I have to confess that I was a person of little faith when the topic of Christmas gifts came up in last week’s column ( https://www.meridianmagazine.com/circle-of-sisters/article/6646?ac=1).  The reason for this is that I’d tried this same topic a couple of years ago, and the only thing that arrived in my email box that week was a lone cricket.  Apparently, however, there are enough people who are experiencing hard times these days that the time has come for the topic of inexpensive or even recycled Christmas gifts.  Let’s see what our readers have to say:


Personally I enjoy regifted gifts.  We call them “experienced.”  The thing that makes the difference is the thought put in it. 


One year my son was getting ready for a mission and went to the thrift store for the entire family. His presents didn’t cost much, but he put a ton of thinking into it all and got everyone something special.  We knew he had taken time and thought.  I think his presents that year were the most delightful and certainly so fun because no one knew ahead of time what was coming.  There were surprises for all.


My sisters and I used to set a $1 limit on what we could spend on each other.  (This was a long time ago!)  There were no other rules. Yard sale, craft supplies, craft supplies at a yard sale, something new — the source didn’t matter, as long as the price wasn’t over a dollar.  It was challenging and fun. Families might try that.


Christmas is a lot more fun if time and thought are the priceless gifts given. 


Debrah Roundy

Rupert 5th Ward, Idaho


Debrah, I love the idea of “experienced” gifts.  I think I’m going to start thinking of myself as an “experienced” person, rather than just an old one.

Thrift stores can be remarkable places, by the way.  We have one in Middleburg, Virginia, which is a very wealthy fox-hunting area.  The things that rich people use once and then give away to be sold for pennies are amazing.  Note to readers:  Whether you’re shopping at a thrift store or going to a yard sale, the rich neighborhoods have the primo merchandise.

Last year I gave my kids quilts that my mother had made and used. I did explain in a hand-written note that they were used but they had been made and used by their grandmother who had died of cancer several years before and that I had inherited them when my dad died. As they read the notes, my daughters got emotional and my sons pretended not to! I think the note explaining that they were from, me, Grandma and Grandpa made it so they didn’t even think about the fact that they were gifts that had not cost me any monetary price.

I think the flashlights are an excellent idea. Along with them maybe put together some “car emergency kits” that don’t cost a lot. Most stakes have dry pack canners. You buy the can, put in some pieces of gum (buy packs but only put a few pieces in each can rather than the whole
pack), and add a few pieces of hard candy. (If not too late hit the leftover Halloween candy aisles for hard candies on sale.) Then add granola bars, fruit snacks, hot chocolate, soup mixes, and the flashlight. If you have a little more in your budget, add some bandages and first aid ointment.  Seal up the can and tape a cheap can opener to it and you have spent little money for a emergency preparedness Christmas gift!  Especially since you already have the flashlights, you would be surprised at how little per gift this works out to be. Put a label on the can with the contents. (And when they open the can they won’t know the flash light was used; they’ll think 
it got scratched in the can!)



What great ideas, VaLynne!  I once got a recycled quilt from my younger sister as a Christmas gift, but because the quilt had seen a lot of hard use she had it made into a stuffed bunny.  (Bunnies are very important to Clark and me.)  I treasure the bunny because it’s a family heirloom, made into something that has sentimental value for other reasons.  It was a marvelous gift.


I really like the idea of incorporating the dry pack canners into homemade Christmas presents.  What a creative idea!  You can adapt it in a lot of ways, such as adding toys and coloring books to be taken on vacations.  Nifty!


This bad economy has given us a chance to focus on something I have known for a long time — the best gifts are those that show some thought on the part of the giver, and have nothing to do with the amount of money spent.  I think we have all received inexpensive gifts that we cherish because of the thought behind them.  Giving a gift like this is really a double gift — the receiver appreciates the gift, but he also appreciates the fact that you are interested enough in him to know what he likes.


On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have received very expensive gifts that are still in the box, because they reflected the taste of the giver rather than the receiver. 


I always appreciate gift cards, especially if they are for establishments that I patronize.  One Christmas I was between jobs, and money was really tight.  A friend gave me a Costco card that I could use to buy food and gasoline, and I really appreciated that.  The same friend gives me a gift card each year for a home improvement store, and I think nice thoughts about him whenever I need some kind of home repair item (which seems to be quite often).  Last year I bought my wife a gift card to a restaurant that we like.  Rather than blowing the whole card on one visit, we used it for take-out appetizers to supplement our regular dinner, and it lasted most of the year.


