Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas

Hand Holding Small Christmas Gift

Christmas gifts do not have to be expensive; thoughtful or homemade gifts often mean more to the recipient than the pricey expensive ones. This is a guide about frugal Christmas gift ideas.


Solutions: Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas

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Tip: Inexpensive But Thoughtful Gifts

Here are a few of my ideas for inexpensive but thoughtful gifts.

  • A box of chocolates with a homemade card that says you're just too sweet for words.
  • Give out cards with homemade coupons for neighbors, like one free night of babysitting, etc. depending on the needs of the person you're giving it to.
  • Buy a tea towel and dish rag with a tag that says enjoy your new washer and dryer.
  • Family theme boxes, for movie night add a movie, popcorn packages, and 2 litre of pop.
  • You can do car wash baskets with items from dollar store like sponges, cleaning fluid, wax, etc.

Use your imagination. Chocolate boxes with coffee mug, various chocolates, a book, and book mark, maybe a candle.

By Tracy C. from Brockville, Ontario

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Article: 20 Weeks Until Christmas

20 Weeks until ChristmasI was shocked to see the first of the Christmas goods appearing in some of the stores in recent days. I suppose it is because I am from the generations for whom Christmas didn't appear on the horizon until the days became noticeably shorter and colder and the teachers broke out the glitter and glue.

Anyway it reminded me of a time a couple of years ago here on Thrifty Fun when I responded to a sad little post from someone who had been out of work for months and was desperately trying to make a happy Christmas for their children. The downturn was biting then but unhappily for many of us, two years down the line things are even worse.

I recall that the Thriftyfun community came up with a few ideas but as it was 17th December we all basically knew it was a bit too late to do anything. I was so moved by her plight that I actually wrote a My Frugal Life post in which I outlined some of the different ways you could achieve a happy and frugal Christmas for your children with little money.

The key to making winter holidays on a tight budget is to start as early as you can. That goes for every aspect of the holidays. There are 20 weeks until Christmas so now is the right time to get planning. While the weather is good you can visit garage and car boot sales, or pick up items you know your children will like for a good price on Ebay. You can have a clear out, sell your own unwanted items and use the cash you make to launch your Christmas savings. By adding to this each week you will have a little cash cushion set aside for treats and holiday food. Don't worry if you can only put a few cents away, it doesn't matter, because it will encourage you and give you heart if you know there will be a little extra when the time comes. Encourage your children to plan for the holidays if they are old enough, give them a jar to save their pennies in too!

Organise a swap meet or bring and barter where you can use your cooking or craft skills to make things that you can exchange for things you can put away for the holidays. This is a good chance to swap toys and clothes that your children have outgrown for new to you items that they can use and enjoy in the coming year.

Use this time of Autumn plenty (and cheapness) to fill the pantry and the freezer. Perhaps you won't put up things you will use at Christmas but the money you save in the meantime can go in the holiday jar and boost those reserves. Make some gourmet gifts like sundried tomatoes in oil or tasty fruit preserves with farmgate produce. This will save you money and be much appreciated, especially if the gifts go to people who know your money is tight, because they will know that you cared enough to take the time. Sow some pots of kitchen herbs ready for the festive period because adding fresh herbs to dishes can make you feel like a better and richer cook.

Finally don't ever be afraid to tell people with whom you are going to exchange gifts that you need to set a price limit. As long as you do this in plenty of time your pride will stay intact and embarrassment can stay at a minimum for everyone enjoying the holidays with you.

By Ayesha from Slovenia

Do you have a frugal story to share with the ThriftyFun community? Submit your essay here: http://www.thriftyfun.com/post_myfrugallife.ldml

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Tip: Give Gifts of Time

Offer a free Christmas gift this year, such as a night of free babysitting, a day of house cleaning, an afternoon tutoring a child or adult, or even just spending time with a shut-in person who is unable to get out. The recipient will thank you for your thoughtful gift.

By fossil1955 from Cortez, CO

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Tip: Cinnamon Sugar Shaker As Gift

Homemade cinnamon sugar shaker jar with tag.Purchase a glass shaker jar. I found one at the dollar store. In a bowl, mix one tablespoon of cinnamon with a half cup of sugar. This will give you enough to fill about two or three jars. Fill the jar(s) with the mixture, decorate the jar(s) using peel off gift tags, tie a Christmas ribbon around it with a small homemade card-tag that says, "Sprinkle on buttered toast", then give as a gift!

