Thrifty Christmas Gifts for a Large Family

November 27, 2007

A large family exchanging Christmas gifts.I have been trying to think of "thrifty" presents for my immediate family. I am also planning to buy them modestly priced "new" items but I thought a thrifty gift would also be special, because they know I am into that kind of thing. Here is what I have come up with. I hope other people will also contribute their ideas.


For Mom, 2nd grade teacher and homemaker: A bundle of Hallmark magazines from 2007. I know she doesn't subscribe to this magazine but I think she would enjoy reading my old copies.

For Dad, retired math teacher: A set of geometry crossword puzzles with vocabulary words and problems that I have made for my classes (I am a math teacher, too). He loves to do crossword puzzles and I know he enjoys math.

For Brother #1, college student living on his own for the first time: A set of easy recipes, many from, that I have made successfully and that he can make in his apartment, or cook for my parents if he decides to ditch his slacker roommates and move back home. He seems to enjoy cooking and talks about how his roommates only eat "gross frozen food."

For Brother #2, aspiring auto-mechanic: A monogrammed mechanics clean-up kit. This will consist of a bottle of dishwashing detergent with his initials written on it with a sharpie, as well as shop rags also with his initials in sharpie. Of course, the shop rags would come from my husbands pile of old clean socks with holes. (I know, it's kind of a stretch, but he is hard to think of gifts for.)


For Hubby: Fresh AA batteries and a new brush head for his electric toothbrush that he hasn't used in a few months just because he's been to busy to charge the batteries and I keep forgetting to get him a brush head.

I hope other people will also contribute their ideas!

By Allison from northeast TN

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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 355 Posts
November 26, 2019

In our big family, we have our annual Thanksgiving on the "weekend before the holiday, so all our kids are not running between families on Thanksgiving Day. During our day we have a time when we draw names for Christmas grabs between the children and this picture just made itself.

A tree shaped photo of kids up a staircase.

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October 14, 2008

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


October 14, 20080 found this helpful

You could find a set of nice glass christmas ornaments (12 to a box) and wrap them as individual gifts for the adults. The children will be happy with gifts from the dollar store, especially if they are young. They'll play with the boxes more that anything!

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October 14, 20080 found this helpful

On my blog is a code for photo mousepads for $2.99 shipped. I just got mine today (I like to try what I list) and it is nice. You could make some special photo memories for very inexpensive. Near bottom left under - NEED A GIFT


Also there is a link where Vera Bladley on-line is having a 50% sale and I got some great little gifts for teenagers. My shipping was only $4.95 and I got a lot. I also bought an apron for $10. Very nice.

There is also a link to E.L.F. cosmetics who are having a big sale on their nice makeup cases for 75% off. Take a look at what I described I got. You can also get some free shipping.

See - photo mousepads for the guys, Vera & E.L.F. for the ladies. There is also a free shipping code for Oriental Trading for some things for kids. Just a few ideas. I hope this helps.

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October 14, 20080 found this helpful

Also, have you ever suggested a gift exchange with your family or just giving gifts for the kids? (You inlcluded!


lol) I think everyone would understand the starving college student thing. We have all been there!

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Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 239 Feedbacks
October 14, 20080 found this helpful

I was about to suggest the ornament idea but I see somebody has already said that! As far as your parents are concerned I would imagine they would just be very, very happy with some really good grades for the quarter! Our son is in his third year of college and is working as much as he can and taking a full load and we really don't want him spending money on us. It's a treat for us when he gets to come home. Nothing more is needed. However, I know how it feels to get and not be able to give. I'd go for something sentimental like hand painted and dated ornaments. If you do somethng like thread count you could do ornaments like that.


One year for my school kids I made ornaments from their school pictures. I bought the little round frames at some place like Michaels and put the pictures inside.

Jared cookie mixes are easy and not expensive. Dress the jar up with ribbon and it's done.

One year I made bath baskets with soap that I made, bath salts I made, and a purchased scrubber and bath cloth. You could fill it with whatever you like. Guys could use one with "guy stuff" like shaving soap, cologne, razor, after shave, nail clippers. and anything else you can think of.

