Make your presents felt
Spend time, not lots of money
By LaReeca Rucker
Tight budgets can spur creativity at Christmas. And sometimes the gifts that cost the least amount of money are the ones remembered the most. So this year, if you can't find something reasonably priced for family and friends, be recession resourceful. Get out a needle, thread, scissors and glue and make a memory.
Picture this - Practically everyone has a digital camera these days, so consider framing a photo you've taken and giving it as a gift. Enlarge a beautiful Mississippi landscape. If it's a place the recipient has visited or a photo of a hometown, it may hold special meaning.
Grandparents may appreciate a collage or portrait of their grandchildren or a framed picture drawn by a little one.
You can also create annual photo albums that capture a year of life, or upload a photo and print it on T-shirts, mugs, hats, totes, calendars, etc.Shutterfly.com, Cafepress.com and zazzle.com are three sites that enable you to personalize products with pictures.
Scrapping new ideas - You can't put a price on memories, so create a scrapbook of your favorite photos and memories of friends, or give them a handmade journal they can fill with their own.
Natchez resident Pam Frank, who founded an annual scrapbook convention that drew almost 300 to the Natchez Convention Center this year, makes scrapbooks using chipboard from old notebooks and cardstock paper.
"They are wonderful and inexpensive gifts," she said. "I decorate each page and personalize them. Then, all they have to do is add pictures."
Frank also makes personalized jewelry boxes out of cigar boxes.
It's sew easy - For the price of a pair of knitting needles and yarn, you can create scarves, hats, quilts and baby booties.
If you have a sewing machine, buy a few simple patterns and design your own dresses, bibs and purses. You can even make puppets, stuffed animals and dolls for children.
Getting carded - Many people would rather choose their own Christmas gifts, so gift cards and certificates are a great way to go. When every dollar counts, a gift card for as little as $5 may help someone purchase a pair of shoes or enjoy a meal at a local restaurant.
If you're short on cash, you can also create gift cards and certificates for services you can provide, such as a "contractual agreement" to take the kiddies on a camping trip or pitch a tent in the backyard.
Maybe you'll promise to cook a candlelit dinner, or give someone a certificate for a massage, car wash or babysitting services.
Dangle a gift in front of them - Become a jewelry designer. You can find most of the supplies you need at stores like Hobby Lobby and Michaels, or recycle vintage jewelry or items on hand, transforming them into wearable works of art.
Grenada resident Lori Bender creates jewelry out of vintage beads to give as gifts and sell. "I've always loved vintage jewelry, so that's a lot of my inspiration," she said. Bender, a stay-at-home mom, sells earrings, necklaces and bracelets on Etsy.com under the name "beauxbijoux" and will do so Saturday at her first craft fair in Greenwood.
Get cooking - Few can resist a good cookie or decadent chocolate cake, so get out your oven mitts and start baking. Your friends will appreciate the gift while it lasts.
Mississippi-made food products also make good gifts. Check out the Mississippi Gift Company Web site at hemississippigiftcompany.com to see gourmet items, including Clarksdale's Mississippi Delta Pecans, Poplarville's Robicheaux's Handmade Candies and Magnolia Munchies from the Dixie Sweets Candy Company in Hattiesburg.
Read their minds - You don't have to guess what they want this holiday. Magazines are relatively inexpensive gifts that keep giving all year long. From Sports Illustrated and Ebony to National Geographic and Popular Science, there's generally one to suit everyone.
Books are another way to target specific interests, and many written by Mississippi authors can be found in the regional section of bookstores like Jackson's Lemuria and Oxford's Square Books
Show them the money - Find out your friend's favorite charity, and make a donation in his or her name. It doesn't have to be a huge amount. From Stewpot and the Jackson Zoo to the American Cancer Society, there's a cause for everyone.
Play the game - Mamasource.com suggests buying a new board game for the family, and have fun all year. You can even customize your own Monopoly game for around $20. Visit boardgames.com for more information.
Make a memory jar - Get a glass jar, and ask your children to write their favorite memories of Grandma, Grandpa or a specific person on paper. Drop the memories into the jar, and you've created a heartwarming and inexpensive gift. Check out Mamasource.com for this and other ideas.
Create a customized gift basket - Fill a basket with inexpensive items that your friends or family members like, such as candy, soap, shampoos, etc. You can even create themed baskets.
A "movie night" basket might include a DVD, popcorn, candy and sodas. A sports-themed basket might include tickets to a game and memorabilia. A gardener might appreciate a basket with a small garden shovel, gloves and seeds.
Create your own "Of the Month" club - The frugalshopper.com suggests awarding someone with a subscription to your very own "Of the Month" club. Each month, they'll receive a small gift, such as a different type of cookie that you bake, teas, coffees, cheeses or other collectibles.
Create a dress-up box - Find or wrap a box. Shop throughout the year at thrift stores, consignment shops and other places that sell cheap items. When you run across fun dresses, hats, jewelry, gloves and other clothing that you think would make good dress-up costumes for your child, buy them and put them in the box. They'll have fun playing. For more ideas like this one, check out Rubyglen.com.
Ornaments - Create or buy a tree ornament. Star resident Arlene Harrison creates polymer clay Santa ornaments as gifts for co-workers and family members. She also sells them on Etsy.com under the name "ashpaints" and at Brandon's O! How Cute Gift Market.
Harrison believes handmade items are special. "Anybody can go to the store and buy a gift," she said. "Not everybody can create something that has personal meaning. There are members of my family who would be deeply offended if I did not make something especially for them each year."