Gifts with class for a lot less cash

As mentioned in a previous post, ideas from decorating magazines can often be copied, albeit on a smaller scale, with dollar store finds.

Another way to get ideas, especially for gifts, is department or specialty stores. Around holidays like Mother's Day, Father's Day or Christmas, the stores are full of gift baskets. Who knows how many middle men got a cut before it ended up on a shelf in Walmart with a price tag of $10 or higher? If you're so inclined, putting together your own gift baskets is a fun and money-saving way to give personalized presents to people on your list.

Start with an appropriate container. Here, you have many choices; from flower pots to woven baskets to attractive gift boxes -- anything that will hold your gift. I prefer to use containers that are reusable, part of the gift.

Since the end of school is coming up, let's do something for teacher. If he/she has been teaching for any length of time, they probably have a whole cupboard full of mugs with apples on them but what about a 2-pack of recordable DVDs, blank Cd's, an electronic key chain and a book light arranged in a handsome gift box? This would make a nice thank-you gift for either a man or a woman and, if you have more than one school-aged child, $5-$6 is sufficient to spend on each teacher. Something like this might make a nice Father's Day present, too.

The beauty of do-it-yourself gifts is that you can add as much stuff as you want to, depending on the budget. Pictured is a gift put together for a gardener -- a small metal pail containing a trowel, garden shears, a garden stake, three packs of seeds for $1.00 and gardening gloves for a total cost of $6.00.

Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. She writes about decorating with items from the dollar store on her website

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