53 Surprisingly Frugal Gift Giving Ideas for the Holidays

Have You Started Thinking
About the Holidays?


The kids are going back to school, and that means Christmas is just around the corner. Let’s talk about Christmas budgets or holiday budgets, whatever that will mean for your family.




Begin With a List of Holiday Expenses.


What are you responsible for this holiday season?


Are you hosting dinner? Are you responsible for the full meal, or can you request each guest to bring a small item to help?


Some small items could be a bag of buns, a salad, pickle tray, cheese tray, one or two non-alcoholic beverages, etc. It’s the little things that can add up (beyond the cost of meat and potatoes!) therefore don’t be shy on asking people to spend $5-10 on a donation to the meal.


Doing a gift exchange with work?


Do you have teachers to purchase for?


Take a few minutes and brainstorm what you need to deal with over the month of December.


Do Inventory in Your Home.


Do you have a gift stash somewhere? Do you still have wrapping paper and Christmas cards? Check to see what you will need, and make a list of the gifts you may have already purchased, and what incidentals you will require.


Make a full list of all the people you will be giving presents to this year. Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Aunts & uncles
  • Cousins
  • Neighbours
  • Teachers
  • Paper carrier
  • Mail carrier
  • Babysitter
  • Service providers
  • Friends
  • Spouse
  • Coworkers
  • Employees
  • Employers
  • School bus drivers
  • Nursing home residents
  • Donations to charity/families in need
  • Pets


Once you have your list, prioritize. Who are the most important people on your list to buy for?


Be Honest With Your Budget


How much do you want to spend this year? This is a big question. How much CAN you AFFORD to spend? If it’s September, you will have 3-4 months to save up. How much can you truly afford to spend?


Start by budgeting a figure for the top priority people on your list. That may be children, grandchildren, parents, etc. Give each person a value and then deduct it from your budget. Does it fit? How much is left? Count the remaining people on your list and divide by the difference. How much per person?



Budget: $500.00

I know I need wrapping paper, tape and bows. I have cards. My estimate is $30 for supplies. I will deduct $30 from my budget.

I have 6 people who are top priority to buy for. Since my budget is now at $470, and I have more than 6 on my list, my plan would be to spend about $30 per person on my priority list. 6 people at $40 is $180. I deduct that from my budget of $470, and I am left with $230.

I have 10 people on my secondary list, and I have $230 remaining. I know I want to give two gifts to a charity, so that’s 12 people. I can spend $19.16 per gift.


How to Maximize Your Spending Allowance


There’s more than one way to buy for people. Here are some suggestions that will help you maximize your per person gift costs:

  • Do you have any pre-bought gifts? Who can you give them to?
  • Do you have any gifts you’ve received and are still in new condition? Can you regift?
  • Do you have any gift cards you’ve bought or received and can gift?
  • Have you earned any points on credit cards and can purchase items at a discount or with points or money on the card?
  • Can you exchange rewards for gift cards?
  • Instead of purchasing for each adult relative, can you make a secret santa draw and only buy for one at a higher value than each of them individually?
  • Has your family discussed just shopping for the under-18 crowd?
  • Try a mystery gift where each person spends $10-20 on one gift that could be for anyone (like gift cards, socks, etc.) and do a gift game where people can “steal”, pick and trade wrapped gifts. Whatever you end up with is your mystery gift!
  • Shop at a bulk store and package gifts into baskets:
    • Can you buy movie tickets at a discount and pair them with movie snacks bought in bulk and divided up?
    • Gifts in a jar or gifts in a box are very popular. Is it cheaper to give gifts in a jar?

Here are some examples of gifts in a jar:


More Inexpensive Bulk Ideas

  • Make a bulk batch of wine at your local craft wine location and create holiday labels, like “Merry Christmas from our family to yours” or check out some ideas here.
  • Try glass etching on wine glasses. You can find the etching solution at your local craft store, and wine glasses at a dollar store. Make a set of four Christmas wine glasses for under $10, or make a set of two and fill with candy or some other treat for even less.


Make ornaments.

There are so many ways to be creative with ornaments:


Search online for different ornaments you can “diy”. Depending on your crafty skill, you could create some complex gifts, and even if you are not crafty at all, you will find some that look wonderful and are very easy to do.


By packaging these with some nice ribbon, a gift box or bag, you can make an inexpensive homemade gift outshine the most expensive trinket.


Be Creative

  • Get together with a couple of friends and make big batches of cookies. Share and divide the cookies up, and then divide them again into smaller gift boxes lined with parchment paper. Many people crave the homemade Christmas treats but never have the time (or interest) in making the treats themselves.
  • Check out your direct sales representatives. Many reps have Christmas packages on sale and they make great basket gifts. Display them in a bag, basket or caddy with a big bow.
  • Design something that will last through the year. Find an inexpensive journal or notebook and take some stickers or washi tape and decorate the book. Create a theme, like inspirational, devotional or reminder to your parent/child of your love and support for them. Include a picture or two, and/or a small gift card.
  • Check out Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Be careful not to get carried away or purchase things that you are not familiar with online. You might be dissatisfied or surprised with what actually comes in the mail.
  • Give a gift of time. As discussed in my post about saving for the holidays, there is no shame in giving the gift of time. The time given for parents to go on a date, a single mother to grocery shop alone, or anything that requires childcare is a gift in itself. Offer to child sit for a couple of hours while your friends or family enjoy the time to themselves.
  • Give a gift of service. Do you mind cleaning, cooking or shopping for others? You can offer to clean a house, cook a couple of meals or go errand shopping for relatives who may not be as capable to do that themselves. Don’t be surprised if the job you offer is worth more to them than a plant or a new pair of slippers.
  • Consider sharing an event with friends instead of gift giving. Have a fondue party, watch a movie with gourmet popcorn, or go for a wine tasting tour.


