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.

My jolly children, refusing to look at the camera and/or eating an ornament…

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:

  1. Register as a certified grinch and refuse to give (or receive) a single gift.
  2. 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

Babywoods reading in our freshly Christmas-ed house

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:

Spouse

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:

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.

This year’s visit to Santa. That was a NO on lap sitting 😉

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.

Extended Family

Littlewoods! Tongue out for exploration. Babywoods not pictured because she’s busy breaking an ornament at this exact moment…

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.

Preschool Teachers

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

Baking Christmas shortbread cookies to share! PS. This was pre-kids…

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:

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.

Philanthropy

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:

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!”

My Christmassy kitchen window

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.”

Shop Local

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)

Our Christmas tree! You can really see that burned out section of lights in this photo… hah!

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.”

I have no idea what’s happening here

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)

Mr. FW’s homemade scones!

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.”

Homemade banana bread

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.”

Gift Cards

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.”

Frugal gifts ‘neath a frugal tree

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

Babywoods’ first Christmas at 1 month old!

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!!”

Christmas 2017: ornament thievery

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.”

Christmas 2016. This makes me miss Frugal Hound so much!

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.

Summary Ideas:

  • 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:

How do you handle holiday gift giving? What gifts do you love to give and receive?

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102 Responses

  1. Lily says:

    In my house we do the typical white elephant gift exchange. My job is to come up with gifting “less junk” since the white elephant gifts tend to have junk associated since no one knows what they’re getting. That means bare minimum that people will mostly likely need no matter what walks of life is my go to guideline for gifting.

    Who can’t use soap? Who can’t use Band-Aids assortment box set? Who won’t eat a tub of Danish cookies? Etc. I agree with Gabby, having a tight Christmas makes it more fun and meaningful.

  2. These are all such great ideas! We were able to be more generous this year, thanks to our cashback rewards points. We tried doing homemade or low-costs gifts in the past, but it didn’t work out for our crowd.

    For the past two Christmases we’ve saved our credit card reward points all year. This year we had over $1,000 to spend spoiling our family. It felt so good to be able to gift generously without the worry.

    We got gifts for all the adults and nieces/nephews. I also got a little hog-wild and made stuffed stockings for the kids. This is the first time my sister will be visiting with her kids (5 in total!) and I couldn’t resist doing a little extra.

  3. Sarah says:

    My easiest homemade sewn item was standard pillowcases for everyone in my family. The colors and patterns were different, but all of the material was a high quality fleece fitted snug to the pillowcase, so no wrinkles. So cozy! Everyone loved the gift and the fairness/uniformity(?) of it felt great for me as a giver.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Lovely idea!!! Did you use a sewing pattern you could link to for us aspiring makers :)?

    • Lisa says:

      When I was a child my grandmother made pillowcases out of her old satin party dresses from the ’50’s and ’60’s. They became treasured items when she died.
      She didn’t have a pattern and wasn’t a seamstress, so they must be easy to make. I suspect she took apart an old pillowcase and used those measurements.

  4. Kate says:

    Although my brothers and sisters and I quit giving Christmas gifts I don’t know how long ago, my in-laws continue to gift to everyone. We are now getting into the next generation, and it is getting to be a little much. I’ve found that gift cards to restaurants, the local wine specialty shop, etc., are very well-received. I once gave my MIL a gift card for an oil change, which she greatly appreciated. I always ask what people want, especially when kids are involved. And yes, I do shop throughout the year. With a gift list of almost 20 people, it makes sense to pick away at it when you can.

    • Caroline says:

      the oil change thing is excellent! It’s so important to figure out what people want and then give it to them, and to make it cost-effective as a secondary thing. I would rather spend a little (within reason) and have that recipient know 100% I saw them, saw what they wanted, saw what they didn’t have time or money or expertise for, and did that. It shows caring and thought and attention to that person, and we all want to be ”seen”, don’t we? When something is practical as well, that’s just gold medal stuff!

  5. Wow what an extensive and helpful post! I literally just tweeted yesterday that I won’t give my 3 yo and 3 mo any gifts since they didn’t request any, and I don’t think it’s necessary. They have what they need.

    Hubby and I won’t exchange gifts either and we never have. Maybe it’s because we are Asian and didn’t grow up celebrating Xmas. We stopped exchanging gifts after we got married lol. If we were in Asia during the New Year’s, however, we’d need to give kids lucky money. 😀

    Happy Holidays!

  6. Caroline says:

    Teacher gifts can really, really add up also, and something we did for one of my son’s teachers was just so clever; to put together a hamper of food and assorted goodies. People literally gave according to their wallet / what they had and in the end the most stunning basket was put together of; fancy biscuits, little bottles of preserves / special jams, coffees, teas, breadsticks, chocolate, hand cream… none of these things was ”expensive” and would have cost far less than one might normally expect to spend, but the hamper as a whole was huge and gorgeous… collaborative effort is the way to go!

