3 Affordable-But-Likable Gift Ideas For Those Who Waited Until the Last Minute

Photo by Kira auf der Heide

Published: December 17, 2020  

When I was tending, not one but two bars back in college, I sometimes only made enough money to keep a roof over my head and cheap pasta in my belly. So that meant, with my tight-knit group of friends, I had to think creatively when it came time for presents.

I knew that I didn’t want to give them gift cards or cash stuck in a money holder–how blase!

I’m not alone. An overwhelming 40% of Americans don’t like to give gift cards, either.. So how can I afford to feed myself and show love for others?

After a long shift, I wrapped my head and hands around a bottle of expired wine brought home for the bar and brainstormed. But I had to get to work quickly. I only had a few days before the holiday gift exchange.

Photo by Kira auf der Heide

I came up with three cheap, but actually likable last-minute gift ideas.

1.  Personalized Poems

“Tony was as handsome,

As ever could be.

But he didn’t know,

I want to marry thee.”

Personalized poetry crafted by a wordsmith can bring a smile to anyone’s face. You won’t need much other than a pencil, a decent piece of paper, and a few facts about your loved one. Pro Tip: Put the poem in a frame from the dollar store, and your giftee will smile for the entire year.

Short on time and creativity? Hire a writer and have your poem crafted by a pro.

Photo by Sincerely Media

1.  Calligraphy

I fancy fancy writing. If you have a word-lover in your group, they will too. YouTube has a ton of tutorials for you to learn a few tricks. Then write their favorite movie or book quote in calligraphy lettering. If they don’t have a favorite quote, try the city you shared your first kiss or the day two you first met.

1.  1 Year Loofah Subscription

One year, all of my friends got a years’ worth of loofahs wrapped in three-stacked boxes. From the outside, it looked like a grand gift. But inside were cleaning tools, and accompanying the loofahs was a handwritten poem by yours truly, granting them the gift of hygiene for the whole damn year. Truly a gift that keeps giving.

Jump to 2020, and this is a hilarious gift.

Here’s what you need if you want to do this at home.

  • 12 Loofahs Cleaning. Go out to the dollar store (or look online) and buy a loofah for each month.
  • Wrap it up! Place your balls of cleanliness in gift boxes and get to work, you little elf!
  • Craft a poem or card and explain what the hell is going on. If your friends are like mine, they might be a bit confused at this odd gift-giving Let them know what’s going on with a funny poem or card telling them, “Did you know you’re supposed to change your loofah every thirty days? You’re welcome.”

Best. Gift Giver. Ever.

I was so proud to stuff my Santa bag full that year. My Ford Focus POS sleigh drove me to the restaurant we’d decided to drink and be merry at. Was it the one we all worked at? Yup. Free food!

Watching my friend’s faces, a) be happy to have presents and b) laugh at my stupid but practical gift, is a memory I’ll keep in my heart forever. Just like they will. They’ll tell their kids about their crazy-ass friend who gave them a year’s worth of loofahs for the holidays. And that’s how I like to be remembered. How do you want to be remembered? As a no-gift-giving-friend? Don’t be that person!


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Remember, if you need a wordsmith to help you with a personalized poem or a hilarious note to accompany your loofahs, CBCJ has what you need.

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Carrie Jean is a Midwestener-turned-Californian front-of-house veteran with over 12 years in the restaurant industry. Now she writes about mindset, jobs, dogs, and how to manage all three. In addition to writing, she offers virtual assistance and vocal talent. Fun Fact: She loves Abe Lincoln.

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