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By Emily (Guest Post)
October 14, 20080 found this helpful

I am in the same situation as you! I am in college and live on my own so sometimes things get a little tight on my end. Typically the day after Christmas is when I start my shopping for the next year! Everything is on sale so you can get some pretty good steals. Also, if some of your family doesn't get together until a day or two after Christmas, you can take advantage of this as well! Anyway, here is a list of my ideas..hope they help you! Good luck!

So you're looking to spend around $6-10/person. For the girls in the family, I would check out I live for this store when it comes to buying gifts! You can get necklaces (that are actually very nice looking) for around $5-6. This would be especially good for the nieces that are younger - they always cherish jewelry!! Also, in their luggage section, they have some pretty cute tote bags and make-up cases. Definitely worth looking at!

For your brothers that are married, maybe you could get a copy of a picture of the them and their wife and get a picture frame from a dollar store (about $5 each) and give that to them. You can wrap it up and give it to both your brother and wife. That cuts out having to give two different gifts.

Also, for the kiddos, if you go to Wal-Mart in the electronic department, they have some DVDs that are like $5.50 and they normally have some cute cartoon movies. I know I've seen Barney and Barbie movies.

One year when I was only making about $400 a month I made platters with cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, haystacks, etc. on them and you can get a nice Christmas platter for around $2.50 each. And the supplies to make the stuff will be next to nothing. Wrap them in colored saran wrap and put a bow on it and they will be a hit!

You can also try Most of their make-up is only $1 and from the stuff I have used, it's pretty good.

For the kids, you can also get a coloring book and some crayons (maybe the 24 pack) and wrap it up. They'll love it!

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By Mandy (Guest Post)
October 14, 20080 found this helpful

I live my entire life on a budget, so one day I'll have some decent cash in my bank account. Until then, I suggest taking old or new family photos and framing them. Perhaps get 3 or 4 and buy one of those multi frames and put them in there. That's about $5. Then if you really want to get into you could decorate the frame with old pendants and other jewelry from the Goodwill or some other thrift shop.

It's a sentimental gift and it's inexpensive.

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October 14, 20080 found this helpful

When we were college students and on a tighter budget we had to make things to give to people. One of the cheapest things we made was Christmas Wreaths. I got the wreaths off of the local free cycle website, the pottery, and hobby lobby with their weekly coupons. Then at Michael's they have a 50% sale on all decorative stems during the holidays.

All you need is a glue gun and wire cutters. I did put lights on a couple, the strands were only $1 a piece. I would only pay $1-3 for the wreaths, you can make even the thinnest wreath look nice with little manipulation.

You can also make those fleece blankets with the tied edges. Fleece is on sale right now, but will go off sale as it gets cooler. You might find some on clearance.

Another thing you can make for the young girls is a neat picture frame. Find an old picture frame, any old puzzle at a yard sale and paint over the puzzle pieces in different colors. Then glue them on top of one other all around the frame. Cute! Then you can add your own things.. glitter, plastic gems, whatever you like.

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By mjr (Guest Post)
October 14, 20080 found this helpful

This may sound cheap, but why don't you make some coupons up for things like cleaning a car or free babysitting service, and maybe for the nieces and nephews, take them to a movie as a group or individually.

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October 14, 20080 found this helpful

I just thought of this:
You could also go to
and get them a dining certificate for very little. Search their area for a restaurant you know might be one they like. Once you buy the dining certificate you could print out on colored paper.
Right now they have 80% off so a $10 certificate is $.60 and a $25 certificate is $2.00!
Code at checkout is EIGHTY
Expires: 10/15
These are good for one year after they are purchased.

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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 213 Posts
October 14, 20080 found this helpful

Everyone likes photos of their family. Have you seen those clear plastic cups you open & slide the photo into? Or how about those ornaments that are meant for a photo to be inserted? Every parent loves to have photos of their kids! One of my favorite gifts is a personalized calendar with a different family photo on each month. I believe they sell them at Costco as well as Wallgreens, but you can buy or download a program & make a stack of them all by yourself. This would be a great gift for the adults & I bet some of the older kids would also like them too. Be sure to include photos of the family pets.

One of the things you can do for all ages is to bake a different batch of cookies once or twice a week in starting in November & freeze them. This way you'll end up with 8 or 10 different kinds of cookies. Then the day before Christmas take them out of the freezer & put several cookies from each batch in a fancy box, bag or tin. Everyone loves homemade cookies!

