The original gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh are way beyond what most of us, who are trying to live within our means, have to offer. Still, Christmas time seeps in, and we get the gift giving bug like everyone else.
Here are some simple ideas of how to feed the bug and not fall behind on your bills:
Write a letter of appreciation or capture a memory on paper. It doesn't matter if the paper is plain or fancy. Bows, ribbon and fragrances are optional. Expressing your feelings sincerely is priceless — in a good way.
Make your own Christmas cards. Find inexpensive paper and envelopes. Dampen the paper in water and carefully iron it dry to create an aged linen effect.
Do you have a photo of your grandmother and your mom at the piano or in the kitchen? Make a copy of it and place the photo in an inexpensive frame for a family member.
Copy family photos onto cardstock and cut them out. Attach them to a wire wreath frame for an instant family holiday wreath.
Putting a family heirloom in a deep frame is the perfect gift. Include a card with a memory that includes the item.
Look for little things throughout the year. Wooden boxes at the thrift store, old LP's of their favorite golden-age singer, or a random find like a piece of someone's china pattern makes a thoughtful gift.
On the cheap
Craft stores have letters of the alphabet on sale every month or so. Buy a letter that is meaningful or represents their first or last name. Gold leaf it, antique it, or paint it their favorite color. Then coat with a gloss enamel.
Pinecones cleaned and dried with a little vanilla or cinnamon placed into a plain brown bag becomes quick fire starters for those with fireplaces or stoves.
Nail polish and a polish-remover kit from the dollar store can be placed in a portable caddy for quick and easy clean-up.
A pack of a favorite candy in a cellophane bag with a ribbon? Yum!
Dollar store soaps with their store wrapping removed can be grouped in a jar or tied together in a stack with colorful ribbon.
Purchase a tea cup and a matching saucer at a thrift store or a dollar store. Place a votive wax candle inside.
Create inexpensive sets of refrigerator magnets for their fridge or message board. Spray paint the magnets white and then glue old jewelry or crystals from old chandlers — even small Christmas ornaments — onto the magnets outer face.
Cookie cutters on a ribbon make for homey Christmas tree decorations, and double as, well... cookie cutters.
Your loved one could use razors or another daily use item. A $10 pack of razors (watch for a sale) are always appreciated — with a scented soap thrown into a jar you find at a dollar store or a thrift shop. Add a festive ribbon and merry their Christmas that quick.
Does your man love tamales in a can? Buy a case when they are on sale for a gift he can use with little fuss.
Make a travel kit featuring travel sized toiletries from the dollar store or the discount bin at the market. Store them in a clear plastic zipper bag with a bow.
Small LED flashlights in a pack are incredibly useful.
Maple syrup and a box of pancake mix or a bag of marshmallows and powdered hot coco mix are always fun and festive.
Lastly, give an ugly gift. Everyone has something ugly they don't want to do, such as cleaning out the storage room or sorting the craft closet. Let your friend know that you will help them with their "ugly something." Write it down and put it in a card. Make sure that you follow through.
We have all had those years when money is tight. It's okay to explain that the relationship you have with your friend or family member means much to you, and that the gift you present is a simple token.