One friend in the ward makes us a different needlepoint Christmas ornament each year, and another friend makes small stained-glass ornaments of LDS temples.  Both of these gifts cost very little, but do take a lot of time (which probably makes them even more treasured).


Many of us have talents that we can use to make gifts, such as painting, writing, and photography.  There are websites where you can make customized photo gifts, such as mugs, calendars, photo books and stationary.  If you want to spend even less, you can make your own gifts if you have the proper software and tools at home.  I can make and print digital scrapbooks, and I also have the software to edit and make CDs and DVDs (beware of copyright laws, however).  Many years ago my wife wrote a personal story for one of her nieces, which I think is one of the most touching stories she has ever written.


Homemade coupon books can be fun.  You can make the coupons by hand or computer, and then bind them together in a book.  Each coupon can be redeemed for a service (wash the car, do the dishes), or an inexpensive product (favorite meal or dessert).


My wife and I are also lucky because we have low expectations of the gifts we receive, and appreciate practical gifts in addition to (and probably more than) extravagant gifts.

Cooking tools and ingredients are always good — something that I’ve always appreciated about my wife (some women get offended if you give them items they use when “working” around the house).  One year I actually gave her a replacement for the little tube that holds the toilet paper in the dispenser.  Not only was she not offended, but she liked the new one because it matched the bathroom much better!  If you have family members who would be offended by such gifts, perhaps it’s time to have a lesson on gratitude. 

F.J.R. in Sugarland


Thanks for a great letter, F.J.R.  Your letter reminded me of my own sweet husband, who makes a calendar for me every Christmas, with every day showing a vacation picture he took.  I can only imagine the time it takes him to come up with 365 different pictures every year, but he does it.  This month I’m looking at his pictures of Santo Domingo, and every time I look at the snapshots I have fond memories of happy days. 


There is no way to outguess what someone will think of a recycled gift or even a gift from the heart.  So my advice is to give from your own heart.  In the past because of money matters, I have given disks of my life history, or pictures from the treasure trove of genealogy.   More recently, I made a booklet of ideas my grandchildren could use when they are bored.  Those ideas were things I did as a child.  My purpose was to let them know that video games, TV, iPods and cell phones are not the beginning and the end of life.  These came from my heart as I surveyed their lives and felt they would someday be interested.  I can’t wait around for them to come ask because I might not be here.  Give from your heart and let the chips fall where they may.

Cheerful Giver 

Those disks of your life history really are treasure troves, Cheerful.  These are gifts that may be enjoyed now, but they’ll be treasured in years to come.  What a thoughtful idea!

I am taking time out from scrapbooking to write to you on the subject of Christmas and a wallet that is screeching to a halt. This year, I have decided to make scrapbooks for my six children.  Most of the pictures are of my grandchildren — pictures we have taken, but Mom and Dad do not
know about them.  I don’t have to spend any money, because I have enough scrapbook supplies to start my own store.  That is a story in itself.

You ask about recycling gifts.  I am an avid fan of this.  I garage sale all summer long, picking up gifts.  I have a gift closet that is bursting at the seams.   However, most of my goodies are new.  Many still have the price tags on. 


When my children were younger, and during our years in the Air Force, I took the gift closet one step further.  I would set up a little store and let the children come one at a time and shop for their brothers and sisters.  Some times they would pay what I had gotten the item for at the garage sale, but most of the time, they just got to shop.  The down side of all of this, is I never get to fight the Christmas rush crowd.  I have to stay home and read a good book, and drink hot chocolate, while everybody else is out having fun.


Also, while on the subject of garage sales, what better place can you find to pick up books?  Most people only read a book once, and then they are done with it.  Why would anybody pay $20.00 for a book that can be purchased for $1.00 or less at a garage sale?  Better yet, if you just want to read it yourself, just visit the library.  And if you still want the book for your own bookshelf, libraries are always getting donated books that they turn around and sale.  Can you hear the librarian coming out in me?  I figure any money I save can go back into garage sales — yahoo! Bring ‘em on!

