Married to the Empire

Friday, August 15, 2008

One Income 101: Gifts

I love to give gifts, but living on one income means that we can't afford to be as extravagant with our gift giving as I might like to be. A little time and creativity solves that problem, however.

My best advice to anyone wanting/needing to cut back on expenses, but not on gift giving, is to play up your talents and think creatively.

I love to cook, so food is one of the ways I give gifts to people. Because people are so inundated at Christmas with sweets, I do something different; I bake bread. My bread is always greeted enthusiastically. I've also done this as thank-you gifts for my husband's co-workers when they went above and beyond to help him on a project. Lovely packaging always helps with the presentation.

Another consumable gift I enjoy giving is spices. We have a fabulous spice store in Fort Worth called Pendery's World of Spices. I am in love with their stuff, especially their fajita seasoning. Their selection of chili powders is vast. Local spices make great gifts for people far away, but also for locals who are unfamiliar with this store. Bags of spices are fairly inexpensive, and they're always well received.

I've been honing my sewing skills over the past year. I'm still very much a beginner, but I sew well enough to make a few gifts. Recently, I gave wedding gifts of homemade dishtowels that I packaged up with a cookbook and a nice wooden spoon. I made a stuffed cat for my youngest niece for Christmas. Both projects were minimal in cost, but did take time to make.

I enjoy paper crafts, so my homemade notecards make lovely gifts for the women in my life. Lately, I've been enjoying doctoring up composition books, and I'm thinking that prayer journals might make for some nice gifts.

Even homemade ornaments can make nice small gifts for people.

We work with the youth at our church, so we receive a lot of graduation announcements. Multiple graduation gifts can become costly, but this year I found a creative and inexpensive solution with a lot of meaning behind it. The girls we gave them to loved them.

Need a creative birthday gift for the person who has everything? Try a magazine from the month and year of his or her birth. I've done this a few times, and the recipients have told me how much they enjoyed looking through them and seeing what was popular or of importance when they were born. Make sure the magazine's general topic is of interest to the recipient. You can find old magazines on Ebay or at used book stores for very little money.

Don't be afraid to give gifts that you bought on sale or clearance. The recipient never has to know just how little money you spent on something! Just make sure that the gift is something the recipient will actually like, not just something cheap so you'll have a gift in hand. It's my belief that it's better to give nothing, than to give a thoughtless gift.

Your talents may be vastly different from mine. The key is to figure out what you're good at, what the recipients would like, and be creative. And remember, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had it right when he said:

Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.

Later Today: What I Don't Do


JAN said...

I'm not at all sure how I stumbled onto your blog, but I'm really enjoying it! This post was great and very helpful.
I was wondering if you'd post the recipe you used for your wheat bread? It looks wonderful! I've been trying to cut costs by baking our bread, (whole wheat) but I can't find a recipe that isn't dry and crumbly.
I love all your gift ideas too, btw. We have a wedding coming up in November and I just may try my hand at those dish towels.
Thanks for sharing!

lizzykristine @ Uplifted Eyes said...

Gifts really are a budget-breaker. I shop clearance racks, sales bins, and homemake what I can, but our gifts budget is still triple our clothing budget

I like giving gifts... It is just difficult to consistently come up with frugal gifts that look nice. :)

All things bright and beautiful... said...

I really loved this post - some great new ideas. has some lovely ideas you might like.

Beth said...

My sister gives baskets on Christmas eve. She fills them with small breads, a couple muffins, coffee and/or tea, a few sweets, etc. She tells people that she is providing their Christmas breakfast! It is always a welcome gift, especially with the older folks.

And I am ALWAYS in the clearance section of stores. I've taught my boys to check the Target clearance, too.

Ewokgirl said...

Jan, I actually use the white bread recipe from the More-with-Less Cookbook. I just substitute half the all-purpose flour with wheat flour. If you don't have access to that cookbook, you can email me and I'll type up the recipe for you. My email is in my profile.

LizzyKristine, I totally understand. Our gift budget is twice as big as our clothing budget. I feel very blessed that I'm usually able to come up with meaningful, but inexpensive gifts. Just today I bought some gorgeous sterling silver earrings for my niece's birthday at 60% off, and I found a fabulous book at Big Lots last week for my friend who makes jewelry. It's a beading book with tons of project ideas, and it was only $5!

All Things Bright and Beautiful, I need to remember to check out I think I actually have it bookmarked; it's just a matter of remembering to visit!

Beth, I think that's a great idea!

Vader's Mom said...

I am a major gift giver. It's one of my downfalls on vacation because I want to bring everyone home something!

You have some wonderful ideas here and I really need to chat with you about that journal. I'd love to make one for my niece....