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Miserly Moms > Columns > Miserly Moms

Christmas Gift Giving
by Jonni McCoy

Q. These two questions both are about Christmas, so I'll answer them together:

This year I am on a very tight budget. Besides cutting down my Christmas gift list, I was thinking of making my own crafts to give out as Christmas gifts. Any suggestions? I have saved a lot of household throwaway's such as juice lids, paper towel holders, toilet rolls, etc. Maybe I can invent something with these? Thanks! -Damaris

I like to sew, bake and make any Christmas presents possible. But my husband and I feel pressure by his family to "do it up" present wise for his family. It is an underlying expectation. We make a budget and stick to it, but feel pressure to buy certain gifts that exceed our desire for spending. What can we do? -Deborah/California

A. When it's time for a special occasion, we tend to throw the budget out the window. We think things like, "Oh, it's their birthday," or "But it's Christmas!" And we march into further debt.

So, how do I keep the gift and party madness from putting me in debt for months? First I plan what we are going to spend. I list all of the people that we usually buy gifts for (birthdays and holidays) for the entire year, and the parties that we usually throw (birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving, monthly church potluck, etc.). Then we decide the maximum amount that we will spend on each person for each occasion. We then add up the year's total and divide by 12. This gives us the amount that we need to set aside each month in order to achieve those goals. If it's too much for our budget, we then scale back on certain events or gift giving, and stick to it.

The focus should be on the friends and relatives, not the food and gifts. To scale down the cost of entertaining, try to change the type of party. Instead of serving dinner, serve dessert or have "tea." If you want to serve a dinner, make the main dish and let others bring the side dishes.

Gift ideas for adults can be tricky. I have found that if I find myself wanting to spend a lot on a person, there is usually something wrong in my attitude. I ask myself if I am trying to buy their love, or impress them. I believe that what people want is thought and effort more than money, so I try to make my gifts for friends and relatives. There are numerous books in the library on simple, homemade gifts that look great. There are a few of my favorite ideas below.

When a baked or homemade item is inappropriate, I try to buy something. I watch for sales throughout the year, and store gifts for holidays. This also increases the ability of the gift to be thoughtful, instead of a "quick fix."

Waiting to shop near the holiday only will cost more. Few things are on sale, and you'll be tempted to pick items you wouldn't normally.

Gift Ideas and Recipes:

  • Make a sachet from a small piece of fabric with a simple ribbon tie. Fill it with any of the following: rose petals, cotton balls with vanilla powder, cinnamon sticks with orange peels and cloves, lemon thyme and lemon verbena leaves, or lavender flowers.

  • Bake your gifts. Some of my favorite gifts from the kitchen are spiced nuts, or orange-chocolate truffles.

  • Make a gift basket with a theme such as pasta. Include in the basket a wooden slotted spoon, a small bottle of olive oil, some herbs, and maybe a recipe card or two.

  • Give a movie pass and a bag of special popcorn kernels.

  • Make flavored coffee mixes, soup mixes, layered cookie mixes, or other similar ideas and put in pretty jars (found at craft stores). Attach, using some ribbon, a card with mixing instructions.
Happy Holidays!

Jonni McCoy is the author of "Miserly Moms-Living On One Income In A Two Income Economy" and "Frugal Families-Making The Most Of Your Hard Earned Money!"

Visit the Miserly Moms Website at

Our sincere thanks to Jonni for allowing us to reprint her wonderful work!

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