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6 Ways To Give Great Presents For Little Or Nothing

Carol Jackson

We've seen Black Friday turn into the Black Friday Weekend. That has led into Cyber Monday, and then a series of mad dashes for the perfect holiday gift. But, what if there was a better way? Do we really need to spend money to procure a great gift? Here are six ideas for creative holiday gifts without opening your wallet.

1. Resell the books on your bookshelf.

I had two bookshelves that were busting with titles. Recently I took all the books out, and only put back in the ones I love, or use. Goodbye four huge coffee table books from Christmas past. Goodbye cheesy popular novels I bought for a plane trip. See you later books I'd bought for my son that he didn't like because they had female protagonists. I turned two boxes of books into my local used bookshop and they gave me...wait for it...seventy-four dollars in store credit. Best news, the store sells new books, vintage titles and other "giftie" things.

2. Turn in unused videogames and videogame systems.

My son saved his money to buy Call Of Duty Ghost. (I know, don't judge me.) Well he got it, and didn't love it. We turned it in to GameStop in Durham last week for $35.

We'd had success with GameStop previously. Last year my son's cousin gave him a used (broken) Xbox. We turned that in, along with some videogames he doesn't play anymore. We received so much money that we bought a new Xbox, with a nominal cash outlay.

*You could do this without your child's participation. S/he won't miss the Wii titles that are 3 years old that s/he doesn't play any more. We call this stealth-of-night activity "Being Evil Santa."

tarheel basketball logo

3. Think about your season tickets.

Do you have season tickets to a sporting event or a theater company? Consider giving two tickets as a gift. (Even better if it's an event you have to miss anyway.) Your friend/relative/frenemy will love it. And it's one less gift you have to buy.

4. Arrange a fabulous trip to....

My sister gives each of her children a trip to a destination of their choice when they turn 18. My sister's family is not rich, but her husband does fly a lot for work. He saves his points from airlines and hotels, and then -- this is the key -- he gives it as a gift. An exciting one. (They don't go to Milwaukee for a funeral and say, "Oh, we can use Dad's points for that.")

5. Look in the closet.

My mom is 89 years old and doesn't drive these days. When she downsized, she put a number of things in the closet from our childhood, intentionally saving the items for meaningful occasions. On her last birthday, my sister got the candlesticks that we all remember from the hutch in our dining room.  My sister loved the gift, my mom loved watching her open it.

Credit Target
Target gift card

6. Get free gift cards for walking around.

A friend of mine uses the "Shopkick" app. She downloaded the app to her smartphone, and she gets "kicks" (points)  just for walking in a store. She then browses the store in order to scan product barcodes for even more kicks. Since she started in October, she's earned two $25 Target gift cards. (My friend has a disability that requires her to walk on a smooth surface. She says that she's getting paid to walk.)

Now it's your turn. Do you have ideas to share - ways you use what you have to give good gifts? Please comment below.

Carol Jackson has been with WUNC since 2006. As Digital News Editor, she writes stories for, and helps reporters and hosts make digital versions of their radio stories. She is also responsible for sharing stories on social media. Previously, Carol spent eight years with WUNC's nationally syndicated show The Story with Dick Gordon, serving as Managing Editor and Interim Senior Producer.
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