We’re in the final stretch of the holiday season, but most of us haven’t finished buying gifts. It’s easy to spend more at the last minute, because you have much less time to be selective. Before you know it, you’ll be way over budget.
Here are a few ideas for inexpensive gifts that you can find on short notice. They’ll make your friends feel appreciated, and will also give your wallet a little break.
1. Coffee Mug
This may seem like a simple gift, but you can make it special by dressing it up. Purchase an inexpensive mug with a design or monogram on it or get a plain mug from a local discount store and decorate it with acrylic paints. Just be sure to set the paint by baking it in the oven to make it dishwasher safe.
After you have your mug, fill it with a small bag of homemade hot chocolate mix and marshmallows, tea bags, a holiday blend of coffee or even a small herb plant.
2. Wine or Olive Oil
This makes a great hostess gift for a holiday party. Pick up an inexpensive bottle of wine or olive oil and wrap it with a pretty holiday dish towel, tying a ribbon around the top. Two gifts in one!
3. Painted Wine Glass
Similar to painting a mug, if your friend enjoys wine you can get plain, inexpensive wine glasses at a dollar store or discount store and decorate them with acrylic paint. You can paint freehand or get a small stencil from the craft store. Again, you’ll want to set them in your oven on a low temperature so they will be dishwasher safe.
4. Cookie, Dip or Soup Mix
Using your favorite cookie, dip or soup recipe, layer all of the dry ingredients in a mason jar. Attach a label and decorate the jar with a fabric swatch under the lid or some ribbon or twine. Print the recipe for the mix on a recipe card and tie it to the jar. Your friends will enjoy making these special treats on a cold winter day.
5. Sugar Scrub
You can easily make your own sugar scrub by mixing granulated sugar, olive oil and essential oils. You can choose an energizing oil like citrus or a relaxing one like lavender to scent your scrub. Pick up some small mason jars from the craft store, fill them with your sugar scrub and decorate them with twine and labels. Your friends will love smoothing their rough winter skin with this fabulous scrub.
6. A scarf
Scarves are my go-to for gift exchanges with my female friends because they look amazing on everyone! In fact, many of the ladies’ groups where I live host “Scarf Exchanges” during the holidays. Even the big-box stores have cute scarves at a great price!
7. A framed photo of you and your friend
Since people rarely print photos anymore, it makes it even more special to get a framed photo as a gift. You can buy inexpensive frames at dollar stores or even thrift stores. If you’re feeling especially crafty, you could paint or stencil a saying about friendship on the frame.
8. A handwritten note
This is one of my favorite gifts to give, because it comes straight from the heart! Write a letter to your loved one about why you love them or some special memories you have shared. For example, if you love going on coffee dates with a friend, write her a note about why you love them so much and give her a gift card for coffee. I know an elderly woman whose granddaughter wrote her a letter for the grandma’s birthday, and the woman ended up framing the letter and hanging it in her living room!
9. Nail polish, remover and cotton swabs
Instead of treating a friend to an expensive salon manicure, treat her to an at-home manicure. For much less than the cost of a salon trip, she can paint her nails at home over and over again. Put all of the supplies in a mason jar for a “manicure in a jar.” For even more fun, invite her over for a girls’ night of mani/pedis!
10. Homemade hand warmers
This gift is perfect for the friend that is always cold! Sew a few flannel squares into the design of your choice, but leave a gap big enough to stick your small funnel into. Pour some rice into the pouch, and then sew it closed. To warm, just pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds and voila! No more cold fingers.
Get creative with your decorations and wrapping, too! A friend whose husband is a pilot used old aviation maps as wrapping paper one year. Or, wrapping gifts in brown paper tied with a string is classic and chic yet still affordable. And there’s always the comics section of an old newspaper. These gifts will make your friends and loved ones feel like a million bucks while not costing you a fortune.