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By: Patricia Ann Chaffee

Gift card restaurantWineI’ve always seen the winter holidays with all their gift giving as somewhat of a mixed blessing. They can be fun and joyous and filled with a sense of wonder and surprise. We make extra time for family and friends, baking, and feasts full of age-old traditions. But for many the holidays are also filled with stress, anxiety, pressure, objectionable time with friends and family—and let’s be honest—they have on more than one occasion maxed out a credit card or two (or three). We get sucked into hyper-consumerism at its finest, spending our hard earned money (or credit) for gifts about which we truly have to wonder: are they really wanted? Are they loved and appreciated? Or will they perhaps be stuck in the back of a closet until enough time has lapsed for us to either re-gift the treasure or toss it entirely?

I’m a minimalist at heart, and although I know everyone isn’t into that less-is-more thing, I have a few suggestions to make gift giving less expensive and more meaningful. Consider the possibility that for this season, less just might be more.

Rather than giving more stuff, think about your gift giving in terms of experiences, consumable items, useful gifts, handmade creations, and gifts that make a difference in someone’s life. These gifts don’t have to cost a lot. Many can be found at your local dollar store. In fact, anyone can find a really nice gift for $50, but what if you don’t want to spend that much? Here are 15 gift ideas for under 25 dollars, ten dollars, or even five dollars. They’re easy to make, find online, or buy at the dollar store.

Save gas, save time, and keep it simple.

Gifts for Under 25 Dollars

1. Give a tour of Italy.

For the wine lovers in your family, pack up three or four bottles of different wines, from Italy or anywhere you like, to tour through over the new year. I did this for my son and packaged the gift in an old wooden wine crate the package store gave me for free with shredded newspaper as a bed. I wrote a rhyming poem filled with wine facts to go with it. You can get wine for $4-$6 a bottle that isn’t half bad. Have any money left over? Pick up a couple wine glasses from the dollar store.

Santa2. Fund a flock of chicks.

Heifer International is a nonprofit, humanitarian organization dedicated to ending hunger and poverty and caring for the Earth through more than temporary solutions. The organization offers opportunities to improve quality of life by providing livestock, trees, seeds and training to families in more than 40 countries, including the United States. Your $20 donation can buy a family a flock of chicks. Those chicks grow, lay eggs, make more chicks, provide food, provide income, and more. Choose from the many other options that you can find through the catalog at www.heifer.org.
Perhaps you prefer to buy a llama or a camel. What a nice gift! And you don’t even have to clean up after them.

3. Frame the house.

If a family member has a home filled with wonderful memories, take a nice photo of it when no one’s looking and put it into a fine matted frame to fit in with the decor. I did this for my sister who has everything she could want. She is tough to buy for, but she loved the photo and hung it right up. Make sure there is a hanging apparatus on the back before you wrap it. It’s a gift that will be treasured forever.

4. Put together a writing kit.

Order personalized address labels (www.vistaprint.com) for the letter writer in your family. Include some personalized blank note cards as well as sympathy and get well cards. Throw in a special pen or two and a book of stamps. Enclose them all in a fancy photo box from your local craft store. This is especially appreciated by homebound or older folks who may not have an interest in sending emails. There is something very special about receiving hand written notes and letters, and something very special about those who send them. Why not encourage the beautiful art of letter writing?

5. Let them eat out.

Okay, so you’re thinking. “How can anyone eat out for under $25?” I’ll tell you how. You can dine out several times for $25. Restaurant.com gift certificates (www.restaurant.com) go on sale with promotion codes for five dollars for $25 gift certificates.

That’s right.

For five dollars you can buy a restaurant gift certificate worth $25. If you buy five for $25 you have five trips to your favorite restaurant(s) for only $25. They do come with various rules and stipulations, so be sure to read the fine print, but why not? This is a consumable gift, an experience that will be appreciated over and over, and the recipient just might think of you with each bite.

giftGifts for Under Ten Dollars

6. Feed your foodie friend’s heart.

Fill a basket or gift bag with an assortment of condiments, spices and sauces for the cook or sandwich lover in the family, especially one who likes to experiment. A recent trip to the dollar store revealed a wide assortment of possibilities, each for only a buck. There were grainy mustard, teriyaki sauce, hot sauce, pepperoncini, asparagus tips, olives, minced garlic, basil, old bay seasoning and lots more, including baskets and gift bags.

7. Make that car shine.

Who wouldn’t want this? Back at the dollar store, you’ll find a selection of vehicle paraphernalia including air fresheners, dash wipes, brake fluid, tire gauge, USB car charger, microfiber wash mitts, and things I didn’t even know I needed for a car. Grab a bucket and a handful of these goodies with an ever-welcome I.O.U. to detail or wash their car.

8. Donate water.

Charitywater.org (www.charitywater.org) is a non-profit organization which brings clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations. One hundred percent of the donations to Charity Water are promised directly to fund clean water projects. According to its website, one in nine people on this earth do not have access to clean drinking water. What an amazing gift to give in the name of someone you love, and you can donate any amount.

9. Make an heirloom.

Frame a small heirloom handkerchief or doily. This is a sweet idea, especially if you’ve had special linens passed down in your family. If not, many consignment and antique shops carry vintage linens that can be matted on contrasting fabric and framed for a lovely gift. Visit www.pinterest.com for ideas for framing.

10. Make the gift certificate for a book special.

I’ve heard some people say that they don’t like giving gift certificates, as if the act conveys that they didn’t care enough to go the extra mile. But the reality is you are honoring their interest by choosing a place that you know they frequent or have interest in, and you are allowing them to choose. Unless we have someone’s Christmas list, can we really know what book they want? To make the certificate even more special, create an origami box to wrap it in. It’s really easy and you can make it with printed paper or start with white paper and paint it yourself. Here’s a link on how to fold your origami box with a lid. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2jCrjwCYzs. Then slip your $10 gift card in. What’s not to love!

Gifts for Under Five Dollars

11. Fill a mason jar with candy.

Mason jars are all the rage this year, so let’s jump on that bandwagon. The rustic vintage simplicity of a mason jar and anything you put in it is sure to please. You can buy them individually at craft stores or by the case at department and hardware stores. Fill them with Hershey kisses or another favorite candy and tie a ribbon around the cap. It’s a great hostess gift. It’s good for anyone you want to share a little sugar with.

12. Honor quiet time for reflection.

Hardcover composition notebooks and other types of journals are available at the dollar store along with incense, candles and candle holders. For the reflective member of your tribe, consider putting a gift bag together that says, “I know and honor this about you.” For a few dollars that means a lot.

13. Celebrate the fingers and toes!

Put together a goodie bag with an assortment of nail files and polish for only a buck apiece for the Diva in your life. Offer to give a manicure or pedicure to that special friend or relative. Add a small tube of Udderly Smooth hand cream, the best moisturizer ever, and massage those tootsies.

14. Honor the chocolate lovers!

Bake brownies in a new pan from the dollar store. Wrap them while still in the pan in a remnant of Christmas fabric and tie a new spatula on top with a satin ribbon. Home baked goodness!

15. Lastly, and more valuable than any of these gifts combined, tell the people in your life what they mean to you. Write it, sing it, paint it, but let them know. Value? Priceless!

Happy holidays and happy shopping.

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