Undercover Scrooge: Spend $50 for all your holiday shopping at the dollar store (shh! We won't tell!)

It's that time of year again. And you want to thank all the "little" people in your life. But there are so many of them! If you bought a "little" something for each of them, you'd end up spending a fortune.

Just think about it -- your kids' teachers, the mail carrier, friends at the office -- the list is endless. Even a simple candy basket from Costco or gizmos from the discount shelves at Wal-Mart will run you more than $10 a pop. To buy something halfway decent, you could end up tacking on $100 or more to your holiday shopping bill.

Fear not! You can create holiday gifts yourself that would sell for much more at regular stores. Just start at your friendly neighborhood dollar store.

Here are ten gift suggestions that cost about $5 each, including the containers they're in. Don't see anything you like? Use these ideas as examples of the kinds of things that can be done using only things from the dollar store. It's fun and you can personalize each gift for the intended recipient.

A Great Gift for a Co-Worker

The ever-popular bath products gift is one of the easiest to do. You can start with a clear wire and plastic container (as pictured here) or use a small basket or gift bag. This gift basket contains an exfoliating bath sponge, body wash, a scented soap-shaped candle and a pumice scrubber.

Don't know what to get a favorite aunt or the grandma who doesn't need anything? This idea might work for them, as well as for a female co-worker. Add some basket wrap and you're good to go.


A Different Great Gift for a Co-Worker (married couples, take note)

Festive gift boxes are plentiful in dollar stores. Pack one with two bell-shaped wine glasses, a six-pack of tea light snowflake candles and a snowflake tea light candle holder to make a respectable looking gift for a co-worker. I saw these candles in white and red, as well and, if you can't find these votives, you have lots of other candle options to choose from. As well as making a nice gift for someone you work with, I'm sure something like this would be appreciated by the host or hostess of any holiday parties you attend.



For The Sorta Friendly Neighbor Who Watches Your Cat Sometimes

Here's something sweet to easily fulfill a holiday obligation. Fill three 4" tall canisters with an assortment of wrapped candy, line a silver colored tray with a Christmas napkin and decorate each canister with a Christmas sticker. Finish with basket wrap. You might go a little over the $5 mark on this one, depending on the sizes of bag candy available to you at your dollar store. I spent about $2.50 to fill these canisters. Another gift option along this line would be to fill one tall canister ($1) with an assortment of wrapped candies, decorate the canister and offer if up in a gift bag.



The Kid Next Door Who Sometimes Helps Out

This gift is suitable for either a boy or a girl. A large plastic popcorn bucket contains a board game, three card games, some microwave popcorn and a large package of Mike and Ike candy.

Both the food products were made in the good 'ol U. S. of A. and the card games came in a package of three for a buck. So if you have a couple of kids on your gift list, you could make out like a bandit by buying in bulk. The parents of the kids on your list may object to the candy, but the off-line, non-violent games also included will win them over. Also a plus: No small pieces to break immediately.




The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

If your kids exchange gifts with their friends or draw names for a gift exchange at school, here's an idea for a little girl. This felt gift bag can contain a package of play makeup, a mirror brush and comb set, some chocolate fudge in an embossed tin and a Hersey's marshmallow snowman. Hersey's treats are sold two for $1, so you can pop in two of these, if you wish, or spread the wealth for a second gift bag for another purpose (or eat it yourself, since you're saving so much cash).

From hair claws to stuffed animals, dollar stores have lots of options that are sure to delight a girly girl.




The Little Boy Who Lives Down the Lane

A young boy would probably enjoy this gift of two boxes of building blocks similar to Legos, a chocolate chip cookie in an embossed tin and a Hersey's treat, all tucked into a drawstring bag. The big gift idea is that the fabric bag can be used to store the blocks in after they've been opened. Decorate the bag with removable Christmas stickers, if you wish. The cookie shown here and the aforementioned fudge, are both made by a company in Salem, New Hampshire.



The Letter Carrier

Here's a winter warm-up for the letter carrier: Start with a handled soup mug, a two-serving package of soup (or one-serving, I lucked out and found some Knorr 2-serving for a buck), add a five pack of cherry chocolates and a package of Lipton Green Tea To Go. Since I imagine this as a gift for your mail carrier, your kid's hockey coach or even the guy who plows your snow, choose a gift bag to put it all in so it's easy to transport.



The Music/Karate/Ballet Instructor (or other lesson-giver)

Our hard-working teachers deserve a little pampering now and then. If you have a teacher on your list who is not getting a bigger present, then this is the perfect amount to spend. Here then is a 12 oz. bottle of moisturizing lotion, a 5.3 oz bar of organic soap imported from England and, to add a little sparkle to the season, a votive candle holder. Carefully open the candle holder package and insert a votive candle or one of those battery-operated flame less candles to complete the gift.




The Music/Karate/Ballet Instructor's Assistant

If you give one instructor a gift, you've got to have a little something for everyone, right? I like to avoid giving teachers mugs or apple-inspired accessories as gifts. If they've been teaching for any length of time, they must have enough mugs to supply a couple of different restaurants and a truck-load of apple-shaped pencil holders. A little imagination is all it takes to come up with that "something different" that won't have you raiding your kid's piggy bank to pay for. These beautiful snowflake candles were only $1 each. Pack them into a square gift box along with a mirrored candle plate for a present that's sure to rate an A+ from the teacher.




The Long-Lost Relative You Had to Invite to the Holiday Party Where Everyone Else is Getting a Gift

Got some extra person coming to an event, and you don't want him or her to feel left out? Try this. Fill a small cookie tin, in this instance, about 6 1/2" wide, with a package of coffee, a chocolate chip cookie in an embossed tin, a package of hazelnut chocolates and a small resin snowman. Do it up in basket wrap with a pretty bow and you're done!






Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. She write tips and ideas for decorating and gifting using only items from the dollar store.


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