Handmade Christmas on the Cheap—Idea #3

The very first Christmas that my husband and I were married was definitely our poorest. However, I still managed to come up with gifts for our family that, to this day, are some of my favorites. That year, I dug through my mother’s house, and managed to find just about every long-lost photo she had hidden away. I scanned them all, burned them onto a CD, and gave each family member a copy. I also was able to send my favorites to Target to be printed, and through careful shopping, found frames for dirt-cheap. Overall, each gift was less than $5 a person.

Sure, I only gave each family member a framed picture and a CD, but the treasure of the gift was their discovery of photos that had been long since forgotten. I spent a great deal of time scanning photos, digging in boxes, and bargain-hunting for frames, but that effort is what truly made this a gift from the heart. Also, many people have photos, but may never take the time these days to get them printed and framed. Therefore, a memory that is ready-made to display can be especially exciting.

I picked up the above frame at a local discount store for about $7, and printing this photo cost less than 50 cents. (By the way, that’s my priest as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination). Not too shabby for a keepsake we treasure.

Getting creative with family photos is even easier these days. Free photo programs, such as Google’s Picasa, provide pretty impressive editing features, such as the option to turn color photos black and white, add text and even do corrective actions, such as lightening a too-dark shot or cropping.

Over the years, I’ve adapted the photo gift idea to include specialty frames, such as a family tree frame, and even preloaded digital picture frames for far-away relatives.

Perhaps the best result of the family photo hunt of that first Christmas was a secret surprise I found. As I dug through my mom’s forgotten photo box, I came across a photo of her that my grandfather took before he passed away. It was a photo of my mom out in the oilfield, after she drilled her first well (which most people probably thought was an insane endeavor for a stay-at-home mom). Stuck to the note was a yellow post-it, and in his handwriting were the words “I’m so proud of you!!” I framed that picture, post-it and all, and surprised her with it.

So, if you need a special gift that is about as cheap as it gets, start tracking down those old photos, familiarize yourself with Picasa, and shop around for frames on clearance. The gift of a memory is definitely a gift from the heart.

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