Source: I got this frugal gift idea from the book, Merry Christmas Ideas by Carol Field Dahlstrom

By Patricia from Maple Falls, WA

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Tip: Give Your Time as a Present

Many of us frugal folks know that when we don't have money to spend on gifts, we sometimes choose to give people "coupons" for things like babysitting, cooking, mowing the lawn and other useful chores or activities.

My partner told me that he didn't want me to spend more than $100 on both his birthday and Yule gifts (they are just a few days apart). So bought him a couple of needed items but wanted to do something special. Since we live together, he doesn't get any of my homemade goodies as he eats them here when I make them. I decided to make him a few coupons with corresponding items attached to them. These would be good for partners (girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives...)

  • Coupon for a sponge bath. He loves baths so I made a coupon to draw him a bath and light candles which I included a sample of bubble bath that I got for free at The Body Shop (If you ask, they will give you one in a nice container). You could also include an actual sponge!

  • Coupon for a homemade facial. I got sample packets of face wash, scrub and a mask to go with this. These are easily found at dollarstores or you can make some of these yourself)

  • Coupon for a body scrub. Make your own body scrub with sugar and oil or salt and oil. Use vitamin E to prevent it from becoming rancid, in case you will use it more than once). I had a gift card for The Body Shop so I bought a really nice smelling scrub to go with the coupon.

Other ideas could include a massage. I have a friend who studied aroma massage online through a course, and is giving massage coupons to her female friends so she can practice and they get a little relaxation and it only costs her some time. I do Reiki which is Japanese Energy work which I learned and have given this to people as well.

If you are good at doing nails, hair or make up, you can offer your friends a free manicure/pedicure, haircut/style or special make up application. The choices are endless!

If you do house repairs or painting that could be a nice gift for someone.

The cost of time is priceless and it's the gift people tend to cherish the most.

By freya1970 from Halifax, NS

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Tip: Five $5 Gifts

I find it challenging to give all the gifts I'd like to without exploding my budget. For many friends and their children, I have a $5 budget. I feel like this can work when 1: the gift is thoughtful and original and 2: the gift is well wrapped and comes off looking more expensive. In order to stay within the $5 budget and to fulfill #2, you need to be well-stocked with wrapping elements that you have recycled, gathered, gotten at the thrift store or dollar store. Here are 5 ideas which can usually be done for $5 at Wal-Mart or other similar stores:

  1. Select a fruity-flavored bath gel, purchase the same flavor tea, and pair with a sponge, lufa, or washcloth in matching color. Present in a recycled basket or lunch bag tied with a pretty coordinating ribbon. I've done this with both peach and apple.
  2. Purchase a high-quality magazine and pair it with a single-serve packet of bubble bath. Tie both together with a pretty ribbon. Or, get a book from the used book store and do the same. You can even pair the bubble bath with the theme; either roses or ocean, etc.
  3. Vary this idea for the guys by getting a fishing magazine and putting it with a lure or a hunting magazine and a pack of hand warmers. Tie these together with twine or rope.
  4. For the kid, don't forget one of the very basics: a fresh box of 64 crayons and a color book. I've seen some pretty fancy coloring books lately, so this might even work for an adult who is young at heart! Or--make some recycled crayons to go with! And a bonus kids' gift: buy a magnetic alphabet set or alphabet sponges, pair with an alphabet template, and a can of alphabet soup and or pack of alphabet macaroni. This should provide plenty of ways to work on the ABCs.
  5. Purchase the odd but prety porcelain cup (with or without saucer) at the thrift store. Based on what is left out of the $5, purchase tea or tea and a box of tea biscuits to go with it. For the holidays, get a holiday mug or vintage holiday cup and put with hot chocolate. This gift is pretty in a recycled basket.
Hope these give you some good $5 ideas and help you from getting discouraged when it comes to fulfilling your generosity and keeping your budget! Happy Holidays

Source: These are mainly my ideas, but I read about gift giving all the time.

By Amy from Cedar Hill, TX

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Tip: Flower Pot Christmas Gift

I just came back from my weekly thrift store run and found small ceramic flower pots, already painted for 40 cents each. I am adding a envelope (downloaded from Alenka's printables) of seeds from my garden and a candy cane. I will give these as a small gift for office co-workers, since I am known as mother nature--this fits perfect with everyone's thoughts of me.

By Kat from Coatesville, PA

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Tip: Ask for Family Members to Pitch In on a Gift

There have been a lot of negative things going on in my life in the past couple of years (husband's job loss, two deaths in the family, a car accident that totaled our car, etc.!).

