Reader Suggestions: Holiday Gifts That’ll Spread The Love But Not Break The Bank
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!! True, true, but it’s also the most stressful time of the year for some. Stressed? Moi? You may be thinking. But indeed, amid all the ho-ho-ho-ing and fa-la-la-ing, there’s an undercurrent of dread related to one of the most contentious aspects of the holidays: GIFT GIVING.
It’s lovely to give and receive and everyone feels festive and jolly nestled in their woolen sweaters, clutching their ‘nog, smiling as Bing croons about snow dreams. However. The holidays can also spell financial catastrophe. Ok perhaps ‘catastrophe’ is a tad hyperbolic, but financial distress certainly is not.
In the past, I’ve heard from many readers who assume there are but two holiday gifting routes:
- Register as a certified grinch and refuse to give (or receive) a single gift.
- Max out all of your credit cards and shower everyone you know with presents. Lots of presents.
False, I cry! Put the jingle back into your bells and deck yo’ halls because there is a third way:
3. Judiciously spend what you can afford and give thoughtful, appropriate gifts to those you love.
Every longtime frugaler knows and loves this maxim, which is why today I’ve compiled a list of gifty-gift ideas from the greatest, most generous frugalers out there: the readers of Frugalwoods.
Welcome to my monthly Reader Suggestions feature! Every month I post a question to our Frugalwoods Facebook group and share the best responses here. The questions are topics I’ve received multiple queries on and my hope is that by leveraging the braintrust of Frugalwoods nation, you’ll find helpful advice and insight. Join the Frugalwoods Facebook group to participate in next month’s Reader Suggestions!
How I Handle The Holidays
As you likely deduced, based on the ridiculous exuberance displayed above, I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS. I can’t stop, won’t stop with the decorating, the tree trimming, and the tacky craft-making. But I also love getting a good deal, not wasting money, and I don’t love tons of stuff. I’m a quasi-minimalist and it pains me to see waste and overconsumption in any context. So how DO I do the whole gift thing? Here’s a rundown, by gift recipient:
Mr. Frugalwoods and I have been married for almost eleven years and, about eight years ago, we decided to stop giving one another gifts for holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. Early on in our relationship, we set a budget for gifts and then panted and panicked our way through December trying to cobble together a cache of trinkets to give each other. It felt materialistic, was a waste of time and money, and dolloped a generous topping of frustration. We discussed this and agreed we’d rather focus on experiences together–such as a fancy dinner out or a vacation–as opposed to material gifts at special occasions. We’ve been on this no-gift train for at least eight years now and we have no plans to cease. I really like the removed stress and the fact that we can be open and honest about what we need and want in our relationship. I’ve devoted quite a few posts to this topic, since I know it is controversial, so if you’d like to read more, check these out:
- How We’ve Enjoyed Nine Years Of Marriage With Frugality As The Backbone
- 8 Money Questions To Ask Your Partner This Valentine’s Day
- A Frugal Valentine’s Day: Do Instead Of Buy
- I Need A Gift For My Anniversary Like Frugal Hound Needs A Bicycle
DISCLAIMER: This needs to be mutual decision that you and your partner discuss and agree upon ahead of time. Don’t be showing up empty-handed on Christmas morning and wondering why you’re enduring the wrath of a thousand swans a-swimming plus a partridge in a pear tree.
My Two Kids (currently ages 3 years old and 10 months old)
One of the primary reasons I had kids was to celebrate holidays with them and relish the magic of Christmas through a child’s eyes. I am not even kidding about this. Given that, you might erroneously assume I inundate my kiddos with mountains of gifts. Wrong. For us, this is a many-fold approach and it starts with our family’s values and philosophies. Namely:
We don’t emphasize the gift-getting aspect of Christmas (or birthdays or any other occasion for that matter)
We focus on the true meaning of each holiday and the special things we’ll do together. For example, this year our three-year-old is DELIGHTED that Christmas means we do the following:
- Decorate the house and put up a Christmas tree
- Track the days of December with our Advent calendar (I’m not sure that thing was designed to withstand toddler hands and am hoping it makes it… )
- Bake cookies together
- Make a gingerbread house together (you know it’s going to look like the “before” picture of a home renovation)
- “Perform” as a lamb in our church’s Christmas pageant
- Sing Christmas songs.
