On this page you'll find several ideas for making the holiday rush and gift giving possibly a little easier for you.

Plan your shopping so that you make as few trips as possible. Use the bus if you have public transit. This isn't always possible if you have several things to pick up and if that is so, use your car but make a route to follow of each store you need to go to. You'll spend less on gas this way as well as co-ordinate your trip.

Take a friend shopping so only one car is used if you take a car or you possible have help carrying your parcels if you are buying more than the friend is. You'll also enjoy spending time together while you shop.

Try phoning ahead to see which stores have the item you are looking for, including checking on the best price. Not all stores will give this information, especially during the holiday season when they are very busy but it is worth the try. This also cuts down on getting there to find out they are out of stock. If you manage to get ahold of them and what you are looking for is in stock, give them your name and have them set it aside for you if they will.

Think very carefully about the gift you are giving. Is it truly something the recipient needs or wants? If it's something you would like, it's the wrong gift! Or is it going to collect dust or end up in the back of a closet? My gram is 100. Buying for her is a challenge at this age but if thought about there is always something even if it's a plant or baked treat of some kind. If you are not sure, never hesitate ask the opinion of someone that knows the person you are buying for a good idea or two.

Have you ever thought of considering pooling your resources with other family members in order to give one really special gift? Does someone you are buying for really need something that is a higher priced item? Is it something they need but either can't afford or wouldn't buy for themself considering their budget? This may be the answer for you. We do this occasionally for the kids in my family. They want their own stereo, vcr, tv, etc... Last year a couple of them wanted portable cd players and this was the perfect idea and they ended up with what they really wanted and couldn't afford themselves and we all have the satisfaction of knowing it isn't collecting dust nor do we have to take it back because we bought the wrong size, or item. Personally, our kids love this idea and since it works for the adults so well they know they can request this as well.

You can try shopping at antique shops, thrift stores and second-hand bookstores. You'll find wonderful treasures to delight even the most difficult to buy for person. My sister, as most the people in my family, is an avid reader. Paperbacks are $11.00 each here. Second hand book stores have them greatly reduced, at least 1/2 price if not less. I know all her favourite authors so this is a treasure find. The store I use for second hand books has excellent copies available in 'just off the shelf, excellent condition'. They look brand new for at least half the price.

If you are handy with a sewing machine make a couple of denim shopping bags for an environmentally conscious friend for Christmas. Or how about some throw pillows? Or offering to recover some of their throw cushions for them with a material that will match their sofa or bedroom, etc.? These are fast, inexpensive and simple projects.

Use wrapping materials you already have in the house. Scraps of material can be sewn into re-usable bags. Brown paper bags can be cut apart, turned inside out and stamped with gold paint. Add some raffia and a piece of cedar or fir bough for an elegant package. My favourite idea for people that are either into photography or keep a lot of photographs is to buy these wonderful photo holding boxes. They look like shoeboxes sort of but decorative ones and are made to hold 4x6 prints. They come with index cards as well and can be found around town for anywhere from $3.00 each to $5.00 each. I then grab a nice spool of wired ribbon from the dollar store and place a small (wrapped or unwrapped) gift in the photo holder box and put the ribbon on it. Two gifts in one!

Use your extra photos as gift tags. The recipients will love them. Do you get 2nd prints? Use them. It's a way to give someone a little something extra. This year we had my gram's 100th birthday and we took several 5 generation pictures at it. The second prints I had made when developing the pictures will be used for tags on some gifts. :-) These will be treasured additions to the gifts.

Recycle last year's cookie tins and baskets by filling them with newly baked or purchased cookies, bars, or muffins. Most everyone that receives one of my x-mas baskets returns their basket so they are sure to get it refilled the following year. If you don't have time to bake, fill mason jars with a recipe from my "Gifts in a Jar" section.

If you do have time to bake, real gingerbread cookies make great edible decorations. Before baking, insert a small tube cut from a straw through the top of each cookie so you'll have a hole to thread a ribbon through.

Give gifts to children that DON'T require batteries but DO require imagination. They will be played with more and parents will appreciate not having to go to the store to get new batteries constantly.

Try this.. Popped popcorn makes a great packing product to protect breakables when shipped. Simply put a note in asking the recipient to feed it to the birds/squirrels after opening the gift. This could end up as an outing for them and their children to feed the wildlife. Sort of a bonus gift. Time with the children.

