Cookie Jars
Layered to look like "sand art," cookie  mixes make the perfect gift for family, friends and teachers. Layer the dry ingredients to make brownies or cookies in a one-quart, wide-mouth canning jar. Decorate the jar with ribbon and attach instructions.

Since people usually receive so many baked goodies this time of year, a treat to make at a later date is usually appreciated. Even if they do not want to bake them, the jar makes a great display piece for the kitchen.

Here's a recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 1/2 cups flour mixed with 1 tsp baking soda and 1/4 tsp salt

Layer ingredients in the jar in the order given, pressing each layer firmly in place before adding the next. Everything will fit if you are diligent to pack each layer tightly, particularly the brown sugar and flour. Use the end of a wooden spoon as a packing device. Measure carefully.

Attach this message to jar: Empty jar into large mixing bowl. Thoroughly blend mix. Add 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine (not diet or tub variety), 1 egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix until completely blended.

Shape into balls the size of walnuts and place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350ºF for 7 to 10 minutes, or until just slightly golden. Do not overbake. Cool 10 minutes on baking sheet. Remove to racks to finish cooling. These cookies will not firm up until completely cooled. Makes 2 1/2 dozen delicious cookies. Enjoy!

Art Frame
Purchase an inexpensive picture frame from the craft store or a department store like Target or Wal-Mart. Have your child decorate the frame with acrylic paints. Place a photo of your child inside the frame once it's dry, and you have a great gift for a grandparent, friend or other relative.

Read-Along Videos
Have your kids get dressed in their pajamas, and cover one of their beds with stuffed animals.

Set up the video camera on a tripod and record yourself reading bedtime stories to the kids and the animals. Wrap up the video tape with copies of the books you've read for a great gift for cousins who live far away. Not only do they get to read along with you, they get to see their cousins whenever they watch this story time.

Scented Jelly Jars
Scented jelly jars like those at Bath & Body Works are very popular, but pricey. They scent the room without having to light a wick. You can make your own for just a fraction of the cost.

You will need 8 ounces of liquid potpourri, two envelopes of Knox gelatin, and containers like canning jars, pretty bottles or other containers with a fairly large opening.

Boil the liquid, then add the gelatin. Stir until dissolved. Pour into containers and cool. You can add embellishments such as flowers or shells to the jelly while it is cooling. You may change the color of the jelly with a little food coloring as well. Once cool, decorate the containers with ribbons, lace, or whatever you desire.

Homemade Play Doh Set
Make homemade play doh in Christmas colors such as red, green, and yellow. Roll the three colors into individual balls, and wrap in cellophane or plastic so that it is completely airtight. Tie with a decorative ribbon and attach a few plastic cookie cutters. Every kid loves a new batch of play doh.

Christmas Whisk
Buy a new wire whisk from a kitchen or restaurant supply store. Separate the tines and pop in candy kisses or other holiday wrapped candies. The whisk will hold them securely. Tie with a festive ribbon and you have a quick and easy gift that any cook will appreciate.

Old Family Photo Reproductions
Having old photos duplicated photographically can be expensive. But you can do this yourself for very little.

Take the photo to the closest Kinko's or other quick print shop. No matter how this original photo appears (black and white, sepia tone) make copies of it on the self-serve color photocopying machine. You won't believe the result. You will not be able to tell the copy from the original. And the cost? About a buck for any size up to 8x10. It's just the best gift, and quick, too.

Frame the photo appropriately and you will be unable to differentiate it from its original. Be sure to give your recipient a written account of who is in the photo and other details you may know.

© 2007 Debt-Proof Living. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

 "Debt-Proof Living" was founded in 1992 by Mary Hunt.  What began as a newsletter to encourage and empower people to break free from the bondage of consumer debt has grown into a huge community of ordinary people who have achieved remarkable success in their quest to effectively manage their money and stay out of debt.  Today, "The Cheapskate Monthly" is read by close to 100,000 Cheapskates.  Click here to subscribe.