- Donate toys to the Angel Tree at our church. I’ll be honest, I’ve hidden these toys because our track record with generosity at age three is spotty at best (see next bullet for illumination).
- Donate money and clothing to our local food pantry/shelter for their breakfast with Santa event (pictured below). Also, I had this vision of teaching Babywoods all about helping others and so I knelt down next to the donation box and handed her the money and said she could be the one to donate it, to which she responded (loudly), “I don’t want to donate!” So yeah. We’ll try that again next year…
- Attend our library’s wintertime pajama party. I will point out that Babywoods refused to wear jammies since they are “not for wearing out of the house, mama.” Touche. Littlewoods wore jammies because she does not yet have an opinion on the matter.
- Witness a really excited mama who gets to go SOLO to a women-only cookie party. And yes, there is wine at this party.
We don’t emphasize the gift angle, even though she knows full well what Santa Claus is and, in fact, we went to visit him last weekend (for the record, she flat out refused to sit on his lap or even NEXT to him). On Christmas morning, our kids will be delighted to find some gifts under the tree–some from Santa, some from grandparents, and some from us. Emphasis here on the word “some.”
We ruthlessly edit how many gifts our daughters receive for each occasion, because we feel that tons of gifts dilute the special-ness of each present, set an expectation that more is always better, and promote excessive materialism and too much stuff. My thoughts on how much stuff a kid needs at any given time is best summed up by the book Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids. In this book, the author advances the idea that children play more deeply and more happily with a small number of quality,carefully-selected toys as opposed to with a mountain of overwhelming junk.
I buy our kids’ gifts used at garage sales, thrift stores, and library book sales or procure them as hand-me-downs. I do this all year long and I have a box in our basement labeled “gifts to give the girls.” They don’t see these items ahead of time and they don’t know or care that they’re not brand new. At this age and stage, “new” is not relevant to our kiddos. In the future, when our girls are older–and especially when they’re ‘tweens and teens (a terrifying thought to me right now… )–we will recalibrate our gift giving process and will focus on helping our girls identify one or two things they’d really like to receive.
Mr. FW and I choose to give gifts to our immediate extended families, which include our parents, our siblings, and our nieces and nephews. I don’t go beyond this group as we both have ENORMOUS families and it would bankrupt a small country to gift to everyone.
Plus, I wouldn’t want to set the expectation that our extended families need to give us gifts in return. We send Christmas cards to everyone and call it a day, which, P.S. here’s how I do Christmas cards on the frugal.
Here’s the rundown of gift giving in this category:
- Nieces and nephews: I ask their parents what they’d like and then I get them each one item (or two small items). I don’t try to guess here because tastes are mercurial and I do not like to waste my money or their time.
- Siblings: they receive homemade preserved foods. We gift items we’ve made from our garden to all of the adults. Sometimes we do another small, specific gift, but usually not or not much. This is the approach they take too and it works well for all of us.
- Parents: we give them homemade preserved foods plus a few gifts they’ve specifically requested.
I like to know exactly what people want because I don’t want to waste my money on something they don’t need and don’t want. We all have too much stuff to begin with and so I’m happy to get things I know will be used regularly because I’m not a fan of useless paraphernalia.
We now have teachers! Or, rather, our three-year-old has the most loving and wonderful preschool teachers that walk this earth. I plan to make gift bags of homemade goodies for each of her five teachers. I’ll put in some preserved foods from our garden and likely some homemade baked goodies as well. I figure everyone likes food and it’s a gift that won’t go to waste! Plus, it’s pretty inexpensive for me to assemble and it’s much more thoughtful (in my opinion) than a random candle or coffee mug. Teachers, please chime in and let me know what you like to receive!
Church Nursery Teens
The nursery at our church–where Babywoods hangs out every Sunday–is staffed by wonderful teenagers who our kids adore. In light of this, I get them Amazon gift cards.
I don’t think that teens want my lovingly preserved foods and I can’t begin to imagine what I’d buy them, so honestly, I just take the easy way out and do gift cards. Teenagers (or parents of them), please let me know if this is a dumb gift (and suggest something else. ASAP. Thanks).
