Photo (cc) by nino63004
Some people might think summer is the “party season,” but I always receive the most invites during the holidays. Last December, I went to five parties at five different houses in the same week. I didn’t want to show up empty-handed, but even cheap bottles of wine get expensive.
This year I’ve resolved to keep my hostess gifts cheap using a combination of inexpensive and homemade stuff. If you’d like to do the same, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has a list of five hostess gifts you can pull off for under $5. Check it out and then read on for more ideas.
Now, I’ll give you the details on Stacy’s gifts and add a whole bunch more so you can get through the party season without going broke.
1. Cone of chocolate
You can turn a few handfuls of individually wrapped chocolates and a flower bag into an attractive gift for under $5. Grab one of the cone-shaped bags used to hold long-stemmed flowers from the florist section of the grocery store. Then pick out enough candy to fill three-quarters of the bag. Add the candy to the bag and tie off the open end with ribbon or twine.
2. Small candle holders
Big retailers like Target and Walmart, specialty gift shops, and even some drugstores have a selection of inexpensive tea light candle holders. They’re usually pretty basic-looking – either glass, metal, or ceramic – but you can dress them up with a colorful tea light candle, or by tying ribbon or twine around the outside of the tea light, and still keep it under $5.
3. Card games
Card games are a great party gift because they’re cheap and everyone can play if the party lags. Pick up card games like UNO, Go Fish, or Hit the Deck in the toy or board game section of stores, or just buy a set of regular playing cards.
4. Gift jars
Throughout the year I save mason jars, jars with attractive etched designs, and even wine bottles. Whenever I need a quick and cheap gift, I fill the jars with a homemade food or drink mix, pop on the lid, and tie a gift tag around the rim with twine. These gift jars are great because you can use ingredients you already have around the house. Here are some easy recipes I’ve done in the past:
- Red beans and rice – a jar half filled with white rice, and half with dry red beans
- Tea jars – loose leaf tea looks beautiful in a mason jar
- Noodle soup – three to five boxes of Lipton noodle soup mix added to a jar and shaken to mix the ingredients
5. Cheap handmade goods
If you’ve got time to wait for shipping, Etsy sells thousands of items handmade by independent artists and crafters. You can find small items – like coasters, pot holders, candles, homemade soaps, and small picture frames – for under $5. Just search the site for gifts $5 and under, or use this link to see what Etsy has to offer.
6. Photo albums
A photo album is something quick and easy that the hostess will actually use. Drugstores, card shops, and retailers like Target, Walmart, and Big Lots all carry a selection of photo albums. You can pick up a small basic album for under $5. If you want to go the extra mile, check out friends’ Facebook pages and your own digital photos for good shots, then print them at home and put them in the album before you give it.
7. Beauty supplies
Lotions, bath salts, bubble bath, and hand soap are welcome gifts. You can pick up bottles for under $5 at beauty supply stores like Bath and Body Works or Ulta. During the holidays, look for special holiday scents to make your gift seem more festive.
8. Filled coffee mugs
For a housewarming party last year, I bought a large coffee mug and saucer on sale for $2 at Walmart. I filled the coffee mug with individually wrapped hard candies, wrapped some colored cellophane around the outside, and gave it to the hostess. The whole thing cost about $4, took five minutes to put together, and she loved it. You can also try this idea with tea bags, sample-sized bags of coffee, or any candy you think the hostess would like.
9. Magnetic notepads
Magnetic notepads make for great gifts. After all, everyone needs to write out a shopping list or jot down a note at some point. You can pick these up just about anywhere, but Target usually has some different styles in their $1 section. Grab three to five, tie them in a bundle with a ribbon, and you’ve got a great gift.
10. Blank notecards
Blank notecards are another thing most people appreciate having around the house. You can find small sets of notecards and matching envelopes at card stores, party supply stores, mass retailers, and even drugstores.
11. Wine glass charms
Wine shops and home goods stores like World Market, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls sell different styles of wine charms (small charms that go around the stem of a wine glass so you can tell which is which). They’re cheap and something most people don’t already own.
12. Travel cups
When I had my own housewarming party, one of my favorite gifts was an insulated travel mug. The friend who gave it to me picked out one with a dog that looked almost exactly like my own dog. (You can see the cup at Party City.) A year later, I still use it.
13. Homemade magnets
Arts and craft stores sell make-your-own-magnet kits. Most kits come with three to six blank magnets. All you have to do is find a design you like and pop it inside. I recently made these for a housewarming party using photos of some mutual friends, but even gift wrap, scrapbook paper, or the Sunday newspaper comic strip would look great.
14. Fruit bouquet
Those expensive edible arrangements aren’t that hard to do yourself – all you need is some fruit, a melon baller, flower-shaped cookie cutter, and some wood skewers. I made one myself recently. I filled a medium-sized ceramic bowl with cake to act as the base. I cut large, flat pieces of watermelon and pressed the cookie cutter through to make the shapes. Then I used a melon baller to make the center of the flowers out of cantaloupe. I put the flower ring around the center and held it into place inside the bowl using a wood skewer or stem. It wasn’t the easiest gift I’ve ever tried to drive across town with, but it was cute and inexpensive.
15. Knitted cup cozy
A friend of mine knits cup cozies whenever she needs an inexpensive gift. From start to finish, each one takes her less than four hours and only uses one skein of yarn. If you’re a knitter, you can download a free pattern at Red Heart.