My Frugal Holiday: Thinking About Gifts

How to get through gift giving for the holidays without breaking the bank.

My Frugal HolidayI'm the first to admit I am one of the least organized people I know. That being said, when it comes to saving money I am a little less lazy than some people but don't get it confused with my terrible organization skills! When the weather starts getting cooler and the leaves are changing colours, it's always my cue to start preparing gifts for the holidays.


Because I make handmade soap, it does require at least a month to cure before I can give them away which means in this respect I need to be on the ball. Since I am already in gift giving mode at this point, I start thinking about what I can do for everyone in my life. Most people get a bag with my preserves, bath bombs, soaps and candles but on top of that I like to give everyone something special and unique to them. Soap is made in the fall, preserves in summer and fall and candles also in the fall. This takes care of the bulk of the gifts but I still need to come up with special things for everyone, which is the tough part.

Part of my motivation for starting early is that I very much dislike shopping, even more so when the stores are filled with people pushing each other and throwing their stressful negative energy at me. The last thing I want to do is try to find something for "so and so" a week before Yule and pay premium price for it. Not only does it stress me out but what ends up happening is that I probably purchase an ok gift because that's all I could find in a short period of time.


That being said, I make a list of people I have to get special things for, usually close friends and my mom since I do not have other family members to purchase for. I think about what these people are interested in, perhaps they've mentioned something, a new hobby or interest or something they've had their eye on lately. I put a lot of thought into what to get, but the challenge is that I can not spend more than a certain amount.

For example, I have a friend who is very interested in South Africa. He loves maps and history. So I emailed the South Africa tourism board a few months ahead of time letting them know what I was looking for. I also purchased a book about South Africa's history. I found it online and it was discounted for $5. Not only is this gift almost free, but it's something he will love and cherish because some thought was put into it. I find people are very appreciative if you've paid attention to things they've said or tap into what they are interested in. It can take time to come up with ideas which is why starting to *think* about it early is a good idea!


I have another friend who has many of the same interests as I do. For her, it was a bit more challenging as the things tend to cost more than $5. I looked on for tons of things she'd love but so many items were priced at more than what I could afford. I settled on a few things and tried to see if I could find it locally (usually handmade things I don't make myself) by sending out emails to local e-groups I am on. Also, check the local art school if you are looking for crafty things!

Moms are hard to shop for because at least in my mom's case, she doesn't need anything and she can purchase anything she wants. She is always happy with my handmade goodies, so I give her a few more soaps and candles and never have to actually go out and get anything extra for her. In the past, I had done this but she ended up mostly raving about the handmade stuff! So I took the hint and left it at that. Although, the past few years I've been getting her a magazine subscription because it only costs $10 and she does love it. A lot of magazines have two for one subscription specials close to the holidays so check websites for them.

Another friend of mine just purchased DJ turntables, "old skool", so finding vinyl records for him was a lot of fun! So many thrift stores have records for $1 so I just bought a few and that was that! I had to go to a few different stores throughout the fall/winter until I found what he would like.

My hubby is tough to shop for because he's a real techie geek and loves fancy expensive gadgets. He usually saves up for them himself which means I don't need to buy them, nor would I anyway! We rarely purchase each other gifts anyway but for Yule I love to surprise him with fun goodies. I usually go to a thrift store and buy fun things and fill a bag for under $10.

I also collect air miles and although I need to use them for myself most of the time (for grocery gift certificates), I sometimes collect enough to get someone a $10 coffee card and 2-1 movie gift certificates which are always appreciated!

Another thing I do, is collect freebies all year long by going to those freebie sites. I end up with a box full of cool things that end up making really cool goodie bags!

Another nice thing I do is purchase gift certificates throughout the year so by the time the holidays come around, I don't need to spend any money. I have a special box in my room with things I've acquired free or gift certificates I purchased while the store was having a special sale. This box is amazing for last minute gifts, even for birthdays. Sometimes I think my room looks like a store!

Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction out of all of this which is why I am so passionate about it. Not everyone likes to do this or take the time to shop around. Here's something easy to follow: No matter what time of year it is, if you come across something on sale or that you know your friend or family member will love, get it. Store it away and when a birthday or holiday comes, you already have something for them!

Here are some other cool gifts for people:

  • Plants you grew from cuttings in a funky pot that you spray painted.

  • CDs with music or podcasts.

  • Calendars made with photos you took (this can be done in MS publisher).

  • Thrift store gift certificates.

  • Gift certificates for the local cosmetology school.

  • Gifts in a Jar (like cookies, cakes... Click here for ideas.)

Also remember to email companies for coupons or free samples of things!

Happy Gift Giving!

By Lisa from Halifax

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December 8, 20080 found this helpful

Oooh - handmade soap - is it hard to do? Perhaps not for an apartment!

Yes, I agree that it is the THOUGHT that counts - because if you can zero in on what interests a gift recipient you can find oddities at good prices around that interest. Like my $.50 1911 book on Robert Burns Monuments I got my brother!

For tech heads, I would rack up points on one of my sites and give them a gift card - There is free techie stuff, too - Help him find the deals out there.

I think if you are somewhat artistic in your gifts, as you seem to be, it makes what you give a lot more meaningful and fun - so in the end outlay really doesn't matter.....

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December 9, 20080 found this helpful

I LOVE shopping the day after Christmas, because the bargains are truly staggering. Most major retailers (Walmart, Macy's, TJMaxx/Marshalls, Michaels, etc.) sell items for 50%-85% off. Especially at walmart, you can buy giftbaskets and other pre-packaged items for less than half. I store everything in a "Christmas Closet," and then give the gifts the following Christmas. It makes my life easier, and I literally save hundreds of dollars!

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December 10, 20080 found this helpful

Soap is a little bit of a messy and time consuming project. I always recommend for people to start with Melt & Pour Soap projects, still homemade but you are working with a base! If you like that, then you can delve into the more complicated stuff. Took me awhile to master the soap making process. :)

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