Neighbors and Friends
Homemade baked goods!!! This has always been my strategy for local friends, neighbors, and–back when I worked in an office–my co-workers. Again, I think most people love homemade food–or they can share it with family/friends if they don’t–and it’s super inexpensive. It allows me to be generous and abundant in my gift giving and I don’t feel like I have to exclude anyone due to the cost.
Here are a few of the things I’ve made over the years for this category of folks:
- Homemade mini-loaves of banana bread
- Homemade sugar cookies
- Homemade chocolate-covered cherries (note: this was a TERRIBLE idea as they took me 4,000 hours and kinda tasted weird if I’m being honest… )
Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the easiest, fastest things to make and the ones that are the most delicious. Everything on the above list takes me FOREVER to make, so this year I plan to bake:
- Brownies (here’s the easy peasy recipe I swear by)
- Homemade graham cracker bark. This stuff is sinfully easy and fast to make and I’ve never met a person who doesn’t love it.
In years where I didn’t have the time/fortitude to bake things myself, I bought little bags of festive cookies or candies from the grocery store. This was more expensive, but still waaaay cheaper than buying non-food gifts.
Donating to charity is another cornerstone of how my family celebrates Christmas. Every December, Mr. FW and I sit down and make all of our philanthropic gifts for the year. I’ve written about our approach extensively in the following:
- How We Make Meaningful And Tax Efficient Charitable Donations
- How We Donate To Charities Like Billionaires
Alright, enough from me! Let’s see what Frugalwoods Readers are giving this holiday season!!!! Ho Ho Ho!
How Frugalwoods Readers Give Generous, Thoughtful, Frugal Holiday Gifts
Simple and Practical
Toni wrote, “Every Christmas, we host Christmas brunch and gift our loved ones a good pair of socks. Our family is very active so we gear each pair towards their sport of choice. We re-use the gift bags to save resources and money and to ensure the tradition continues year after year!”
Carrie shared, “My husband and I rarely get each other anything. If we do, it’s probably $15 or less. The kids get to pick out their presents. We always have a budget per child, and they make a list through the year of things they think they want. Sometimes they use the list, sometimes not. We try to steer them towards things they will use frequently and something they need as well.
The trick with them knowing what they are getting for Christmas ahead of time means they don’t get to see the item until Christmas, it takes the stress out of guessing, and we know they will appreciate it more. If they realize they’ve made a mistake with their choice(s), then they have learned a lesson about choices and making better decisions. There’s only so much money and so many resources.”
Caroline said, “an excellent, really frugal gift which is often overlooked because it’s seen as cliched, is socks. Yes. Even a really good, high-quality pair of socks, though far more expensive than the dirt cheap ones, is not a budget-buster in ”real” terms, and people, particularly men, will absolutely use them forever.”
Cindy added, “I highly recommend bamboo socks–got some for my mom because she swears by them!”
Djaylane shared, “Little ones get 3 things: something to read, something to wear and a little something for ‘fun’. Grownups get 1 ornament for the tree (so that we will always be a part of their Christmas celebrations. ..some live far away) and a sweet treat (usually a fancy chocolate – to start off the year on a sweet note). Some gifts are homemade, others are bought throughout the year (always inexpensively), but all are beautifully wrapped and given with much love. We spend time – not necessarily money – with our grandchildren. I hope they’ll have good memories of the time they spent with us.”
Holly wrote that for, “Stockings – I keep it practical for my husband with the very exciting gifts of a new toothbrush, socks, workout supplies like hand tape, etc. Things he will use. The kids get more fun stuff in their stockings like chocolates or lip balm, stickers, etc.”
Erin shared, “I knew I was a grown-up when my favorite Christmas gift became socks! Fancy warm socks like smartwool that I don’t buy for myself but not too spendy as a gift. I also love gifts of passes to things IF the gifter checks out beforehand that it’s something we’d use. Useful handmade gifts are awesome, like rice heat packs (I said that last year), homemade mixes (there’s a chai mix I might try this year), and since I cook/bake I love receiving fancy versions of regular ingredients, like nice vanilla, cocoa, coffee, etc. Potentially-grinchy caveat: beware giving someone a gift in an area where they are an expert and you are not, as it can easily be wasted. I don’t pick out wine for my wine-enthusiast friends, tea for the tea-particularists (I’m one too), etc. Basically I try to avoid gifts going to waste!”
