How to give Christmas gifts on a tight budget
Giving inexpensive or free gifts

Remember when our parents would give us $10.00 and we would do all of our Christmas shopping at the Santa Workshop at school? If you weren’t lucky enough to have this at your school, let me tell you what you were missing! The gifts available were very cheap…plastic jewelry, a mug, small tool kits, candy. Kids made a list of who they were to buy for and made a budget on how much to spend on each person. The “helpers” helped them shop and wrap their gifts. We would get home with our bag full of presents and no kid wanted to wait until Christmas day to have their loved ones open them! With excitement, we pleaded with our parents to open them early. Some parents would, some would wait. But they always seemed SO happy with that little present. Moms wore that jewelry and drank out of that mug, while dads used those little tool kits for more than was probably intended…for at least a month. But it was the feeling the kids got of giving to those they loved.

As you get older, oftentimes you get poorer. No one gives you Christmas shopping money anymore, but you probably still get a thrill picking out the perfect gift and seeing the face of a loved one when they open it. So how can you accomplish this when times are tough, whatever the reason? I feel that a lot of times we feel as though our gift’s worth should equate how much we care about the person (sure, we can give a candle and gloves to our coworker, but doesn’t our best friend deserve more?). We have learned to have a sense of joy when we give, not only when we receive, and even when we have no extra money to spend on others, we still deserve that joyful feeling of giving. I have broken down this list of gift ideas into two possibilities: when we have a little money to spend and when we have no extra money to spend.


  1. BAKED GOODS: If you enjoy baking anything (bread, cookies, cakes, etc.) think about making large batches as gifts. I have a friend you bakes a ton of Christmas cookies every year, all different types, and gives them as gifts. This idea is simple, as you can buy ingredients in bulk and just double recipes you were already probably going to make. You can easily find inexpensive holiday plates and storage containers at the dollar store and even holiday themed plastic bags you can wrap them in. Add a pretty bow, and voila! Every one loves homemade treats, and I know I feel special when someone thinks of sharing them with me!
  2. CRAFT SOMETHING: Are you a crafter? If so, you probably already have supplies on hand, so why not craft something for your loved ones? I like to crochet, so I made blankets one year for everyone. I did have to invest in yarn, because I wanted a good quality, but I already had the rest of what I needed to make them. This mostly just took time. I also like to scrapbook, which was the inspiration for my sister’s gift last year. I created a family recipe book and all I had to buy was the binder and the paper, and print out some pictures, but I did have to plan ahead, type out recipes, write out stories, and put it all together. It took almost 2 months, I think, and was definitely worth her reaction! What are you good at? Do you paint? Sew? Make jewelry? You already have all the big stuff to create something, why not just make a small purchase and make something creative?
  3. DOLLAR STORE FINDS: Do not disparage the dollar stores! You would be surprised what you can find if you are really looking! From household goods to toiletries for creating a care package, you can find many options to create a little gift basket (including the baskets!). On more than one occasion, I have found myself at the Dollar Tree buying gifts for my kids for different things: Cleaning supplies for a basket for a moving in present, health and beauty supplies for a Christmas care package. I know my kids don’t have a ton of money, so I always think, why not buy them what they need so they don’t buy it themselves. Buy a small, pretty, reusable basket and fill with kitchen items for someone you know who likes to cook. You can buy small bottles of olive oil, spaghetti, and sauce and package them in a pasta strainer. All of this can be found AT the Dollar Tree! You can even buy a pretty frame and put a picture of you and your loved one in it. These are all very thoughtful gifts when you are on a tight budget.


Maybe the only gift I can afford?!?
  1. OFFER A SERVICE: Gift your best friend a night of free babysitting or dog sitting. Give your significant other love coupons(free back rubs, a night out to use later, etc.). Offer to clean the whole house, top to bottom for someone you live with. Whatever service you are comfortable providing, that would usually either have to be paid for or planned in advance, offer to do something for someone and be prepared to follow through. There have been years when it was hard to budget extra Christmas money, so I offered a whole weekend of babysitting for free to the couple that I nanny for. They could use it all at one time, or separate the days, and they loved it and used it! Any one would appreciate being thought of in that way and having one less thing to have to do.
  2. MAKE A CARD: It might sound cheesy, but what parent doesn’t love a homemade card? When you were a kid, you probably made cards for every occasion, so why not make one for your parents this year? You can add pictures you already have, or glitter, or even just make it funny…remember, it is the thought that counts. And your parents probably know your financial situation, so they won’t be expecting anything anyway, so this would be a sweet gesture.
  3. RE-GIFT: (AT YOUR OWN RISK!) Remember those gloves and candles that coworker gave you last year? If you haven’t used it, then why not re-gift it? Of course, there is a stigma to re-gifting, and of course, it is NOT recommended in a typical situation, but it you have no budget and you know you are going to have to give SOMETHING at a gift exchange or a party, why not re-gift something you haven’t used. Don’t forget where that gift came from!! That is the number one rule of re-gifting!! If you got something from an office coworker, do not re-gift it at the office Christmas party! I would suggest if you ever get a gift you aren’t into, and think you may re-gift it later, mark who it was from on it so you don’t make the dreaded mistake of giving it back to that person! Sure, maybe whoever gave you those Grinch socks didn’t put much thought into it, but it still hurts their feelings that you didn’t absolutely love them!

Maybe you can think of even more gifts! The point is, not everyone in your life is expecting a gift, especially if they know your financial situation isn’t stable at the moment, but sometimes there are going to be obligatory gifts you need to give. You do not need to break the bank or go into further financial peril to give gifts. It makes us all feel good to give gifts and you do not need to feel left out or make yourself feel bad just because you can’t get that expensive gift you know someone wants.

Happy gift giving, and drop me a comment on what inexpensive or free gifts you have given! Let me know if you have ever re-gifted (if you are brave enough)!


As my blog and business grows, the expenses to run it grows as well. If you are interested in helping a gal out, feel free to contribute a little donation. All proceeds will go towards building a better website and more products to sell. I appreciate all my readers, whether you donate or not 🙂

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.