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Mothering's "Frugal Holiday Gift Ideas" Contest

post #1 of 70
Thread Starter 
Please Enter Mothering's "Frugal Holiday Gift Ideas" Contest

Mothering is on the lookout for some frugal and unique gift ideas and tips to share about how our own natural living families plan to inexpensively spread holiday cheer via frugal gift giving. Mothering plans to run an upcoming online article and would like to include your inexpensive gift-giving ideas, and we thought "who better than our MDC members to share their frugal wisdom?"

How the contest works:
1. Make sure you're a registered member of MDC so you can post to enter. Registration is free and open to anyone 18 years and older.

2. Post your 75-150 word tip as a reply to this message by Wednesday, November 18th. Your tip can focus on frugal holiday gift ideas, preparation, presentation, shopping, etc. and should come from your own experiences. No external websites will be linked to and if outside references are needed they must be properly cited. We prefer easy and economical tips anyone can use that focus on natural family living and are safe for everyone in the household. One entry post per member, please.

3. On November 23rd, 10 winners will be chosen from the entries posted to receive a complimentary one year MDC Supporting Membership III which includes gift subscription to Mothering Magazine (in both print and digital format) and the publication of their tip in a upcoming online mothering.com article.

Please note that this thread is for tips and ideas only and is not for discussion posting so please do not reply to this thread with questions or responses to other's ideas/tips. Questions regarding the contest may be submitted to me via PM or submitted via email: administrator {at} mothering.com. All winners will be announced on the boards on Monday, November 23rd and will be notified by PM. Published tips will be edited for length and clarity.

We look forward to your frugal holiday gift ideas and good luck!
post #2 of 70
This is a frugal gift idea for anyone; adults or children. My suggestion is to create your own book. The pages can be made out regular paper, poster board, or recycled materials such as cardboard. If using a thick material such as cardboard, I recommend taping the pages together with clear packaging tape. The book can include pictures of you and the person to whom you are giving the book as a gift. You can draw your own pictures, cut out pictures from magazines and print your own pictures from the world wide web to include in the book. Some ideas for written content in the book can include captions, inspirational quotes, jokes, interesting facts, poetry, or a creative story. You may want to type the written content on to the computer and print out the pages in sections, or you can write directly on the book's pages.
post #3 of 70
My frugal gift idea this season is to make recipe card boxes out of wood, actually my husband will be doing that part . Then I am going to decoupage them and fill them with recipe cards that have favorite recipes from family and friends and myself. I sent out an email several months ago asking for specific recipes that I love from specific people and then for everyone's fave recipe. I am printing out home-designed recipe cards on my printer, but you could easily just use lined or unlined index cards and embellish them with stamps, stickers, markers etc. I'll be adding several blank cards(embellished but no recipe) for future use, too.
I have been saving brown paper sacks from WF to use as wrapping. I'll just turn them inside out, stamp them with a stamp I made out of linoleum with stars on it(which I plan to use forever, kind of a personal wrapping paper idea) and then tie some braided yarn around et voila!

Thats all I got!

This is a fun contest!
post #4 of 70
This idea is both green & frugal!

Are you tired of spending good money on wrapping paper that is promptly ripped to shreds and discarded for garbage? Did you ever wonder what to do with the wonderful art your kids create throughout the year? Don't agonize over throwing away your little Picasso's creations. Use them to gift wrap!

If you know anyone who works for a design firm, print shop, or construction - you would be surprised by the amount of large format waste paper created daily. Contact your friend and see if you could lighten their trash load by having a few of their large "oops!" papers. Most will happily help you with your project - remember, it costs them to recycle, you're saving them money!

Your family will be delighted to receive their gift wrapped in a work of art - many were saved to hang on refrigerators. Two gifts in one!

This part puts me over the 150 limit, but if you have room:

This year we're taking it another step and DS is also painting little wooden shapes (stars & trees for about 10 cents each) that we are going to use as gift tags that can then be used as an ornament.
post #5 of 70
This year our family is making homemade organic jams and pear butter with fruit from our garden, as well as chocolates with nuts from our hazelnut and walnut trees. We will put them in a recycled gift basket with recycled ribbons (left overs from previous holidays or bought from the thrift store).
post #6 of 70
A green, homemade cleaning kit, complete with handknit dish rags, phosphate-free dishsoap, castile soap, one or two essential oils, a couple of empty spray bottles and a repurposed ketchup squirt bottle. I also include printed recipe cards for an all-purpose cleaner, non-abrasive scrub, glass cleaner, and floor wash.