  7. Aimee says:

    I’ve been a teacher for 13 years. I’m sorry to say, my least favorite gifts to receive are homemade sweets, and especially store bought sweets. I just get SO many of them!
    Favorite gifts I’ve received:
    Wine! All teachers like wine 🙂 one year I got homemade Baileys, which was even better.
    Local business gift cards! Generic cards from Amazon/Starbucks/dunkins say thank you, but a card from a local place says more!
    Finally, the most unusual but thoughtful gift was a stack of greeting cards for various occasions. I hate buying cards, and having a collection of bday/thank you/congrats cards to choose from was amazing and useful!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      This is very helpful! Thank you, Aimee! Wine I can definitely do 😉

      • Mandi says:

        Just a reminder, for those of us who don’t drink alcohol receiving such a gift can elicit responses ranging from annoyance to discomfort depending on the reason we abstain. I’ve been on the receiving end of so many bottles of alcohol in gift exchanges over the years and it really sucks to have spent time and money picking out a lovely gift to be given something I can’t use.

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          Great point, Mandi!! I appreciate that insight.

        • Amy says:

          I second that. I have a family member who is an alcoholic so alcohol-related gifts are definitely not one size fits all. Also, in my state it’s illegal to bring alcohol onto state property so that would rule out wine to public school teachers.

          • Alison says:

            I agree with Aimee- as a teacher I receive loads of homemade and store bought treats. While I love the gifts because it’s the thought that counts, it’s impossible to eat them all! This year, the parents in my class organized a money collection and gifted me one large(ish) Visa gift card from all of them. It cost each family less than what many of them may have individually spent on treats/candles/etc., and it was honestly much more useful to me. I imagine it took a good deal of communication and energy to organize other parents, but it may be a good excuse to get to know them anyway! Mrs. FW, I’ve just finished your book-really enjoyed your message and storytelling, and have now become an avid reader of your blog. Thank you!

    • ENO says:

      I like the way Aimee thinks. I’ll be gifting homemade wine. It’s something different from cookies. Bringing 2 cases to the family get together. You have to start this one months in advance. If you have fruit trees, it’s a great way to use up all of that extra fruit if you make a country fruit wine. Also, now is the time to stock up on low-cost sugar for winemaking, too. Cheapest it will be all year for all of you bakers out there! I’m starting a fortified wine right now for NEXT year’s gifting. 🙂

    • Stephanie says:

      I have been teaching for 15 year and I have to agree with Aimee. I think generic gift cards is the way to go and the most appreciated.

    • Mims says:

      Agreed, my sister delivered mail for years and got gifted, candies, cookies, sweet breads. For health reasons she cannot eat those things, so she would give or throw away. She said those gifts represented a burden.

    • Amy says:

      Aimee, my oldest son’s intervention specialist (who was a classroom teacher for years before becoming an intervention specialist) recently told me the exact same thing! She said she used to get a GIANT heart full of chocolates from every single kid in her class every Valentine’s Day…and she said no teacher wants more sweets of any kind for holidays because they get way too much. She also told me that when she was a classroom teacher, she and all her fellow teachers literally spread out all the gifts they’d get for Christmas on the table in the teachers’ lounge and everyone took what they wanted. I am so glad she told me this, because it didn’t make me feel bad, it just freed me…I’m not making anything homemade for teachers any more! When I asked her what teachers really wanted, she said, “Cash! Gift cards!” So this year when the donation call went around for my oldest’s teachers, I gave $20 instead of passing it be and slaving over something homemade (with love) that will likely not be wanted! And I get to save time, too. 🙂

    • Katie says:

      Yes, as a fellow teacher, I get SO many gifts of sweets, and I don’t want them to go to waste. I *would* enjoy homemade preserved foods, since I’m not obligated to finish them anytime soon. I drink, but I’d be really uncomfortable accepting anything with alcohol since I work in a public school and we shouldn’t have any alcohol on campus. But honestly, the best gift you can give (truly!) is a heartfelt note. I teach high schoolers, and have saved (or at least taken a picture of) every single card and note I get from students. For younger children, a note from parents and some artwork by kiddo are more than enough and are far more memorable than any trinket or treat. I don’t need any more sugar, and I don’t want more stuff!

  8. As a former teacher I’d vote no on the baked goods…there are so many sweets this time of year.

    Definitely a no on knickknacks – and definitely no to anything that says teacher on it (or has an apple) (signs/posters/mugs/shirts). Honestly – a big no on the homemade crafts too. Those abound.

    If budget is a concern – I think a thoughtful card/note is totally suitable. If folks are able to afford a gift, I think a gift card would be perfect.

    I also preserve food and have found that more often than not (and surprisingly) people often don’t eat the jams and fruit butters I make. I know because I’ve gone to their houses and seen the jars still sealed years later!

  9. Jenny R. Johnson says:

    I have two great nieces and two great nephews plus one infant who got a gift at the shower(plus the airfare etc) but I got the girls some multicolor neon fake fur pompoms from an Etsy vendor. they are intended to be applied to hats, $15 each including shipping. That is a modest and fun gift in my book, cash for the little boys, and Mexican train domino 1 for both families, and for the three moms, some necklaces I found marked down to $70, and the one dad, nothing but good wishes . I have gone crazy now that I am an empty nestor and have more time.

  10. Stephanie says:

    I was always the favorite kid in class because my mom gifted my teachers booze or liquor/grocery store gift cards at Christmas. Just a thought!

