Giving on the cheap

You needn’t go bankrupt if you’re willing to take time and look for gifts
Wednesday, December 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:23 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Christmas is all about giving … giving away your precious, hard-earned money.

From the girlfriend who whines about getting a Tiffany necklace to the people in the red Salvation Army vest repeatedly ringing their bells, people everywhere want your money.

You don’t have to give it to them — at least not a lot of it. There are a variety of gifts on the shelves that will please everyone from Mom to the greedy girlfriend while allowing you to keep some green for yourself.

Plenty of stores offer fabulous gifts for everyone on your shopping list for less than $15.

Big spenders can sort through matching sets of knit scarves, hats and gloves for less than $15 at various department stores that would make a great gift for any woman.

It will keep her warm during the winter months, as would the beer she can drink from beer mug sets that can be bought for $12.99. If beer is not the receiver’s drink of choice, select from a variety of martini glass sets starting at $9.99.

If martini glasses won’t satisfy your gift recipient, a $10 fondue set will please any food connoisseur and won’t cost you much.

For the gift-getter who is low on cash, there are a few gifts worth giving for less than $5. An amaryllis or calla lily growing kit costs $4.99. If that’s a little steep, you can find matching dog collar and leash sets for $2.

If you’re buying a gift for a gadget lover, you’re in luck. With the correct amount of searching at electronic stores you can find an array of gifts for less than $10. Buy a travel-sized talking picture frame for $9.99, a personal FM radio for $4.99 or a clip-on book light for $3.99.

More reasonably priced gifts can be found in unexpected places, such as department stores.

“I bought my husband two pairs of Ralph Lauren pants for $4.99 at Famous Barr,” said Andrea Kunce, a holiday shopper from Columbia.

Kunce has found many great deals on gifts in the past.

“I got my daughter a sweater from Gap last year for only $2.99,” Kunce said.

“I do all my kids shopping through Avon,” said Kape Caplinger, another Columbian shopping for the holidays. “They have a lot of toys under $20.”

Caplinger says using an Avon dealer saves her a lot of money.

“One time I bought a golfer’s watch with a leather band through Avon for $9.99,” Caplinger said. “It was a nice watch, too.”

Other stores shoppers tend to overlook are hardware stores. Hardware stores offer an assortment of reasonably priced gifts for the handyman or the gardener. A hammer, an essential handyman tool, can be found for less than $10, as can plier and wrench sets.

If you are shopping for the gardener, chose from a selection of sensibly priced gifts that include garden tool sets or garden gloves for less than $10. You can also find garden kits that consist of gloves, a kneeling pad and a sun hat for less than $10.

If you are drawing a blank on what to buy, head to a bookstore. An arrangement of gifts greets customers upon entry of any of the book havens in Columbia.

Shuffle through collections of stationary, magnetic poetry, desk calendars and bookmarks to find gifts tailored to anyone. All can be found for less than $10.

Books also offer a gift that suits almost everyone.

“Books make a great gift because people feel that they’re tailor-made for a specific person,” said Brad Rohrer, a manager at Barnes and Noble.

Rows upon rows of books provide room to make the perfect gift selection.

For the traveler, chose from a selection of travel books for less than $15.

Cookbooks, song books, coffee table books and an array of fiction and nonfiction books can be found for less than $15.

“Finding the right book can happen from just walking by and seeing something that relates to the person you are buying for,” Rohrer said.

Other relatable gifts include CDs and DVDs. Some stores offer special assortments of DVDs for less than $10.

With such a range of gifts for less than $15, you will have some cash after the holidays. You might want to use that to start shopping for next year.

“The secret to great deals is to start shopping early,” Caplinger said.

“I start in January and check ads all year.”

Kunce agrees.

“Shop early; start right after Christmas,” Kunce said.

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