Johnston: Last-minute gift ideas on a budget

Published 9:49 am Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The countdown to Christmas is in the single digits and it’s possible your budget is too.

With a long list of family and friends, gift giving can become expensive, especially when those last-minute gifts are added to mix.

To help reduce the costs, try making gifts instead of purchasing them.

Consider these fun and economical gift ideas.

Create themed gift baskets. For example, a “movie night” basket. Get a large bowl for popcorn to use as the container. Add packaged popcorn, candy and a coupon for a free movie rental (you can search the Internet for free rental codes for movie kiosks like RedBox).

Create a recipe booklet with favorite holiday recipes. Copy the recipes onto festive recipe cards, punch a hole in the corner of the cards and tie them together with a ribbon. Holiday photo albums from the dollar store can also be used.

Make mini gift sets. Fill a holiday mug with packets of flavored tea, hot cocoa or coffee for those who enjoy warm beverages. Tie a packet of soup mix to a large wooden spoon with a holiday ribbon.

Create homemade calendars for family members using downloadable calendar templates from the Internet. These could include highlighted birthday and anniversary dates. Try adding family photos for a personal touch.

Repurpose old tins, filling them with cookies, muffins or other holiday goodies.

Make homemade mixes in a jar. Mixes for soups and cookies are popular gift items that are fairly inexpensive to make. You can decorate the jar with fabric and ribbon. I have included a recipe for a country chili mix.

Country Chili Mix

— 1 lb. kidney beans  

— 3 Tbsp. chili powder 

— 2 Tbsp. dehydrated onions

— 1 Tbsp. garlic salt (To reduce sodium, substitute garlic powder for some of the garlic salt)

— 1 tsp. oregano 

— 3/4 tsp. salt 

— 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Pour the kidney beans into a clean quart-sized jar. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into a clear sandwich bag and place it on top of the beans. Cover the jar tightly with a lid, decorate and attach a copy of the recipe card.

Shonda Johnston is the Clark County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at 859-744-4682 or by email at

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

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