Saturday, December 4, 2010

40 Penny Pinching Christmas Gift Ideas, Part 1

Are you feeling pinched for pennies as the season of gift giving approaches?  With unemployment figures high, budgets squeezed tight, feeling cash poor and personal credit card debt at an all time high, Christmas can be a very stressful time for many when it comes to putting presents under the tree.

Over the next two weeks, I will post 40 Penny Pinching ideas for Christmas gifts.  Over the years, I have made just about every one of these ideas at one time or other. I've tried to include a little bit of everything for all levels of "artistic talent".  For the most part, the emphasis is on EASY and QUICK.  I could kick myself now that I often forgot to take pictures of my "creations" but many of the links I am including have photos and for the rest I guess you'll just have to use your imagination!  LOL

Here are the first 20 ...

1. Create a custom mix CD of songs or music. You can even include a recorded greeting. If you don't have media creation software, you can download a free copy of Audacity, an audio sound editor and recorder, to create your files and then burn to a CD on your computer. Your can find documentation and support by clicking on the Help button on their site. If you have never used this software or something similar before, please read the documentation before you begin your project.  It will save you a lot of headaches!  Once you get the hang of it, it will be easy as pie.

2. Homemade Baked Goods - find some pretty tins, paper doilies, cellophane, and satin ribbon then make a batch of brownies, shortbread, or other favourite cookie to put in the tin.  Wrap the tin in cellophane with a big satin bow on top!

3. Herbal Olive Oil Bottles - purchase some interesting bottles with cork tops (Ikea, Pier 1, Michaels etc.) and some herb sprigs at your local grocery store ( rosemary, basil, thyme, dill or mint). Purchase some extra virgin olive oil, add the sprig herb of your choice to the bottle and fill with the oil. Pop the cork back in the bottle. cut a small strip of paper to put round the cork rim and seal it by dripping a small wax birthday candle around the rim.  Not completely foolproof but it works to transport it!  Create a tag to put around the bottle naming the type of "herb oil" it is and pop it into a bottle gift bag for giving.

4. Crochet hats, slippers, scarfs, may even a tea cosy - lots of free patterns on the Internet. Here's a place to start

5. Make some polymer clay snowman or "cookie" ornaments for the tree. Here's a "how to" video at UTube

6. Decorate empty "foodstuff" jars with vintage perfume labels. Fill them with bath salts, bubble bath, cotton balls, cotton tips, bath bombs, little soaps, etc.. Paint the lids. Add some pretty ribbon around the neck of the bottle Click here to see a "Vintage Decorator Bed and Bath Kit" I designed for DigiScrap Station that is available for purchase.

7. Make some Homemade soap bars. Click here for some basic "recipes"

8. No sew fleece blankets. Decide how big you want the blanket. Purchase two pieces of fleece fabric at your local fabric store (one piece for the front and one for the back). Cut to size.  Pin both pieces wrong sides together so that they are lined up. Cut a border of 2-1/2 inch "fringe" all around through both pieces of fabric. Tie the top and bottom parts of the fringe together and voila, you have a finished blanket.

9. Make a bundle of all occasion blank greeting cards tied with a pretty bow. - birthdays and other special days in the year (Mother's Day, Father's day, Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, etc.). Purchase some card blanks at your local art store along with some double sided tape. Print copyright free images on Epson Premium Presentation Paper (C13S041257) or other good quality, matte brochure paper . Cut out and tape neatly to the front of the the card blank. Leave the inside of the card blank. If you draw well, you can also draw directly onto these cards or use a drawing that you have scanned into your computer and print copies of it on the presentation paper.

10. Make a lovely Cookie Bouquet. Here's a tutorial to show you how to.

11. Not into cookies. How about a Christmas Candy Wreath? Here's a UTube tutorial.

12. Scout around second hand or thrift stores for a tabletop artificial Christmas tree. Decorate it with German Paper Stars or other small ornaments (i.e. little Christmas balls, silk flowers, etc.).  A lovely gift to bring some Christmas cheer to a senior citizen's room!

13. Make some homemade Truffles. Here's one of my favourite recipes. I use dark chocolate instead of semi sweet.  Making your own candied orange peel to add to it is easy and delicious. Package your truffles in a small, decorated box for gift giving.

