small girl holds american flag at parade

Guest Blog: Holiday Gift Giving on a Budget

Blogger Biography: Raquel is an Army wife and has been for almost 20 years after being in the military herself and starting life as an Army brat. It’s what she knows. She’s been blogging since 2007 about the life of a military wife. The blog started as a kind of “how to” guide, and then morphed into something much bigger when she moved overseas to Europe. There really weren’t a lot of resources out there, detailing exactly how to prep for moving overseas, the actual move, and living and adjusting to life overseas, not to mention all the traveling possibilities. She is frugal and speaks fluent German, so she also shares her general mishaps, lessons learned and all the great travel discounts and deals that English speakers do not have exposure to.

Have you been struggling with gift ideas for family and friends? Have you been staring at the store displays, trying to figure out what to get Aunt Sally or Nephew Timmy? It takes the fun out of the season, doesn’t it, as you scramble to try to find something suitable for everyone on your list. Especially in light of today’s economy, we just don’t need more stress. I hate to admit it myself, but even I have gotten into letting it drag me down a bit. For the first time this year, my one big change will be not sending out paper holiday cards, except maybe to our older relatives who do not do email or anything else computer-related. It’s the thought that counts and not the money spent, so here are some ideas of how to spread the holiday wealth and cheer this season without digging too deeply into your pocketbook.

Family holiday website. Take the time to create a beautiful holiday family website, where you update your family and friends on what you have been up to all year. Upload photos and videos to share. You can even add some holiday music. You can do all this for FREE, as there are many free webhosting sites out there, as well as free holiday music to download and play. Most website editors have the ability to add music, and you don’t need any real know-how to put it together. In the interest of family security, I never use our addresses, work information, real names (use nicknames) or anything too identifying. It can be done. Also, be sure to put a guestbook on the bottom to encourage entries. We use the same web address every year, so family and friends always know where to find us!

Homemade mixes. My local library is full of books that show you how to make the layered mixes for cookies, cakes, brownies and soups. You can easily dress them up with ribbons, homemade tags and raffia. I absolutely love getting them for the holidays and always save the recipe for later.

Homemade ornaments. Create ornaments that are unique to the person or family you are giving it to. Is the person a teacher? How about a family that lives on a farm? There are lots of ornament ideas online. Also consider a unique holiday ornament from one of the many holiday markets in the area. A great thing about being overseas is that you can get some wonderfully nice ornaments for one to two euros each…I can guarantee your friends and family won’t find these wonderful examples in the United States. Put them in a nice pretty recycled gift box and tie with a pretty bow.

Food. Food can be more inexpensive than junk. That’s the great thing about being overseas. My family loves getting a box of the different kinds of snacks, cookies and other goodies from Belgium and Germany. At least you’ll know food will be put to good use as opposed to yet another gadget or piece of junk. I used to collect old baskets from my local Goodwill throughout the year while we were in the United States, just to make food baskets during the holidays. Look, anything looks fantastic wrapped up in gift plastic wrap tied with a bow!

Photos. Do you have a great photo of the person you are gifting? Perhaps a photo of them doing their favorite thing or with their favorite person or animal? You can make your own picture frame to go with it or purchase a nice inexpensive one.

Sewing. I still treasure the quilts, napkins and table runners I’ve gotten from friends who sew… amazing! One quilt even has an appropriate poem for the season written on the back… something I will surely continue to treasure.

Baking. I love to get plates of holiday cookies and goodies from neighbors. I hope my neighbor is reading this.

Holiday centerpieces. Look, before you skip over this idea….I am artistically challenged when it comes to making stuff, and my house was full of centerpieces until I gave some away ‘cause guests just had to have them! Yes, I gave some away. Get the kids to go out in the woods with you and collect chestnuts, pinecones, acorns…any kind of nuts, evergreen branches and hard red berries. Get an inexpensive cheap vase from the local dollar store. Fill it up with this stuff… to add more color and smell, add dried sliced oranges and cinnamon sticks. Fill it level and then put a tea light in the middle of it… just beautiful and festive! If you can’t find enough stuff to fill the glass vase, then put a drinking glass, upside-down in the middle to take up some of the space, and fill around it and on the tip… no one will ever know!

Chocolates. Buy expensive chocolates in bulk and divvy them up into individual packages to give away. I bought inexpensive gift bags, made my own stickers on the computer, mixed and matched different kinds of chocolates and tied off the bags with pretty ribbons. Those little Chinese food containers work great too instead of the bags. Be sure to wrap the gift bags very well in bubblewrap before sending them through the mail!

A service or booklet of services. This is something great for kids to give out. They can color their booklet or homemade gift coupons to their liking, enhancing them with glitter, bubble gluepens, yarn, or whatever they have on hand. How about one hour of yard work? Or a 20 minute massage for mom? Kids, there are lots of ideas out there, and this is one of my favorite gifts… I’m telling you this as a mom. You can even give this to an elderly neighbor and make her feel like she is not always expecting your help or asking for it.

Do you have any low-cost gift ideas to share?

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  • Rebecca Enemark says:

    I love the website for families…with the idea of music but cant find a single one. Which one do you use?

    Proud Army Wife

  • Hello Rebecca, sorry my reply is SO late! You can use ANY hosting site. Many will supply downloadable graphics and even music. I just hunt around on the internet for Christmas music and backgrounds, and then embed them into the online website maker for that site. I’ve used in the past. Every year I go in and update the webpage with new photos, music (sometimes) and whatever…even videos. Since it is a public page, I don’t put anyone’s names or personal info on there…just the basics of what we are up to. You can password protect pages too.

  • Shea says:

    Hello. I am seeking some good suggestions for gifts for an Army Brigade wife. I am new to the army family; my fiancée is a CSM and so I am taking on the reigns of that responsibility. Please help.