If you're like me you probably have more people on your shopping list than dollars in your pocket. The last thing you want is to look like a cheapskate when someone gives you a great present and all you have for them is a calendar - or worse, you have nothing for them in return. Below are some ideas that will help you get through the holidays and keep you looking sharp and thoughtful.
The key to giving a good gift is not in the price, it's in the thoughtfulness. Old books are great for thoughtfulness points. Many libraries have small bookstores in them and the prices usually range from 25 cents to $1.00. The key to pulling this off is that the book has to be vintage and not just an old paperback from the 90's. Just last week I found a huge stack of comic books from the 50's - 60's. They were in great shape, and the whole stack (about 100 comics) was only $5.00. For all I know they're worth $1,000. I'm not into comics and don't know anyone who is so I left them.
THRIFT STORE FINDS
Generally speaking I think thrift store's are kind of crusty. Most of what you'll find is pretty gross, but every once in a while there is a treasure to be found - especially if you're crafty. The key to giving a thrift store gift is to say you got it at an antique shop. The idea of perusing the cluttered shelves of a quaint little shop on a cute street is the total antithesis of the pail neon lights and filth of a thrift store. My best friend found an old lamp from the 20's for $3.00. She cleaned it and instantly had an antique lamp for her dad's office. When she gives it to him all she has to do is come up with a quick story about her search through the antique district and how lucky she was to find it and she's set. This principle works for yard sale finds too.
Do you know couples? I have lots of friends and young relatives that are couples. Why not kill two birds with one stone and get them a combined gift. Anything from quirky his & hers towels to a bottle of wine. The idea is to find something that will apply to both of them and run with it. Last year I got my brother and his new wife a Blue-Ray player. I know it sounds expensive, but instead of me AND my boyfriend each getting them individual present we combined our funds for one big one and saved a few bucks in the process.
THE OTHER COMBINED GIFT
Go in with someone else on a present. Siblings can go in together on mom & dad's present. Co-workers or friends can go in together. The idea here is that you double your shopping power. This year everyone in my house is thinking about pitching in to get my parents tickets to Argentina. Since I have a big family we only have to contribute a few bucks each instead of $50 a piece for mom and $50 for dad.
GRAB BAG GIFT
This is a good one!! Last year my brother got my boyfriend a huge bag full of all kinds of candy and my boyfriend loved it. They stuck in a little of everything.in the bag and it was great. You can apply the same concept to anything. Do you know someone who is obsessed with a band or movie? Fill a small stylish bag with stickers, buttons, patches, and a CD. Stick in a Burt's Bees chapstick and you're set.
DO YOU BAKE?
If you're good, and I mean really good, you can give cookies, cakes, or just about anything homemade and be the star of the gift exchange. The key to success here is presentation. You'll have to spring for a cute plate or container and maybe some festive sprinkles, but it will be worth it. Remember to make lots of it so there's enough to go around. Everyone loves baked stuff so everyone will love what you give them.
HANDMADE, LIMITED, AND ONE OF A KIND
Just because it's handmade or one of a kind doesn't mean it's expensive. There's a local semi-famous artist here in Orlando who will paint a light switch cover with his trademark art for $10.00. We also have a do it yourself pottery workshop in town. For $20.00 you can make and fire your own pottery piece. There are pros on hand so you're sure to get good results.
As for limited, check out the indie record label websites for colored vinyl releases for the music buff on your list. Colored vinyl is always a rarity and it's not usually much more than standard black.
Local flea markets and farmer's markets are also great places for finding rare gifts. I found locally made art, homemade pasta, home brewed iced tea, and other locally produced things that come in clever packaging. All of these things make great gifts not only because they are inexpensive, but also because these are things people rarely buy for themselves.