December 17, 2013

Misty Watson: Wonderful gifts that can fit your budget

Misty Watson

— Why is it that right here at the holidays is when my husband’s truck decides to quit running, my hot water heater springs a leak flooding the closet floor where it’s located and we get an unexpected medical bill?

I know some of you know what I’m talking about, and some of you face worse than this.

You really want to give your families a nice Christmas — or whatever holiday you celebrate — but the money you set aside is suddenly being poured into a new alternator and a plumber.

We don’t even do a big Christmas. The only high-tech gadget in my house is my laptop now that the Wii we rarely used anyway stopped working. We have a very meager holiday budget, and some years we even stick to that.

But year after year, the car quits running, the bathroom floods, the oven goes out, the heater stops working mysteriously, the refrigerator plays a mind game with you standing there on its last leg: Are you going to work today or is this the last day? And you always wonder if today is the day the washer is actually going to make it out the back door as it walks away while spinning out.

Instead of going into debt trying to give everyone gifts, why not change your approach to the holidays?

There are several gifts that you can put together quickly and cheaply that are still wonderful gifts.

• Bath salts: Mix six parts coarse sea salt to three parts epsom salt and a little baking soda. Add any essential oils, such as lavender or vanilla. Bath salts must be kept in an air tight container. You can put it in condiment jars you’ve washed out. Cover the top of the jar in a little burlap, use twine to tie a tag on it.

• Recipe cards with some or all the ingredients to make the dish or dessert: I don’t really recommend this for your wife if she’s expecting something romantic because she will most definitely think you’re telling her to get in the kitchen and fix you something. But for the foodie relative in your life, it could make a nice gift. Try to package the ingredients well, like layering dry baking goods in a jar instead of handing someone a bag of flour. Finish everything off with a bow.

• Make a coupon book: Yes, this can be uber cheesy if you’re not careful. For your spouse, contain things like a night away from the kids (that’s what every mother wants!), a back rub, a night free of dishes, a night free of cooking supper (and that doesn’t mean you’re picking up pizza instead), a shopping day (contain a gift card to his or her favorite store, even if it’s just for $20.) For your kids, give them free passes on chores, a day where they choose the activities (within reason), an extra hour of TV time and pair it with a couple of toys or a book.

• Homemade lip balm: Coconut oil is amazing stuff. Melt it with a little beeswax and add some vitamin E oil. You can add essential oils like peppermint. Put it in a small container (an old mini Altoid tin you’ve cleaned out would work) and let it set overnight.

• A home spa day: Fill a reusable container (think makeup bag of some sort) or a bag with all the essentials for some soothing self care, such as a pumice stone, peppermint or coconut oil scrubs, lotions, bubble bath, fuzzy socks or slippers and a nice relaxing scented candle.

• Baked goods or candy: I cannot emphasize enough to double check that the people you are giving food to do not have any allergies or dietary restrictions. (Their reasons for restrictions are their own. Please respect it.) Package it nicely in cellophane bags with big bows and a handwritten note.

• Homemade play dough or cloud dough: For the kiddos, of course. The basic recipe for play dough is two cups of flour, two cups of water, a pinch of salt, two tablespoons vegetable oil and a tablespoon of cream of tartar. Cook it on the stove until it pulls away from the pan. You can add food coloring. Store in an air tight container. Cloud dough is a fourth a cup of baby oil and two cups of flour. Though, I don’t know how long cloud dough lasts. I’ve made it before, but it got dumped on the floor and covered in things like dog hair, so I threw it out.

Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and reporter for The Daily Citizen. You can connect with her at; and Twitter, @mistydwatson.