We are all looking for ways to economize this Christmas. Collective greedy spending is what caused this recession in the first place. Make your gifts more thoughtful and less expensive this year.
1) Instead of ordering a fancy holiday “tower” from some expensive mail order store, make your own. Walmart carries all sizes of decorative boxes. Fill the boxes with an assortment of goodies. Include homemade chex mix, chocolate chip cookies, homemade fudge (if you’ve never made fudge before, follow the recipe on the back of a marshmallow cream jar. This is a foolproof recipe), planters nuts, and orange slices. There is a lot of room for creativity with this one – Most families have their favorite cookie and candy recipes that they make for the holidays. Instead of eating it all yourselves, box up the goodies in festive packages for gifts.
2) If the gift recipient doesn’t appreciate all the sweet goodies, try putting together a more creative gift tower. Pair some nice cheese with gourmet crackers; add sparkling grape juice tied with a ribbon. Package together a homemade cheeseball with gourmet crackers and some m&m’s. (Cheeseball recipe: Mix 8 oz pkg of cream cheese; 8 oz of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded; with seasonings of choice – try one clove freshly squeezed garlic with 1 TBL worchestershire sauce or one clove freshly squeezed garlic with 1 tsp hot pepper flakes. Form cheese mixture into ball and roll in finely chopped nuts. Makes 1 large cheeze ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge)
3) For the movie collector, check out amazon.com and half.com for super bargains. Add a bag of homemade popcorn tied with a bow.
4) Larger family gatherings can draw names instead of buying gifts for every person. Who needs ALL THAT STUFF, anyway?
5) Another large family gathering idea is to suggest a book exchange – run it similarly to a white elephant gift exchange. Rules include paying no more than $5 for a book or finding one that has been laying around the house forever.
6) Do you have too many mugs around the house? Pair nicer mugs with homemade hot cocoa mix – packaged in a jar (blend 2 cups nonfat dry milk powder, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, 1/2 cup powdered nondairy creamer, and any extras like 1/2 cup mini marshmallows or 1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips – makes 3-4 cups of mix, depending on the add-ins) Don’t forget the directions: Spoon 3-4 generous tablesppons of cocoa mix into your cup. Add boiling water and stir well.
7) For close friends and family, put together a photo album with the year’s best pictures. Write a thoughtful inscription and wrap it up.
8) Write out your best recipes on nice cards. Tie them together with a festive ribbon.
9) For families that have young children and live close by, write up a coupon for a night of free babysitting. Specify some dates that work well for you and offer that they can choose among those dates. (or days of the week that work well for you)
10) For co-workers, do something really simple – write out everyone’s name on separate gift tags (cannot be the sticker kind – must be plain card stock – preferably the thin rectangle kind.) Using red or green curling ribbon, tie the gift tags to candy canes. Curl the ends, and you have a festive, personalized candy cane for everyone in the office. I know, it’s EL CHEAPO – but for some reason everyone seems to like it. And, you don’t have to play the game of “if I give a gift to ____________, I have to give a gift to ___________.” This is cheap enough, you can give one to everyone without breaking the bank. Unless, your company employs 10,000 employees or something, in which case, stick to gifting just your department!