The holiday season is upon us, but with the continuing concerns about the economy, many people are looking for ways to cut costs when it comes to gift-giving.


    The holiday season is upon us, but with the continuing concerns about the economy, many people are looking for ways to cut costs when it comes to gift-giving. Tracey McBride, a frugality expert and author of several books, including “Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons,” says the key to not overspending is to plan ahead and develop a budget. Put a lot of thought into your gift-giving instead of focusing on spending a specific amount. Here are her ideas for practical, inexpensive gifts for the holiday season:

Gift baskets
    Rather than buying an expensive gift basket at the mall, make your own, developed around a theme. For a “breakfast basket,” buy a basket at the dollar store and shred paper for the filling.    Buy pancake mix and package it in a pretty bag. Cook your own syrup (water, sugar and flavoring) and bottle it in a jar. Add inexpensive plates and bowls and a mixing spoon. For a fruit basket, fill a crate with local, in-season produce and a few pieces of chocolate.

Sweet treats
    Buy apothecary jars and fill them with store-bought or homemade treats. You can buy chocolate, caramels or candies in bulk, or make goodies such as peanut brittle or caramel corn.

Tea and coffee
    Take an old cigar box and paint it white (or another color of your choosing). Buy a variety of tea bags at the grocery store and repackage them in the cigar box. You can also include a couple of tea cups or a tea kettle. Similarly, for coffee lovers you can pair coffee beans (which you can buy in bulk at a discount store) with a couple of mugs and a few chocolates.

Plants and herbs
    You can buy plants, bulbs and herbs at a garden supply store. Replant them in tumblers, which can be found for less than $1. Package them in clear cellophane bags tied with a ribbon.

Family photos
    Take treasured photos to a copy store and get them reprinted on high-quality paper. Buy inexpensive frames at a discount store. You can also compile favorite photos in a nice album.

Second-hand clothes
    Head to a consignment store to buy clothes, which can work especially well for the kids on your list. Children’s clothes are often barely, if ever, worn. McBride also suggests shopping on eBay or Etsy.com. She buys her daughter’s favorite Juicy Couture hoodies (which retail for about $100) on eBay for an average of $20 each. She’s also used eBay for electronics and American Girl accessories.

Recipe book
    Gather your family’s or your friends’ favorite recipes and compile them in a recipe book. This can be done inexpensively if you print the recipes out from your computer or write them out and put them in a recipe box. Make your gift recipient’s favorite dish and give the food and book at the same time.

Regift family heirlooms
    While some would consider regifting to be in poor taste, McBride says regifting with thought can be extremely heartfelt. One of her most treasured gifts was when her parents gave her their silver tea set for the holidays. If you’ve thought of passing down a family heirloom, the holidays are the time to do it.

TIP: If you tend to overspend on your kids, McBride recommends setting a price limit for each child. Find out each child’s “must-have” gift, buy it, and use only the leftover money in that child’s budget for the other gifts. Most of all, be creative. McBride says learning to give frugally is a complete change in mindset, but giving is more fun and easy once you shift your perspective.