So as Christmas approached last month, my mom was asking me for a list of what gifts I might like. There's a great hotel in Door County, WI that we like (it has condo-like rooms with a full kitchen, so that helps really cut the cost of food while we're there, since we don't have to eat out a lot!).

After all the stress of the past couple years, what I REALLY wanted was a break, and some quality family time! But money has been tight, so a vacation has seemed out of the question. Since my parents, aunt and sister usually all buy Christmas gifts for me, I asked if they'd all consider chipping in towards a gift certificate for the hotel in Door County, rather than buying me separate gifts.

To my delight, I opened an envelope on Christmas with a gift certificate good for one night's stay! We'll have to save up for gas money to travel there, etc., but now a mini vacation seems a lot more within our reach! The point of all this is--if you have a special occasion coming up (birthday, holiday, etc.), you know that a group of people will be buying gifts for you and they ask you what you want, consider asking them to go in together on a gift card/certificate.

Maybe there's a class you've been wanting to take, a restaurant that you've wanted to eat at, a museum or other attraction whose admission price is a little too much for you. It doesn't hurt to ask! I'm sure your relatives or friends would be delighted to know that their gift was for something you really wanted and will enjoy!

By Lisa from Kenosha, WI

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Tip: Friends, Fun, and a Frugal Christmas

Felt stocking. I have a friend, Samantha, that is having some money troubles and needed some help with Christmas. So, we dug around in my craft supplies and started to make some things for gifts. Getting together to work on her problem was good for the both of us, she gets a little help and cheering up and I get company and get to share my creative skills with her.

We made some simple stockings from felt. Felt is the best material to work with; it is easy to cut, needs no finishing for the edges, and is very inexpensive! I showed her some very simple stitches and she made two, cute little stockings.

Snowwoman ornament. We also made some ornaments from scraps of felt, floss, buttons, and snaps. I am also bartering with another friend that crochets ornaments; she likes to give gifts of the homemade dog biscuits that I make and Sam now has two more ornaments to give to her children.

To fill the stockings, Sam has gone to the dollar store with money that she earned helping me clean and has picked up small items like Chapstick, pencils, and notepads. She has wrapped each gift separately so it will take the kids time to open each thing and it makes it appear like they have gotten a lot of gifts!

The wrapping paper she made from regular loose leaf paper, but she used markers and using the lines for guides made a plaid design that looks festive.

We have a bag of popped corn that we are letting get good and stale; popcorn is easier to string when it isn't fresh! The kids are looking forward to stringing the popcorn after our "kid's craft" session that we made a garland from felt that is the same idea as the old-fashioned paper chain idea.

I played Christmas music while we were crafting and since I am a pretty silly person, I sang and acted goofy, the kids love when an adult acts so crazy! I dug fabric out of the scrap bag and made a patchwork doll quilt and pillow, and I have a piece of fabric big enough to make a doll outfit for Katrina's doll.

For Shawn, we made a pop bottle movie night! After washing out a 2-liter plastic pop bottle we cut a slit in the back, stuffed in shredded paper, one can of pop, some microwave popcorn, a bag of regular popcorn (because it is inexpensive and took up a lot of space in the pop bottle!) one candy bar, and a free pass that Sam made up on my computer to get a movie on dollar day from the local rental place. We tied some curling ribbon in a bow at the top. It came out so cute we may just have to make some more to give as gifts!

Sam also likes the "Santa Soap" idea that was shared by Cindy Bailey and she wants to make a few of those from dollar store items, we think the kids will love those!

Christmas dinner for her family will be here with me and my husband so she won't have to worry about that, and there is always too much food so there will be leftovers to take home. My husband and I have no children of our own and look forward to a big family meal! I have to admit that it won't be a very fancy Christmas, but so far, it has been a lot of fun.

I look forward to all the other posts that people share so I can continue to get ideas. Thank you to everyone for so generously sharing your ideas, tips, stories, and recipes!

By Persnickety Paula

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Tip: Gifts for Christmas

One way to make a great Christmas gift is to take pictures of the children in the family unbeknownst to the family. This is tricky, and then make a photo album. Add a page in the album where you write a poem or your favorite time spent with the child was. The hardest part of this is waiting for the photos to develop.

Another way to do an album is to do a progression album/scrapbook. Find pics from birth on up, this can be challenging, and find things to put in there about your memories, etc, and ideas and hopes for the child. Then finish with a recent picture and end the photo album with "and the story continues".

