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Finding the perfect gift that won’t break the bank for the special people in your life isn’t impossible.If you’re looking for frugal gift ideas that won’t break the bank, we’ve put together a list of 33 different products that will help you save money.
First, there are some ground rules if you want your budget gift to really wow the recipient (not to mention keeping it out of the end-of-season Goodwill donation pile).
The key to a great gift isn’t in how much you spend. In fact, some of the best gifts cost very little. The best gifts simply show that you care.
Before we get to the list of frugal holiday gift ideas, here are three rules to ensure that you’re perceived as a creative and caring gift giver instead of, well, cheap.
Rule 1: If it’s truly the thought that counts, then you have to be thoughtful.
If you want to get away with giving a great gift without spending a lot of dough (or in some cases, none at all), the first thing you have to do is think. You may even do a little sleuthing on social media.
Because you want to give a gift that matters. In order to do this, you have to know what matters to someone. This can be a big thing, like a charity or cause, or a little thing, like remembering that your pal’s favorite soda is original Nehi grape in the glass bottle.
Don’t just give everyone a dollar store Santa mug and a mason jar of homemade cocoa mix so you can check them off of a list (unless you know someone who could use another mug to add to the other 12 they probably got last Christmas). Try to be more personal.
This rule applies to everyone from your own mother, to the bank teller who always remembers your name, to the co-worker who covered your weekend shift when your kids were sick.
Case in point: one year my team of employees completely surprised me with an incredible gift. They remembered that I had once made some vague mention of how I’d always wanted a snuggie but never got one. Remember those cozy blankets with built-in sleeves?
Not only did they get me a snuggie, they sewed a custom snuggie just for me out of Disney Princess fleece because I’m a huge Disney fan.
For the cost of a pattern and a yard of fleece at the fabric store, they managed to make me smile until my cheeks hurt because it was so thoughtful.
That was six years ago. I still use and love that snuggie to this day.
Another time a coworker remembered that Whatchamacallit was my favorite candy bar as a kid and that I love to eat Twizzlers at the movies – both were included in a nifty gift basket from her with a nice card about how nice it was working with me.
This past year my husband ordered a small photo book with nothing but pictures of me with our kids. Moms rarely make it into pictures with their kids. It was inexpensive and is now something I absolutely cherish.
See? It’s not about the money. It really is the thought that counts.
Rule #2: Presentation is everything in frugal gift giving.
You can buy some mints and toss them into a red baggie for your hair stylist with a generic card attached, sure.
Or you can buy some mints, put them in a cellophane bag tied with jute string or white ribbon and attach an adorable snowflake tag that says something like, “Thanks for keeping my hairstyle fresh all year!”
Channel your inner Martha Stewart when you’re wrapping and bagging holiday gifts. Going the extra mile shows that you put some thought and effort into it. Give your simple gift an extreme (but elegant) makeover worthy of the special person who’ll receive it.
Wire baskets can be purchased in sets and provide an inexpensive way to tastefully present a gift basket, not to mention they can be used as decorative storage around the house. Simple brown paper with red ribbon can give a bottle of olive oil a classic look.
Rule #3: Gift cards can make great personal gifts…if you personalize them.
You want to get that perfect something for the person who has everything, or you’re completely stumped finding a gift for the person who never wants anything. Maybe you flaked and forgot a gift for someone on your way to a family gathering. Maybe you’re just a terrible gift-giver so you default to what’s easy.
Whatever the reason, gift cards are a staple in our holiday culture. Some people think that gift cards aren’t personal, but we can make gift cards personal in two ways.
First, you can purchase a gift card to a store or restaurant that you know the person loves instead of just buying the same chain restaurant card for everyone regardless of their tastes.
Second, you make it personal by including a note telling the person why they deserve the gift card. Even a generic Visa gift card can be made personal if you hand-craft the card it comes in or slip a funny or sentimental note inside.
Anything can be made personal with a little effort.
With that said, let’s get started. Here’s a list of 33 frugal gift ideas that will save you money.
Gifts For $5 Or Less
- Buy a bulk set of matching black frames and give your parents and all of your siblings a classic, beautiful black and white photo of your grandparents on their wedding day.
- Print funny, witty or uplifting quotes and put them into thrift store frames for friends and coworkers.
- Put together an assortment of teas in a thrift store tea cup and wrap it in tulle.
- Assemble cute bundles of dog biscuits or raw hides for the pet lovers in your life.
- Pick up some Winking Owl wine from Aldi or a set of placemats as a hostess gift.
- Miniature hand sanitizers – perfect for anyone’s car, purse or office.
- Mints and gum…hello, fresh!
- Hair accessories and nail polish make great gifts for kids and teens.
- Pick up a pack of fast food gift cards for college students and teens.
- Lip balm is perfect for dry, chapped lips in winter weather.
- Bake a batch of cookies, brownies or bars and deliver them to coworkers and neighbors.