  11. Julia D. says:

    As a member of a huge family (I have 47 aunts and uncles), for as long as I can remember all the cousins would pick out of a hat to give a gift for another cousin. Now with all those cousins having their own families we no longer do that. There has always been a family gathering with more food than you can imagine at a family member who always wants to host a party Christmas Eve. Those are the best times for me. It’s not about gifts, it’s spending time together and enjoying good food, good drinks and great company. This year, we’re going a bit more on the frugal side with my parents and my sibling and her family. We’re buying Christmas presents for our nephew, the only child right now, and then we’re making a donation to the local food bank in January instead of exchanging Christmas gifts with each other. The local food bank has lots of donations before Christmas but the donations tend to slow down in the New Year. So I figured the best way to celebrate the holidays was to eliminate most of the gift giving, donate to others who are in need and just enjoy the holidays by spending time together. Hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas!

    • Angela says:

      As someone who used to manage a soup kitchen I second the giving in January. It’s a very tough time for people as they’ve often spent what little they had on things for Christmas. People often go hungry so their kids can get a gift Christmas morning. It’s a struggle for those on the breadline.

  12. Karen says:

    Keeping it simple over here!!
    We stopped the gift buying and exchanging insanity about 5 years ago-both as a couple and socially. We ask that our friends if they must “do something” to do something for one of the charities we support (Humane Society and Food bank).
    Not necessarily cash money-old towels, rugs, blankets for the Animal Shelter or canned dry goods etc…
    We do potluck for most holidays, birthdays and occasions and help our guests pack up leftovers to enjoy at least another “free” meal from our celebration. Potlucks are the best and it really is a ton less work for everyone when you can make one dish and enjoy at least 10 more!! I also make marmalade, salsa, jam etc. for little gifts through the year. We’ve even gone so far to stop non consumable hostess gifts coming through our door other than some bulbs or flowers because I can’t resist floral temptation 🙂!!
    It’s satisfying to NOT be out there in the holiday retail mess. We decorate our yard and home and then cruise through the season admiring the lights and of course company of friends.

  13. Lorraine Sayer says:

    My daughter and I just made several sets of homemade hand warmers. These are miniature 3×3 inch bags made from scraps of pretty material and filled with white rice. Microwave for about a minute and they stay warm in pockets much longer than the commercial hand warmers and are reusable. 2 of those wrapped with ribbon makes for a pretty gift for stockings, coworkers, neighbors etc. A set of these along with a larger rectangle bag (used instead of an electric heating pad) makes for a spectacular thoughtful gift.

  14. Juliana says:

    Thank you for all of these great gift ideas!

  15. Irina says:

    I remember a time, when my oldestfriend, then my newest friend, gave me a “notebook” for my birthday. It was a used binder (A5, my favourite format), wrapped in gift wrapping paper, an Envelope glued to the inside of the front cover and punched paper inside. It cost her the pretty envelope (I guess she had the other stuff lying around and scavenged the paper and punched it herself, because it was different, some ruled, some plain and some graph paper – which was georgous! The possibilites! The options! And to be honest, it was one of the best friend-gifts ever.
    I always love a pretty notebook, I scribble stories, ideas, doodles etc, and the fancy-expensy ones I didn’t dare to use in fear of spoiling them. But this was fancy and pretty and I could remove a spoiled page and added others.
    Some time ago I asked her if she missed that time too, were gifts the receiver actually wanted were better and given without self-conciousness if they were “expensive” enough. We don’t do gift giving anymore – We go out together instead.
    But more often than not, not the receivers expectations are the problem but that brain washed self-conciousness, so that it is easier to got the “no gifting” route than return to stuff like that.

  16. frenchmama says:

    I’m loving all of the sock love 🙂 Also, no one mentioned it directly, but: socks are also the perfect baby/small child gift! As a parent, it drives me up the wall how quickly pairs just disappear. My kid wears odd socks all the time, but she definitely prefers matching ones and gets very, very excited about new ones!

  17. My very favorite gifts are edible ones. In the past I’ve done all sorts, but homemade spice mixes always seem to be the biggest hit. The best part is adjusting flavors to the people so they’re “custom” to them – no salt, no spice, etc.

  18. frenchmama says:

    For teacher gifts: Sometimes the best gift is non-edible! A small edible gift is, of course, appreciated, especially non-sweets like your wonderful garden preserves (I mean, imagine if you get 30 boxes of chocolates and cookies…if you’re me and have no self-control…tasty, but it begins to add up with Halloween and Valentine’s Day and even Easter also getting their fair share of treats!) A great consumable is gourmet coffee for coffee drinkers or a nice lemon ginger infusion (depending on where you live, you could even try making some yourself!)

    Many of my stateside teacher friends maintain wishlists (online or upon requests) of books and supplies they would love for their classrooms. Language and literature teachers love receiving books on the latest Prinz awards list for their classroom reading libraries, for example, and teachers always appreciate it when parents ask if there are any special supplies for a cool lesson or unit that the teacher would like to do but can’t get the school budget to cover it.

