• Inexpensive Gifts for Everyone



Inexpensive Holiday Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List 

By Stephanie Nelson 


It’s the time of year to show our appreciation to our neighbors, teachers, friends and grandparents with a thoughtful gift.  If you are tired of giving candles and baked goods, we have easy, creative gifts for everyone on your gift list.   At $2 to $20 each, they won’t break your budget either.   


1.  Hostess gifts:  Find a great bargain on a household or kitchenware item online or at a discount store and make a themed gift.  For example, I found a good-quality Farberware nonstick skillet set (one 8” and one 10” pan) on Amazon.com on sale for $7.99 (down from $60), and printed a rebate form to get $5 back.  I created a “Frittata set” by attaching a recipe card for a frittata, a package of herbs (13 cents bought in bulk at the health food store), and a wooden spoon (four for $1 at the dollar store). 


Total cost:  $3.75  



2.  Gifts for neighbors:  It is easy to make gifts using canning jars that are attractive and inexpensive.  

  • “Springtime in January” bulb kit:  Create an attractive bulb kit with a pint-sized mason jar.  Fill the jar two-thirds full with colored stones, colored glass stones or marbles for color (you can substitute soil if you prefer).  Add a Paperwhite Narcissus bulb (which is the most foolproof bulb) and put the lid on the jar.  Add a festive bow and a tag with the simple growing instructions:  “Fill the jar with water halfway up the bulb and keep watered (do not cover the top of the bulb with water). Put uncovered jar in a sunny spot.  The bulb will bloom in 4-6 weeks with fragrant white blossoms.”

Total Cost:  $2.00 per kit includes the 67-cent pint-sized jar, one 60 cent bulb (bought in quantity of 10 from a local nursery), 75 cent glass stones (from a dollar store).

  • “Mix in a Jar” gifts:  You can create mixes for cookies by layering ingredients in quart-sized wide mouth mason jars.  The price of the jar can vary widely, depending on where you buy the jar.  I found the lowest prices on Ball mason jars by buying them in a case of 12 at my grocery store or hardware store for $10 per case, which is 83 cents per jar. The pint-sized jars cost $8 a case, or about 67 cents per jar.  If you only want to buy one or two jars, check a craft store and look for a coupon in the craft store’s ad in your newspaper.  The Michael’s craft store in my city carried the quart-sized jar for $1.49 and the pint-sized jar for 99 cents.  By using the 40% off coupon, I would pay 83 cents for a single quart jar and 59 cents for the pint jar (prices may vary by location).
    If you cannot find cases of mason jars at your grocery store and you have an Ace Hardware store nearby, you can order mason jars from acehardware.com and have them delivered to your store at no charge for you to pick them up.  There are 10% off coupon codes available from Ace Hardware on coupon code websites, as well.  

You can find “mix in a jar” recipes by going to a recipe website (such as allrecipes.com) and entering “jar mixes” or “mix in a jar” in the search box.  You can also find “mix in a jar” books at your local library.  Baking ingredients are inexpensive at this time of year and you will find coupons in the newspaper circulars for many baking items.  My cost for this Oatmeal Raisin Spice Cookie mix was $1.00 for the ingredients and 83 cents for the jar, for a total cost of less than $2.00 per mix. 



Total Cost:  About $2 per quart sized mix (varies based on ingredients) 


Oatmeal Raisin Spice Cookie Mix (use a quart-sized jar)  From allrecipes.com 


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  1. Mix together flour, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Layer ingredients in the following order into a one-quart, wide mouth canning jar: Flour mixture, raisins, rolled oats, brown sugar, and white sugar. It will be a tight fit, make sure you firmly pack down each layer before adding the next layer.


You can cover the top of the jar with fabric edged with pinking shears and glue it on the lid or tie a bow around the top of the jar to secure it.  Attach a recipe card tag with the following instructions:


Oatmeal Raisin Spice Cookies  (for recipe card)  


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 2. Empty jar of cookie mix into large mixing bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly mix. 3. Mix in 3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened. Stir in one slightly beaten egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Mix until completely blended. You will need to finish mixing with your hands. Shape into balls the size of walnuts. Place on cookie sheets 2 inches apart. 4. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes in preheated oven, or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to wire racks.



3.  Gifts for Teachers:  I interviewed teachers at my son’s school to learn which gifts they liked best.  They said they appreciated any gift, of course, but they really liked practical gift cards for activities they enjoyed, such as bookstores, movies and manicures.  Fortunately, these gifts are no more expensive than the typical candle gift.




·        Bookstore gift cards:  Teachers can buy themselves a gift, or they can buy items for their classroom if they prefer.  Many bookstores offer teachers a discount of 20% off for books or items used in the classroom.  Make your gift go further by asking the bookstore if they have a teacher discount before buying a gift card. 
Total cost:  You set the price ($5 to $10)




·        Movie rental gift card:  Create a “movie night” gift bag by giving a $5 video rental gift card, a box of movie theater candy ($1 at the dollar store) and a package of microwave popcorn (about 50 cents).  If you buy $50 worth of Blockbuster gift cards, you will get a free $5 gift card bonus. 
Total cost:  $7 including the cost of the gift bag




·        Manicure gift certificate:  Cost $7 to $10 depending where you live.




4.  Gifts for Grandparents: You can’t go wrong with photo gifts of grandchildren for grandparent gifts.  Without having to be too crafty, you can assemble a wide range of photo gifts in a short time at a cost of $1 to $20 each.




·        Photo Calendars:  You can create and order a 12- photo wall calendar from your computer with online photo services like Shutterfly.com or Snapfish.com You can find coupon codes on a coupon code website to save money, although you will pay shipping charges. You can also take your prints or digital media to a drugstore, discount store or copy store to create the calendar.  Prices range from $17 to $25 per calendar depending on the service you choose, and take between 2 days and 2 weeks to deliver.  I created a 12- photo calendar using Kinko’s online photo service with digital photos, and picked the $20 calendar up at my local Kinko’s in two days.  I avoided shipping charges and the quality of the calendar was excellent.  
You can also create a one-photo, single page wall calendar with Kinko’s service for $5. 




·        Create your own photo calendars:  If you have your own photo printer, you can create and print your own one-photo, single page wall calendar using free tools available at www.hp.com (click on “Activity Center”) or www.americangreetings.com. Create as many as you’d like for the cost of the paper, about 25 to 35 cents per sheet.


·        Buy photo gift kits at the craft store:  You can use your own prints to create personalized coffee mugs ($1), key chains (70 cents), photo cubes ($2) or a set of five coasters ($9).  I found all of these items on sale at Michael’s craft stores.

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