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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November 24, 20160 found this helpful
Best Answer

I often choose one thing/theme each year. This year, I'm making personalized Xmas ornaments for people in my family. A couple of years ago it was knitted scarves

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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 148 Posts
December 3, 20040 found this helpful

A batch of homemade fudge, divinity, or peanut brittle is always well received and enjoyed. Or a loaf of fresh home baked bread and a jar of homemade Jam. My mother is 82 and housebound, so my gift to her is to take her shopping and to lunch once a month for the year. Usually the elderly already have too much "Stuff", and they enjoy the outing more than anything. Stationary, a nice pen and a book of postage stamps is also a frugal gift.


Harlean from Arkansas

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By brenda (Guest Post)
November 18, 20050 found this helpful

I am making draft stoppers this year by using material from freecycle and will then fill with sand.
I have also been gathering pieces of clothing that have nice fabric and am making lap quilts and matching pillows for the elderly in my family.
I am making a few coat racks by painting, stenciling and adding knobs to a piece of scrap wood.
I am also doing a breakfast basket to which I have included amish pancake mix, pure maple syrup and a spatula, some gourmet coffee and a couple of coffee mugs.
Another thing I am doing is making about 4-5 different types of popcorn balls, including an old fashioned version that has molasses in it and some with jello in them and some with marshmellow creme etc. and I have ordered christmas bags to put them individually in to. I will tie each bag closed with a christmas ribbon that has a recipe card attched with the recipe for that popcorn ball. I will fill several baskets with about 3 of each type in it as a family gift for some people with children.


I will also include 3 kinds of fudge done the same way, with the recipe included. I will use a star hole punch in the upper left corner of the recipe cards, then feed the ribbon through the hole to tie it to the goodies.
I too am making a bathroom gift basket with items of use, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, powder anitpersperant,softsoap,loofah, razors, shaving cream, comb, hairbrush, toothhbrushes and toothpaste, bar soap and a towel and wash cloth.

I am also making some rice filled heat pads,very simply sew a piece of material in any shape you want, in pillow form but before closing completely fill 80-90 % with rice, then sew closed . the recipient just warms them in the microwave and uses for a heat pad on aching muscles or just to warm up next to.

just a few things I am throwing Can you tell that I like to give things of use??

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By mom2nicoandsully (Guest Post)
June 22, 20060 found this helpful

Well... this might be a little too cheap... but I have been saving a lot of my yougest son's powdered formula cans and I plan to paint the lids with craft paint and cover the can with wrapping paper and put labels on them and then fill them with cookies that my older son and I are going to bake!

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Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 690 Feedbacks
July 1, 20081 found this helpful

Lisa,My"drawing names"fell through also.Having to buy for 23+ is a hardship now.I chose 1 person and told the others"do not buy for me because".Now that 1 person and I exchange.We also had fun w/it last year.$20.was the max.and it was from our local dollar store.It turned out to be alot of fun.I do bake several different things and take w/me a large platter of goodies for everyone Christmas day.Soon several followed...I should have spoken up a long time ago.Now Christmas is enjoyable.

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By Diana (Guest Post)
July 1, 20080 found this helpful

Married couples exchange an ornament (sometimes handmade) and then a stocking stuffer for each adult. Kids still get gifts. This is great for newly weds (affordable) and needed!


You can give from a location you've visited or do a theme (western, Margaritaville, etc.( I am always on the look out for what they collect (Elephants, Elvis, Frogs, etc.)

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July 1, 20080 found this helpful

If you are looking for some cute handmade gift ideas, check out:

They have some really nice ideas and are things you would actually want to receive, not the old stand by gifts.

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July 1, 20080 found this helpful

Memories are always the most valuable gift! Collect items associated with each person, especially photos and create something personal. A quilt (pick up a used one at a garage sale) and stick baby clothes, create a memory book, re-gift- when younger my kids received a book as a gift from a young girl who is a mom now.


We re-gifted her book to her for her child- She loved it. Use your 'memory' imagination!

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By Shellee (Guest Post)
July 1, 20080 found this helpful

This may not go over well with your family, but I have started a tradition at work and with my extended family of "giving" parcels of rainforest. I make a set donation to the National Arbor Day Foundation for their Rainforest Rescue fund, then divide the number of square feet I "bought" by the number of people I'm giving to. Then I print up postcards from my computer that, for example this year, read: "Merry Christmas! 198 square feet of rainforest in Central America will be restored in your honor by the National Arbor Day Foundation. Rain forests cover only 2% of the Earth's surface, but they provide habitat, nutritional and medical support for half of the Earth's known living species, including humans. To our health! Love, ..." I've gotten many positive comments about it every year since I started. I still give small gifts to my immediate family, but everyone else gets one of these (and mailed at postcard postage, which is cheaper, too!).