    And we always need extra notebooks, folders, binders, pens and pencils, etc. for kids in need. This is the perfect thing to stock up on during back to school sales in August (folders for .05 cents! Notebooks for .10 cents!) and will really help out many children. And tissues! One year, a teacher friend told me that a wonderful mom brought her 25 boxes of Kleenex and several containers of Lysol wipes (really handy to have on hand for when a kid just…melts at their desk before your eyes, and you don’t want the next kid to get whatever they have! Also, some schools don’t clean their desks every day–no budget–so many teachers clean their desks/tables themselves). Schools don’t typically supply tissues, either, and winter is when they are most needed…

    Last but not least: many middle school teachers love receiving breath mints, breath freshening gums, and listerine strips. Those kids are stinky! So much so that, when trapped in a classroom for 8 hours/day with all of those hormones, the teacher’s own breath can start to stink! So gross! (Yes, I have personal experience with this; it’s nasty!) Would especially like to offer this as a “middle school hormones survival kit” to a teacher with a great sense of humor 😉

  19. Lisa says:

    You might reconsider giving preserved food items or even baked items to teenagers! They like to eat and not everyone has family that cooks and preserves food. My teenage step-children loved the apple butter and jelly I sent home with them and even asked for more! Now that they are adults I usually send them home with a jar or two when they visit.

    • Cindi says:

      My husband’s business partner has a daughter and when she was a teenager she would always ask for my homemade jams for Christmas. I never would have dreamed of gifting them to a teen, but she loved them! (One year I gave her father a gift basket and she claimed all the jam — from then on I gifted the jam directly to her.)

  20. frenchmama says:

    For anyone who has relatives/friends/teachers who drive: a great idea is a Lifehammer: a special glass-breaking hammer that you can use if trapped in your car after an accident and the door won’t open (it also cuts seatbealts–in the reviews on Amazon, it’s amazing how many different ways people have used it in their cars: kid wrapped seatbelt around neck and couldn’t detach belt? Cut free quickly so no brain damage. Roll over accident? Tapped the glass and escaped in seconds) You can gift it with an amount of double-sided velcro so that people can stick it in their glove compartment or the inside lid of the driver’s armrest, etc.

    And, one of the best gifts I ever received as a new apartment renter was a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide detector with extra batteries!

    (Sorry for all of the comments–I just love giving practical gifts!)

  21. LCM says:

    For the teenage babysitters at your church, you can also give them Itunes gift cards. My youngest is 18 and has requested those this year. He buys songs and sometimes TV shows for his phone, Ipod, etc. We’ve also given movie theater gift certificates/cards as my young adult kids regularly go watch movies with their friends.

  22. Judy Welles says:

    This isn’t necessarily frugal, but it’s sane, and that counts for a lot during the holidays! I keep separate lists of our nine grandchildren, five adult children and their spouses (and my spouse!) in my computer, and track what I’ve given them for each birthday and Christmas (so I don’t repeat, and because the grands are close enough in age that what worked for one might be perfect for another the following year). I also write ideas on this list, and if I’ve bought it (which I do throughout the year), I note where it’s located.

    Around the beginning of December, I check with each of our kids to find out what they and their children want for Christmas. We don’t necessarily give them that, but it’s good to double-check. Then we decide what we will give to each person (List One), and we make a separate list (List Two) of stores which carry those things (book store, toy store, etc.) We do whatever shopping we still need to do all in one day, hitting book store, toy store, etc. with List Two in hand. When we wrap them, I check them off on the list, and List One is organized by family so I can circle the whole family on paper and be sure we’re mailing the right gifts in the right boxes. We get the designated-postage boxes from the P.O. ( definitely a money-saver, because we tend to give heavy books!) and check ahead of time the dates by which they must be mailed.

    Once done, I can rest easy in my mind and turn my attention to baking, house decorating, and drinking egg nog!

  23. Brandy says:

    All these great ideas! Over the years, I’ve scaled down the gift swaps and my expectations and this has alleviated so much financial stress and pressure! And freed up time! For my friends that read- I will gift them books I love from my personal collection or from thrift stores if my copy is haggard. I wrap these up with a nice ribbon. No gift wrap needed- saves on time, money and wasted paper. I thrift and pick up items year round with certain people in mind. Never junk- these are great finds and worth more than I can afford new. Photos! You don’t even need an expensive camera just an semi-nice phone these days. I snap cute shots of friends and family all year at different events and frame (thrifted!) for Christmas. Grandparents love photo books of the kids- use promo codes and you can get these online for insanely cheap (as low as $10).

  24. Thom Wilson says:

    ……loving the Christmas Season what with kids, banana bread and memories of past pets!

  25. Dawn says:

    How about homemade Maple Syrup, is it too early to plan for Christmas 2019? Just a thought, Merry Christmas!

  26. pauline says:

    Great ideas from all! I love your focus on advent and decorating as well as giving …wonderful things to teach your little ones.

  27. Laurie says:

    I struggled and struggled to get my family on board.
    I was met with so much resistance from my Mom it was a little unreal. These days are better, though. We ask each other if there’s anything we want/need within the immediate family. Usually the answer is “A nice card would be great”, and sometimes (this year) it’s a request for a puzzle and some money towards a new camera. It’s better than it was 🙂

  28. Kim says:

    i just love your site. Thank you for ALL your time spent writing about frugality–this is a particularly difficult time of year to stick to budget goals and you always offer such thoughtful and kind perspectives. I listened to your audiobook recently and just loved it. I’ve been following the blog off and on for about two years, and enjoy every post! Happy holidays Frugalwoods!