Martist said, “I love giving gifts. I am an artist so I give mini prints of my art on postcards and photo paper as a small get to know me gift. I love giving carefully selected gifts from Amazon prime for Christmas and other online sites because I want to spend time with my family after thanksgiving. I think thoughtful gifts are the best. I love the gifts my family give me because they thought about me.”
Sara said, “I pick up extra pencils, erasers, crayons etc. during the back to school sales and then use those as stocking stuffers. By the time Christmas has rolled around, my kids have either lost, broken, or gone through a lot of their school supplies and need more.”
Brian shared, “I tried a couple of times to forego the commercial part of Christmas but the fam won’t have it, so I try to go local for gifts and also request local. At least I’m supporting the local economy and artisans.”
Used Gifts (see?! I am not the only person who does this)
Yuliya loves to give, “Books! I like shopping for books at thrift stores or online and often times I will give them to friends if I think that the book was a good one. And the fact that it’s been read before gives it a character or a personality of it’s own.”
Laura said, “I do the homemade thing at work. This year our family picked names and rather than spend $ we chose to give something we already have, whether it’s some new we never used or something slightly used they would enjoy. We are going to enjoy just being together as a family, so grateful to still have our Mama with us.”
Holly said, “I like to give the gift of a book I’ve read and enjoyed–literally the same copy–to someone I think will also enjoy it. This way I minimize the book by not keeping it and the recipient and I can then discuss our thoughts about it and then hopefully they’ll pass it on/donate it.”
Focus on Experiences Over Stuff
Amy shared, “A few years ago I convinced my family to go gift-less (except for the children). Instead, we focus on making amazing and delicious food for Christmas Eve that we would not normally buy – crab legs, nice beef cuts/roasts, high-end booze, pricey chocolates, etc. It’s our gift to each other in the form of an outstanding meal.”
Rachel wrote, “My favorite gift is tickets to a live event.”
Kristi said, “I stopping giving my nieces presents along time ago. I am currently doing the Niece Project. Instead of presents, I put the money I would have spent ($100) into an account. When they turn 16/17, they will choose wherever they want to go in the world and I will use that money to take them. I rounded way up to $100, because you never know where they will pick (like Antarctica or Mongolia). My nieces are currently 8 and 10. I started when they were 4 and 6.”
Isabelle said, “I like to give concert tickets to my godson. And something that can be eaten to everyone else.”
Andrea said, “I love receiving book tokens, and also socks! I’m not very keen on much other ‘stuff’, though. I’d rather have a meal out, a trip, or tickets for an event. I like to give things like tickets rather than ‘stuff’, unless it’s something I know the person has asked for. I’m happy to receive homemade goods, as long as they are something I can use or consume. I don’t want decorative stuff that I will feel guilty about getting rid of! And I will never need another homemade body scrub for the rest of my life 😂😂.”
Kelly wrote, “I like to receive experiences or things I will use like new clothes or tea. I stopped buying presents for the kids in my family I put the money in an account they can use for college or a house.”
Laura Anne said, “This year Christmas for our family is a trip to Quebec. Only a couple stocking stuffers for the kiddos. Family is getting homemade things like chutney and granola. In the stockings are edibles like nuts and oranges and a couple chocolates. This is our first family vacation that hasn’t been camping and it is a splurge where we are expecting to eat out a few times while cooking at the Airbnb most of the time and go to some museums and other outdoor entertainments that we may have to pay for.”
Consumables (homemade and otherwise)
Alina gives, “consumables! hot chocolate, chocolate, nice tea, etc 🙂 also skincare gift sets”
Holly shared, “I also gift consumables – usually I do a bottle of wine, aged balsamic vinegar, olive oil, fancy salt or a bag of good coffee. Of course you need to take into account peoples preferences and personality – but I am not giving gifts to people I don’t know well enough to know the basics about them (are they a coffee or tea person? Do they drink wine – whites or reds – or beer or not at all? Do they cook and bake often or is the only thing they make reservations?)”