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By Shellee (Guest Post)
July 1, 20080 found this helpful

Another thought: have you considered buying everyone an inspirational book you liked? It could even be "Simplify Your Christmas" by Elaine St. James! Many people go along with the crowd so as not to make waves, but agree with you in secret.


Maybe they just need some inspiration to make some much needed changes. With the recession looming, this might actually be your year to start a new, frugal tradition!

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July 1, 20080 found this helpful

We are a large family of seven children, with extended family of 38 at our house each year for Christmas. Then we have employees, neighbors, organizational members, friends, club members, coachs, and tachers. Last year, we gave to over 200 people. I loved every moment. I start shopping the day after Christmas. I shop once a month for clearance items at all department stores and retailers in the area. I go to thrift stores once a week. If I find an item new in the box, I buy it. I buy craft items for 25 cents on most trips. Ribbon, paint, fabric, pretty jars, baskets. If I find a new craft project, I have the needed materials in the closet already. I have a walk in closet that I use for my stash of craft items. All new items go in the gift closet. When someone is invited to a birthday party, just open the closet and one will jump out that is perfect.

Barbies after Christmas are generally 3 or 4 bucks for the really cool ones. Small applicances are cheap in the summer time, you will need one for a shower or wedding. You can buy a Christmas tree, ornaments, lights, stand and all for $30 after Christmas. It is a great wedding gift or for a child moving out to go to college. Lawn furniture is very inexpensive in September. It can be great for someones porch as a Christmas gift.

End of the summer sales on beach items can be fun for a Christmas gift. Plastic buckets, shovels, beach towels, amd 25 pound bag of sand with make any child happy at Christmas. Okay, so they have to wear a coat and gloves to play outside, but making a sand castle in December is awesome.

I save all my gift cards for taking surveys all year and give as gifts to older couples for a nice meal out. Wal-mart gift cards for surveys are really appreciated by some, because they can be used for gasoline. I give my gift cards for Amazon to teenagers. That way they can pick the game they really want online. You will be a hero.

I buy any and all products at the grocery store that I have a coupon for that makes the item under a dollar. The items that we will not use go into a new laundry basket as a gift for someone at Christmas time. I try to stick to a theme for each basket. Cleaning supplies, food, pet food, paper goods, personal items, etc. I stick little notes on the items with jokes or things that we have a personal joke about. I filled one basket with light bulbs one year. I put a note on the bow telling them how they light up my life and I wanted them to know it!!!

Picture frames can be picked up for under a dollar at thrift stores. Spend a day going through old family pictures and have them enlarged at Walgreens for under a dollar. It will bring tears and great memories when opened.

My aunt doesnt have much money, but she can sew. I give her the kids old sports t-shirts and uniforms. She makes each one a quilt from their sports stuff. I give her the material that will match their rooms. She has a great gift for them and it just took her time, not her paycheck.

Our family has two great ideas that help all of us at gift giving time. We all have a list on our frig that is a wish list. Some items are small, some large, When I think of something I need I put it on the list. When relatives come over they can glance at my list for ideas. We all do it, and it really helps. Our second idea is our fourth of July tradition. After the BBQ and before the fireworks, each family member must write out their wish list. You can not light fireworks till everyone has completed the task. Many bring their lists completed before they arrive now. They are great hints for birthdays, Christmas, etc.
My mother types up everyones lists and sends them to each family.

Several family members make candles, cookie trays, jams, etc as gifts each year. One family just gives pictures. Another only gives gift cards. We get gifts of love that cost nothing to hundreds of dollars. They are all from the heart and that is all the matters.

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By sc (Guest Post)
July 2, 20080 found this helpful

I have around 34 family members, so I can understand you desire to cut back on the money side. It has turned into a rat race for many for this spiritual holiday. Look at stores that sell coffee cups, plates, baskets and gift bags. I bake small loaf cakes, cookies, chewy breads, and other sweets. Find notepads, pens, teas, hot chocolate, chili makings or homemade soups to put into the bags. If you don't sew, try making a sock pad. Fill a nice looking sock with rice(add herbs if desired) tie, this gives you two gifts for the pair. LifeWay Book Store has books that are inexpensive to add to the gift. Theme ideas are great. You can mix the items up or stick to a theme. I try to mix it up. Best Wishes on you desire to make this special day one of the heart.

