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7 Ways to Give Gifts on the Cheap This Holiday Season

You can be an amazing gifter with these inexpensive but meaningful gift ideas.


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While rising prices can make gift-giving challenging, most people care more about the meaning behind a present they receive than its price tag. Indeed, 90 percent of Americans say they wish the holidays were less materialistic, and 88 percent say they should be more about family and caring for others, according to a poll last year by the Center for Biological Diversity.

You don’t need to break the bank to leave a lasting impression. These seven gift ideas are inexpensive and have a lot of sentimental value.

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1. Turn old into new

You might not need to leave the house to find an incredibly thoughtful gift. Restain, reupholster or restore old furniture collecting dust in your attic or garage. Frame an old photo or make a scrapbook of pictures from a past vacation, wedding, anniversary or event that brings back happy memories. Get antique or vintage jewelry cleaned and use this holiday season to pass it down to the next generation. There’s probably some heirloom lying around the house that a family member would cherish.

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2. Show off a new skill

Maybe you’re the crochet queen, but your friends and family have hit their limit of handmade sweaters. Thanks to the endless number of experts on YouTube, learning a new skill is just a click away. Teach yourself how to jar your pickles or jam, or learn how to make homemade cold process soap or soy wax candles. You could learn how to build a terrarium or create a beautiful floral arrangement. Instead of spending $20 for one Yankee Candle, use that money to buy the materials or a do-it-yourself kit and share your scents with dozens of family and friends. Plus, you can teach your new skill and pass it along to anyone interested.

3. Build your family tree

The existence of dozens of genealogy websites suggests demand is high for learning lineage. Use one of those sites – or your memory – to create a family tree to share as a gift. This can be presented in various ways – as a chart, photo wall, embroidery, quilt or shadow box – and will surely spark stories of that crazy uncle or loveable great-grandmother whom the youngsters may never have had the privilege of meeting.

4. Give a quote

A few words can pack a powerful punch. Maybe a book or movie quote reminds you of someone special. Or there’s a motto that a friend lives by. Or there’s a go-to karaoke song that you and your best friend always sing together. Pick a complementary font and print the excerpt, saying or lyric on nice stationery. Then get it framed. Sometimes, looking at the lyrics of “You Got a Friend” by James Taylor can evoke just as much – or more – nostalgia as a family portrait.

5. Create a scavenger hunt

Giving an experience as a gift is a great way to create a long-lasting memory. To start building your own holiday scavenger hunt, decide on your intended audience (kids, adults or both) and divide the group into two teams. Then, create 10 clues for each team and write each on a separate index card. Tailor the clues to the audience and personalize them as much as possible: “When Jessica was 8, she gave this gift to mom on Christmas.” (Answer: handmade ornament). “Rachel always makes these for Hanukkah.” (Answer: Sufganiyots). Map out your route for each team, hand out clue No. 1 to get them started and then leave the next clue at the location of the previous clue’s answer. Make the final clue the same for both teams and create a treasure to leave in that last spot for the winning group (gift cards, candy, ornaments, etc.). With all the laughs, adventures and memories, a scavenger hunt can be just as rewarding for the creator as the participants.

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6. Write a children’s book

People of all ages can appreciate a good children’s book – especially when the reader is also one of the main characters. Start by building a plot from a memorable storyline like how you met, an adventurous vacation or a coming-of-age story. Then, turn the main characters into fluffy forest animals or pirates or mermaids. Think of this as if Disney were to write an animated movie about that experience. Have fun and get creative with the art, paper and binding. And don’t be surprised when it instantly becomes a favorite bedtime story.

7. Personalize a calendar

Most photo printing centers offer relatively inexpensive calendars. Pick a personal photo to represent every month of the year. Whether you create your own calendar or purchase one that features a cat of the month for your feline-loving friend, you can put your touch on the gift by filling in important dates – anniversaries, birthdays and planned vacations. Or, if you want to really get creative, you can buy a blank calendar and decorate it however you wish.

Share your experience: What gifts do you give that are relatively inexpensive? Let us know in the comments below.

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