Kwanzaa: Cheap Thrill

Kwanzaa gifts (zawadi) are supposed to be handmade, or at least personal. Which is meaningful, and great for those who actually have some artsy/craftsy skill. For those who cannot sculpt, draw, sew or otherwise artverb, though, this is the sort of challenge that can put one in a very unholiday mood. (A goofy yarn thing that's cute from a little kid is just sort of awkward from an adult, right?)

So here, readers, is a handmade, personally significant gift, made with affordable items, that doesn't require you to do anything more artsy than wield a nail polish brush. And if you've got something like a Target in your area, you might not even need to visit more than one place. Read on if you're interested.

1) Start with a mini terra cotta flower pot. (Or more than one.) These should be real flowerpots, with drainage at the bottom. To give you an idea, these 4.5" pots are $1.39 apiece.

2) Pick up some cheap nail polish - it works nicely for painting flower pots. (On an unrelated but interesting note, it's also good for model cars.) New York Color will run you about $1 a pop, but if you want tons of color options and prices that are just as good, find out where the beauty supply places are that the nail salons in your area get their stuff at, and prepare to spend way too long picking out the perfect shades for your art project and for yourself. (BTW, if you find one of these places that sells the Shin-Ko brand, TELL US WHERE IT IS. We'll be grateful forever.)

3) Buy some seeds for plants that would have some significance to the person you're giving them to. (Probably one type of plant per pot, unless you want them to duke it out in slow-mo.) This could be anything from the kind of flower that grew in front of their old house to a favorite herb to something that's in their school colors to something with symbolic value. Burpee seed packets can be had for as little as $1.50.

4) Once you've painted the pot (a solid color if you're not feeling brave, a pattern or maybe more if you are) and picked out the seeds, the last step is optional. If you are confident in your green thumb, by all means get the plants started before the holiday. If not, just present the seeds with the decorated pots. Potting soil is cheap; $3 will get you forty pounds. (But don't buy potting soil online, that's ridiculous.)

If you try this, send us pictures of the little plants and we'll post them! We love our tiny green friends.

They say the thought's what counts, but we've all gotten a package of underwear from some well-meaning-but-thrifty relative as a gift. Ugh. Our Cheap Thrill gifts promise all of the fun of a spend-y present, without the wallet draining price.... Each Cheap Thrill gift will ring up under $25, including shipping.

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