- Take all of your kid’s broken crayons and melt them in a silicone holiday mold or in cupcake liners to make fun crayons. Add some coloring books from the dollar store for stocking stuffers or gifts for young children.
- Pre-make craft kits using household items. These water bottle “fireflies” are a fun and easy craft for kids. If you can pull off making enough for your child’s preschool class and organize them all in a kit, your teacher will thank you too!
- We all know someone who loves to read. Pick up a copy of your favorite classic or visit your nearest used book store. You’d be surprised at how many books you can find in excellent condition.
- Make a beloved Christmas ornament. Here’s a secret about ornaments: they can be made from anything. Did you and your significant other purchase your very first home this year? Why not make a copy of your house key and tie a red satin ribbon on it to hang on the tree every year? Clear ball ornaments are excellent because they can be filled with anything from small photos to a newborn baby’s hospital bracelet for an adorable Baby’s First Christmas ornament. Possibilities: endless.
Gifts For $10 Or Less
- Put together a movie themed gift basket or fill these popcorn boxes with microwave popcorn, theater-style boxed candy, soda and a favorite movie from your own collection. Stores like Walmart and Target usually have a large bin or display filled with movies for $5 or less, or print off a RedBox code and include it in the bundle.
- Who isn’t constantly losing or forgetting their earbuds? They’re great for anyone to have on hand in the car or at their desk at work.
- Starbucks gift cards make great gifts. Pastry and a latte? Yes please!
- Amazon gift cards are perfect for anyone on your list. You’d be surprised at how far $10 can go on Amazon. This is also a great gift for the Kindle reader in your life.
- iTunes gift cards are a big-bang-for-your-buck gift in the $10 category. Music lovers and teens can download several tracks, and most songs are only a buck.
- A decent bottle of wine is definitely doable. Wine is a classic gift and great to have on hand as an impromptu hostess gift.
- Check out your local liquor or grocery store to see if they allow you to mix and match craft beers to create your own six pack. If not, a seasonal six pack of craft beer is a great gift for the beer connoisseur in your life. Seasonal brews are usually on special this time of year.
- Assemble a teacher survival kit with wipes, sanitizer, gum, lip balm, snacks and coffee. Don’t forget the heartfelt note of personal thanks for what they do every day.
- Car kits are great, practical gifts. Buy a bucket and fill it with an air freshener, microfiber cloth, and a container of Armor All wipes. This two-pack will get you started toward making two baskets – great for anyone, especially new teen drivers.
- We’ve all been there – no gum after an Italian lunch, spinach in our teeth after salad, coffee spilled on our shirt as we rush out the door…Emergency Hygiene Kit to the rescue! This 4-pack of simple black canvas pouches means four lucky people will receive kits filled with hair ties, bobby pins, bandaids, floss, lip balm, travel size mouthwash, gum, mini-sewing kit and a stain stick.
- For the runner and fitness buff in your life, a reflective safety vest to wear on early morning or evening runs is perfect. A pair of top-quality moisture wicking socks paired with earbuds is another great idea for athletic friends.
- Good coffee. One of my favorite gifts to receive each year is a bag of really excellent coffee. Just make sure you grind the beans at the store if your coffee lover doesn’t have a grinder at home.
- Office supplies. Wait, why would you buy something so boring? Au contraire. Remember how we talked about thoughtfulness? If I got to come into my office every day to a sweet Harry Potter notebook or pens, or a paper clip holder that looked like the Iron Throne, I’d be pleased as punch.
- Car decals are another way to add whimsy to your gift-giving this season, especially for loved ones who are super fans of something. Think Disney, Game of Thrones, the possibilities are really endless, and most decals can be applied to laptops as well as vehicles.
- Food. As in, prepare food and deliver it. This is a real game-changer for busy families where both parents work. Holidays are a hectic time. Put together some great freezer meals that families can pop into the oven on a weeknight. Prepped food is also amazing for elderly friends who may not get out much in the cold weather. I love food. I love it even more when it’s already prepared and all I have to do is turn on my oven. Bonus: no gift wrapping required. Hand delivered meals are wrapped in love, after all.
- Art kits like this one are inexpensive and kids of all ages love them. Let’s not forget that they’re washable, make no noise and require no batteries. Parents everywhere will thank you later.
- Succulent plants and gardens are a big hit right now. They make excellent gifts because they can grow year round and don’t take much TLC to maintain. These adorable owl succulent planters come out to less than $3 per pot. Add a succulent from your local home store and voila! Six adorable succulent pots for your co-workers’ desks.
- In the true spirit of the holidays, a donation made to someone’s favorite charity is always welcomed and sure to please.
Holiday shopping doesn’t have to be stressful on you or your wallet. Don’t give into the temptation to pull out your credit card. You should never go into debt to purchase Christmas gifts.
With a little creativity and thoughtfulness, you can do more than survive the holiday frenzy, you can enjoy it.
See a frugal gift idea that’s not on this list and should be? Please let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and happy frugaling!