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The Generous Cheapskate: Tips for the Other Gift-Giving Season

  • Mary Hunt Debt-Proof Living
  • 2008 7 Apr
The Generous Cheapskate: Tips for the Other Gift-Giving Season
April 7, 2008

Most of us think of December as the big gift-giving season of the year. But there is another and it is right now. Don’t believe me? Check your mailbox.

Undoubtedly you’ll see graduation announcements, invitations to baby showers, bridal showers and loads of wedding invitations, too. Add to that Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Easter and you’ll know why spring has become the other gift-giving season. Ka-ching.

You could simply start writing checks, or I’ve got a better idea. Get creative. Here are a few suggestions to get you going ...

High School and College Grads

Laundry Kit: mesh laundry bag, detergent, dryer sheets, lots of quarters and directions on “How to Do Laundry.”

Mug with instant coffee, hot chocolate, tea and cookies.

Paper money. Get creative with the presentation. Google “origami money” for instructions on how to fold bills into creative shapes.
Container of coins good for laundry, vending machines or coffee.

Cookbooks. Compile favorite family  recipes, as well as simple recipes for baked potatoes and scrambled eggs.
Fill an oven mitt with wooden spoons, spatula, or other small kitchen utensils.

Posters for favorite movies or prints of paintings and sticky tack (don’t bother with frames because many dorm rooms don’t allow nails anyway).

Small book light for reading in bed.

College survival kit: Fill a container with batteries, flashlight, band-aids, rubber bands, Kleenex, scratch paper, instant noodles, hot chocolate mix, pizza coupons, pencils and pens, highlighters, and a picture frame with your photo.

Mother’s Day

Potted herb garden for the kitchen.

Make a slideshow of your digital pictures and put them onto a CD she can use on the computer.

Gift certificate for spending time together planting flowers, going out for coffee or cooking a meal.

Fix-it Saturday. Day of doing fix-it jobs around your mom’s house: wash windows, paint a room, unclog a sink, weed the garden, fix squeaky doors, help her organize her photos, and so on.

Letter-writing basket with stationary or cards (you could make your own using craft supplies), pen, stamps and envelopes.

Instead of buying Mom a card, tell her you are going to send her a postcard a month during the coming year.

Father’s Day

Movie Night. Rent or borrow a movie from the library; make a basket with popcorn, plastic bowl, soda and lap blanket.

Coupons for a free car wash or yard work he hasn’t had time to do.

Frame-a-Vacation. Pick out a road map from somewhere you went together, and find some pictures from the trip. Draw out the route with marker and paste pictures on top of map. Arrange in an inexpensive frame for home or office.

Grilling Basket: BBQ sauces, tongs, grilling apron and so on.

Subscription to a magazine about one of his hobbies or interests.

Bridal Showers and Weddings

Buy smaller items like a hot pot or pan from the registry and then include a recipe and the ingredients to make it.

If you know the honeymoon destination, make a gift to go along:

Beach: beach towels, sunscreen, Frisbee, disposable camera.

Mountains/hiking: flashlight, star chart, mini cooler and ice pack.

City: map, guidebook, coupons or gift certificates for a restaurant and some foreign currency (through your local bank).

Magazine subscription.

De-Stress-from-Wedding-Planning Kit: bath salts, bubble bath candles, wine and paperback novel.

Ice cream Sundae Kit: Sundae glasses, cherries, chocolate and caramel sauces, sprinkles and a gift certificate for an ice cream shop.

Holiday decorations kit: Fill a basket with Christmas lights, ornaments, candles, and a wreath for their first Christmas.

Basket filled with a bottle of wine, wine glasses and a corkscrew—to be saved for the first anniversary.

Baby Showers 

Bath Kit: rubber duckie, towels, baby shampoo, lotion, baby tub.

Home Medical Kit: thermometer, first aid kit, diapers, child proofing book/equipment.

Subscription to a parenting magazine.

Coupon book for baby sitting and theater or restaurant gift certificates.

Greeting Cards

At $3 to $5 a whack, greeting cards are ridiculously expensive. But not to worry, you do have alternatives even if you have all the artistic ability of a stone.

Free printable computer greeting cards at

Free HP Activity Center: Fuel your creative side with hundreds of free projects, including greeting cards and calendars. Go to and type Activity Center in the search box.

Invest in card-making software. For about the cost of five cards from the card shop you can buy The Print Shop 21. Currently available for $21.99 at

Free e-Cards: There are several websites where you can send greeting cards by email: 

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*Originally ran on April 9, 2007