$1.00 Gifts
December 14, 2010 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Super super inexpensive ($1.00 or less) yet clever Christmas gift ideas needed!

Each year we do a little something for our friends, church members and neighbors. Last year I made some cute personalized hand soap pumps. They were a hit. They also ran us no more than $1.50 per gift. Last night a friend dropped off her gift to us - in three small clear tiered boxes, some marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate squares. The note read, "Wishing you s'more joy and happiness this Christmas." I'm sure the gift ran no more than a buck, but it's totally awesome and cute.

I need more ideas like that. Here's the criteria, though:

1. If it is edible, I don't want it to have to be eaten RIGHT NOW. We get so inundated with cookies and treats - half of which we can't possible eat all of so it's relegated to the garbage. I don't mind edible gifts, as long as it's something they can put away to enjoy at a later time.

2. If it's non-edible, I want it to be useful. No knickknacks.

3. It's gotta be insanely easy and quick to put together.

4. I'd like it to be $1.00 or less per gift. I anticipate handing out at least 20.

So, any suggestions?
posted by Sassyfras to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I bought moroccan tea glasses at an import store for about 75c each and put a tealight in them. Super simple, but really quite nice when lit. If you buy a bunch, you can probably get them for much cheaper than that.
posted by OLechat at 10:24 AM on December 14, 2010

Oranges with cloves in them (optional with bows), as Christmas decorations - a pomander. Like this or this.

I don't know if this qualifies as knick knack, but it smells great and cheers things up at Christmas.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:44 AM on December 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've made outdoor Christmas luminaries several times for neighbors and extra last minute gifts and they always go over really well. You need brown paper bags, sand or rice, and tealights. You can get a $1 bag of 30-50 or so tealights at the dollar store, same with a good sized box of brown paper lunch bags. Get a Christmasy paper punch while you're at the dollar store. Use it to punch holes around each bag - look at the link I provided to see how you can either apply them randomly or do them in patterns and shapes, like snowflakes. If you give each person 5 or 6 bags and rice and candles you've still spent way under a dollar on them. Around here it's traditional to put them outside on Christmas eve, but if you make the design non-Christmasy the recipient can use them any time.
posted by iconomy at 10:52 AM on December 14, 2010

Pomegranates are somehow very Christmas-y to me. They're beautiful and not the usual fruit I buy for myself. They keep for weeks in the fridge.
posted by Majorita at 10:55 AM on December 14, 2010

Make jam? Or put together a selection of teas (can be done cheaply if there's a bulk supplier--like a co-op--in your area) or spice mixes?
posted by sugarbomb at 11:01 AM on December 14, 2010

How about some flower or vegetable seeds with simple instructions for growing them? You could even purchase seed packets (which tend to be more than $1) but subdivide them into smaller pouches, even combine ones that will grow happily together, such as a mesclun lettuce mix. Mesclun mix is super easy to grow, even in a recycled plastic salad container or a basket lined with newspaper.
posted by Miko at 11:04 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wal-Mart sells bandannas in 25 cute patterns for $.99 (in our store, but not online so YMMV.) You can never have too many handkerchiefs! But you can have too many handkerindians!
posted by workerant at 11:06 AM on December 14, 2010

This article has idea for three edible mixes, and I can vouch for the hot cocoa mix. It's excellent and quite different from any other I've had. Pop it in a jar and tie a ribbon around it. For a pretty presentation, layer it in the jar with chocolate or white chips. There are many other inexpensive accessories you could include, like chocolate dipped plastic spoons or chocolate dipped candy canes for stirring.

The other two mixes sound good, too, but I haven't tried them.

I have also successfully made caramels for this sort of gift. They do keep for a good long time. This is the recipe I've had success with, and you can find others on the web that are dipped in chocolate. Cut them a little smaller than the recipe says. The ingredients are not too pricey, and you can get a lot from this recipe.

