Great Gifts that Won't Bust Your Budget

Filed under: Holidays

May calendars should come with a warning message, something like, Caution! Overspending Potential: High. It's snow-cone season at the ball field. Kids need extra money for end-of-school parties. And, in addition to the usual lot of birthday and baby gifts you may buy in a given month, in May you've got teacher gifts, graduation gifts, and gifts for showers and summer weddings.

If you're perplexed over how to stretch resources for this giving season, remember: The best gift-giver award goes not to the mom who spends the most but to those who know how to be infinitely creative with a finite amount of money. To be counted among this revered group, start by downloading a Gift Planner page and make a list of gift recipients. Brainstorm gift ideas for each person and begin researching options. Make notes about where you'll buy certain items, the resources you'll need to make some of the gifts, and cost estimates for each one. Get your creative juices flowing by perusing this list of budget-friendly gifts.

Body Scrub: For my birthday this year, daughter-in-law Genevieve Peel gave me a fabulous, citrus-scent body scrub that you can't buy in any store. She teamed up with a friend to create jars of homemade body scrub with classy computer-generated labels for female friends and family. (Cost per jar: about $4) It's the perfect gift for a teacher or administrative assistant who deserves to relax at the end of a long, demanding day.

Herb Garden: Plant herbs in small terracotta pots and arrange them in a basket with low sides, a flat bottom, and handles. Tie generous bows on the handles. (You might want to include some of your favorite recipes that call for the herbs you give.)

Simply Dinner: Purchase gift certificates for local restaurants at 60 percent off. Print the certificate and roll it up scroll-like, securing it with a ribbon tied around it. Wrap the certificate in a box or gift bag. (You can also e-mail a certificate.)

Jewelry by Amy Richmond

Inspiring Jewelry: Amy Richmond, mother of two preschoolers in Frisco, TX, created beautiful but inexpensive jewelry for herself and her daughter and ended up turning the idea into whole a line of jewelry and gifts that focus on gift of motherhood.

Frame the Moment: If you're a skilled calligrapher, re-create a couple's wedding invitation or baby announcement and frame it.

Handprint Apron: Crafty or gourmet teachers and grandmothers will treasure an apron personalized with hands from their favorite little people.

Gift Basket: Line a basket with bandannas or various colors of tissue paper and fill it with theme-related items, based on whatever the recipient loves most. Your basket can be as simple or as extravagant, as large or as small, as your budget and creativity allow. Theme ideas:
  • Beauty basket: fingernail polish, hair accessories, bubble bath, lotion, and other pampering supplies
  • Camper's basket: beef jerky or granola, mosquito repellent, a small first aid kit, a flashlight, and an astronomy book.
  • Newlyweds' basket: handy household items such as tools, picture hangers, twine, duct tape, and a small book on home repair.
College Survival Bowl: In a large plastic bowl arrange microwave popcorn, a roll of quarters, energy bars, chewing gum, highlighter pens, sticky notes and other study supplies. (The bowl comes in handy for serving popcorn at study groups.)

Regift: Thanks to the flagging economy and Jerry Seinfeld who coined the term, regifting has become more acceptable. Just be sure to check out these regifting guidelines before you try it.

How are you stretching your gift-giving budget?

Kathy Peel will e-mail a personalized letter that you can print and put in her latest book, The Busy Mom's Guide to a Happy, Organized Home, for a Mother's Day gift. Send the recipient's name to Visit to learn about Mother's Day discounts for coaching and organizing services.


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.