By Katie Moosbrugger

It seems every Christmas I make my list of gifts, check it twice, and then manage to add a gazillion additional gifts– and dollars – to our family’s holiday budget. While it’s always well worth it in the spirit of giving, it’s also nice to have some last minute (and cheap) gift ideas on-hand!

Not everyone does neighbor gifts, I realize, and sometimes the best neighbor gifts are simple holiday wishes. But there’s always the chance you receive a gift and want to offer one in return. So, I asked around and scoured the Internet to find some cute ideas that are not only easy and inexpensive, but all fun to make (some with your kids too)!

One of my favorite gifts is homemade Chocolate Buckeye Balls (pictured above). These are delish and relatively easy to make. I went to college in Ohio and learned of this recipe from a fellow Ohioan, but it doesn’t matter where you live to enjoy these tasty treats. Here is the recipe:

Chocolate Buckeye Balls

4 (16 ounce) jars peanut butter
3 1/2 (16 ounce) packages confectioners’ sugar
1 cup butter, melted
3 (12 ounce) packages semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening

1. Blend together the peanut butter, sugar and melted butter. Allow to chill in refrigerator.
2. Roll into 1 inch round balls and return to refrigerator.
3. In a double boiler over medium heat, melt the chocolate and shortening. Whisk together until smooth.
4. With a toothpick inserted in the balls, dip them into the chocolate so they look like buckeyes. Place on waxed paper and allow to set in refrigerator.

As for other gift ideas…

Baked goods and candy always make a nice gift, but so do recipes, holiday cookie cutters and bags of brownie mix. Along these same lines, offering packages of gourmet coffee or tea work well too!

Fruit is always well received, especially a pineapple (a traditional symbol of hospitality) with a cute Christmas bow tied on top.

Candy-grams are a cute idea, and I found this great list of different ideas with creative poems to go with!

Or tie up a bag of Jolly Ranchers and include a note that says “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.”

While bottles of wine are always a nice gesture, you may want to steer clear of alcohol in case you neighbor doesn’t drink. Instead, tie a nice bow on a Cherry 7Up bottle and attach a note with seven reasons why your neighbor is “up” on your list of favorites.

Or, for a different spin, consider a Fizzy Yummy Gift I found on this mommy blog.

Other homemade gift ideas (that are fun to do with the kids) include decorating photo albums or frames with holiday cheer. Or download your favorite Christmas carols to a CD. Or create and deliver homemade Christmas ornaments. Here’s a great list of easy ornaments you (or just your kids) can make at home.

Everyone loves to have poinsettias in their home this time of year and I saw some at Walmart for under $4.

If you are looking for something unique – and practical – how about giving a roll of holiday wrapping paper (complete with tags and bows)? That’s simple enough. Or a stash of disposable holiday plates and napkins. One idea I found that I thought was cute was to wrap up a box of light bulbs and attach a note that says, “Hope Your Holidays are Merry and Bright.”

Of course a simple holiday card or note that says how much you appreciate your neighbors goes a long way too. And if you are really organized, suggest to all your neighbors – in advance of any gift exchanges – to forgo neighbor gifts all together and instead choose a charity that you can all donate your time or money to.

No matter what you do or how much you spend, it’s always fun to spread the cheer. What other ideas can you share?