If you have a defined list of recipients, you could make some book plates for each of them for just the cost of ink and paper. I have made them six to a page in Word with vintage clip art and printed them on sticky back paper. I would change the name and print two sheets for each person, then cut them and tie them into little packages of a dozen each. Google "book plates" for images for inspiration. For truly vintage look and cheaper production, do them in black and white. If you aren't sure of all your recipients, make several sets with blank lines for the recipient to write in his or her name.
posted by TrarNoir at 11:12 AM on December 14, 2010


- Mix CDs on a theme, of holiday music maybe
- One year I made cedar drawer sachets that were a big hit. I got cedar shavings at a boatbuilding shop, but you could also purchase them at a pet store as guinea pig bedding. I just sewed small fabric pillows out of seasonal-looking fabric and stuffed them with cedar. They smelled great and the cedar helps keep moths away.
- Another year I purchased small votive candles in small glass jars at a dollar store. I wrapped each candle jar with a strip of paper on which I had printed some words and messages in decorative fonts, kind of like you did with the hand soap.
-One of my friends made homemade candles in wineglasses and highball glasses, from the thrift store, as teacher gifts one year, with her kids. They were really cute. She had found some glittery star-shaped confetti to mix in.
posted by Miko at 11:13 AM on December 14, 2010

Pomegranates are somehow very Christmas-y to me. They're beautiful and not the usual fruit I buy for myself. They keep for weeks in the fridge.

I agree but depending upon where the OP is they can be well outside the budget. I just got a pomegranates this week at the local (DC area) WF and they were $2.99 each.

Are you near an Ikea? According to their website, you can get 4 tealight holders for $1.49 and I know that they sell bags of tealights for next to nothing. Perhaps you could somehow decorate or personalize the plain glass tealight holders to make it special? Sadly fIkea doesn't sell them through the website so you need to be able to buy them in person.
posted by kaybdc at 11:17 AM on December 14, 2010

Both sugar plums and bourbon balls are fairly easy to make large batches of, and keep well. (In fact, are best not eaten right away.) They are also both yummy enough that receiving two or three wrapped up in foil or plastic wrap will be a nice treat.
posted by Margalo Epps at 11:38 AM on December 14, 2010

You could get little reusable muslin bags like these (or make them yourself if your feeling even thriftier--it's a quite simple project if you do much sewing, though I'm not sure it meets the definition of "insanely easy") and fill them with mulling spice or loose tea.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 11:39 AM on December 14, 2010

If you can draw or write beautifully, you could buy inexpensive cups/mugs and draw on them with special permanent ink pen for glass/porcelain which can be purchased at Michael's. It's a great personalized gift. You can buy glasses at Ikea or the dollar store.. even thrift stores.
posted by loquat at 11:58 AM on December 14, 2010

This recipe for fudge is AMAZING! It's super easy to make, tastes great and is pretty inexpensive. If you layer the fudge in a festive Ziplock container with waxed paper it will literally keep for months in the freezer. There is something really fun about having Christmas fudge in May.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:07 PM on December 14, 2010

When we were kids, every year our parents would put a wooden backscratcher in our stockings. Then we always had one handy when we needed it. When my dad left his job recently he got each of his coworkers a backscratcher and they went over very well. And they're supercheap! 50 cents each if you're ordering by the dozen from Oriental Trading Company, or a dollar apiece if you buy them at Cost Plus World Market or Pier 1.
posted by katemonster at 2:31 PM on December 14, 2010

This could work: Bird Seed Ornaments.

I haven't made them myself, but I'm thinking I will do so. Not sure of the cost breakdown-- partly depends whether you have some of these things on hand, like the straws or the molds.
posted by tuesdayschild at 5:23 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Lazy" homemade soap
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:25 PM on December 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Homemade simmering Potpourri/mulling spice: cinnamon sticks, cloves, dried orange peel - a few star anise, if you are feeling flush. I buy my spices in bulk at an ethnic market for amazing savings from a regular grocery store spice aisle.
posted by sarajane at 5:48 AM on December 15, 2010

Homemade citrus ornaments are unique and they retain their smell after baking.
posted by shoreline at 7:27 PM on December 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

I really like making homemade hand warmers for people! You just sew little bean bags together and fill them with broken-up corn pieces (usually sold as bird or squirrel food at garden stores--they'll know what you're talking about). They maybe take 10 minutes to make if you use a sewing machine. I usually make mine square, but heart or tree-shaped ones would be cool. You microwave them for about a minute or so. I like to print out directions and what they are. If you make them, use 100% cotton material, because polyester and synthetic fabrics can melt or burn from the heat.

It's a simple thing, and sometimes it seems too effortful to warm them up in the microwave, but it makes going out to my car in the snowy, cold, dark mornings much, much better. They make a nice gift for your postal worker, too!

Cost is definitely < $1 each.
posted by shortyJBot at 5:48 AM on December 20, 2010

Thanks for the great ideas! For anyone still reading this/needing ideas I recently came across this list of inexpensive treats to hand out with a cutesy little saying to go along with them. These were some of my favorites:

Almond Joy: "Thanks for adding so much joy to our lives"

Microwave popcorn: "Just popping in to say Merry Christmas!"

