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FIRST-PERSON: More Christmas for less

DORA, Ala. (BP)–Maybe you’ve read my articles or someone else’s on how to shop on a tiny little budget and, after finishing, you’ve said, “Well, that’s fine and dandy if you have a few dollars to rub together. But what if you’re talking about shopping with pocket change?” I have some suggestions for you, too:

1. Get acquainted with your local thrift store. Goodwill and many others have stores all over. They claim to evenly distribute the contributed items, but I have learned that those near the swankier neighborhoods offer classier selections. Here again, you’ll have to go see for yourself, but many items are donated brand-new, still in the box, and can be purchased for pennies on the actual dollar. These stores also are a wonderful source for baskets and flower pots; I stock up on these whenever I spot them. You’ll find out why soon.

2. Don’t be opposed to yard sales. Just like you’ve probably done many times yourself, people buy clothes to wear when they’ve “lost that 20 pounds.” They buy items that they thought they needed or wanted and just never got around to taking them back to the store. (And yes, there’s always those unwanted Christmas items, something I hope this will help you avoid buying, although I can’t help it if Aunt Matilda still wants to give all your family various hand-crocheted creations!) And here’s another great place to watch for baskets and flower pots.

3. As soon as the Easter bunny’s commercialization is over, dash to your nearest retailer and buy up all the leftover cellophane — you know, the colored plastic stuff you cover those Easter baskets in. You might even want to buy up a bit of the plastic “straw.” (This will all make sense soon.)

4. Save all your free samples and “Buy 1, Get 1 Free” coupons. These items can be bundled together into great little gift packages. (Are your wheels beginning to turn?)

5. Know any plant lovers? I have no gardening ability whatsoever, but there are a number of house plants that are virtually unkillable (if that’s a word). Here’s where all those flower pots come in: Transplant the “baby” plants into other containers and grow your own house plants to give as gifts! It may take a few tries to find those “unkillables,” but some plants multiply like rabbits and you can keep a small supply of ready-to-give plants on hand year-round. A bit of color cellophane and a cute little bow, and you can dress up the humblest of flower pots.

6. What about those baskets? You can make an adorable little gift basket by using a bit of “straw” as filler and neatly arranging the free samples and discount coupons. You might even include a Scripture bookmark; I recently bought several pretty ones for 10 cents each at a local Christian bookstore. Wrap all this in the cellophane, tie it closed with a regular old garbage bag twist tie and cover the tie with a piece of ribbon and a bow. Presto! A precious nearly cost-free gift!

7. A while back I went to a super discount store, one of those that buys closeouts from other stores, and bought some very attractive coffee mugs for $1 each. Then I went to a classy coffee shop in a local mall and bought some sugar-free single-serving deluxe cocoa mixes. When Christmas rolls around, the three little ladies in my prayer group that are diabetic are going to receive a mug filled with “straw” and a pack of sugar-free cocoa, all wrapped in colored cellophane and tied with a twist tie, ribbon and bow. I’m out very little money, but I’ll be giving them gifts I know they’ll really enjoy. And for my tea-loving friend? She’ll be getting a special blend tea that I bought off the coffee shop’s 40 percent off table, all nicely packaged with a cute “dollar store” teacup and saucer.

8. Some more great “basket” gifts:

— Buy an inexpensive pack of potpourri (The “dollar stores” often carry big packs in nice fragrances. You can even repackage them into small Ziploc bags and get several gifts out of one bag.) Also buy a low-priced decorative dish and maybe even one votive candle and holder. Pack all this into a basket (with my wonder-filler “straw” or some tissue paper) and wrap it. It makes a very elegant-looking package.

— Got a favorite recipe you’d like to share? Print it out or hand-write it on an index card, package all the non-perishable ingredients into exact-measured Ziplocs and pack all this into a gift basket, decorative box or tin. Pre-measuring makes the gift more appreciated and enables you to make up more than one gift from your ingredients. (Decorative boxes or tins work great instead of baskets anywhere I’ve suggested a basket.)

9. OK, but what about the expense of all this wrapping? I hit a paper outlet shortly after last Christmas and bought commercial rolls of paper for 80 cents each. But there are other occasions we have to wrap gifts for, right? I rummaged through the bargain bin in a building supply store and bought several rolls of wallpaper for $1 each — they’re gorgeous patterns and will make wonderful all-occasion gift wrap. And save used wrapping — cool ironing it on the back side will remove all the wrinkles and make it look like new again.

10. Now that we’ve got paper, what about decorations? Old lace, shoestrings, even old belts make great package decor. And you’d be surprised how many packages you can decorate with only one package of yarn. And don’t waste money on gift cards — save the cards you receive and cut new ones from them or from unlined index cards.

See? There are many ways you can give gifts without breaking your budget. So this year, center your heart around Christ and your gifts around honoring Him with wise spending.
Judy Woodward Bates is a freelance writer, author, speaker and TV and radio personality. Visit her website at www.bargainomics.com.

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  • Judy Woodward Bates