Love, grandma or mom or whatever!

It is really fun and creative and saves lots of hassles of putting photos in books and captioning them etc!

By Racing against thimerosol

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Tip: Candy Filled Canning Jar Christmas Gifts

I always have canning jars around. At Christmas, I fill some with assorted Christmas colored candy; those star brite mints, gold and silver foil wrapped candies, etc.

Use pinking shears to cut circles of lace, netting, or Christmas printed fabric. What I use depends on how much time, money or imagination I have. Use the circle of material in place of a canning lid and secure with a shiny new rim.

I set them around the house and they make handy gifts for those unexpected visitors or the mailman, parking attendant, etc.


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Here are questions related to Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas.

Question: Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas

I am already thinking about Christmas. I know it's early, but with my budget I need to plan ahead! My whole family buys for each other, even though I have suggested many times to maybe draw names, but this never seems to go over well.

They all want to buy for everyone. But my question is what can I buy different from every year? Mostly I end up buying clothing because I am at a loss as to what to buy. I would appreciate any suggestions. I am not too imaginative and would love to do something different this year. Please help!

Lisa from VA

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Most Recent Answer

By Diana V. (Guest Post) 11/10/2008

I think a lot of the ideas are great, but some just wouldn't fly in my family. I do think the soup in a jar would work with some and jars of cocoa mix. I do buy cleaning and household supplies and put in a big hamper to give to my son and his girlfriend, but they also get cash and a few gift certificates.

Last year I bought inexpensive cocktail size Christmas napkins. I attached a small spreader (small knife for a cheese ball), and a beautiful ribbon. They made an awesome presentation and really only cost a couple of bucks. This year I'm doing a plain wine glass with a small finger towel wound so that applique shows through the glass toss in a few ribbons on top. They are both good gifts for coworkers.

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Question: Thrifty Christmas Gifts For Large Family

I am currently a college student, living on my own, and definitely on a budget for Christmas. I have 3 brothers, all married, and 4 nieces and 1 nephew, plus my parents to buy for. My boyfriend's family I am also very close with, and everyone in the family always buys me something. There are 9 people on that side to buy for, as well.

I was wondering if anyone has some thrifty ideas on something sentimental I could make, or great places to shop. My budget will probably be around $150- MAYBE $200 for everything. I believe I have around 22 people to buy for. The ages of the nieces and nephew range from 1 year up to 11. Thank you for any help or ideas you can offer!

Kimberly from Tracy, CA

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Most Recent Answer

By SaraWlffsf (Guest Post) 12/04/2008

I found this article a couple years back when I was buying for my cousin with 6 kids. Has a lot of good ideas.


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Question: Frugal Christmas Gifts For Teens

Does anyone have any frugal Christmas gift ideas for me? I am already fretting about Christmas. I am a single mom with 2 teens on a disability income. Their father left me (after he went to business school) because of my disability. He has a super income now. I cannot compete. He gave our son a car for graduating and our daughter a lap top for her birthday.


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Question: Best Inexpensive Gift You Have Received

What is the best gift you've received that was not expensive?

Some of my favorites are:
A book of poetry by my adult daughter.
A picture of me drawn by my younger daughter.
(It's a funny picture, but I love it).
A set of tapes of my favorite music compiled by my son.

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Most Recent Answer

By jessica 02/06/2003

My friends and I are interested in the same types of music, so a while ago I went to Costco and bought a big package of cassette tapes. Through out the year when I don't have the motivation/money to buy gifts, I've made tapes taking songs from the radio, various cd's and tapes. It's also fun to add on a little comedy from my Bill Cosby or Hank the cowdog collections. (this can be done using a cd burner also)

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Question: Thrifty Gift Ideas for a Friend

I have a friend that I met online and we've been emailing back and forth for almost two years now. I wanted to send her a little something for Christmas, but don't have a lot of money to spend. Any ideas?


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Most Recent Answer

By mom2dkb 12/11/2000

I send one of my very close on line friend, that I also met 2 years ago from CA, a box of my homemade Christmas cookies every year. She looks forward to them as they are ones she doesn't make. It's a way of sharing part of my traditional Christmas with her every year. I find a good box and fill cup cake liners with them and put a piece of fitted cardboard between each layer and they arrive all in one piece, and I live 3000 miles from her. Some of the ones I make are very fragile too. Good luck.

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