How's that relevant to Hot Off the Sales Rack? Let's rewind a little bit.
As a bargain hound, I do pretty well with buying things I need. Most of the time I use it right away, but sometimes they just sit around because I don't have time to do anything with them. Over time, these neglected goods cease to be a bargain if they remain unused. I've recognized this as one of my weaknesses, and I deal with it accordingly. I keep track of what's not being used so that a) I remember I have them in the first place and not go out to buy more, and b) sometimes they come in handy in an "emergency"--not the life-or-death kind, but the gifting kind. Sometimes you just couldn't figure out what to buy for a particular person, or you didn't have time to get one and it's too late, or you just plain forgotten about it.
Let me make one thing clear: I don't mean pawning off unused items as cheapy, inappropriate gifts. Ever heard horror stories like how Uncle Fred gave Anna a bottle of shampoo and her mom got some ethylene glycol (and oh, a bonus funnel!) as presents, because shampoo was the only thing left at his house and the gas station was the only place open late on Christmas Eve? Well, truth really is stranger than fiction--these things have actually happened before. You don't want to be forever remembered as the donor of the worst. gift. ever. If what you have is nice and a natural choice for a gift, then go ahead. But if what you have on hand is something too commonplace, either put it aside completely or think of it as a starting material for a thoughtful gift.
If you ever need a gift in a pinch, be resourceful. Look around and see if you have some other new, unused materials that you can use to create something special. You can put together a gift set of sorts, provided that you package things nicely and there's a unified theme (deodorant and olive oil don't mix, folks). If nothing else, you can make it a pseudo-gag gift: "What? We've been friends for all these years and all I get is a pack of socks? Oh wait--what's this envelop stuck to the back? 'Just thought you might need some laundry money to go with it.'" I haven't tried this myself, but it's something I thought up.
If you're crafty, you can make something out of the materials you've scrounged. Here's a project that you can use to make a gift or for your own home decorating pleasures. There's no need to be super crafty--just a little willingness to cut and paste is enough.
In law, there's one too many three-part test for the constitutionality of one thing or another. I may be sick of memorizing them, but I've got to admit, having that mentality saved my butt last week. My friend was about to graduate from dental school. I've been looking around for presents (ranging from tooth-themed goods to art for the office), but since I became too wrapped up with my own graduation and my bar review course started almost right away, it became too late for me to order the gift. I had no time to go shopping, and even if I went, I wouldn't know what to shop for. Then came yet another 1am inspiration. Why don't I make some original art for his office? I would have bought some anyway, but a more personalized version would be better.
So I set out to make this 3-panel tribute to dental health:
(Sorry for the dark pictures--I was still getting used to my new camera, and what appeared on the LCD screen was much brighter than the picture actually was.)
Days before the graduation, it became clear that I'd have to make something; store-bought things just won't do. I've been on a "Big Leafiness" cutting streak, so I wanted to do something along those lines, though I didn't know what exactly I was going to do. So, I looked around the house a bit. I bought these Ikea frames a few years ago for a decoration project. I used 3 of the frames and intended to use the rest, but I just never got around to it. Obviously, I'm not going to give a set of picture frames as a gift on such a special occasion. They became a starting material. After having these two key components--the vinyl and the frames--ideas really started rolling in. At 1am, I finally decided to do a teeth-themed set of cut-outs. It took me about half an hour to cut everything. Most people probably don't have vinyl around, but they do have paper and fabric scraps. You can use those in lieu of vinyl.
I knew that I wanted to paste them onto cardstock, but white was too stark, and all the other cardstock I had were either too bright or too dark. I wanted something with a creamy yellowish base. The next day, I went to two different stores in search of cardstock or thick paper--no luck at Big Lots, and even worse luck at CVS. CVS is obviously not the destination for paper goods, but it was getting late and I had few other options. Sure enough, CVS didn't have the cardstock I wanted--things were either too cheapy or expensive, and not in the right color either. As I was about to leave, it suddenly hit me--manila folders were perfect. Not only do they have the right stiffness, but they have the right color (the picture of the middle panel is the best reflection of the color). It was exactly what I needed, and only a fraction of the price of fancy paper.
So there you are--the only ingredients required for the project are frames, manila folders, anything you can use to make a silhouette, a pen (if you want to draw/write on the folder), and an active imagination. Simple, right?
After I was done, I put it in a box, wrapped it up with some Ikea (Christmas) wrapping paper and topped off with a toothy card from Less Than Three Designs. The card was the only thing I could make up my mind on early enough.
This is just one example of how common items can be assembled into a thoughtful gift. I'm sure there are many more out there, and as always, feel free to share yours!
(Nerdy legal epilogue: oh my gosh, I just realized that this post was pretty much written in an IRAC format. Have I been doing it all along? How screwed up is this?!?)