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Frugal Gifts

November 22, 2010

Jr. High Students: Don't think you have the market cornered on mixed cds.

I am a little nervous about my column this week for a couple reasons. First, I do little to no shopping for Christmas. Basically, I buy the gift for my wife, Kerri, and she takes care of gifts for everyone else. And second, because my column is about being frugal when it comes to buying gifts this holiday season.

            That being said, some of the best gifts I have given my wife are DVD slideshows of photos of our 3-year-old daughter. I have given them to her the past two years, and (spoiler alert) I plan to do it again this year. 

All I did was go through the digital pictures we have of Quincy and organize them on a flash drive. From there I took the flash drive to a store where I uploaded the photos on a computer and chose music. Voila, the personalized DVD is created.

I believe the best gifts are not necessary the most expensive. If you know what is important to the person for whom you are buying a gift, you can create a gift that relates. The key is to think personalization.

If you are looking for a memorable gift that will not break the bank, here are a few more ideas. Let me warn you, though — once you read these you will not look at gift cards the same way again.

Photos: Who does not like to look at photos of loved ones? There are a number of companies that specialize in printing your favorite photos on items such as canvass, creating a beautiful work of art. Other items include coffee mugs, T-shirts and bags. 

Personalized calendar: This is a gift that gives all year long. The same websites where you can stick photos on a variety of things offer personalized calendars. This past Christmas, Kerri took pictures at a family reunion, which she used to make a family calendar. She also included each family member’s birthday throughout the calendar. Each month was a great reminder of our family, and we enjoyed having birthday reminders. 

Silhouette pictures: All you need is your child or children, a flashlight, paper and writing utensil to make silhouette pictures that are sure to be classics for a long time. Simply have your child sit sideways in a dark room. Tape a piece of paper on a wall behind him or her. Shine the flashlight on the child, creating a shadow effect on the paper. Draw the silhouette of the child on the paper. A solid black silhouette with a white background looks great. Give it a custom finish by putting it in a frame. You even could use frames you have around your house. Put a fresh coat of paint on them and they are good as new. 

Coupon book: This is a classic child-to-parent gift. The child comes up with a variety of things he or she will do for his or her parents, and the parents can redeem coupons for things such as a hug. It doesn’t have to stop at childhood — it can be used at any point in life. You could make a coupon to paint a family member’s room or make him or her a meal, for example.

Mixed CD or favorite iTunes compilation: Not only a popular choice for junior high romantics, but the gift of music can be a big hit for anyone who likes music. If you are musically inclined, you can learn someone’s favorite songs and perform it for him or her using your talents.

Family experience: Many times in families they have everything they need. One of the best gifts can be a trip everyone can take together to a special place to spend some time together. You cannot put a price on new experiences and time together as a family.

Homemade recipe book: For those who love to cook, compile some of your family’s best recipes and put it together in a nice binder. My family put together a cookbook for a family reunion once that also included our family’s history in it. It is great to have my mom’s recipes for my favorite foods.

Donate to a charity: I mentioned this past week that we purchased a goat and chicks in honor of my parents. It was heartwarming to give them a card that told about the difference their gift will make. I think down the road we will sponsor a day on their favorite local Christian radio station. If your whole extended family each donated to the same charity, you could give hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Gifts with people’s names: I think my dad’s favorite gift I gave him were golf balls with the words “You found one of John Long’s balls” printed on them.

Think green: Recycling, reusing and repurposing are very popular now. You can save some green by thinking green. For one of our family gift exchanges this year, my wife bought a scarf that is made from T-shirts stores are unable to sell. If you are handy with a sewing machine, you can create a scarf, pillow or blanket from T-shirts or other clothing no longer worn. This is a great idea to reuse clothing your children have outgrown.

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