As far a food goes, you can make powered Chai mix or even that stuff we use to call "Russian Tea" which was made with tang, lemonade & instant tea, cinnamon, clove & spices. You mix thgis power with boiling water & drink it on freezing cold snow days.

Someone earlier wrote in about family photo mouse pads. I think this is a wonderful idea!

Younger kids like stickers & you can always find them in dollar stores. You can also buy the younger kids a box of crayons & a coloring book. You can also make your own playdough for the kids. Look for recipes online.

For women & teenage girls you can make bath salts & bath oils. There's lots of great recipes on ThriftyFun & the web. The trick is to put them in a fancy jar with a bow & a small silk flower. The glass jars are usually found at most dollar stores.

If you have access to an apple or fruit tree you can pick the fruit then dehydrate it & put this into fancy containers. Who doesn't love dried fruit!? I always see unused & still new in the box dehydrators at second hand stores.

It doesn't matter what kind of gifts you give your family, they'll all appreciate the thought behind your gifts & know you were thinking of them, so stop worrying & just have fun.

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October 15, 20080 found this helpful

Photo Mousepad Information
CODE (at checkout): MSPD99
Expires: 12/31

I know I have responded a couple of times but your situation is so real to me since I have been there and I want to help.

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October 16, 20080 found this helpful

Rush down to your local dollar store!

They have a great assortment of things and you can even combine a couple of dollar items to make a very nice inexpensive gift.

I put together a very nice gift for a coworker by buying a couple of very nice scented candles and a candle holder. total cost $3.

They have cosmetics, jewelry, toys, food, tools, kitchen gadgets, music, etc. The possibilities are endless - go now and get some ideas and then you will be ready to make your selections when you go back to do your Christmas shopping..

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By Eva (Guest Post)
October 16, 20080 found this helpful

This year. my family and I have decided to do a "White Elephant" gift exchange. Each year we exchange names at Thanksgiving and set the rules for the holiday season. Sometimes the price of the gift is limited to a certain amount. The children in the family are not included. You can get board games at some stores 2 for 1.

Watch the ads. Or give the child a certificate for an afternoon with you including a picnic lunch. You can find tons of free activities for children in your area in local newspapers, "family activity magazines. etc. That leaves you with your boyfriend's family, a nice photograph and you and your friend taken with a good camera, can then be reprinted. There are many discount stores that offer inexpensive frames, my local 99 Cents Store has nice frames.''

Good luck

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October 16, 20080 found this helpful

We started a new tradition for the adults in our family. We donate money to a charity that is meaningful to us that year in everyone's names. For example, last year we made a donation to the Cancer society after my husband's grandmother and a dear family friend both fought a battle with cancer. You don't have to say how much you donated, just that you did. Plus your money goes to a worthy cause.

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October 16, 20080 found this helpful

Kimberly..I would want you to really check out things if you use this
'Photo Mousepad Information
CODE (at checkout): MSPD99
Expires: 12/31'

I went to that site and read some of the forums. There are a lot of unhappy people there that are supposedly store owners, etc..There seems to be no customer support etc...Please be careful and read a bit b4 getting into this co. There was also a post about another 'free' product and the artsnow pulled the offer with no warning..


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June 13, 2017

Every year I struggle with how I can somehow give something affordable, but of value, to my growing family of 11 grands (+4 spouses) and 4 great-grands. It's gotten to the point recently that financially I'm stretched so thin and far that I'm exhausted and pained by the whole process, to the point that the giving seems trite and meaningless.

Over the years I have accumulated considerable heritage info, including family recipes and limited family tree info, that I intend, at least eventually, to pass on to the family. I would like to do something with this, but at this time I am dealing with some medical issues that do not let me throw myself as fully into this project as I want to. But I can do a piece or two of that, if I can figure that out.

Please give me your ideas about what I might be able to put together in time for this coming Christmas to give as gifts/tokens/keepsakes to my grands (ages 13 to 31) to bless them, if not now so much, then later. (My background is in technical writing and publication, so I'm thinking something in the arena of written material.) In addition, it has occurred to me, that if my energy allows it, I can also bake a favorite heritage bread for them, and somehow present the recipe (their great-grandmother's) in a keepsake manner.

I look forward to your ideas.

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