You know how people always complain about how expensive Christmas can be? It doesn’t have be that way. Christmas was meant to be joyful and merry. Here are some gift ideas for the financially challenged.

Lottery tickets are a great idea and cost virtually nothing. If you buy 20 of them you’ve gone through your whole Christmas gift list for the year. Just make sure if they win, you get a cut. If the receiver is really dumb make sure you fill out the winner form in the back so you get to keep the money.

Recycling is not only good for the environment but also for your bank account. That sweater your poor grandmother made especially for you but you’ve never worn. Why not bestow it on cousin Jane, who gave you a lottery ticket last Christmas. Your old, out-of-style clothing can make excellent gifts. Frinstance, those old bell bottoms you haven’t been able to fit into since 75 will look great on someone who didn’t know you then. Isn’t it about time that style came back?

A friend had this idea: Throughout the year (you can start now) steal those little knick knacks your friends have on display in their homes. Wrap them up for Christmas. Your heart will swell with pride and joy come Christmas morning when they say to you with tears of gratitude, “It’s just like the one we lost! However did you know?”

You can also lift notepads, pencils, pens, binders, markers, books, staplers, even calculators if you’re good and stealthy, from your office for that special student or new businessperson in your life.

Seinfeld’s George Costanza was a genius. He sent out Christmas cards saying a donation has been made in your name to the “Human Foundation.” There was no such foundation. But hey, there could be one right? They’ll never know. They never check up on it because that’s really tacky.

If you have an old watch just buy a new wrist band for it and presto! Another beautiful and thoughtful gift. Tell them it’s a family heirloom.

Collect those candies from restaurants and put them in a jar over the year and tie a bow on it and place it under the tree.

If you’re at all poetically inclined, how
about writing a sonnet on that office stationery to your lover. Chicks dig that kinda stuff.

You can apply to join music, book and video clubs. They usually give away at least 12 tapes, books and videos. All for 99 cents! Thafs 36 more people you can cross off your list.

Give friends recordings of your own CD’s. Or if you’re reeeaally cheap and narcissistic go to Dollarama, buy a plastic frame and insert a photograph of yourself. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

You could also buy liquid dispensers for a dollar a piece and fill them up with that sweet-smelling soap from certain fancy restaurants and give those away. Steal those small shampoos, lotions, shoe polish and even towels from hotels and give those away. Ashtrays, shot glasses, coasters, those baskets they put snacks in from bars. Salt and pepper shakers and silverware from restaurants are also very thoughtful.

Here’s an idea from a fellow cheapskate: Go to a department store cologne or make-up counter and ask for free samples. They’ll be a bit bitchy but if you persist they just give up the goods.

“Re-gifting” is also a wise option. For example, if someone gives you a gift and you don’t really like it, save the gift wrapping, change the name tag, rewrap the gift and voila! Another gift to give.

Apply for a credit card at a plaza. It doesn’t matter if the company will approve your application. You can still get a freebie with the application. Usually pens, tote bags… Collect those over the year. They make great stocking stuffers.

Restaurant gift certificates are also great gift ideas. They’re very cheap. Especially the ones from McDonald’s.

This one requires a bit of work so I never use it: Take your largest plant, snip of a few branches, pot them, let them grow a bit and wrap them up for Christmas morning.

All these techniques are best practiced throughout the year to keep you in the Christmas spirit. After all, isn’t it the thought that counts? By the way don’t try any of these on me. I know all the tricks in the book. Merry Christmas to you all.