Time is Money too


After reading these “DIY” and inexpensive gift ideas, I want you to remember something.

Remember that your time is worth money too, so never be embarrassed about gifting something that did not come prepackaged at the store.


Your time is worth money too, so never be embarrassed about gifting something that did not come prepackaged at the store. - On Gift Giving The Frugal Way Click To Tweet


Small Tokens of Appreciation
are Worth More


Some of the people on your list, like teachers and service providers, often receive small tokens of thanks from their clients, students or customers. Do not feel obligated to give anything other than a card if you cannot afford it. Also, a $5 – $10 coffee gift card is often more appreciated than another mug, serving plate or trinket purchased from the local department stores.


Minimalism Counts


There are two conditions on gifts that we aim for in our house: consumable and memorable. We no longer search for trinkets, big gifts, etc., as we are all adults and can purchase much of what we want for ourselves. We aim for items that are consumable (think socks, towels, blankets – things that can be used every day or used up and that we would normally need anyways) and memorable (like event tickets, gift cards, investment donations, charitable donations, etc.).


Review the Budget


Looking at the number of people you would like to gift something to, is there anyone that you could move into a homemade gift section or a token of appreciation? Are there people who you no longer feel the need to purchase for? Can you reduce that budget? Can you ask others for gift bags that are in good condition to use for gifting?


If you are just starting out, be realistic with your budget. Times are tough for many people, and you might be surprised at how many people would be relieved to do something different this year.


Good luck!



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Giving: Making it Merry Toy Drive


There are twelve months in a year, and each one will bring a feeling to each of us.



September is associated with fresh starts for going back to school, or the cool air of 
fall can bring on feelings of dormancy and nesting. April is seductive as the month of rain: the showers that bring May’s flowers, and a cleansing that washes away winter’s dirty secrets. 
December is a month unto it’s own. It is the double statutory holiday month, the Christmas crazy countdown, the post-Christmas feelings, the re-launch of counting down the end of the year; home to the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year. It’s crazy. It’s wild. Oh, and it’s my birthday month as well. 

The Season of Frantic

The holidays can bring out the best in all of us, and it can also bring out the worst. For me, the last two weeks have been frantic moments of finishing up files at work, last minute requests, trying to remember the spirit of the holidays while stressing about what to buy those who already have it all, and it makes you wonder if it’s worth all the hassle. It’s spending time with family, and, for some, it’s also dreading time with family.


Toys for the littles…

And Then…

A couple of weeks ago, an email came in that said “We need 20 bloggers for something cool this Xmas!”

Now, this was new and exciting! Christmas? Bloggers? I’m a blogger! I like Christmas! What’s this about? 

J. Money, of Rockstar Finance, sent out this call to action. He was giving away $100.00 to 20 bloggers and our only mission? 
Make. It. Merry. 
(or, in his words, to do good.) 

Rockstar Finance and J. Money (Budgets are Sexy)

See, Rockstar Finance is the best resource and biggest directory for personal finance, and J. Money and team try to help as many people as they can. (Go here for more stories.)  I jumped on this email in hopes of making it merry, and signed up. J. Money sent the dough, and I was ready to go. 
My day job was collecting for ProjectShare, a charitable organization in Niagara Falls. At the time I received the email, it was one week away from our Toy Drive, where employees can donate unused toys to go to families in need. 
My goal was to spend that $100 and find toys and gifts for children of all ages, and be mindful of finding items that were inexpensive and that fed the imagination. 
By the way, there’s nothing quite so fun as spending someone else’s money! It was so much fun it cost a little extra, but who’s counting?  

Thank you.

Lots of goodies for a great range of ages, and I hope there are some smiles Christmas morning for all the merry that J. Money allowed us to share. 
Gifts and Smile-Makers

Side Note: $100 US converted into $124 Canadian, so you are actually seeing about $145.00 Canadian in goodies. 

So as we are about to rest our heads on our own pillows, and count the moments until the jolly man in red slides down the chimney, I want to thank J. Money and crew for giving me the opportunity to remember that Christmas is more than just for the ones close to us, and so much more than just gifting; it’s about spreading a little bit of joy in our homes, in our neighbourhoods, and in our hearts. 


That’s a full collection bin. May an otherwise empty tree provide some hope this holiday season.


It’s hard for me to imagine a home where the tree isn’t covered in ornaments, and the floor beneath covered with a family and their gifts. My childhood was far from “normal”, but there was never a bare Christmas and we always had each other. I can not picture the heartbreak of a child who doesn’t wake up and see at least one gift under the tree, and knows the magic of believing.
Even with spending what we did, I was amazed at what we could pull together in just one night. I’d love to keep it going, and have a plan one year to build it up so no one goes without a visit from Santa. 
Thank you, Rockstar Finance, for making it merry in Niagara! 
Merry Christmas, everyone! Love each other, be generous and patient. Thank you for sharing a moment with me, and if you want to help a child in need, feel free to reach out to me in the comments, or at gouldengirl79@gmail.com 
Did you do something this year that makes you feel good? Share below in the comments!