  29. gary fischer says:

    give more of your time – as a volunteer (there tend to be more volunteer opportunities in December – or start a new recurring volunteer venture in Dec.). Coordinate a low/no-cost outing, such as a scavenger hunt, holiday lights tour of homes, hike/walk/bike to a tree lighting or choral event, museum, movie/game night once/week in December if that’s unusual for your crowd. How long does it take tea, coffee or cocoa to cool in various vessels under different weather conditions (good science experiment, speculation and analysis for kids of all ages). Identify one item/day every day or week in December to donate and say why you’re parting with it and how it will benefit someone else. Offer to handle someone’s least liked chore – with a specific date(s) & time(s) when you’ll relieve them (could be a mystery chore swap like the white elephant game) – even better if the offer is for one or more months or the whole year for recurring tasks. Take someone out for a low-cost treat, where phones are barred and you provide valet pickup and dropoff service.

  30. Debbie says:

    Having raised four children and had oodles of scout leaders, coaches, teachers – school, music, Sunday school, etc. to gift, I bought pretty holiday paper plates and napkins at the dollar store/other low cost store. Large plates, smaller plates, and coordinating napkins. I’d stack the smaller plates on top of the big plates, with the napkins on top, tie the whole thing together with ribbon/decorate with greenery/home made tags that said something to the effect of “Use these for a night free from dish washing.” Pretty and useful, the gift would be used; no clutter, no calories. Of course it’s not super environmentally friendly so that is a consideration perhaps. Beyond that, I found over the years that teachers like a card with a letter telling them how appreciated they are for all their hard work and a gift card for Amazon or Office Depot for refreshing school supplies for the second semester.

  31. I love these suggestions.
    I tried transitioning to no gifts, but my family is not into it (it’s largely cultural). I’ve switched to buying fancy consumables that way I know they won’t go to waste. I hate receiving things I have no use for, because it feels so wasteful, but I don’t see it ending any time soon. Luckily, the hubs and I stopped exchanging gifts 3 Christmases ago and I absolutely love it!

  32. ROSEMARY says:

    We have a big family and stop giving birthday and Christmas presents when someone reaches 18, apart from direct family. A big present for coming of age and then we are done. We have had a £15 limit for years and we are all happy with it. That is equivalent to just under $19 which will buy a bottle of wine, some special soap or money on a card for Amazon, etc. Having a limit forces me to think harder and I like buying £15 soap, because I know the recipient would never spend that much on soap! or socks, or whatever. I don’t make gifts because nobody wants my jams or chutney, and I hate waste. I also cook all the festive food myself, including the marzipan for the Christmas cake. Love reading what everyone else does for Christmas.

  33. I agree that homemade baked goods SOUND like a lovely, thoughtful idea for teachers, but you have to envision everything being multiplied by 15 to 30 kids (overwhelming amount of cookies) — plus the teacher might have allergies you’re not aware of, be trying to lose weight, or anything else. I think the best teacher gifts are as close to straight cash as possible. Amazon gift certificates are fine but I really like the idea of a certificate to a local business, maybe a food co-op or a bookstore.

  34. E.N. says:

    For my parents, sibling, & in-laws, I always revert back to a classic: homemade luggage tag. For each person I draw/paint/design simple, hyper-personalized luggage tags with their name, favorite vacation destination, sport, sports team, alma matar, slogan, etc. onto blank (unlined) index cards. I trim them down a bit so they are just about half the width of the card and just less wide than packing/moving tape (~2″ maybe?). Then I use the packing tape to “laminate” them and use whatever string, ribbon, twine that is handy. I’ve never had to buy any supplies and they usually last a good 2 years of regular use on the bag.
    Everyone adores the thoughtfulness of choosing icons/logos /sayings that are most meaningful to them. Shows you know them well and care. Also they think of you every time they travel or use their favorite backpack, etc.

  35. Juli says:

    On my husband’s side of the family, everyone gives to everyone else. It is ridiculously wasteful. I mentioned changing it and was shot down, so I add it to the budget and buy the gifts. The one good thing about it, I guess, is my kids get so much stuff from all of them, we only buy one or two things for them ourselves.
    On my side of the family, we stopped all that years ago. Everyone still buys for my mom, but my siblings and all our kids do a dirty Santa type gift exchange.
    The kids’ teachers all get Target gift cards. They can spend it on themselves, their families, stuff for the classroom, whatever. As a former teacher, one more coffee mug or #1 teach plaque is just going to take up space.

  36. Lyna says:

    (not a gift idea but gift wrap) A friend with 4 children sewed simple rectangular gift bags out of holiday fabrics, in small medium and large, then reused them for years. With a good quality cord or ribbon in a casing at the top, just drop the present into the bag, pull, tie, and done! The fabric is marked down after the holidays, only straight seams like a pillowcase are required, and the family gift bags can become part of the family tradition.

  37. Brook Hart says:

    Christmas changed somewhere along the way. People started sharing the specific items they wanted . It became more like receiving orders for gifts. I’ve cut out all gifts except for my three young adult children. This year, I am baking an assortment of goods. I have made a list of people this year who have showed great kindness to me. The lady at the water department , the recycling man , and a lady from a small hole in the wall store . These are people who always smile and have a kind word. Now, I will let them know how much that means to me .

  38. KLB says:

    Former middle school teacher adding to the plea for classroom supplies or cash. Beyond the things teachers buy for their classrooms (bulletin board decorations, posters, books), there are always students who don’t have what’s needed to succeed that day – pencils, paper, crayons, markers, notebooks. Purchasing these extras comes straight out of the teacher’s pocket…which is already probably pretty empty.