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By Diana (Guest Post)
July 2, 20080 found this helpful

READ the book
How to unplug the Christmas Machine.

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By Linda (Guest Post)
July 3, 20080 found this helpful

I don't know the ages involved. but what I have done with the teens or those slightly younger is get gift certificates to a local theater and fast food place. It will give them a night out with little or no expense.

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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 277 Posts
July 3, 20080 found this helpful

why not go to the dollar store and put together some gift baskets
some of the ideas listed before would make some great fillers. how about pre-made mixes in a jar? or spoons (plastic) dipped into chocolate or pretzels dipped into chocolate.I definatley love to have cookies and other treats given to me.

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July 3, 20081 found this helpful

I have to agree that buying for multiple people can be overwhelming. Too, it takes the joy and meaning out of Christmas.
Lets face it. Most people buy what they want, when they want it. Kids are picky about clothing, music, make-up and toys.
The last few years we've sent FRUIT BASKETS, but that gets so expensive and is a real hassle. We had several people not getting their baskets, or getting bad fruit.
The bottom line is this...(remind me to adhere to it please). Notify friends and family that you don't need any gifts and that it would be much saner not to do the entire gift exchange.
I think having friends and family over for a cup of wassail may be a good idea, but that is it.
It goes without saying that "grandma", will receive a gift. There again, I usually get her some kind of delicacy she would not purchase for herself. Otherwise, she'd sell it in her weekly yard sale. :)

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By Pat (Guest Post)
July 3, 20081 found this helpful

We also have a very large extended family and here is what we have done for a few years now: we have a White Elephant Exchange, though we have gone from white elephants to useful things that someone might want. We each draw a number. #1 chooses a wrapped gift and unwraps it, then #2 does the same. That person may keep the gift or trade it for the last person's gift. If he takes a gift from someone, then that person may choose a new gift. This goes on until everyone has a gift and then person #1 may trade gifts with the last person. This makes for a lot of fun when someone 'takes' anothers' gift and people wind up trading anyway. We usually put a $ limit on the gifts and we include the children by preparing each a gift which they get when their number comes up. Each individual family exchanges gifts in their own time and everyone is happy. There is a lot less Christmas hassle and way fewer returns.

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Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 153 Feedbacks
July 3, 20080 found this helpful

Here is how I manage it: Watch for rebate premium offers. For instance, right now you can get Tony Stewart Racing Gear for 20 points from Van Camp's Pork and beans. There's one point on each can, and they are on sale for the summer holiday. You get your choice of a tee shirt, ball cap or insulated cooler. Who couldn't use 20 cans of pork and beans up in a year's time. Another idea is to be found a If you have a country music fan, you can get up to 4 nice-looking tee shirts for 10 Hershey wrappers and $2.50 postage and handling each. You can be I'll be looking at the ground for those wrappers! Just a couple of ideas. Watch the sales. Compare coupons with sales. Gift baskets can be put together very cheaply this way. Today I bought three cans (12 oz) peanuts, 9 envelopes of Kool-Aid and two dozen eggs. I had coupons printed off from the Planters web site that gave me $3.00 off nuts if I bought three Kraft products at the same time. Kool-Aid is a Kraft product, and it was on sale for .10 each. I did three of these deals, and to my surprise got a $4.00 off my next order coupon. So my whole shopping list cost $3.27. The nuts would go well with other foods in a basket. Anyway, have fun!

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By Nance (Guest Post)
July 3, 20080 found this helpful

A framed picture of your family member with you makes a nice present.

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Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 116 Feedbacks
July 4, 20080 found this helpful

I have had great success making "gift baskets" or goody bags from dollar store items. Even the containers can come from the dollar store, and don't neccesarily have to be baskets. For example, you can sometimes get a toolbox and then fill it with dollar tools for the handyman. Or get a ice bucket and fill with popcorn and candies for a movie theme, you could even add a dollar DVD of a classic film. You can get a small container and fill with matching bath products. I have even used a coffee cup as a container -- this could be filled with candy, or other small items to suit the person's tastes and interests. I gave a golfer a golf-themed mug, filled with a pack of tees, a shoe cleaner, cocoa mix, candy and a golf towel wrapped around it.

There are lots of great things in the dollar store that you can use, and make up something to suit every family member. All it takes is a little time to search for them, and a little creativity.

