When you’re invited to a party during the holiday season, or at any time of year, tradition dictates that you bring a hostess gift. Buying a nice bottle of wine for every hostess can quickly add up. Rather than buy wine by the case, stock up on more affordable gifts that you can give throughout the year.

Craft stores are great places to find great hostess gifts, especially around the holidays. Check your Sunday paper for sales at your local Michael’s or Joann’s. Look for notices like “all candles 40% off” and “holiday décor 40% off,” then visit the store during your lunch hour one day that week.

I recently visited Michael’s for their candle sale. I found lovely cellophane-wrapped candles for anywhere from $3-5 dollars. I also noticed that their ornaments were on sale, for anywhere from $1-5. Baskets were on sale, too. In fact, just about everything in the store was on sale. If you hit on a sale like this, grab a cart and go to town. Find large ornaments that look expensive, but aren’t. Look for pre-wrapped candles or very large candles you can wrap nicely. I would avoid strongly scented candles or cheesy snowman candle holders – you never know which hostess will enjoy kitsch. When it comes to hostess gifts, classy is the way to go.

When you get home, spend an afternoon packaging the gifts. Perhaps pair a candle and a small ornament or add a pretty ribbon to a wrapped candle. Put a few small candles in a small basket and wrap it in cellophane. Put them all in a plastic box in the closet so you can grab a gift whenever you need one.

You can get several gifts for $6-7 each if you mix and match carefully, but your hostess will think you spent much more.

If you want to plan ahead for next year, visit that same craft store or a large department store the day after Christmas. You’ll find all those items marked down 60% or more. If you buy an assortment of candles, you can use the resulting hostess gifts year-round. Simply visit the craft store a few times a year to buy small, discounted sprigs of seasonal silk flowers or rolls of seasonal ribbon to attach to the cellophane-wrapped candle. Your hostess never has to know you bought the candle nine months earlier in a blow-out sale!

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