The average American will spend more than $800 on Christmas gifts this year, a report by American Research predicts.

I love giving and receiving gifts as much as the next person, but $800 is a lot of money to me.

A place you might not think of when you think "gifts" is the thrift store. But, with a little creativity, they can be a great resource for gift giving on a budget.

Buying used is not only good for the pocketbook, it's also a way to keep useful things out of the landfill and a way to shop locally.

I know that some may think it's tacky or that all you find are dirty leftovers that people don't want.

But it's just not true.

There are all kinds of things you can do with items you purchase at thrift stores to make personal, unique gifts.

For example, I like to buy bangle bracelets for a dollar or two and decoupage illustrations or torn-up magazine pictures on them.

To make it even more interesting, I give them themes. I made one with a motivational theme. It has sayings like "you can do it" on top of bright colorful patterns.

I spoke with Jenni Pagano, manager of 1st Rate 2nd Hand Thrift Store at 5851 E. Speedway, to get more ideas.

Pagano demonstrates creative techniques for fixing up thrift store finds every first Friday of the month on the Morning Blend show on KGUN TV Channel 9.

She said, "It's all about looking at something for what it can be, not what it was intended for."

While we were looking at a gorgeous pair of size 6 shoes, she suggested filling them with plaster of paris to make book ends.

I'd have never thought of that. But it would be a cute gift for the fashionista in your life, for around $10.

You can get a variety of picture frames, which range in price from $1 to $5, spray-paint them black and put black-and-white photos in them for an inexpensive yet personal gift.

If you like to make baked goods for gifts, get a pretty plate at the thrift store to put them on. You can find plates or platters in a variety of styles and prices. I got a gorgeous one for $2.50.

Vintage office supplies like a wooden bill holder or pencil holder can be repainted by the kids as gifts for dad or their teacher for under $5.

Pretty vintage coin purses make great gifts alone, or as a holder for a gift card or makeup. They range in price, but can be picked up for about $5 on the low end.

For the tea drinker or the child who likes to play tea party, vintage tea cups and saucers are cool. I found some for $3.

Or get coffee mugs at the thrift store and pair them with hot cocoa or little packs of coffee that you can find at Target for $1.

Wine glasses starting at a dollar can be filled with bath oil beads or a candle. Or buy two and pair it with a bottle of wine. They'll never know you got the glasses at a thrift store.

You can also buy art pieces pretty inexpensively. If you don't like the art, buy it for the frame and have the kids draw or paint something else to go in it for parents or grandparents.

More Gift Ideas

Here are a few more ideas from Jenni Pagano, manager of 1st Rate 2nd Hand Thrift Store.

Dress-up chest: Kids love to dress up in costumes. Get a suitcase or chest and fill it with dress-up clothes like bow ties, hats, scarves, shirts, skirts, dresses, gloves, scrubs, Halloween masks and costume pieces. The price on this will vary depending on how much you put in it. But each piece can be really inexpensive at thrift stores.

Teacup bird feeder: Get a vintage tea cup and saucer at the thrift store, 1/2" copper tube with end caps, and bird food. Put the endcap on the tube, glue the cup to the saucer and glue that onto the endcap. Put bird food in the cup and give to your favorite bird lover. You can also use a small bowl instead of a tea set. Makes a thoughtful gift for under $10.

Picture bowl: You'll need a clear bowl, Mod Podge and a picture (could be a magazine picture, printout of a photo or art piece, or a collage). Cut the picture to fit the space, and using the Mod Podge, decoupage the picture to the bottom of the bowl on the outside, so that the picture can be seen when the bowl is right side up.

You can also use a clear glass plate. Glue the plate on top of an upside down glass to make a really unique cake plate or jewelry holder. Another awesome gift for under $10.

Lamp: You'll need a lamp with a paintable base, a lamp shade, chalkboard paint, chalk and a shot glass. Paint the base of the lamp with chalkboard paint. Add on the lampshade (new or used). Glue the shot glass on top where the lamp shade attaches to the lamp. Write something fun on the lamp with chalk and store it in the shot glass. This makes a unique gift for the home for about $20.

Art chair: You'll need a wood or metal chair with a flat back panel, an old shirt or pillowcase, spray paint and a drawing or photos. Wrap the seat cushion with shirt or pillow case and staple underneath. Spray paint the wood or metal parts of the chair. Using Mod Podge, decoupage the art onto the flat panel. You can do this for as little as $15.


Be open-minded. Look at something and think "what could that be?"

Search websites like Pinterest and etsy for ideas.

Hold out for the right item. Don't rush your shopping.

Think about the colors in the home of whoever you are shopping for.

Think about their favorite thing, like shoes, purses or even catchphrases, to inspire a creative gift.

Mix old with new.

Find creative ways to wrap presents. For example, use a backpack to put school stuff in or a cute handbag to fill with makeup or a gift card. Dish or tea towels can be wrapped around kitchen stuff and tied with a bow.

Jenni's tv spot

Get more ideas on making stuff with thrift store finds from Pagano by watching her monthly demonstration on the Morning Blend.

The next one is Friday at 11 a.m. on Channel 9.

Star reporter Angela Pittenger, our "Centsible Mom," shares tips, ideas and news about how Tucson consumers can find value and stretch their budgets. Send suggestions, ideas or questions to her at or 573-4137.