    If you’re giving to someone elderly, try giving a couple books of postage stamps and a selection of blank notecards, birthday cards, sympathy cards, etc. This is especially good for a senior citizen who’s living in a small space, like assisted living. Many of the seniors I know still prefer to send snail mail than through the computer.

    For myself, I always ask for bandaids (the big ones – my fingers have never met a knife they didn’t want to grab upside down) and my favorite shampoo/conditioner.

    My sister is a minimalist and gets agitated when receiving gifts, so each year I buy her 12 cans of chickpeas. She uses them all the time, no fuss, no muss 🙂 For my cousin who has a relatively large family, I go to the local warehouse club and get boxes of garbage bags, laundry detergent, kleenex, toilet paper and paper towels. I remember my granddad doing this for my mom when times were especially tight – the money she didn’t have to spend on these items meant she had more money to spend on things like food and electricity.

  39. Kimberly Wessex says:

    As a teacher, I love things I can actually use in the classroom (crayons, pencils, etc.) and/or things that keep germs away (hand sanitizers, water bottles to stay hyrdrated, etc.). I guess foods can count in the second category if they have lots of vitamins! 😉

  40. Heidi Louise says:

    When very uncomfortably pregnant, a friend complained about how much she hates wrapping presents, so I volunteered to do hers for her as her Christmas gift. (She and her family are numerous and generous). It has become a holiday tradition for four of the past five years, a stress reliever for her and fun for me, as my family doesn’t do much with presents. They have to get their shopping done early; we choose a time; they arrange the gifts with the correct tags, haul out their paper, gift boxes, and such, and I go at it while they do other things.
    Surely there are many, many “service” gifts that we can do for each other.
    When we were first married and had a real tree, I mentioned to someone at our December employee party that we were leaving to visit family far away, so the tree wouldn’t be “used” for the week before Christmas. She said they didn’t have a tree yet. Thus we worked out a system for a few years where I would buy a tree and have it up for a few weeks, then pass it along to her to enjoy and put out for animal habitat after the holidays. I just left it in the stand, which she returned. She chose to donate the saved cost of the tree to a charity she supported.
    And for hostess gifts, trash stickers or special bags– whatever is appropriate for your town– are always useful! Decorate them with Christmas stickers.

  41. Sarah says:

    One more teacher here – I’d rather a nice note and $5 to coffee than anything else (and if $5 is over budget – that’s okay! We don’t judge who gives/not). No mugs, candles, etc – once you’ve been teaching, you have way too much, and please no sweets/homemade food.

  42. ERIN KIRKENDOLL says:

    The gift cards for teens at preschool are a great idea! It will surely be a hit!

  43. upcoming treechanger says:

    As an ex early childhood teacher – wine and vouchers were all good. But not a gift card to stock up school supplies, as suggested above. Why is that a gift? Preferably not candles, soap, hand lotion, any cosmetic or anything scented (unless you know it will be loved) – please don’t waste your money in that case, a genuine hand written card was much more appreciated!

  44. Jill says:

    As a retired preschool teacher, I can tell you that I always loved receiving homemade goodies and food as gifts. As a full-time working mom of teens and tweens at the time, baking time was limited so baked goods were always appreciated.

  45. Terri says:

    thank you for not mugging the teachers!!!!! Homemade gifts are the best especially food. Being frugal doesn’t mean being thoughtless. Thank you for a great article.

  46. Lindsey says:

    We are an older couple. Hands down the best two gifts we get are these: one grandchild started this when barely 10, but continues it as an adult of 19–8 hours of time where she comes over and does whatever chores we need her to do. We schedule a day, I make her favorite meal and she and my husband do stuff like repaint a room or she crawls into the crawl space to put away things like our tubs of Christmas ornaments. One year she came in the fall and climbed on the roof to clean out all the gutters. The second gift is similar but comes from a much younger friend (15 years) who clicked with me over the love of knitting and she gives us 10 hours of weeding time as a gift. Come summer, I call her and she spends a few hours on two or three days and when she is done we have tea and laugh. We don’t need more stuff, we don’t want tempting candies about, I like to bake so would rather make our own treats…but having a younger body around to help is priceless. My husband and I live frugally so we can go to London every so often and spend two weeks overdosing on plays and musicals, which means the gifts we give each other are small and funny. Every year I give him a decent pair of underpants, since he would wear nothing but two leg holes and a waistband, rather than throw away a pair and a pair of really good socks (again, he will wear holes. I have seen him turn over socks with holes on the bottom and wear the heel on top because that is less uncomfortable than having the hole on the bottom. And I mend stuff but he says he doesn’t want to bother me…) For the last few years I have given him a pair of underpants from Duluth Trading Company, always with some funny designs like tractors or roosters. They last forever so now he has quite a selection. He gives me a day of doing tiny chores that are making me crazy, like fixing the door that doesn’t hang right. He is always busy fixing stuff but not necessarily stuff that bugs me…like he would never pull out the fridge to clean behind it, but he’ll do it on his Christmas list chore day. His other gift is a lobster tail. I love lobster but it is extremely pricy and he doesn’t care for it so Christmas Eve he comes home with a lobster and a pound of European butter. From us, most other folks get 8 ounce bottles of vanilla, almond, and peppermint extract (if I know they bake) I have made, or rhubarb liqueur (if I know they drink). My closest friend and I buy each other books, always used. My husband is a woodworker as a hobby and a pretty good one, so some years he takes on the gift giving, like the year he made cutting boards for everyone from trees on our property. Another year he made racks to dry plastic baggies on after you was them. That was his most popular gift and several people asked him to make them one more to give to thrifty relatives. When kids were in school, we had them write a note about what they appreciated most about that teacher (it also taught them that even when you may not like someone, you can always find a positive quality in them. My favorite was the year the high schooler wrote, “I like that you don’t dress cool, trying to be a teenager, but instead wear clothes made for adults and church.”) Then we would put a small gift card to a locally owned bakery inside, enough for a coffee and bagel.