I like the idea that I am giving something lovingly handmade that provides its recipient with an environmentally friendly alternative to harsh, toxic chemicals. It also is a gift that keeps giving: a new, safe and frugal way to clean their family's home.

If selected, I just wanted to share that I originally got this idea from another MDC mama, but I can't remember who. She called hers a Happy Hippie Cleaning Kit.
post #7 of 70
This year I am making my kids unique, warm UPCYCLED wool sweaters and pants! These "warm woolies" are perfect for playing outside on cold days. They are cute too and the boys (at least at 1, 2 and 5!) always love wearing things handmade by mom.

Here's how to do it:
1. Clean out your closet or go to goodwill to find wool (100% cashmere, merino or lambswool) sweaters. The sweaters do not have to be in perfect condition, but pick sweaters in colors or patterns you like.
2. Toss the sweaters in the washing machine for a hot wash followed by a cold rinse. Lay flat to dry. This will shrink and "felt" the sweaters.
3. This is where the fun begins. Using a pattern for a kid's t-shirt or pants (I love the patterns from Ottobre), imagine how you can recreate the sweater. For example, ribbing can become a waistband for pants or the sleeves can become leg warmers. Make a smaller version of the sweater you are cutting up, or change it completely to make a dress or pants.
4. Cut out your pieces and sew toegether. For stretchier wool, like cashmere, it is best to use a serger. For thick, felted lambswool, you can sew with a straight stitch on a sewing machine.
5. Add unique details! Buttons, felted flowers, mittens sewed on the front of a sweater or shapes on the pants...

Wear your woolies often and wash gently (cold cycle with wool-friendly soap, lay flat to dry).
post #8 of 70
If you are a sewer or crafter of any sorts, make a committment to only use what you already have to make gifts. This is not only a frugal way to do the holidays, but it can really help bring out your creativity. This year I have been able to make my children a doorway puppet theatre out of leftover fabric. For my husband I made a flannel rag quilt. The quilt is patches of leftover flannel, the inside batting is an old quilt that is really past looking pretty, and the backside is yards of flannel I got for another project that I never ended up making. Total cost was $5..for a whole quilt that is fantastic! I am also making simple, but cute and very effective potholders using leftover yarn. And I just went through my CD's and ended up with a good many that I was going to throw away. Instead I am turning them into snowman ornaments by adding a lid from any old jar lying around, which will make the head to add onto the CD body. Then I'm painting them white (paint I already have), adding a carrot (leftover craft foam) and some embellishments from stuff I already have; like pipecleaners for arms and legs. These will make great gifts for anyone, including nieghbors and one for our own tree. Using what you have requires for you to get even more creative, is very frugal and definitely green! And whatever I can have the children involved with is always a bonus!
post #9 of 70
Our frugal gift-giving involves cooking. For family and friends who live nearby, I like to give a notecard that entitles the recipient to a homemade dinner in January or February. When the time comes around, I use their taste preferences to make them a soup in the crockpot and a homemade loaf of bread in our breadmachine. Many of the family members get a huge batch of a bean and veggie soup and a loaf of rustic country bread. Easy, yummy, and soul-satisfying!
post #10 of 70
We are planning to make toy swords using 3/8" plywood and a jigsaw to give as holiday gifts to some of my kids' cousins & friends. A full sheet of plywood = ~$10 (although you might have or be able to scrounge scraps as well), the jigsaw could be borrowed from a friend or relative if you don't have one, and you probably have some sandpaper sitting around. Paint is optional. Make sure to check with the giftees' parents about family rules re:toy weapons before giving! If you have scraps of fabric, making cloth sheaths for your gifts is a nice touch and very easy - just trace around the "blade" and sew two pieces of heavy fabric together on three sides - hem or zig-zag the top opening and attach a long ribbon or strip of cloth for a belt or strap.
post #11 of 70

My frugal gift idea

Money will be extremely tight this year for our family of 6, so I have to be very creative. Starting after Thanksgiving, I will be wrapping items for a special activity. We will have at least 5 boxes (one for each child to open). Examples include.. baking day box with all the supplies for cookies including special sprinkles (most of which I have already), a holiday movie, hot chocolate and popcorn (movie borrowed from library), a craft supply box and holiday craft book (we already have), and a fondue kit (found at goodwill for $3) and all the goodies to go with it. I'll be shopping at goodwill and coming up with more ideas as I go so the time leading up to the holiday will be speical this year.