Really strapped for money...? Try this... make a coupon that entitles the person you are giving the gift to to homemade baking once a month for six months or an entire year. This is a gift that is especially appreciated by seniors, who will look forward to your visit (even if its brief) as much as your baking. That sounds like a lot, but it's easy to make a few extra muffins or cookies when you are baking some for your own family. Or if you don't normally bake for your family you can find out their favourite treat and make a regular batch of it and divide that batch into 2 or more smaller batches to give on alternate months. You could also arrange the treats attractively on a plate and add a seasonal decoration such as a paper heart for Valentine's Day. Pumpkin muffins would be terrific for October. Irish soda bread is simple to make in March. Traditional sugar cookies for Christmas, etc. etc. Seasonal decorative plates are easy to find at dollar stores.

A suggestion for saving money on Christmas presents is to take your list of people you want to buy for, divide that number by 10, and buy that many presents per month during the year. For example, you have 20 people to buy for. So you would divide that number by 10 which means you would purchase 2 gifts per month. Your best bet would be to start in January when all the stores have some big sales. I suggest that you go for the bigger presents then. You divide by 10 months because you want to be able to start wrapping and mailing (if required) in November. By doing this, you will not be strapped during the Christmas season, nor will you run your credit cards up, and all that you will have to purchase will be wrapping paper, ribbon, and postage (if required). This really cuts down on the stress of having to do everything at once and avoids that big rush down to the last minute allowing you to really enjoy the season as it should be enjoyed.

Family Dinners - As each year goes by things get more expensive and families grow in size. If you need to cut down here is a great way to do it. This year make a family dinner. Invite everyone. If you had 15 people to buy for this would substantially cut your costs for you. It will set you back probably $75.00 or so and your time but it will bring the family together, which these days seems almost impossible to get scattered family's at one table. This is a terrific idea because it brings everyone from the eldest to the youngest together. Time to reaquaint and spend with each other. This obviously only works if people are in a relatively close area so they can all get together at once.

Family gifts.. too many in one section of the family to purchase for? A way to cut back costs is to buy a "family gift". If there is uncle Joe and aunt Sally and their 5 kids, your individual costs for gifts could be huge. Purchase one 'family gift' that they all can enjoy and it will cut your costs substantially.

Keep to your limit! And make yourself a limit! Whether it's $10.00 per person or $50.00. Whatever it is, be sure it is within your budget and stick to it. If you start shopping very early in the year doing the gift or so a month routine you will find that most everything you want to buy can be had through the year at an extremely good sale price.

Purchase gift certificates.. for instance, my brother loves his workshop tools. Most are too expensive to purchase as gifts so every year we all give him gift certificates in the amounts we can afford to give and the day after Christmas he hits the hardware store and goes crazy. :-) He comes out with something he really wants or needs to add to his massive collection of tools. This is actually a bonus for us as he makes furniture as a hobby and in the long run he makes us smaller items for gifts for the holidays or such.

Give subscriptions! This is only good if you are giving a subscription to something someone actually wants and uses. Don't give a subscription to a magazine they are not familiar with. This also works great for those that are hard to purchase for. My gram still loves her newspaper in the morning and gets the t.v. guide. Since she is so difficult to buy for at her age, a paid subscription for as much as we can afford towards either of these works well.

If you can afford the time, give homemade redeemable coupons for free services such as an evening of free babysitting (great for a couple that need and would love a little time to themselves), a meal cooked by you, a car wash, snow shoveling for the elderly, etc. Think of the individual and what they could use.

At every PTA function or fund raiser your kids may have at school or in a club they belong to, purchase something to use as a gift for the holidays. Usually all schools have fund raisers. Here we see giftable items such as candies in a tin, gourmet popcorn in a decorative reusable tub, special holiday ornaments, etc. This idea has a couple of bonuses to it. You will be giving to a needed fund raiser and since these are done throughout the year, some of your gifts will be prepurchased before the holiday rush.

Some ideas for seniors that are hard to buy for.. once again, these only work if you have the time. Give them a gift certificate for things they wouldn't normally have access to such as an escorted trip to the mall to shop (saves taxi fare for them and gives them help with parcels). Help to get them to a few doctor appts. How about a day trip to see the Fall colours in all their glory? Or a trip to a park or garden during the summer. Take them for a picnic in the summer. Picnics were a big deal in their day and I'll bet they would love it. It would bring back fond memories for them. You could even just plan a visit and go through their old photo albums with them letting them explore their past with you. Sometimes the smallest things bring the most joy. The bonus to all these are your company and it can really brighten the day of a senior who may otherwise be indoors most of the time and lonely. As an extra bonus for you, most of these give you 'time off' from everyday stress.

Other sections you may wish to see:
"Gifts in a Jar"
"10 Tips For Cookie Success"
"Gift Containers for Cookies"
"Glazes and Icings"
" Trimming Cookies "
" Packing & Shipping Cookies "

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