Penny-pinching presents

For the broke and thoughtful among us

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It’s almost the most wonderful time of the year and you still haven’t bought any gifts? I know how tough this is; there are many family members and friends that mean so much to you. The only problem is there’s more friends than money to give gifts to them all.

Good news! There are many simple solutions to this holiday dilemma. I’ve listed just a few to help you get the ball rolling and make sure everyone has a Merry Christmas. If you play your cards right, you might earn a meeting under the mistletoe.

“Let them eat cake!”

Dark monarchy allusions aside, cake is always the answer when you’re in a time or money crunch. This is a great way to have something quick and affordable to share with family. Most cake mixes start at around a dollar at the nearest grocery store. Some say you should make it from scratch, but who would know the difference? The biggest challenge is the icing, so try making your own! All you need is powdered sugar, butter, a tablespoon of milk and your family’s favorite flavoring (it’s probably vanilla, everybody loves vanilla). Give it a try and save some bucks while you’re at it.

Bonus tips:

Feeling a little crafty? Try making some cake pops — stay tuned to see how writer Taylor Simpson did. You can also make DIY mug cakes for friends based on their preference.

Share the love

Couples, it’s time to try Love Coupons. Christmas would be a great time to present that special someone with simple favors they can redeem throughout the upcoming year. Just construct a small booklet full of fun offers like a picnic in the park, a candlelit dinner or a foot-massage.

Choose custom activities that you know your partner will enjoy and look forward to. If you enjoy drawing or lettering, decorate the cover with his or her name. Assign expiration dates to each one to help you plan out an awesome experience that they have to cash in — no collecting dust in the drawer of abyss.

Bonus tips:

Make a mix CD of their favorite music to enjoy while they cash in their coupons. Think about their passions and base your coupons around them for a more personalized experience (i.e., a night playing their favorite board or video game, cooking their favorite meal).

Muddy Buddies

Last but not least and by far my favorite gift, Christmas Muddy Buddies. Muddy Buddies, also known as Puppy Chow, is Chex cereal covered in peanut butter, chocolate and powdered sugar. This is just a general tasty snack — easy to make and fun to eat. For the holidays make two batches; mix in green food dye in one and red dye in the other and BOOM! Throw them in pretty bowl or container from the dollar store and you’re the Christmas party favorite. Don’t forget to snatch some muddy buddies for yourself — a few handfuls should do.

Bonus tips:

People really value food. A lot. There are so many quick snacks, mixes and dips you can compile to make a scrumptious season for friends and family.

There’s still time to get it all done, don’t worry. Hopefully this sparked some ideas that fit your budget and time. Let’s be honest, expensive and elaborate gifts aren’t always realistic. After all, it is truly the thought that counts, especially when you’re counting the dollars in your bank account.