Build beautiful Christmas gifts with stuff from the dollar store

christmas decorations from the dollar storeSure, you can go into Wal-mart or Sears and buy presents for your friends and family, but take a closer look at what's in those gift baskets. Mugs, beverages and snacks? Candle holders and candles? Bath products? The dollar store has all of those things and many more potential gift ideas. All you have to do is put them together for presents that will look great but cost half the price of their department store counterparts. They will also be totally unique.

Here's how to build beautiful Christmas gifts with stuff from the dollar store.

1. Make like Santa and prepare a list personalized for each recipient. Get inspiration from department store or catalog gift selections.

2. Start now. The next time you're in the dollar store and you see something that fits one of your gift ideas, pick it up. In this way, you spread the spending out over a few weeks.

3. Save the paper that the store wraps your breakables in to build up the bottom of boxes or baskets before you add colored tissue paper and gift items.

4. Choose carefully. Look for things that remind you of something you might see in pricier stores. I have found wonderful Christmas ornaments like white porcelain-look angel figurines. Packed as a set of three, these would make a great gift for a teacher, grandma or favorite aunt.

When packaging a food gift basket, keep an eye out for brand names at your dollar store. Last year, I was delighted to find tubes of After Eight mint sticks for a buck each.

Brands add authenticity to your gift-making efforts but imported cookies and chocolate are also good choices. Every year I nab a few boxes of chocolate covered biscuits to add to gift baskets. These cookies mimic the Little Schoolboy cookies but only cost a buck a box and boy, are they tasty!

5. Remove or disguise labels that identify something as from a dollar store. You don't need to be ashamed that you shopped at the dollar store, but you don't want to be obvious about it, either. If a price tag is printed directly onto a package label, use a sticker to cover it. Try to match the label color. You can get scrap-booking stickers in different colors that could serve this purpose or use Christmas stickers.

I've encountered labels on the bottom of things like candle holders that the manufactures must have used super glue to attach. Soaking them in hot water helps to loosen them. If there is sticky residue still left, a product called Goo Gone will remove it. Just be sure to wash the surface of the item well after using Goo Gone, 'cause the stuff stinks.

6. Consider how best to present your gift. I like to use reusable containers. For instance, a tray is instantly reusable and Christmas boxes or baskets can be reused by the recipient when they are packing gifts next year.

Use invisible tape to discreetly secure items to each other and hold them in place on a tray. Dollar stores sell the printed or clear basket wrap that will complete your gift. When packing things in a box, make sure that any breakable items are well-padded.

7. If you want your gifts to look classy, avoid giving small, single items. Instead of one mug, give a set of four matching mugs. Instead of one votive candle holder, give a set of three and throw in some scented votive candles. You've still only spent four dollars and your gift will look much more substantial.

Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. Her new e-book will show you how to decorate, entertain and give beautiful gifts using only items from the dollar store.

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