Deanna Groke
New Harmony, Utah


Deanna, I think your idea of the little store is one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard!  That’s something that can be done in your own home, among neighbors, or even in a ward setting.  Everyone likes to “shop” where there’s not a lot of money involved, and visiting your store wouldn’t even require a trip in the car.

A few years back when we were on hard times we decided that Christmas gifts had to be homemade.  I created cookbooks with recipes my kids had grown up with and stories to go with them.  Another year it was pictures and the stories to go with them. 


Our daughters have knit, crocheted and sewed their way through Christmas.   The boys have hit
thrift stores and turned to woodworking.  This year I’m giving away my most cherished cookbooks.    All the kids are living on their own, and they call home for recipes in such-and-such cookbook.  I don’t need them anymore, so it’s time to clean out the books!

I’m also giving out food storage baskets.  As you can tell, our family has turned to much more practical and very personal gift-giving.  You’ve got to know who you are giving to, in order to make it work.


I love the idea of your created cookbooks, Cherlynn.  I’ve got all my recipes on the computer, and I think a computer disk of “So-and-So’s Greatest Hits” would be a popular gift.

By the way, I really like your statement about having to know your recipients in order to make inexpensive gifts work.  Some people don’t see the value in homemade or recycled gifts, but others would consider them priceless treasures.

My parents are on a fixed income, and with seven children, 27 grandchildren and 31 greats, they have a hard time sticking to a budget at Christmas time. We’ve asked them several times to not give us anything because we know it’s a burden to them, but they love giving gifts. I’ve suggested to my mother several times that it would be a great gift to us all if they would write stories of their lives and give us a couple a year to put in a notebook. We would all especially like to read about the story of our birth or things they remember about our early life. This would be a precious gift that would last for generations.


My mother-in-law would give all her children a pan of caramels and homemade candy. Everyone looked forward to the family party where they would get to take home their own wonderful candy.


My husband and I have berry bushes that we harvest in late summer and make dozens of bottles of blackberry and raspberry jam. These make great neighbor and co-worker gifts. One of our favorite gifts from a couple of neighbors is a great-tasting cheese ball and a pan of cinnamon rolls.



I like the idea of the brother who wanted to know about re-gifting his old flashlights, but I would make sure they were cleaned, polished and in good repair. He might also include a package of new batteries to go with it.


Another good idea for Christmas gifts is anything that could help someone in building up their food storage. A case of canned corn or cream of mushroom soup would be a great start.


I expect there are people everywhere who expect great and wonderful gifts, and the more expensive the better, but most of us just want to be remembered, and even a token gift is appreciated.


Valerie in Salt Lake


Valerie, the gift of stories is a great thing to get from parents and grandparents.  If someone could give the grandparents a voice recorder and then transcribe the stories for them, this would make the giving of the gift easier for them — and you’d be likely to get a lot more stories in the process.

Gifts of service are top of my list.  Help someone with housework, take them out if they don’t drive, give babysitting coupons for “dates,” take someone’s turn at an obligation of some kind (carpool, clean-up committee), give backrubs, or foot massages.


Also, “gifts from the kitchen” are popular at my house any time of the year.  I remember the slogan, “Nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven.”  I believe it.   One year I distributed cookies and pouches of hot chocolate mix at school and my colleagues — mostly coffee drinkers — were really tickled and thought it was a cozy gift.


Letters of appreciation and admiration, love and encouragement, especially to the lonely, bring the true Christmas spirit — love. 


Memories captured in story form, printed and shared, reunite and strengthen relationships. 


Stationery personalised in some way, or a journal decorated by you, makes a good gift.


Invitations to do something together, or to tend children and give a weary mom a day off — even before Christmas — can be a real treasure.  One year my neighbor did this for my December birthday, and it was invaluable — a gift of time in the rush of the season.  I still remember it thirty years later.


There are lots of things that reflect thoughtfulness and the relationship you have.


A grandma kept daily weather reports for the places each member of the family lived. They were kept in a notebook marked with penciled-in columns.  I made sheets on the typewriter (that lets you know it was a while back) for the next year.  I did a page for each month, and had them bound.  She was really touched.


A collection of favorite stories or poems rolled and tied – one a day for the 12 days of Christmas.