Ashley said, “I like to receive things I’ll use and will be used up at some point (candles, food, body wash, soap, etc).”
Laurel shared, “I tend to be the only frugal one in the family so I try to honor the others’ preferences. I’ve given donations to charity in the past but that didn’t go over so well so this year I made preserved lemons from my sister’s abundantly producing tree, I’m getting chocolates from a local candy maker for stocking stuffers, we’re doing Secret Santa to keep things under control, and I’m asking for framed photos of my two young great-nephews to avoid getting more ‘stuff’ that I don’t need.”
Robin wrote, “My friends are getting boxes of homebaked treats. I’m pretty much the only baker in my circle of friends so homebaked goodies are appreciated. I am planning on making 6-8 different things and will box them up prettily.”
Laura Anne said, “for stockings, I love stockings, we give things like citrus, which we don’t buy often so it is a treat, maple covered nuts (we make them ourselves), pistachios, all things the kiddos love and don’t get often because they are expensive. No extra stuff in the house, but lots of yummies to eat. We also include some kind of chocolate as well or other treat.”
Jean also votes for, “Consumables. My brother who lives in another state found a local junior symphony that does a citrus fundraiser in my town. He buys me this citrus and I pick it up the first weekend of December. I always have more than enough to share and it supports my local community too. I exchange gifts with a couple of friends. I have fun looking for things for them when I travel and/or I often gift them something I have discovered like a really fun special gourmet cracker, dish cloths (who doesn’t need fresh ones), a small gift card to a new local store I like or a kitchen gadget I love. My gift exchange with them is my favorite because I get practical items and consumables.”
Lori shared, “Everyone loves getting our homemade fudge.”
Rebecca said, “Every year my mother makes the best homemade shortbread, one for each family. It is the best Christmas treat for all our families.”
Homemade Items (the non-food category)
Allison shared, “I don’t exchange store-bought gifts with friends. Sometimes I’ll do a homemade gift because I like making crafts and it gives me a great excuse to make stuff. Last year I stenciled tea towels for friends & family (super inexpensive tea towels from Ikea).”
Lesley wrote, “My favourite gift was a homemade book from my daughter with ribbon tied through with 10 pictures of her and her brother from the time she was born. So starts with a picture of her brother holding her as a newborn then up to the age of about 10.”
Maura said, “I’m making mittens for friends & family out of old sweaters.”
Veronica wrote, “I like to give a mix of experiences, handmade gifts, and something the recipient wants but may not get for themselves. For instance, a state park admission sticker, market bags I’ve sewn from all thrifted materials (it’s amazing how much fabric is donated!), a gift card to a local masseuse, etc. Luckily we only exchange with our kids and their significant others now, with the occasional consumables I buy or make for a few others.”
Lisa said, “I love to bake, so there are cookies, cupcakes, etc. that I give which are always appreciated. I sew and do needlework, so some years the gifts are handmade. One of my favorites is a photo of something the friend(s) and I have done during the year. I am always on the lookout during the year for inexpensive frames that can be painted/decorated to hold special photos.”
Kristi shared, “I was racking my brain for my friends. I finally decided that they love going to concerts and I will get them a Livenation gift card for their next concert experience.”
Kristi said, “My family loves to give and get gift cards, which saves us the trouble of stressing over a perfect gift and everyone gets what they want. My brother wants amazon. My mom wants crafting / amazon. My stepdad wants hunting and fishing stores. My sister in law wants TJ Max or Marshall’s. I want amazon or feet fleet. My hubby wants amazon or home stores.”
Jan likes to give a, “Netflix 3 month gift card.”
Lori said that she likes, “getting gift cards for restaurants and movies. I’m so lazy that if I have a gift card it makes me go out.”
Secret Santa/Gift Swaps
Lena wrote, “This year, in my family, we introduced Secret Santa. Which means you only buy one gift, and only receive one gift. I must say, it’s a load of my chest not having to worry about getting everyone a great gift. Seriously, best idea ever! And it saves us a lot of money.”
Kathi wrote, “I have 5 sons plus their spouses and 9 grandkids. Everyone has everything they need for the most part so I get all the grandkids pajamas and each son and their spouses an ornament for the tree then everyone brings one gift for a Chinese Christmas gift exchange.”
