Holiday Guide 2008: Creative giving

Cheap and DIY ideas for giving on a shoestring

Barack Obama may have won the election and things may be looking up, but now, in post–Election Day reality, certain things are still true: we're stuck with George W. Bush until January. Proposition 8 passed in California. And the economy still sucks. Not to rain on anyone's parade — or water down your big steaming cup of holiday cheer — but things aren't all better yet. Which means that on an economic level, at least, the prospect of gift giving this season remains daunting — if not impossible — for most of us.

But there's no need to fear. Obama may be our hope for changing the country, but we're hoping this guide to affordable gifts (most $10 and under!) might give you a little hope for Christmas morning or the Hanukkah gift exchange — one that doesn't involve guilt trips (your friends' and families') or credit card debt (yours).


All great gifts involve a certain ratio of money, time, and thoughtfulness. The more thoughtful the gift, the less money you need to spend on it. A great example? My cash-strapped friend once got his girlfriend a concert poster for Christmas. Expensive? Hardly. But the poster was from the first concert the two ever attended together. Similarly, spending a lot of time or effort on a gift can mean as much — if not more — than spending a lot of scrill. I doubt the secondhand corset my sister got me last year cost much up front, but I know that personalizing it with leopard-print fabric, feathers, and red lace took a bunch of work and thought. If you adjust your ratio according to your budget, you just might be able to ride the Obama high through New Year's.

For those who are crafty, now's the time to use the skills you've got. Photoshop wizards might consider making a personalized magazine or concert-style poster for loved ones. Those who sew can get bags, clothes, and even shoes from thrift stores and jazz them up with fabric, beads, and iron-on images. If you're more paint- than needle-friendly, find a funky box, vase, or even lampshade and re-imagine it for your giftee's tastes. In addition to secondhand stores like Thrift Town (2101 Mission, SF. 415-861-1132, and Out of the Closet (1600 University, Berk.; 100 Church, SF; 1295 Folsom, SF; 1498 Polk, SF., consider stopping by SCRAP (801 Toland, SF. 415-647-1746, for ideas and supplies.


Determined to make something, but don't know how? For Jews and Judeophiles, try making an incredible edible dreidel. All you need are Hershey's chocolate kisses, marshmallows, thin pretzel sticks, and peanut butter.

Step 1: Spread a generous amount of peanut butter on the end of a marshmallow. This peanut butter will act as a glue for the next step.

Step 2: Unwrap a kiss and attach it to the peanut butter–glazed side of the marshmallow. This will create the bottom of the dreidel — the part that allows it to spin.

Step 3: On the side of the marshmallow that has thus far remained untouched, take a pretzel stick and press it into the center of the top of the marshmallow. This will create the top handle of the dreidel.

It may not spin very well, but it'll sure be cute!

Another idea is a real cork board. Just collect about 30 corks from wine bottles and hot-glue them to any wooden frame. Voilà! Instant wino-chic. Or turn a cheap wooden frame into an earring holder. Simply adorn the frame with paint, beads, stickers, glitter or feathers; staple netting to the back of the frame (an old window screen works great!); and attach a picture-hanger to the back for easy wall application.

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