Submitted Date 12/20/2018

Here we go again. Every year the Holiday Season sneaks up on you, and every year you're unprepared. You may feel intimidated by all the commercials, ads and newscasts showcasing must-have items, ridiculous discounts, and consumer chaos. But in the midst of shoppers going crazy and pummeling each other for those Black Friday buys, you've realized you'll get to stay out of the store and skip the lines. Why? Because you're broke!

But trust me. You've got this covered. You can sit back and relax with a hot cup o' cocoa. How? With these 8 frugal solutions for the Holiday Season.

1. Cheap Crap from China
It may be a bit late to start shopping online for foreign imports this Holiday season. But you can get the jump on next season's gift giving by buying a bunch of crap from Asia today. There are lots of cool trinkets, tchotchkes, electronics, jewelry, clothing and more available for pennies on the dollar online. Ebay and Amazon are your best bet. But sites like Jet and Wish are strong contenders. Always take shipping costs into account when ordering online. And be prepared to make back-up buys as sometimes you don't always get what you pay for. And sometimes you don't get anything at all. The quality may not be top notch but your friends and family will know it's the thought that counts.

2. Dollar Store Darling
If you need gifts right now and don't want to rely on the web for your holiday haul head to your local dollar store. There are lots of products, packaging, wrapping and sometimes foodstuffs at the local dollar store. I try to stay away from stores that are a buck “and up.” I prefer my 99 cent stores to be a buck and below.

3. Marked Down Market
Fiverr is an online marketplace that sells many different kinds of services. For just $5 plus a small service fee you can pay someone to create a cool unique video or small gift for someone you love. Groupon is also a great place to get inexpensive gifts. Buy your friends and family an item or experience, and use a sale code to get even more off.

4. Personalized Presents
Personalized gifts have become very popular in the past 10 years. It's easy to upload a photo to a website and order a calendar, mug, pillow, blanket, puzzle, painting, or other item with that picture. You can use multiple photos to create a custom picture book, or go all out with a picture lasered into a glass crystal. Customized gifts are fun, personal, and remind the receiver of your relationship whenever they look at their gift.

5. Gratitude Gifts
A more homemade approach to Xmas gifts are giving people the opportunity to reflect positively on their life, or receive favors and affection from you. Take a simple mason jar, or other kind of jar, and label it “Blessing Jar.” The recipient is to write down any positive thing or compassionate gesture that occurs during the year. Then the next Holiday Season they read their year of blessings aloud. Write down the instructions and place them in the jar, along with multiple pieces of paper.

You can also make personal coupons your loved one can redeem throughout the year. It's cheap. It's tacky. But depending on what you write it can also be meaningful and memorable. Give your partner coupons for 30 minutes of cuddling, 5 hugs, kisses or “I love you's” in a day, or a 1 hour romp in the boudoir. Give friends or family 1 movie of their choice with no complaining, 10 compliments, help moving, or free baby or pet sitting.

6. Scents and Sensibility
Scented candles, lotions, body sprays, face scrubs, soaps, bubble bath and bath bombs are a holiday mainstay. Most women love scented toiletries and spa products. But try to make sure recipients receive the scents they like. These items tend to be on sale during the holidays, but you may also find good deals throughout the rest of the year. Tea lights, candle holders, lotions and sprays are also available at many dollars stores.

7. Store Assortments
Edible gifts are always a hit. But you don't need to have skills in the kitchen to give your loved ones something sweet. Buy large boxes or packages of chocolates or cookies and break them down into individual gifts. You can create custom assorted chocolate and candy boxes with packaging from the dollar store. For classic wrappings try festive decorative tins, boxes, platters, mugs or baskets. If you want to get kitschy put the sweets in fillable ornaments or Christmas stockings.

8. Almost Homemade
If you've got some baking tins and a smidge of patience why not spring for some boxed mixes or refrigerated dough. “Just add water” baking mixes are the easiest. But most need oil, butter and/or eggs. Make festive cupcakes, brownies, muffins and cookies topped with frosting, sprinkles, coconut flakes, chopped nuts, peppermint candies, chocolates and more. Make an assortment of these semi-homemade treats if the store bought variety doesn't tickle your fancy.

This may be the season of giving. But what you lack in funds you can make up for in ingenuity. Be creative and think outside the box. Take advantage of sales, use coupons, and combine coupons with sales. Check prices before you shop to make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck. The people in your life will understand if you can't get them anything fancy. They'll know it's the thought that counts.

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