published Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Phillips: Money-saving ideas for Christmas gifts

by Ellen Phillips

As holiday gift-giving time approaches, a few money-saving tips may be just the thing to offer. Just be sure to read any and all fine print before all purchases to ensure you're getting exactly what you want. (Also use the gift card tips after the holidays if you receive ones you don't need or want.)

* Online gift cards -- Check sites such as or and search out the appropriate ones for your giftees. If you have a gift card to trade, go to Go to to trade or sell your card for someone else's, which costs $3.99 regardless of the card's face value. The site pays you 60 percent to 70 percent of your card's cash value if it's from one of the site's "preferred merchants."

EBay is another opportunity to receive money, though it's doubtful you'll get the full value the gifter meant to convey. Remember, too, that unwanted gift cards often can be re-gifted to an organization or charity, such as those for the homeless, battered women and the like. Before giving any gift card, be sure the card is valid and buy only from those sites that offer a guarantee for regifting.

* What about tangible presents? You know, the ones we can touch and see and smell. Think about the recipients, their likes and dislikes and it'll be easy to come up with some simple inexpensive gifts. For example:

* For the gourmet coffee and tea lover, wrap a bag of nice coffee, a box of herbal tea and a pretty cup. To "spice" it up (or even to give by itself), make a bunch of spice tea and place the mixture in a pretty jar wrapped with colorful ribbon. (Homemade hot chocolate mix does the trick, too.)

* If you have a writer on your list, a journal to record everyday thoughts or a box of pretty stationary and some gel pens becomes a thoughtful gift.

* You've got the job knocked if you're a baker. For example, who can resist a pretty cookie bag filled with sugared nuts, a loaf of home baked bread, complete with recipe, or cookie mix, also with instructions for baking? On the other hand, if the recipient is a person who loves to bake, then some handwritten recipes of your (and his or her) much loved dishes are sure to please. Along this same line, an inexpensive specialty cookbook for your favorite baker will hit the spot. An attractive basket with a few kitchen gadgets is an innovative idea for the stay-in-the-kitchen guy or gal.

* Assuming the giftee likes to garden, wrap garden gloves and a plant or, an even better idea, tie the gloves to some seed packets that eventually become beautiful spring flowers or tasty summer veggies.

* If you sew or are otherwise crafty, decorative holiday napkins, a collage of special photos, or Christmas ornaments really hit the spot.

Now it's your turn to come up with some other gift offerings to save money during the holiday season. Although my columns must be turned in almost two weeks before publication, send ideas to me as quickly as possible via e-mail and I'll include them -- first come first serve -- in the Dec. 18 column.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. E-mail her at

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business.

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