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Hand holding a small gold gift box with a twist of red ribbon

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean the pressure to spend has gone with them. Retailers pull out all the stops this time of year to make us believe that everything they offer is a ‘must-have’ or the best deal ever. They’re so good at it, in fact, that the National Retail Federation predicts consumers will spend more than $6 billion on holiday gifts this year. Seems excessive, right?

The good news is you can still enjoy the thrill of exchanging gifts with friends and family, while staying out of the malls and big box stores. Using your creativity, innovation and a giving spirit, you can create moments of surprise and delight that mean more than any sweater, toy or gadget ever could. Let’s take a look at these budget holiday gifts:

The Gift of Time

There’s no greater gift you can give than yourself. Offer the gift of your time to a friend, neighbor or relative you know could use your help. Whether it’s baby-sitting so your sister and her husband can enjoy date night, setting aside some time each week to take an elderly relative grocery shopping, or feeding the neighbor’s cat so she can enjoy a weekend away, your time means more than anything you can put in a box.

Present the gift by creating a simple coupon or certificate, rolling it up like a scroll and tying with a ribbon.

Secret Ingredient: Love

Giving homemade treats as budget gifts is certainly not a new idea, but there are easy ways to make it fresh and unexpected. Instead of your usual stand-bys look for updated recipes that add a new spin to old favorites – like a sprinkle of sea salt on your famous chocolate chip cookies or the kick of cayenne pepper and cinnamon in a batch of peanut brittle for a sweet, spicy surprise.

Or try going in a whole new direction with a jar of homemade salted caramel sauce, a canister of spiced chai tea mix or a sugar bowl filled with flavor-infused sugar. They may sound complicated, but they’re actually simple to prepare and sure to stand out. You can find loads of innovative recipes online. Just be sure to make a test batch if it’s something you’re making for the first time.

A Gift a Month

In this age of digital everything, there’s something familiar and comforting about receiving a magazine in the mail and flipping through its glossy pages. And because of our migration to tech, hard copy magazine subscriptions are more affordable than ever – many ringing in at less than $10 for a full year! They make great, budget gifts and the recipients will think about you every time a new issue arrives in the mail.

Present the gift by rolling up a copy of the current issue and tying it with a festive ribbon. Most publishers also send recipients a postcard indicating when the first issue is scheduled to arrive.

Teachable Moments

Maybe you know how to do calligraphy; or bake a perfect loaf of bread; or have a flawless golf swing. Whatever your special talent is, if you have a skill that others often tell you they wish they could emulate, teaching them how to do it is a budget gift that costs nothing more than your time.

Whether you offer a full-day “immersion” session or spread the lessons out over time, you’ll get to spend time with someone you care about and teach them something you love to do. It’s really a gift for both of you!

Make a Memory

Group buying sites like Groupon and Living Social are filled with fantastic deals on fun, local activities – often priced at 2-for-1 or even less! You can find deals that make unexpected budget gifts like concerts, dining out, classes, wine tasting, hot air balloon rides – the list is almost endless. Of course, it will vary based on where you live, but you’re sure to find something new and interesting. The best part of giving an experience as a gift is the lasting memories you’ll create. Whether you go along and participate in the event or just hear the stories afterward, you and your giftee will never forget it.

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