Cheap Ways to Give Gifts

Dawn Xiana Moon, originally published on RelevantMagazine.com

As a financially-challenged twentysomething, I've had to come up with creative ways to give presents. But you know what? Personal gifts are much more fun to receive than gift cards anyway. Here are some ideas to get you going:


Find out your friend's favorite candy bar and fill a box with a good supply. Write a list of reasons why you think he/she is fun and tape a reason onto each candy bar. Try the same thing with special memories.


This can be as simple (a photo album from the store filled with pictures of yourself and whomever you're giving it to) or as elaborate (handmade cover, acid-free paper with intricate designs cut around the photos) as you want. If you want to go the elaborate route the startup can be a little expensive, but once you have the basics: a good set of markers, regular and funky blade scissors, glue sticks, and a couple of stencils, making a scrapbook is pretty cheap. Another option is to forgo the manufactured stencils and make your own from some cardboard or use regular scissors to cut outlines around the people in the photos (the only warning is that this can get time-consuming). If you don't have enough photos on your own, try asking other friends to donate theirs. Hint: Computer paper is usually acid-free, and your printer can work wonders.


Get a bunch of index cards and write a reason why your recipient is the best on each one. Use one card as a title page: "Fifty Reasons Why My Dad is the Best." Punch a hole in the corner of each card and tie them together with pretty ribbon or string.


If you're a musician, try writing a song for your friend/parent/significant other. Play it live and/or record it—if you record it, don't forget to make a fun CD or cassette sleeve. If you and your recipient have a special song (or songs) make a mix tape or burn a CD.


Buy a frame and let your imagination run wild. If you're the artistic type, pull out some paints or pencils and create a masterpiece that will fit in the frame. If words are your thing, write a poem (preferably about your recipient) and print it onto nice paper. If all else fails, just put in a good photo. You could always get extra creative and make the frame yourself from cardboard, wood, sticks, or whatever you have lying around (though it's probably easier if you forgo the glass). A compromise would be to buy a plain frame and decorate it with things that remind you of your friend (like a Matchbox car that resembles the one she drives).


Buy some iron-on transfers and create personalized T-shirt designs. Since the transfers work on anything cotton, you could even make pillows, hats, bags, etc.


Get a simple blank book and fill the first few pages with happy thoughts about your relationship, clippings of people from magazines (replace their heads with your significant other's), silly hand-drawn pictures, poetry, etc. Make it an ongoing project for both of you and rotate it periodically until it's finished.


Buy a Barbie or Ken doll that fit your friend's personality (for example, a med student could get a doctor Barbie) and add a few extra accessories (like a mini chocolate bar for a chocoholic). Cover the existing box with "new packaging" that talks about your friend instead of the doll.


What better way to let someone know how special they are than by spending time with him or her? Cook a homemade meal and eat together.

© 2002-2017 Dawn Xiana Moon + Ink and Sound | Credits