Any sweet treat: "Wishing you a season filled with sweetness!"

Plate of cookies: "Wishing you a wonderful Christmas, from your "crummy" neighbors"

2 liter of soda pop: "We're "soda-lighted" to wish you a Merry Christmas!"

Bananas: "If we could choose our friends, and we searched the whole world through, we'd go "bananas" trying to find a better "bunch" than you!"

Bubble Gum or Bubble Bath: "May your holidays "bubble" over with fun!"

Sprite: "May your Christmas be Merry and "Sprite"!"

Veggies & Dip: "Dip into the holidays and a healthy New Year!"

Fancy pasta: Have a "pasta-tively" happy holiday!"

Plate of muffins: "You're gettin' "muffin" for Christmas!"

Soup: "Have a 'souper' Christmas"

Oven Mitt filled w/ treats: "We have to ad-"mitt" you're a great neighbor/friend!"

Bag/Box of Whoppers: "Hope you have a "whopper" of a Christmas"

M&M's: Have a Merry and Most Wonderful Holiday Season!"

Jolly Ranchers: "Have a holly "jolly" Christmas"

Chex Party Mix: "Remember Santa "chex" his list twice to see who's been naughty or nice...so be good for goodness sake!!!

Box of Hostess Ho-Ho's:" Hope a merry "Ho-Ho-Ho" fills your heart the whole year through!"

Flower: "If friends were flowers, we'd pick you!"

Cinnamon sugar mix: "May your Christmas be sprinkled with laughter and love!"

Stocking or Filled Jar: "Have a fun filled Christmas this year!"

Candle: "May your days be happy, your heart be light, your Christmas merry and the New Year bright!!!"

Plant: "The kindness you show makes our friendship grow and grow! Hope you have a Happy Holiday!!"
posted by Sassyfras at 8:49 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

A bunch of cheap whisks with the insides stuffed with Hershey kisses..."We whisk you a merry kiss-mas" Ribbon on handle.
posted by Bexlemon at 2:45 PM on December 21, 2010

A unique and not quite as CRAZY sweet edible gift I have received is dates stuffed with cream cheese and nuts. You may have to do some searching for ingredients to keep this cheap but try buying dates at an arab/israeli/middle eastern imports store if you have such a thing in your area, sometimes even this kind of restaurant might stock a few special food items for their customers.

Basically, mix up cream cheese with some confectioner's sugar, a little lemon juice, maybe a pinch of spices (like cinnamon, allspice, cardamon, whatever you've got!) and some chopped nuts (like walnuts). I always wing it but you can probably google a recipe! Slice the dates down the middle the long way (or sometimes they are already sliced) to make a little pocket and smear in some of the filling with a kitchen knife.

Even like 4-5 of these wrapped and in a nice little box would be special. You could decorate the box with the 3 kings or other imagery/designs or just some gold and jewel tone ribbons to draw on the middle eastern setting of early christianity.
posted by dahliachewswell at 4:33 AM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

It may run a bit more than a dollar each, depending on what you include, but one of my favorite low-cost gifts is a "movie night" bucket, similar to this.

I get most of my "ingredients" at the dollar store - including the red and white popcorn boxes (at my local store, they come 4 to a pack for $1). Include a bag of microwave popcorn and a couple of candies and even soda and you're done! To maximize your purchases, buy bags of candy that have individually wrapped items inside (like mini candy bars) that you can spread out among all of your gifts (put a few in each box). I also bought yellow basket shred (also at the dollar store) to stuff the bottoms of the boxes so that they don't have to be filled top-to-bottom. You can use any crinkled up paper to do that - I just liked the yellow because it looks "popcorny". I bought a single package of basket shred that made 8 popcorn boxes and I have half left over. It goes a long way! I like to wrap mine in cellophane for that classic "gift basket" look, but it's not required.

It seems to me that you should be able to easily make 20 for around $20, probably even a little less.

If you want to "upgrade" the gift, you can include a gift card for Blockbuster or Netflix or even a DVD (BTW, the dollar store usually has an interesting collection of DVDs - many are forgettable movies, but I have personally found the old Superman cartoons and George Burns & Gracie Allen show). I've also used this same technique and bought popcorn bowls (the big kind) and filled them up with pretzels and sodas and still kept the price under $5 each.
posted by giddygirlie at 11:26 AM on December 23, 2010

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