When It Comes to Gifts, Inexpensive Does Not Have to Mean Impersonal

I always cringe when I hear someone say: “Money is too tight, I can’t give anything this year.” If you’re reading this, likely on an electronic device, chances are very good that if you moved some things around or did some fancy footwork, you can “afford” to show the ones you love that you are thinking of them, while spending very little.

From a very early age, when someone said “It’s the thought that counts,” I always took it to heart, and a thought doesn’t have to cost much – if anything. Even thoughts need a little nudging sometimes, though, so let me help:

$5-$10 favorite candy / snack … but make it personal.

I give this example all the time. One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was also one of the simplest. One very lean Christmas, my husband went to the dollar store (when everything was still just one dollar) and bought 5 boxes of Runts, one of my favorite candies. He dumped them all out into a bowl and sorted them back into the boxes, fruit by fruit. So I had one whole box of candy strawberries, one of limes, one of bananas, and so on. He wrapped them individually, but of course after opening only one, I knew that the rest of these boxes held a sugary pre-sorted selection.

For $5+tax and a little bit of effort, he gave me a sweet (both literally and figuratively) and meaningful gift, one I’ll always remember, if not keep, because I enjoyed those suckers.

*As low as $0.19 – Print a Memory

These days, we all have at least one or two absolutely dynamite photos on our humble little phones. Priceless memories that we’ll never forget, but a reminder would be a very nice thought to count on (see what I did there?) as well. Shutterfly has a host of offers, and they are by no means the only game in town. There’s also Google photos, Amazon Photos, or just the plain ol’ kiosk at the drugstore. You can even be “extra” (not really) and combine with a personalized picture frame, which could very well be the next item on my list.

$3-$10 a custom craft from Dollar Tree

Every year, my kids make a handmade craft for all the families on our list. Actually, let me amend that, not every year. A couple of years ago, I couldn’t get my crap together and they didn’t, and one of my relatives pulled me aside and asked me if they had done something to offend us. In short, it’s a time-honored tradition and it rarely costs much. One year, we bought pillar candles and my daughter drew on tissue paper with crayons- then we fused the tissue paper to the candle with a hot hair dryer. Everyone loved them, and that’s just an example. We made the above mentioned picture frames with shells we found on the beach during a family vacation for the cost of a couple of glue sticks and a few Dollar Tree frames. I’m hardly the expert; if you’re stumped, Pinterest can assist you better than I can!

Under $5 – a really good pen

I mean, is there anything better? Lest you think I’m messing with you, I am in a small, private group of grown women on social media where preference of writing utensil is up for frequent discussion. If you’re a teacher or nurse you always need a good pen, and the recommendation of a frequent pen-user can be very useful. It doesn’t have to be a pen, some helpful utensil can usually be a thoughtful and tongue in cheek gift.

$10-$20-ish – Physical, tangible, music CD’s

Ok, this one is a bit out there, but hang in there with me for a bit. I received a really great CD for Christmas last year, and it’s helpful when my satellite radio is not in range, like when I’m in a parking garage or tunnel, on a road trip, in bad weather, or I just plain want to know for sure that I’m going to enjoy what I’m listening to without using data or draining my phone. You know, like in the olden days. More importantly, it was not expensive and I didn’t want the giver to spend a lot on me – also on theme with this post. Need a suggestion? You can get 1989: Taylor’s Version at Target for under $15.

That’s if you couldn’t score those concert tickets, which are, to be clear NOT to be found on this “inexpensive gift idea” list.

If all this fails, there’s really nothing like a detailed, meaningful letter or card. This is the season to tell the ones you love how you really feel, so if it’s the thought that counts, give them the thoughts you have about them – for free.

Jeanne Rougelot
Jeanne is a proud Westbanker and wife, full time working parent, and middle child. She and her insanely handsome husband of 20 years have 2 daughters, aged 15 and 7. Her hobbies include cake decorating, reading, devouring movies, and slowly turning into her mother. When they are not patronizing local restaurants, she and her family enjoy driving around to take in the surroundings of their home, from Lafitte to Folsom, and all points in between. She is a passionate advocate for Ovarian Cancer Awareness.


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