Seven Super-Cheap Gift Ideas to Help You Save Money over the Holidays

The following is a guest post by Kate Willson, who writes on the topics of top online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

For years, the Christmas season steamrolled over my carefully planned budget, as I spent more than I could afford shopping for gifts to make all of my friends and family happy. It would take me three full months for my finances to recover from the overspending. Year after year, while making small talk at office holiday parties and family gatherings, I would always hear conversations about how homemade gifts or small-scale thoughtful gifts meant so much more than extravagant gifts; others said they wished cash-strapped family members hadn't spent so much. Something clicked. I needed to put some effort into thoughtful, low-cost gifts instead of going all-out at the mall. Here are some great ideas for Christmas gifts on the cheap:

1.) Homemade desserts. Gifting delicious cookies, pies, brownies, cobblers and other homemade goodies tops most lists of low-cost Christmas items, scoring high for the fact that you actually spend time making these desserts at home. The key is to make the items from scratch, wrapping and presenting them beautifully. Cobbling together some cookies from a packaged tube and putting them on a Styrofoam plate covered with plastic wrap won't cut it. You can find adorable baskets and ribbons to display cookies and brownies at Hobby Lobby or other craft/decor stores for cheap.

2.) Handmade Tie-Fleece Blankets. My husband tells me every year that the best gift I ever got him was a handmade tie-fleece blanket. These warm and soft wonders don't require any sewing (thank goodness, I'm no good at that), only two beautiful pieces of fleece that fit your gift recipients' color preferences that you tie together by hand. There are tutorials all over the web on how to make tie-fleece blankets, including YouTube videos. Just be sure not to pick a nerdy or holiday-themed fleece pattern. The recipient will use it throughout the winter and may not want Merry Christmas all over it for the remainder of the year.

3.) Bottle of wine. Adorned with a lovely ribbon, this is usually a perfect gift for office holiday parties, as you can get a delicious bottle of wine for under $20. Local wines are also great gifts to bring for relatives out of state, as they represent a little piece of the place you live.

4.) Photo book or photo calendar. If you're like me you have hundreds of digital photos of your family stored on your computer's hard drive. Using online resources like Shutterfly or Snapfish, you can create personalized photo books or photo calendars for less than $20. These are fantastic gifts for older family members who don't get to see you very often throughout the year.

5.) Magazine subscription. This isn't as lame of a gift as it sounds. If you have a friend who routinely buys celeb gossip mags like Ok! and People, why not let them keep up with those celebs without paying for it at the grocery store every week? Music lovers might enjoy Rolling Stone or Spin. Here's a tip: Go to your nearest chain bookstore and look closely through magazines to get ideas on mags that aren't typically available in your typical neighborhood grocery store.

6.) DVDs or CDs. Look for the classics when it comes to DVDs and CDs and you'll usually stay under $20. Buy movies that have fun memories of you and that person attached to them.

7.) Christmas ornaments. You can find some truly beautiful ornaments for your friends and family members to hang on their tree year after year for under $20.

Additional Reading:

Giving of Yourself

Sell, Trade or Cash in Those Gift Cards

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