Oprah has received many gifts over the years, but she says the gift that means the most to her is one that cost the least. "A few years ago at my 50th Happy Birthday luncheon, my friends wrote me heartfelt notes that they then placed inside this silver box," Oprah says. "The words from your heart mean more to people than anything you can buy."
The tradition was carried on at Oprah's Legends Ball, when some of the younger women—like Alicia Keys, Debbie Allen and Halle Berry—wrote letters to Oprah. The letters were turned into a book, a keepsake that became the inspiration behind this thrifty idea: gratitude boxes.
This holiday season, give a gift that comes from the heart with a gratitude box. Debi Lilly from A Perfect Event has created examples of boxes that cost as little as $6 to $36 to make, depending on how elaborate you want to get.
Debi says this box is made by simply covering a shoe box in wrapping paper. Next, cranberries are hot glued to the top for embellishment. A beautiful ribbon adds a personal touch with a monogram made from hot glue. Pinecones, flowers or other seasonal items also make great garnishes. If you're not handy with a glue gun, Debi says stickers are an easy alternative.
If you're hosting a party or having a holiday meal, buy small boxes—Debi found this one for $2—and have them waiting for your guests at their place settings.
Next, ask your guests to write a special note to each person at the table. To make it easy, we've created printable note cards:
With three of her four kids in college, Connie has had to tighten her belt last holiday season. Instead of purchasing new gifts for her children, she found what money can't buy—years and years of childhood keepsakes. Connie saved everything from a scrap of carpet from her daughter's first bedroom to the letters she wrote home from summer camp. "I just kept throwing it in boxes and filing cabinets," she says. "It was all over the house."
To turn her scattered collection into beautiful mementos for her children, Connie purchased treasure boxes to hold each child's memories. "I wanted it to be a piece of furniture that they'll put on a shelf and keep forever," she says. It took months to put together, but Connie's children were touched when they received their mother's gift. "I'll always remember where I came from and what I am and who I am because of you," her son Jay says.
To make your own treasure box, start by searching for all your children's keepsakes. Be creative—from baby's first footprints to your little Picasso's artwork; science fair ribbons to grade school report cards, your children will love to relive it all.
Once you have your keepsakes, Connie suggests organizing everything by year using folders and plastic sleeves from an office supply store. Put it all together in a beautiful box—and if you look for coupons in the newspaper or online, you may be able to find boxes on sale at a craft store like Connie did!
Hot Chocolate Cones
With 15 nieces and nephews, Kellie in Houston had to come up with a great gift that's both thrifty and sweet. "Who doesn't love hot chocolate?" Kellie says.
To put a twist on this classic winter treat, Kellie created her own hot chocolate mixes. Using a plastic piping bag to hold the mix, Kellie says to start with a layer of cocoa, add marshmallows, and top with chocolate chips. Tie the top with a ribbon, and voilà!
"It looks like an ice cream cone," Kellie says. "It's so easy."
To find great children's gifts without breaking the bank, Vanessa from Houston and her friends throw money-saving swap parties. "The idea behind the parties is to bring something and to take something," she says. "It's completely free, and anybody can do it." The party has a theme based on what items their children need or want. This season, the swap has a playful theme—musical instruments and sporting equipment!
Garden Gift Baskets
Beautifully made gift baskets can cost a pretty penny, but Tamara doesn't need to look any further than her garden in Fairmont, Minnesota, to make hers. Tamara plucks her homemade holiday gifts right from her own backyard! "I make salsa, applesauce, spaghetti sauce, spicy green beans and crunchy dill pickles," she says. "So at Christmastime, I make gift baskets for all my family and loved ones."
12 Dates of Christmas
In Nova Scotia, Canada, Yvonne and her husband, Dean, think spending time together is more important than spending money. For their gift to each other, the couple put their own spin on the 12 Days of Christmas. "We call our idea the 12 Dates of Christmas," Yvonne says. "So during the month of December, we go out on 12 fun and inexpensive dates."
From ice-skating to bowling to just staying home and making cookies, Yvonne and Dean say making time for a dozen dates each holiday season brings them closer together without breaking their budget.
One of the gifts Oprah loves to give and receive most is a great book. "And if it's a book you loved reading, then you'll be sharing something special," she says. This year, Oprah has fallen in love with The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. "It's an epic tale about the magical bond that this mute boy shares with his dog," she says. "But it's so much more than a dog story."
To personalize your gift, you can write an inscription to the gift receiver—and their furry friend!