Thrifty gifts that give a chuckle, too
With the holiday season upon us, undoubtedly there are some who have no clue as to the perfect gift for friends and family. But with an unstable economy, what can one do to fill up the area underneath Old Tannenbaum and still keep on a frugal budget? Here are some gift ideas which may help in the home stretch of holiday shopping.
- Shopping bags. It would be such a waste, not to mention unenvironmental, to throw out those blue plastic Wal-Mart bags and the like. Save them for friends and family. Think of how much money they will save from not having to buy those fancy, expensive, white opaque "hefty" trash bags. Plus, they double as entertainment for pets.
- Gasoline gift certificates. Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like the gift of gasoline. Head to your local convenience store and put down $10 or $20 on the fuel provider of your choice. Maybe if you're lucky, you'll get it back -- hopefully with money on it -- at the next holiday.
- Condiment packages. Take a clue from your grandmother who grew up during the Depression. Why buy fancy bottles of ketchup, mustard or lemon juice at the grocery store when fast food places are literally giving the stuff away? Oh, and while you're at it, sneak some of those Club crackers and Melba toast in your purse. Stocking stuffers, anyone?
- Coupon Idea No. 1 -- Coupons from the heart. They were a great Mother's Day gift when you were eight, and they're the perfect romantic gift for your sweetie. And just like Mom, who never took you up on that offer to vacuum the living room, hopefully in a few months that coupon for a foot massage will be crumpled up with the used wrapping paper. Best of all, no matter how much of a copout it seems, no one can argue with how "It's the thought that counts."
- Hair trimmers. For less than $20, this makes a great gift that pays for itself in no time. Complete with different length guards, the recipient can learn how to cut hair just like the pros at the Army enlistment office. Plus, the money saved in trips to the hairstylist might land you a sweet gift next year. For an extra $2, throw in some PVC pipe and a roll of duct tape. With a little ingenuity, that regular hair trimmer can be turned into the "As seen on TV" Flowbee.
- Duct tape. As mentioned before, this can be a great help in a number of situations. Not only can this little beauty fix any number of household problems, but Mill Valley High School graduate Marcus Cockroft proved it could be used for even the finest occasions when he asked Baldwin City senior Cari Diers to accompany her to his 2001 prom. Four days before the prom, he asked his date to consider wearing prom outfits made of duct tape as part of Duck Tape's (the company) "Stuck at Prom" promotion. She agreed and the couple had a fun night out in their adhesive duds. The duct tape wonder is even made -- get this -- in colors! Who said thrifty has to be boring?
- Homemade gifts. A knitting/crochet-obsessed friend recently purchased some sparkly, fringe yarn for an eye-catching red scarf at a third of the price because the yarn was a labyrinth of knots and tangles. If spending hours untangling knots isn't your idea of fun, try finding random pieces of string around your home. The broom is always a good place to look. If you're really ambitious, try your hand at spinning yarn from dryer lint.
- Coupon Idea No. 2 -- Coupons not-so-much from the heart. At the rate of $1.25 per week for a Sunday paper, the yearly expense can eat away at the pocketbook for the advantage of those weekly coupon specials. So, save your loved ones the time and money. Take a pair of scissors with you during the next two weeks and clip away. Although, you'll be surprised where they turn up: at the doctor's office, in the library, and recycle bins around town are filled with the discarded treasures that ultimately lead to more purchases and inadvertently strengthening the economy.
- A mixed tape. Or, if you're more sophisticated, a burned CD. Of course, no one will really appreciate your gift and song selection as much as you will. However, it would be kind of fun to see their glazed expressions when you try to put into words how "Stairway to Heaven" is like, a religious experience, man, or how the first time you heard Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" you thought you'd never, ever again hear anything so evil and yet so cool. On second thought, find them another gift and hang onto this one. After all, no one else appreciates a finely-timed Queen interlude quite like you do.
- Toilet paper. It's amazing the specials you can get on this anymore. In the coupons of the Dec. 8 issue of the Lawrence Journal-World (which surely you found in someone's house and clipped out with your trusty scissors), a 36-pack of bath tissue was going for $6.99 at Hy-Vee. What a deal! If you're shopping for someone with a lot of women under one roof, this makes a wonderful gift. As far as other uses, T.P. through a paper shredder makes great fake snow in case Mother Nature lets us down this year. Or perhaps for indoor "snowball" fights. If all else fails, the recipient can take a roll and decorate someone's trees with it for New Year's.