Pauline shared, “several years ago for our large extended family gift exchange we decided to give $5 gifts. this is really fun because you never know what will show up – most of us are avid thrifters, recyclers, etc so you can actually end up with an expensive gift even though it only cost $5. I enjoy receiving homemade fudge & cookies from my sister-in-law each year. We always have a large family dinner on Christmas Day. This year about 30 of us are getting together at a rental home for a week and the cost for each family is less than a night at a good hotel, including food.”
Amanda said, “With adult brothers on my husband’s side of the family, (one of 5) they do gifts for just one sibling and it rotates who has who, etc each year. Now that my sister and I are in our 30’s with kiddos of our own, we just buy for each others kids and not each other or spouses. When I was younger as a kid growing up I always had to use my money and allowance for gifts so even when it wasn’t popular, I told people I had a budget… And now its migrated with inflation over the years but it kind of goes without saying that expensive ideas are ignored and thoughtful gifts are done instead.”
Shopping Off-Season and Other Shopping Strategies
Laura said, “We started early this year by giving my parents presents in October – one was a really soft, brand new t-shirt that did not fit my fiance, and one was a cookbook. I think we will do earlier-than-christmas presents forever now; it means we don’t get caught up in the festive season shopping crush, get to spread out the expense, get to show love in a meaningful way, and I get to borrow mom’s new cookbook in time to make something from it to bring to family supper! (I don’t think this would work if there were kids around).”
Lena shared, “A friend of mine once told me that she shops for Christmas presents throughout the year. Whenever she sees a gift that she thinks is perfect for a particular person, she buys it and puts it away. This way, she spreads the cost of Christmas presents over the course of twelve months. And if possible, she shops during sales.”
Allison wrote, “I find that shopping throughout the year helps me to remain frugal and intentional with gift-giving. I like picking up interesting things when I travel, while out at events/craft fairs, or from local independent shops, so I’m not necessarily trying to get the biggest discount, but I do avoid the last-minute crunch that can lead to overspending. Whenever I see something and think, “So-and-so would LOVE this,” I get it. If there’s a great deal and it’s a general enough item, I get two. This means I’m rarely shopping just to cross someone’s name off my list; when Christmas rolled around this year, I shopped my gift closet instead. I actually ended up with more gifts in there than I needed for a few folks, but that’s ok… I’m saving those for next year. I prefer to receive experiences or consumables, for sure. I have plenty of stuff and don’t really need more!”
Cindy said, “I’ve got three kids, and we do a toy diet in early October. I tell them to write down what they want, and they wait until Xmas to get those things (we tell grandparents/family to get them what’s on their list). I save one of my paychecks in early fall specifically to pay for Xmas, which takes a lot of pressure off me. I give my husband practical gifts he’ll use everyday (work clothes, socks), and the baby doesn’t need too much. Anyway, I love getting restaurant gift cards for date nights!!”
Gabby shared, “I actually found Christmas shopping on a tighter budget made it more fun, less stressful, and resulted in more thoughtful gifts! I put a lot of forethought into each person’s gifts really early, so I can keep an eye out for a long time for a good deal instead of paying full price, and so don’t end up wasting any of the budget on something that isn’t perfect for that person. It ends up being a fun hunt for the right deals and the right gifts (found a cyber Monday deal this year that was so good it meant I could add another item to my nephew’s gift while still paying less overall…score!), and we end up doing almost all our shopping online weeks before Christmas, so we don’t get sucked into the stress of holiday shopping.
For when people ask what we want, we’ve taken to keeping Amazon wishlists for ourselves and our children where we add things we want or need throughout the year… It’s more for personal reference than gifts, but so handy for gift seasons, especially as we’re more minimalist and prefer not to get gifts that end up as excess clutter…Plus our family members who ask for one love getting a real list.”
Pam wrote, “I use my credit card points and Ibotta savings for Christmas shopping. Since all of our extended family is way out of state I do most of my shopping online with free shipping as much as possible so I can spend a little more on the gifts. Luckily my SIL’s will do the wrapping. I try to tailor the gifts to each person so some years it’s a want, a need or just for fun. For my boys I shop year round on sales/clearance but they always get Christmas jammies and an ornament that represents a highlight or important milestone/event of their year. My oldest is 27 and pulling out the Christmas ornaments is quickly becoming one of our favorite things. I only wish I would have saved the jammies to make a quilt or even a tree skirt.”
