Best Personalized Gift Under $5

At the end of the year, with inflation at its 41-year high , your annual budget may not have much (or nothing) left over for holiday gifts for friends and family. If so, and you haven’t done so yet, now is the time to talk to the loved ones you usually exchange gifts with and come to some kind of agreement on limits – at least for this year.

Whether it looks like a Secret Santa, a white elephant arrangement, or a price cap on gifts, it’s entirely possible to give someone a personalized, thoughtful gift for less than $5 using a cheap photo frame and a little creativity. Here’s what you need to know.

What to frame

This gift includes framing a photograph, print, image, or other piece of art or ephemera specially made for that person that you know (or at least suspect) will appreciate. There are so many options, you might not know where to start. Here are some suggestions:

Something you already have

Depending on who the gift is for, you may already have something at home that would be perfect to frame and give them, ranging from the obvious (family photos) to the more creative ones. A few other examples include:

  • Children’s drawings (perfect for grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc.)
  • A piece of everyday life from the life of a person that you have saved (for example, a program from his wedding, petals from a bouquet that you carried as a bridesmaid, a photo of you and the recipient taken many years ago, etc.)
  • A postcard from a trip you went on together

Something to download and print

A gift can also be very personal if it contains (or at least links to) something that you know they like and/or have meaning to. And with free public images, drawings, and designs to download, you have plenty to choose from.

Simply search or browse public databases like the ones listed below, find what you think you’ll like, download it, then print it out at your local drugstore, major store, FedEx office, or if you have time, through one of numerous online services (although you may need to place a larger order to get the lowest prices).

Examples of public databases include:

How to find a frame

The first thing you should pay attention to is your own home. Do you have a box of framed photos in your basement or attic that you’d like to see? Or at least one that was given to you but you haven’t used yet? Take inventory and see what you can find.

Next up: thrift stores and dollar stores. Like everything else, thrift stores can be random, so if you’re short on time, you can head straight to the dollar store or another store with big discounts. Dollar Tree usually has a decent stock of frames in various sizes, each costing $1.25. No, they are not exactly high quality products, but they do the job and the price is right.

Get ready

If you have a specific piece for a gift, take measurements to find the right frame. Obviously it needs to be big enough to fit the subject, but don’t be afraid to get a frame with any dimensions that are larger than you need. This is usually easy to fix. (More on this below.)

You can make adjustments if necessary

Don’t get distracted by frames that already contain photographs or drawings: if you can open them up and replace what’s inside, price matters.

Also, if you come across frames that are in decent shape but disgusting, consider buying cheap paint (either from the dollar store or a can of paint at the hardware store) in a neutral color and repaint them quickly. if you have time.

How to assemble it

Sometimes it really is as simple as putting a photo or piece of ephemera into a frame and wrapping it up. In other cases, it may take a little more effort to get the whole gift to come together.

DIY quick mat

Cut out a piece of black construction paper (or any other color) to fit the frame, and then place it in the center, holding it in place with glue or double-sided tape.

A note

In some cases, the person receiving the gift may not immediately understand what they are looking at and why it was framed. If you suspect this may be the case, include a short note to give them a hint.


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