    • Lisa Marchinkewicz says:

      A work day is a great gift for elderly parents/friends. They are usually self-conscious to ask for help. On this day, the whole extended family goes and does whatever they need. Many hands make light work – cleaning gutters, painting, general housecleaning, washing windows, you name it. I can’t think of a better gift than to have the whole family around!

      • Mable says:

        Yes, Lisa, we, too, would not ask for help because we don’t want to be a burden or to have the kids dread answering the phone because we are calling to get them to do something for us. Having people recognize that for all of us the day will come when we need help from younger bodies is a blessing. And it is frugal for the giver! My grandmother lived to 100,. by herself, but her vision was fading and she didn’t see the spider webs forming all over. We used to go by every month just for a spider hunt! Now it is our turn to hope there are no spider webs we don’t see.

  47. Teresa says:

    My mom gives us all new pillows, we look forward to it all year. Who doesn’t love a new pillow!

  48. Coral Clarke says:

    Loved the emphasis on gifts that were specific to the giftee! I so hate waste, but what do I do with framed photos, when I’m NOT a photos-on-the-wall person,hand made ethnic whatnots and assorted doodads when I’ve decluttered and downsized? I’m enormously grateful to the friend who donates to refugees, the cause close to my heart, the daughter who cooks me a HUGE potato bake (I love it, and I’m SO over cooking!) the granddaughter who replaced all the old grandchildren photos with updated ones, sized to fit my lovely set of Venetian Glass frames, a gift that says “I know who you are!” is valuable, it really IS the thought that counts!!

  49. Meyli says:

    Teacher here! 🙂
    I have always loved and appreciated a kind note or card, sometimes with a picture of me and the child. If you have a great relationship with the teacher, let then know how much you appreciate what they do! But please…only do this if you actually do love the teacher. We can tell…better to just not say anything sometimes…
    I also love cash. Blunt, I know, but it’s true. Sadley, teachers are most often very underpaid, and $50 can actually make a big difference in their week. If you are financially able, a gif of money is never wasted. And I mean MONEY, not gift cards. I can use cash to buy my transportation pass, or buy my husband a Christmas gift. As a frugal person, getting gif cards annoys me because I generally don’t want to go to a random restaurant and still have to pay a little just to use the darn gift card I got.
    The short of it is give a gift that us useful 🙂

  50. Tam says:

    I do love the holidays and love to give gifts! It fills me with such joy to give a gift and see the happiness in the recipients face! I am a knitter, so I always knit a few gifts; especially for my parents who have everything they could need or want, and LOVE getting a handmade gift from me. I have 3 kids and a grandchild who all obviously love gifts, so instead of going into debt, I plan for this all year. I know Christmas is coming, every Dec. 25th, so it is easy to plan for 🙂 I save $40 from each of my paychecks all year ( I get paid every other week) and place it in an envelope; this year I had $920 cash to use for my Christmas shopping. That was my budget, I used no credit cards whatsoever. I did the majority of my shopping on black Friday and got some great deals, I also refuse to by anything that is not on sale. I am so happy that my shopping is done, everything is wrapped and now I can enjoy the last few weeks before the holidays stress free, AND NOT in debt!!! 🙂

  51. Karen says:

    Don’t buy gift cards made of plastic. This is a huge waste of our planet’s resources as they aren’t recyclable – especially in the light of all of the Asian countries’ new bans on accepting recyclable material. Give e-gift cards or paper gift cards or just cash instead.

  52. Kris says:

    This year we are starting our 2 year old the experience of Christmas by going to various areas where they have a block full of holiday decorations where literally every home in that particular block(s) is decorated with crazy holiday lights and inflatable characters like Santa, Frosty the Snowman, Toy Soldiers and other characters that is attached with Christmas. It’s quite a sight to see.
    We went to one this past weekend where cars were slowing down to check out the decorations and people filling up the block and walking around to see it. And the neighbors in the area are nice enough to provide free snacks and hot chocolate for them.
    I think they call these areas Christmas Tree Lane.

  53. Kimberly in California says:

    This was both interesting and informative. Two things contributed to my not giving gift cards unless they are specifically asked for. The first was my boys being given gift cards to a big name toy store when they were about 8 and 9; taking them to let them choose something was awful, and we watched as they went from excited to overwhelmed to crying because they couldn’t get everything they wanted. I vowed to never give gift cards to children. The other was reading Scroogenomics, and realizing that the author was correct, that giving cash makes far more sense. With a gift card you’re choosing where the recipient has to shop, and then they either have to spend more than you gave (to get the full value of the gift card), or to spend less (if they don’t have the money to spend more), and there is tons of money leftover on gift cards that never gets spent, which is great for the companies, but not for people. So in general we don’t give gift cards, the exception being a young adult saying that they would love a gift card to a specific coffee or juice place, someplace they go anyway, because the card helps them have their luxury without spending their limited income.

