I don't know about you but the thought of spending money I don't currently have for Christmas this year frightens me! September is usually the time I take stock of what I have on hand: Gifts I plan to re-gift, purchases I have made through the year (usually 75% off or more bargains that I have found), and my list (who I exchange presents with).

Looking at what I have on hand and my list, I have some work to do. Knowing I am not financially able to spend my usual $500 on Christmas I am going to have to tap into my creative side. Luckily for all of us I have some ideas!

Here are my top 9 gift ideas from the heart on a budget:

DVD's.  These are my favorite! I take pictures taken throughout the year, arrange them into a slideshow, and set them to music from my iPod using the free software that came with my computer. Don't have the software? Try using smilebox.com.

Video tribute.  Looking for the perfect gift for your sweetie? A video tribute is a great way to go! Ask family and friends for funny stories and favorite memories of your special someone. As you narrate the story unfolds and a cherished gift is created. Here are some great tips to get you started!

Sea shell ornaments. My son and I visited Topsail Island, NC this summer and collected hundreds of shells. He loves art in any form and I got the idea as we visited the local gift shops charging $5 or more for one ornament! My son begged to buy his grandma one and I said we can make her one with the shells we collected. He was thrilled and grandma will be to when she gets it. Here is a list of necessary materials and ideas.

Scrapbook.  Who has the time for this? My mom had hundred of old pictures from her childhood just shoved in drawers. A few years ago I asked my dad if I could have them, he said sure and a few weeks later (for Christmas) I surprised her with a completed scrapbook of her childhood memories. Ask around for old photos your family may have and use this idea to preserve and display them for years to come. I will warn you she cried for days after receiving this so be prepared with a box of tissues!

DIY Build a Bear.  My son is fascinated with these creatures and asks for one every time we pass the "workshop". I realized just recently we could make these on our own at home for a fraction of the cost. As a gift you can gather all the supplies and put them together in a gift bag or box. You will need: fabric with fur, needle and thread, Google eyes, stuffing, fabric scraps (to make clothes) and a few small accessories (old kids sunglasses, earrings, and a hat). Don't forget the small fabric heart that goes inside (that's what makes them special and gives them life) and print a blank adoption certificate.

Host this years Christmas celebration. No, this doesn't mean you purchase and prepare all of the food. You are offering to handle the scheduling, logistics, and location. Your job is to: organize the covered dish, make sure everyone knows about it, handle travel arrangements for the out of towner's, and open the doors to your clean, and festively decorated home.

Your time. Ah, the most valuable gift of all. This can take any form you want, but formalizing your offer makes it worthy of being put under the tree. Consider monthly babysitting or dog-care coupons or help someone do a difficult all-day project, such as painting or spring cleaning. Lend your expertise to things your loved ones especially need help with, whether it's babysitting, website design, or cooking lessons. Use your best assets to make great gifts.

Gift Baskets.  It's time to put all those little things you are not using or have picked up on the cheap to good use. Small, inexpensive things (think wine, candles, soap, etc). Pick a color scheme or theme (think movie night: microwave popcorn, dollar store candy, and videos you are no longer watching). You'll also need a decorative basket - check your cupboards, attic, or garage odds are you have one laying around, and re-using an old basket will help make this gift even more affordable. Didn't find a basket? Use a gift bag or reusable, environmentally friendly tote instead.

Recipe book or box.  Gather your family and friends favorite recipes of things you have made over the years. Transfer them to 3x5 cards, laminate them, punch a whole in the top left of each card and attach together with a key ring or fancy ribbon. Or, purchase a small box or tin to place the cards in.

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Suzanne Cramer

Suzanne is a certified credit counselor working in our Ask the Expert forums as a coach and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne. Suzanne writes for our Divorce, Debt and Finances and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs.  As a soon to be divorced single mom, Suzanne also writes for the Divorce, Debt, and Finances blog. Ask her questions, share your story or just follow Suzanne on her journey as she navigates dealing with divorce, debt, and finances. Suzanne is also very active on Twitter and manages two CareOne accounts: ADivorcedMom and Ask CareOne where she shares the latest debt industry news and tips to keep your finances in check.

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