Beautiful gifts on a shoe-string budget

A simple gift of homemade jam can be spruced up with string, ribbon and cinnamon sticks.

Gift-giving can be costly. However, well thought-out, budget-friendly gifts can be the prettiest, nicest expressions of your love and affection for someone.

Here’s how to go about deciding on a gift and personalising it as much as possible so it’s unique and truly from the heart.

1. Find out their likes and their needs

When giving a gift to someone, incorporate what you know about them into the gift.

Make a list to get started – for example, their hobbies, what’s new in their lives, their career, how they dress. Continue expanding on your list and you may surprise yourself with how much you do know.

2. Scout for ideas

Now narrow your scope. Think of several gifts that can fulfil each area of interest you’ve listed. Then, think of gifts that may cover a few areas of interest simultaneously.

For example, sachets of real lavender from Cameron Highlands for someone who likes floral scents and has a new car.

Here’s where it can get interesting. A gift highly customised to a specific person would have a significant impact.

On the other hand, buying items in bulk (whether as individual multiples, or a box set of multiple items) may be cheaper and could save time.

During this process, keep the budget and deadline for the gift in mind. These factors should help you decide between whether you want to buy the item as-is, whether some minor assembly is required, or whether you’d like to craft the gift from raw materials.

Sometimes the simplest and plainest gift-wrappers can come to life with a little creativity using decoratives.

3. Find the ingredients and assemble the gift

Whether you buy the gift whole/as-is, or buy a combination of materials, searching and researching is required.

Find out the expected prices, then check out a few stores. Here are some places to consider.

  • Your own home
  • Hardware stores (e.g. Mr DIY)
  • Baking goods stores
  • Wedding favours / ”hantaran” stores
  • Thrift stores, flea markets, online second-hand options (e.g. Mudah , Carousell)
  • Warehouse sales

Important: Avoid expired goods or second-hand items of questionable origins or quality.

You can also use the same advice when assembling a hamper, be it for festivities or special occasions. Get a clean basket or plain box for the base and for the wrap, either clear cellophane paper (plain or decorated) or fabric (chiffon or tulle).

4. Wrap it up

First impressions count, so wrap the gift well. Luckily, you won’t need to empty your pockets to get gift wrapping paper that looks wonderful.

Prepare gift-wrapping materials that are clean and wrinkle-free. Wrap neatly. Add little decorative touches with ribbons, strings, stickers, fake flowers, or mini cards.

In the long run, it is economical to buy wrapping paper in large rolls, instead of skinny rolls or individual sheets. You can find these at supermarkets, bookstores, or even Ikea for better pricing than at gift shops.

The plainer the paper, the nicer the decorations you add will look. Even brown paper, white paper (ie mahjong paper), or newspaper can look really good when paired with the correct decorative extras.

Buy ribbons and ready-made bows in bulk – Kamdar, Mydin and “hantaran” stores are good places to start.

If you are not keen on wrapping your own gifts, no problem. If you’ve bought an item whole (versus DIY), find out if the store offers free gift-wrapping services. Another alternative is to put your gift into a store-bought paper bag.

The right gift brings not only pleasure to the recipient, but also to the giver. There’s a sense of pride and satisfaction in knowing that you’ve brought happiness into someone else’s life, while keeping to your budget.

Try it once, try it twice, and soon you’ll be a natural at budget-friendly gifting.

This article first appeared in MyPF. Follow MyPF to simplify and grow your personal finances on Facebook and Instagram.