Good luck!

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By Sandee (Guest Post)
July 4, 20080 found this helpful

I like to learn a new craft each year and give to family and friends. They seem to like that best.

I would rather give several people a lower cost personal gift than draw names and give one person a higher cost gift that they may or may not appreciate.

We have bought several (what we think are nice) gifts for my m-i-l only for her to give them back to us a few months later to sell in our garage sale. The only items she does not return and does display are the handmade items I've given her.

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July 4, 20080 found this helpful

We have made Family Boxes more than once. For a family box you choose a theme and fill it, or partially fill it. Whatever size box appropriate - and have your own family fun decorating them!

For example: Family Movie Night. Buy a couple of previoulsy watched movies (or raid your own collection OR a rental giftcard), popcorn, movie snacks and a couple fun handmade or inexpensive items for the kids (knit critters, finger puppets, etc) and you are done.

One year we started filling with non-perishables in the Spring and had great boxes by the holidays!

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October 5, 20080 found this helpful

I love your ideas!

Something that I did one year for my grown and married kids was to create a box full of things that everyone tends to need, but can never find. I decorated baby wipe boxes that I got from friends who have little ones and placed the following items inside: scissors, scotch tape, pens & pencils, velcro pieces, small sewing kit (homemade), small first aid kit (also homemade with bandages, antibiotic wipes, Pepto tablets, aspirin, etc.), postage stamps, paper clips, tiny stapler and staples, whiteout, small post-it note, a Sharpie, matches, a small candle, and much more. I bought everything in bulk and divided them, so I spent about $15.00 for everything My kids LOVED them and keep them in their 'junk' drawers. They say they have used the contents many times and love that they are right there where they can be found.

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By melody (Guest Post)
October 13, 20081 found this helpful

Make candy cane vase. Use coffee can, rubber band, 40 candy canes and ribbon. Put the rubber band around can put candy canes behind band then tie with ribbon add flower or greens, everyone loved there Christmas center piece and it was inexpensive to do.

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October 27, 20082 found this helpful

I wish i had more people to give to because i always have tons of ideas! I only have about 8 people to give to and sometimes colleages if I am working a temp job around the holidays. I make soap, candles and bath items that everyone usually "expects" every year but I get bored with just giving those items so I also incorporate:
*Gifts in a Jar
*Thrift store clothing or gift certificates
*Used Books (my mom reads a lot so i pick them up year round when i see them for less than $1)
*Coffee cards that I get free with collected airmiles
*Baked Goods
*Homemade Caramels (this was a HUGE hit last year)
*Homemade Jams and Zucchini Salsa
*Handmade journals using recycled cardboard, paper and using stamps to decorate
*I make my own "zines" which are basically my own mini booklets that are all about frugality. You can make one booklet, either with stories, articles, poetry, drawings, crafts...then photocopy give everyone the same booklet!
*I also bake cookies, loaves and make drink mixes
*Make magnets using those flat clear marbles they sell at the dollar store. Cut out printed images and glue printed side on to the flat surface. Use a special glue which willstick to glass. Glue on magnet. People love these!
*I also go to Freebie websites and collect freebies all year round. If you have a teen to give to, they love bath & beauty freebies. I've made baskets full of freebies for people who thorougly enjoyed it. E-mail a company you like and request a freebie or sample.
*A gift certificate for a hair cut or esthetic service from a cosmetology school is inexpensive and also great. You get star treatment from my experience!

That's all I can think of at the moment!

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By Diana V. (Guest Post)
November 10, 20081 found this helpful

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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December 3, 20150 found this helpful

"I have suggested many times to maybe draw names, but this never seems to go over well" is the problem right there. In a nice but firm manner, let your extended family know well ahead of time [and it is your family, so you should be able to talk honestly with them], the gift giving has gotten out of hand. It's become too stressful, too time consuming, too expensive, and most of all, the meaning and joy of the Season has become lost for you. Ask them this year to give your idea of drawing names a try. In my family, we do this at Thanksgiving. Set a reasonable dollar amount per gift [in my opinion, $20 is the maximum]. If they shoot you down again, get some guts and let them know that you will not be buying for the entire family. Hey, somebody's bound to get mad, but then again, people have to get mad over something, it seems. I can't even imagine the stress of buying for everyone in an entire extended family not to mention the expense. This is what I call "giving something just for the sake of showing up with a present in your hand" with no real thought or meaning behind it. I guarantee, you only have to break this cycle once, and it is done.

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