Think about the person and make the gift fit their needs and desires, hobbies and interests.  It is love we are trying to give. 


One year I scored regular tall candles with notches, tied them with a ribbon and wrote a poem about the activities they could do together as a family each night while the candle burned to the next mark.  (These included singing carols, reading Christmas stories, making/writing Christmas cards, watching a special program, and so on.)  The children made sure we spent that time together, and several people said it was the most meaningful thing they did that holiday.


Another year we made lots of cookies and put them together in long rows of plastic wrap tied with a ribbon between each for the kids to have a “cookie countdown” for the week before Christmas. 


Make it a season of giving from the heart!


Hong Kong Reader


Thanks for a whole bunch of great suggestions, Hong Kong.  My favorite was the one with the notched candles.  That could make Christmas for a family who doesn’t often spend time together.

Here are a few frugal Christmas present ideas:

  • Consider giving the gift of time.  In the past my family has done service for another
    family/person instead of giving a gift, helping that person with a project of their choice.
  • You could also share your talents by teaching someone, who has shown an interest in the past, how to do something you are really good at — cooking, sewing, home organizing, or whatever.
  • This year I have asked my mom to write down memories she has of my four children and
    to include stories about me and my sister, herself and her siblings, and whatever else comes to mind.  Through recent conversations I found out she remembers all kinds
    of things I had forgotten or was too busy to write down at the time they happened. 


Hope this helps someone.



Those are great ideas, Kristi.  We all have talent we can teach others.  That would be a great gift at any time of year.


I enjoyed the beginning of this article and the suggestions of “regifting” already-loved items.  I think that since the recession has hit all walks of life in all parts of the country, that this is a great year to give more personal gifts.  


Some of the favorite gifts I have received in my lifetime are those sincere and detailed letters of appreciation for things I have done for others.  Those letters are things that I treasure and read over and over again to keep me going.  


To be more specific, I will detail the process.  Think of the person you are giving the letter to. What has he done for you or what attributes about him do you admire?  Take some time and make some notes about what you want to say.  Then sit down and write (or type) a long letter, detailing all the things that you wrote down to include.  Put the words on nice paper or stationary. Wrap it in a homemade envelope or place it in a box.  You could even buy an inexpensive frame to put it in, if your letter fit on one side of the paper.  I know that being truly appreciated is the most amazing gift I have ever received.

I hope this suggestion helps.

Nikki Abramson
Las Vegas, Nevada

Letters of appreciation are wonderful gifts, Nikki.  My husband saves the ones we get and puts them in our scrapbook.  (Yes, he’s the scrapbook-maker in our family.  It’s just one of his myriad talents.)

One year my husband went through all of the family photo negatives in our filing cabinet, scanned them, and made a disk for each of our children — “Growing up with Scotty,” and so on. The disk contained all the photos worth having of the child the disk was for, plus all the family photos along the way. This cost quite a few hours, but simply the cost of a CD for each child. Their families all declare that this is their favourite gift ever — and a great favourite for repeat FHEs and “what to do on a rainy day.”  If you already have your photos in the computer, it will be even simpler.


The Strongs 

That’s a great idea, The.  And once you have your photos all on a computer, you can get a free computer program like AutoWall to rotate through the pictures as screen savers.  That way you can see these treasured photographs even more often.

Our last letter today tells about a party for recycling gifts.  This one sounds intriguing to me:

A friend invited a group of women to each bring five new gifts we’d received but didn’t need.  We could also bring a handcrafted item or baked goods.  It got all of us cleaning out our closets!  We had a fun time (of course food was involved), and we all went home with items we could either use ourselves or give as presents.  She called it “green,” but we called it a great way to save money! 

Resourceful Reader

That sounds like a terrific idea for a party, Resourceful.  You could have it before Christmas so people could get gifts to give for Christmas, or you could have it after Christmas so people could pick up items to use for themselves.  Such a deal!

Okay, people, that’s it for today.  If you’d like to add your two cents, send a letter to  [email protected].  Put something in your subject line to let me know your letter isn’t spam.  As one of the people without a paycheck this Christmas, I’m definitely looking forward to hearing from you!

Until next time — Kathy

 “Everyone is gifted, but some people never open their package.”

Author Unknown