approximately $10 apiece for the five members of my family, not including each other. Angie and I don’t usually exchange gifts. Rather we stuff each other’s stocking with little inexpensive edible tidbits, like tea or chocolate, which is paid for out of our grocery budget.

We’re doing this experiment, not because we’re cheap (even though we are), but to challenge ourselves to think outside of the (gift) box and find new ways to stand by our values, while also honoring our family’s tradition of gifting presents for Christmas. We did try talking our family members into joining the fun but none were willing to be “that frugal”. My mom, though, has set herself a strict budget of $150 (down quite significantly from the $600 she spent last year) and my sister and I made lists for each other, from which we are supposed to choose only one gift to give. Our list, by the way, contained only food items and thrifty experiences, like a Red Box gift card or passes for bowling – things that would easily fit a $10 budget, since we didn’t want to expect more from others than we were willing to spend ourselves.

There are a plethora of great gifts out there under $10 but we wanted to get creative and do something from the heart. So on Sunday, we sat down with our crafting supplies and started creating. I had seen these cute reindeer washcloths on Facebook a few weeks back and knew they were something that would be fun to do.

Each reindeer cost 92 cents to make. The laughs that came along with making them – priceless. Inside of each deer is a bar of hypoallergenic soap (25 cents at Dollar Tree). The instructions for folding the reindeer can be found here.

Since reindeer are social animals (I’m just guessing here), we decided to make each one a friend. 

The snowman companion is filled with a homemade peppermint foot soak. The jars were collected throughout the year from buying salsa at the Farmer’s Market, so they were essentially free; bringing the cost of each snowman to $1.07. Together with the reindeer, they make a holiday themed spa kit. Toss in three 27 cent gift bags and we spent just $6.78 of our $57.07 budget on three gifts. For fun, on the top of each snowman we added a “coupon” for free refills. Angie makes peppermint foot soak all the time and we’re more than happy to share. On the bottom we included the recipe, just in case someone wants to make their own.

We have a few more ideas up our sleeves for the remaining budget so stay tuned!

Do you make handmade gifts for the holidays? How well are they received? What’s your favorite projects to create?