Debbie P.
post #12 of 70
Another wrapping paper idea:
We went to our local newspaper office and asked if they had any of their roll ends left. They usually charge the general public for them, but not educators. We are homeschoolers so they gave it to us for free. It had paper at least six inches thick left on the roll. We are going to be decorating it with potato stamps and markers and wrapping our gifts with it this year. Also, instead of buying bows, I am using yarn and strips of fabric to decorate the packages with too.
post #13 of 70
Every year on Christmas eve, I make my grandmother's recpie for rasin bread - about 12 loaves & give one to everyone in the family. My grandmother passed away over 15 years ago so this is such a special treat - plus its a fun tradition knowing that we will be baking with the family every christmas eve! Another idea: I have made cloth gift wrap bags with drawstrings - they can be used year after year and are such a time saver, no tape or waste. Plus the festive holiday prints look so pretty under the tree!
post #14 of 70
Last year I wanted to green our Christmas wrapping- so I saved empty food canisters, like those that oatmeal and breadcrumbs come in. I then glued scrapbook papers or wrapping paper around the canister. Pop in the gift, and add the lid- some lids needed decorating, so I glued on a circle of paper, others were left as is. Voila, a lovely reusable container to give your gift in.
post #15 of 70
This year I'm going the homemade route. I've got an absolutely delicious recipe for cranberry sauce (I'd be happy to share.) Its a snap to make and very inexpensive. Then I buy a set of mason jars and fill them up with the sauce and print out sticky labels to put on them. Finally I use a little leftover fabric to cover the top and a piece of raffia or ribbon to hold the fabric on. I've also been known to attach an index card with the recipe onto the jar so it becomes the gift that keeps on giving.

I like to couple this gift with a loaf of homemade bread. Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day has a wonderful recipe which is quick, cheap, and comes out delicious. I'm sure my friends will love receiving a homemade gift.
post #16 of 70
my frugal idea:

I'm drawing a coloring book for my daughter. It is full of pictures of things we find on our nature walks, and little bits of information about them. I do have some fancy software for putting it all together and printing, but you certainly don't have to. To make a half page size book, you simply draw pictures on half a sheet of paper. Then trace over them with a permanent marker and erase the pencil marks. You can cut and rearrange them if you need to, then take it all to your local library or copy place to photocopy and print front and back. Stack and assemble with a stapler.

If you don't draw, you can go to etsy and search for coloring books. Printable versions are cheaper, and you can download and print them almost immediately, plus it supports handmade artists.
post #17 of 70
My four year old son just figured out how to dial phone numbers independently (read, follow along, and copy into action), and he is so proud. I am making him his very own "phonebook" with numbers of his friends and family in the local area. I hope I don't regret this, as I am not sure he'll know what to say once he calls LOL.
post #18 of 70
I am also going to make both my kids lowercase letter-writing practice books, similar to the commercial Kumon lowercase letter "write-and-wipe cards" in terms of how the letters are written, but probably in the form of their names, commonly used words, etc....with illustrations.
post #19 of 70
Finally, I am thinking about making the kids (ages 3 and 4) some personalized stationary with my own minimal-artistic abilities and/or a few artsy rubberstamps I have. If I can pull together a little money for mailing label paper and stamps, I'll write up mailing labels (one half sheet for each potential "pen pal"/important person in their lives) and postage stamps.

At this age, they love their newfound abilities to communicate to others outside the family fairly independently.
post #20 of 70
I just thought of one more thing I can do. Lately, my kids have been dictating stories to me that I write down for them. I might collage together images to go with the stories and turn a couple of their stories into illustrated "books." I am pretty sure contact paper is available periodically at the dollar store, and with cardboard backing, and ribbon to bind it together, it should be good to go. To this day I still have some books my mom made for me from my stories as a kid.
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