The Cheap Santa: Gift Ideas for Teens

It's that time of the year again when even teen-agers have to figure out what we can give as Christmas gifts. We're not exactly kids anymore and so we're expected to give gifts, especially if we expect to get any gifts.

It's hard to buy just the right gifts, but I want to share with you some thoughts and ways to give original gifts and not spend all of your money at the same time.


The first place you should go is to your own room or maybe a sister or brother's who is away at college.

Recycling is OK. For years I gave my mother a little blue smurf that had been on my birthday cake. I would just stick a new note on it and wrap it up and then take it back before the next holiday. I used that smurf for her birthdays, Mother's day, Easter and Christmas for about two years, when it suddenly disappeared. I saw it recently at a little cousin's house.


Now is the perfect time, before your sister or brother comes home for holiday break, to take inventory of their rooms. Give them again a book you know they didn't read the first time somebody gave it to them, or else find a little-used belt or scarf at the bottom of one sister's closet and give it to the other. They never figure this out and it works like a charm.

If you decide to shop out of the house, look in your backyard or your neighbor's. No, don't take their lawn furniture or anything obvious. Look around for tree seedlings and acorns. Plant these in little pots now and they will be sprouting before the Christmas tree is down.

This is an environmentally correct gift that will make most adults think you are more thoughtful than you really are. Or you can gather pine cones and make a little wreath with just some glue and fishtwine, but you have to be more artistic than I am to do this. I'd rather stick to tree planting.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I am getting my mother a really nice set of glasses for Christmas. Some days after school I go to Burger King and eat their food just so I can collect their free glasses. My mother is worth it.

If you have ever wanted a pet and your parents said no, now is your chance. Only you give it to them, and then they will feel bad about returning it. From the SPCA on Falls Road for $30 you can get a kitten, all spayed or neutered and with all needed shots. They even will return your money if you bring back the kitten in two weeks. The price of a puppy is $40. Three of our newest pets are from there and they are the greatest.

Another place where your money goes far is those little vending machines that you see outside supermarkets. Spend a dollar or two and you'll have more gifts than you need to give away, so you wind up keeping some. You need some Christmas spirit, too. Right?

Now for a teacher who has everything, I would recommend either Excedrin, Aspergum or Nuprin. These make excellent stocking stuffers and the little boxes don't use a lot of wrapping paper.

If you really are having a tough time earning money now, I would recommend giving out IOUs. All you have to do is write on a piece of paper something you will promise to do and put it in a nice little envelope. For instance, you can give your dad three IOU's for shoveling snow free this winter. Or you can give a little sister or brother an IOU for two hours of play or reading during January.


If you still have the Christmas spirit but feel you have given your family and friends enough, do something completely off-the-wall like clean your room or a closet. Your parents will think you're the greatest, which in turn will insure you better gifts and a merrier Christmas.

And the stuff you clean out of your room or your closet you can take to a homeless shelter. Making homemade cookies and delivering them at the same time is another way to spread Christmas cheer.

I hope I have helped you to get a head start on your Christmas shopping. Don't believe that all presents have to be expensive to be appreciated. Your parents don't need more knick-knacks to dust. Save our money. While we aren't kids anymore and are expected to give gifts, they don't have to be expensive, just fun.

That's what the holiday is supposed to be about.

Nick Walters is a 10th-grader at Towson Catholic high school. He was recently awarded the Heritage Foundation's George Washington Medal for his book "Diabetes and Doing Your Best," and for his community service.