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Queen of free: Take cost out of care packages


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I love to give gifts. Perhaps my favorite type of gifts to give are those that are unexpected.

This is precisely why at this time of the year I begin to think of college students I know and love, far from home, beginning to gear up for finals.

All semester long, they have studied hard. Now, as their academic calendars begin to trend toward final papers, projects and exams, life can seem bleak. Maybe they are a bit homesick, too. A package filled with care just might be the pick-me-up he or she needs.

Gift giving, especially if it is spontaneous, can be pricey. The better you stretch your dollars, the more encouragement and joy you are able to spread. If you plan to send a care package this fall — whether to a soldier, student or someone you love in another city or state — check out the Queen of Free’s favorite tips for being generous.

Homemade goodies

Your loved one can buy chips at a gas station or packaged cookies at the nearest big box retailer. You probably have all the ingredients you need to whip up your favorite treat in your own kitchen. But don’t stop with the homemade edibles. Send your children’s artwork or a hand-written letter. These items seem small and inconsequential but mean much more than any snack or kitschy gift.

Clear out cabinets

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or one girl’s can of soup might sit on a shelf for month but be instantly devoured by a hungry college student.

From free samples of shampoo to basic items such as cereal, trash bags and tissues, you probably have enough goods to put together a killer care package without spending a dime. Other items you could send: Nonperishable food items, tea bags and toothbrushes.

Reuse boxes, packaging

Don’t spend any money on the box itself. Instead, re-purpose a box you’ve received. Remove or mark out all previous addresses. Then decorate the box with stickers, markers, labels and your own creativity to personalize it. Keep in mind the box more than likely be will discarded within minutes of being received, so there’s no need to spend extra cash on cutesy pre-fab packaging.

Hit the dollar store

The dollar store or section can be the perfect place to pick up seasonal decor, which is great for dorm rooms. From window clings to decorative lights, you easily can help keep seasons bright. Just be careful and set a cash budget. It is very easy to overspend with the mentality, “It’s only a dollar!”

$5 gift card

Postage can be pricey. It is easy to weigh a box down with so many goodies that it costs more to mail the package than what you spent on the items that went into it. Your best course of action might purchasing a gift card instead. Budget an amount equal to approximately what you would have spent on the items and shipping them, and place that amount on gift card.

Your student more than likely would love a gift card good for gasoline or fast food.

Or you could bless them with the opportunities to go to the movies or even pick up needed items from the nearest big box retailer.

Be sure you search for retailers near campus and keep in mind likes or dislikes. Even $5 can make a big difference and let someone know that you care.

Making a difference in the lives of those you love doesn’t have to be a costly endeavor. With a little forethought, you can be extravagantly generous in thought and deed.

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. Send questions, column ideas and comments to newstips@dailyjournal.net

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