By Sara Noel
The first tip is a creative way to wrap and give a gift. You could easily replace crepe paper with yarn. These work well for Secret Santa gifts for co-workers or to have on hand for any emergency last-minute gifts. You can embellish the outside with a jingle bell, silk flower or gift tag that tells the recipient to unwind the ball. Or hang from your Christmas tree, tuck into a stocking, give as party favors, or use as place-card holders. As a bonus, they mail easily, too.
SURPRISE BALL: Take all the strange little toy pieces, and throw in a few pieces of change, etc. Then get 100 feet of crepe-paper streamer and begin by wrapping one little thing into it until it’s a tiny ball. Add another, and wrap right over it. Keep going and wrapping layers of interesting little “gifts” into the ever-growing ball of crepe paper. You can make it as big or small as you want. Just try to keep it round. At the end, secure the end of the crepe paper with a small piece of tape and wrap a big beautiful bow around it. It works for the 5- to 8-year-old crowd for birthdays, Christmas, Easter (make it egg-shaped, and throw in chocolate coins), etc. Would work as a great way to give jewelry or money, too. — Vail, Washington
PUMP SHAMPOO: My daughter was having trouble with the shampoo cap. We discovered this when half of a new family-sized bottle was gone and dripping down the side of the tub the same day we opened it. So I thought a pump would be a solution. I searched stores high and low, looking for something that would work. My son then suggested I take one of the half-empty pump lotion bottles we had at home and combine it with another half-empty pump of the same lotion, thus leaving one empty pump lotion bottle. Total cost: $0. It worked beautifully. The label came right off, so the pump is plain and simply pretty. The lotion pump also administers less in each pump, so the children (and me) are not overusing the shampoo. — Jmoffitt, e-mail
FOOT SCRUBS AND MASSAGE OILS: I used to have a spot at my friends’ booth selling “scrubbing salts.” You use kosher salt (boxes of it are always on sale after the holidays), but usually it runs $2 or $3 a box. Buy bottles of olive oil from the Aldi store, and then go to a natural-food store and find a few bottles of essential oils. Fill small canning jars with the salt, and cover it with oil. It doesn’t take that much. Add a few drops of essential oils. I used to get lemon, lavender, orange, sage-and-rosemary blend and spearmint. I also picked up pretty, colored bottles at the dollar store that came with corks and filled them with a light olive oil and some essential oil drops and made homemade massage oil. I made pretty labels with my heat gun and silver and gold embossing crystals and some stampers. It sold well and smelled good, too! — P.J., New York
MONEY GIFT IDEA: A couple of years ago, I got $100 in fives, pulled all the tissues out of a small, cube tissue box, taped the fives end to end, rolled them up, stuffed them in the tissue box, and taped a tissue to the end of the money roll. I made sure that the tissue hung out slightly from the box. I found one of those plain white labels and wrote: “It SNOT your regular tissue.” I made sure the tissue hung slightly from the box, then wrapped it. Imagine my son’s confusion when he opened his beautifully wrapped gift and found a box of tissues! I said, “I’m sure you could just cry, go ahead and grab a tissue.” Now, imagine his surprise when he grabs the tissue and out comes money!” — Paula, Kentucky
Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (www.frugalvillage.com), a Web site that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.