14. Make some "faux" vintage typewriter jewellery for a friend that will cost you pennies! Here's a tutorial and kit I wrote, along with digital images of all the keys.   Available for purchase from DigiScrapStation.

15. Give the gift of your time! Create some babysitting coupons for new parents. How about a "gift certificate" for "cooking lessons" or an "art day" with a friend, relative or grandchildren. An invitation to a special "tea party afternoon" for friends in January to chase away the January doldrums!!

16. Put together a Sunday Breakfast basket - Find a basket you are no longer using and fill it with gourmet oatmeal, baby food jars with a couple jars of  homemade jam, pancake mix, pancake syrup,and a small gift certificate from your local bakery.

17. Make some Hot Chocolate Cones  Fill clear, disposable frosting bags with hot chocolate. Add a marshmallow and sprinkle crushed peppermint candy on top. Tie with some curly ribbon and put it in a Christmas mug. 

If you can't find disposable frosting bags, make your own with some cellophane.  Just roll doubled cellophane into a small cone, tape together and fill.  Don't want to have to buy a Christmas mug?  The next time you purchase a take out coffee, ask the barista for an empty large cup.  They are usually pretty accommodating at "gifting" you with one.  Cover it with Christmas paper or paint it, adding some Christmas collage images to dress it up.

18.Share a favourite, more exotic recipe (i.e. Indian, Thai, Chinese, Greek, Jamaican, etc.) and make a spice sampler to go along with it. Purchase bulk spices, make the mix and bag in either tight closing small plastic bags or small baby food jars with a label (need a label? You might like these red rooster labels I designed for DigiScrap Station). You could also make some little spice/herb bags of meat rubs or marinade mixes. You could also package up the "fixings" for your favourite barbecue sauce and include the recipe.  Search the Internet for recipes if you don't have any.  I'd suggest trying them out first to see if you like it!  I made Jamaican jerk seasoning for my brother in law a couple of years ago and he loved it!!

P.S.  Using the Red Rooster Label Add on Kit, I've recycled empty foodstuff jars into practical containers for my cupboards as well as given them as gifts.  The bulk food aisle is a great place to shop to fill these containers.  A gift that was really appreciated by a friend were five recycled spaghetti sauce jars with new red rooster labels indicating the contents... a jar of pecans, one of almonds, one of walnuts, one of cashews, one of peanuts.  I put them all in a basket, tied a bow around the handle and the tag read: "From one nutty friend to another!"  She loved that gift and still talks about it....

19. Tile Trivets. Purchase some "end of the line" fancy ceramic tiles and a piece of cork sheet flooring at your local flooring store. Trace the size of the tile around the cork. Cut out and glue to the bottom of the tile with a good carpenters glue.  Purchase a package of small plastic "feet" protectors and stick one to each corner of the trivet on the bottom of the tile. Voila... a lovely trivet for your table or counter.

20. Make a pair of hand warmers. Youngsters and teens waiting for the school bus on a cold winter day will appreciate these to tuck inside their mitts.  Dad will too!! Here are a couple of ways to make them..

Cut two pieces of flannelette 3-1/2" x 4". Wrong sides together, and with a 1/4 inch seam, sew around all sides to make a small bag but leaving an opening on the top large enough to turn the bag to the right side. Clip the corners diagonally (make sure that you don't cut through the sewn thread). Turn. Fill the bag with rice (using a funnel helps keep the rice from going everywhere). Fold the seam allowance on the top to the inside and sew securely across the top to close the bag. To heat the rice kernels in your little bag, just pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute.  Toasty warm hands...

Method 2 - a recycling project!
Does your dryer eat socks like mine does? Use those stray socks to make a handwarmer. Cut the top off the sock. Turn inside out and sew the bottom together securely. Sew the top of the socks leaving a small opening (large enough for a small funnel to go through.) Using the funnel, fill the sock with rice. On the outside, sew the opening closed and you're done!  Just pop into the microwave to heat them up.

P.S.  Some people use ceramic pie weights in their handwarmers.  Personally they might be okay for adults but I would be careful using them in handwarmers for kidlets.  Heating them in the microwave could make them too hot for little hands and end up burning their delicate skin.

Hope this has given you some ideas to get going on this week!  Stop by again next week for another 20 ideas that you can make before Christmas arrives!!

Have a wonderful week,