Friday, December 07, 2012

No-Cost or Low-Cost Gifts Can Create Cherished Memories

Simple Christmases that are low on cost but high on meaning are extra special and less painful in January according to Janet LaFon, a family financial education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“The first step to achieving a small holiday limit is to make the decision to hold down spending. Tell relatives and friends that you are doing no-cost or low-cost gifts. This can be hard but it can pay off in some unexpected ways,” said LaFon. “There is a good chance those inexpensive and thoughtful gifts will bring out the best in everyone and be more meaningful.”

LaFon says no-cost or low-cost gifts like photos, recipes or plants can be very meaningful. Photo albums of events (like a vacation), photo collages (even of childhood photos), photos with handwritten poems, or calendars with family photos have become very popular.

Food items from the kitchen or recipes, even a collection of family recipes assembled together by family members, can be a meaningful, low-cost gift.

“There are a number of gifts that can be made in the kitchen,” said LaFon. “Some popular ideas include spiced teas in a jar, a basket of apples with your favorite recipe for apple pie, sweet bread in a new loaf pan, or themed gifts like an apron with recipes.”

A handmade coupon or certificate for labor is another popular idea, especially if the person getting the gift is older. An offer to wash and vacuum a car, or help wash windows, clean the home, do laundry or even ironing can be appreciated.

“Any type of offer for free labor can make a great gift,” said LaFon. “Offering to watch children, housesit or pet sit is great. Lawn mowing, yard work, wood cutting, painting or even fun outings together like a picnic you provide can be helpful and create memorable experiences.”

Plants can be another low-cost gift item, especially if a family member or friend is able to provide a start from their own plants. Even handmade tree ornaments, an original poem or song, or a homemade soup or cookie mix can be appreciated.

“Families who have tried this low-cost gift-giving have found it was the nicest they've ever had. Then when January and February arrive, you won't feel so overwhelmed by the bills that appear in your mailbox. You may even feel a sense of pride in sticking to your budget and perhaps giving of yourself rather than the bounty found on the stores' shelves,” said LaFon.

For more information, visit your local University of Missouri Extension center and request a copy of guide sheet GH3600 “Money Management: Living on Less.” A brochure about no-cost and low-cost gift ideas is also available on the Jasper County Extension website at


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