Sarah said, “I shop all year round which allows me to not experience a huge financial hit all at once, and allows me to find items that I know people will really love–I have a designated place that I keep my “treasures” so I don’t forget. Also, as a family we agreed that we didn’t need to do a gift exchange for siblings OR kids anymore because it was just too much and not necessary, I have asked (nicely and with no expectations) those people who still want to give gifts, that a pass or two to local attractions would be much appreciated, that way this summer we’ll have something to look forward to. I also have 3 small children and I try to focus on giving them toys that inspire open ended play and can be enjoyed by all 3–art supplies, blocks, puzzles etc. rather than a toy that is a one trick pony. Oh and things they need but are maybe a bit more souped up than they would normally get (sparkly tooth brushes, a special shirt etc.)”
Joanne says, “Shop sales. Set budgets and pick names. We also get into giveaways and pass those out as gifts. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. We also give to this free site so our giveaways can help someone at Christmas.”
A Different Approach
Nora wrote, “My husband and I enjoy participating in giving trees, where we can purchase specific presents for children and charities that would otherwise not have gifts. It’s fun for us to pick out items that we know will be appreciated.”
Melissa said, “For my God Daughters, in lieu of giving them more material gifts, I give them the gift of giving. I give them the money I would have spent on them for Christmas to donate to a charity(s) of their choice. We will also be volunteering this month at those organizations. It allows the girls to physically give the donation (and all the warm and fuzzies that come with it), but they also get to see the impact their gift is making.”
Courtney said, “I certainly believe that the holiday spirit can be easily captured without having to go into debt. Everyone has their own unique way of highlighting the season and for us we place a higher emphasis on the real reason for the season so that no one gets too carried away in the details and madness of it all. However I like to carry out my childhood traditions and add in some new unique experiences that my children enjoy. They love the Santa train ride. A tradition we find the most exciting for the kids is driving through nearby neighborhoods with warm not hot 😆 cocoa and admiring the Christmas lights. It’s their favorite thing to do. This year we are planning a family vacation to visit my in-laws and the children will get their top few requests and several surprises for Christmas but it’s really about planning and living below your means. Going into debt just isn’t going to capture the holiday spirit (that is for sure) and once your basic needs are met happiness will not be obtained by having more money or things anyway. There are many meaningful things to do that don’t require a hefty price tag with the family and quality time with our children is absolutely what they really want most.We made ugly sweater cookies and decorated the tree last night and it was pretty low key and yet it felt luxurious. I took my son to see the Christmas train display at the mall. He was mesmerized by it all. An older gentleman came up to me and told me to enjoy this moment as it passes all too quickly. He went on to say his son is now 50 years old but he remembers him as a boy with the same excitement in his eyes captured in one small moment. It’s always the little things that count the most.💗”
I wanted to end with Courtney’s poignant thoughts as I couldn’t have put it better myself.
- Be thoughtful and selective in how you give gifts and who you give to.
- Plan ahead. Know who’s on your list, set a budget, and–ideally–shop sales/used throughout the year.
- Speaking of used, don’t be afraid to give used gifts–especially to little kids! They have no idea. I promise you.
- Have a frank conversation with your partner/family/grown kids about how you want to handle gift giving.
- Go the homemade gift route.
- Ask people what they’d like to receive so that you’re not wasting your time and money.
- Give and receive with joy and confidence since you know you’re not going to wake up in January filled with the icy terror of gift givers remorse.
Want even more frugal gift giving ideas? Check these out:
- Reader Suggestions Of Frugal, Fun, Inexpensive, and Festive Holiday Gifts
- Our Festive, Frugal, and Merry Holiday Traditions
- How To Give Frugal Gifts With Joy And Generosity
- Holiday Gifts For Frugal Weirdos To Give And Receive
- 7 Great Gifts For Frugal Weirdos
- Our Festive and Frugal $100 Christmas
How do you handle holiday gift giving? What gifts do you love to give and receive?
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