    This year one of my sons wanted something that was frivolous but fun, so we’re gifting him that, and my other son asked for a race entry fee for a race that isn’t part of his regular season and is rather pricey (for a race). Stockings are filled with snacks and sweets such as citrus and chocolate. Extended family receives homemade gifts, which vary from year to year but can include hand knits, hand poured candles, homebaked cookies, homemade candy, hand crafted salves, and similar items. My husband and I usually choose an experience gift together; last year it was tickets to the local symphony, and this year we chose to go on a short family getaway trip (making memories before the boys are out on their own).

  54. Nikki says:

    Here in Texas we have Half Price Books stores. You can “sell” your used books, DVDs, CDs, and even record albums to them for store credit. Everything in the store is not used, though. They also have many new items. So I sell the items I no longer need (some of which I had purchased at thrift stores to start with) and use the credit to buy new items like calendars, journals, and greeting cards, which come in handy at Christmas and birthdays.

  55. Ann says:

    When I read articles like this and the thoughtful comments, it makes me sad.

    About 15 years ago, my husband and I told our family (in advance) that we would be only giving handmade gifts at Christmas. This created an uproar in the family and it took a while for the dust to settle. We did this not because we were being frugal, but because I hate the commercialism and waste of Christmas gift-giving. The birth of the Savior gets lost in all of that! One relative places great store by the number and cost of the gifts given, another does not like anything handmade because it shouts “Poor! Cheap!” — a cause for embarrassment on behalf of the receiver.

    Nevertheless, we persevered and over the years bestowed homemade pickles (an old family recipe and I’m the only one who still makes them), a Christmas cake (a tradition started by a grandmother who was a fabulous cook), perpetual calendars, photo calendars decorated with beautiful pictures taken on our travels, jalapeño jelly and cheese crackers, a cookbook made with family recipes, and now I am making quilts. While I have enjoyed making and giving these gifts, they are still not received with similar emotions.

    All of this to say that if you give and receive frugal gifts — well, any gifts — with love and appreciation, you are to be commended! May your tribe increase.

    • Karen B. says:

      Ann, thank you for reminding me of calendars. My daughter takes outstanding photos, some of which will be used in 2020 calendars!

    • mary g says:

      late commenter here-ann we would be glad to take your homemade gifts. they sound wonderful! thanks for the good ideas for gifts.

  56. Marie-Josée says:

    Thank you for another thoughtful and interesting post. Loves seeing the photos of the girls, Frugalhound and your beautiful decor. Our eight-month old Sacha sticks his tongue out frequently, like Littlewoods – so cute!

  57. Emily says:

    Middle school teacher here =) . My favorite thing to get is handwritten cards from my students, especially when they write about what they’ve learned or enjoyed in my class. I know their parents probably make them do it, but it’s still really sweet and special. Sometimes parents will throw in a Starbucks gift card (which is my favorite non-card gift), but buying for a whole slew of teachers once you hit middle and high school would be a budget buster in my opinion. I have every card I’ve gotten from students saved in a file I look at on bad days – they really mean a lot!

  58. Jenni says:

    Confirmed. Teachers love receiving food.

    Jenni from Northern Alberta

  59. valcreates "Martist" says:

    Thank you I am Martist and I seen my tip.
    I stopped buying Christmas trees beacuse my toddler “now teen” kept trying to pull it over.
    After a few years I realized I really don’t like huge Christmas trees. I would rather spend my money on gifts and on making gifts. I don’t enjoy decorating the tree since I was 5. I love buying gifts but the tree is a waste of my money. I set up a shelf for my nativity set now sets and Christmas decorations.
    I love doing Christmas stockings for my kids and getting them gifts that are fun, useful and develop their talents. I love making them hot chocolate. I love watching the Muppet Christmas Carol with them every year sometimes more than once. I realized I didnt have to do the tree to make Christmas Magical and wonderful.

  60. For teachers I usually ask if they eat chicken or pork and give some of our homegrown meat.

    One year, before we had a big garden, I went to a farmers market and filled a basket with local produce. The teacher said it was the best gift she had ever gotten. Carrots. Potatoes, greens, onions, it was beautiful.

  61. Jennifer Green says:

    We do 4 gifts for our sons – want, wear, need, read 🙂

  62. Former teacher here! GIFT CARDS are the best way to go (unless you want to go straight cash, and that’s wonderful, too). Amazon is great. A gift card to the local grocery store is great (this was my favorite – a bottle of wine bought by the kids to great their midterms. perfect). If you know your teacher well enough, you might even get one directly for their favorite liquor store 🙂 Stay away from restaurants – it’s easy to guess wrong on those (yaaay, another Applebees gift card…). Apparently I’ll be the iconoclast regarding food. Homemade treats are wonderful, but as a teacher we get a lot of them. In my experience, many of the cookies and other treats got tossed – there were just too many from too many students. I always sampled everything, shared some with friends, but too much went stale. And if I ever see another Ferrero Rocher, that will be too soon…

  63. Sandra & the 2 Spaniels says:

    I love Amy’s idea of no gifts but splurging on a really outstanding meal! I wish that I could get friends and family to buy into this. I would rather be guilt/debt free and just enjoy good company then spend hours in a store or online, sweating over “gifts” and then wrapping and hauling……….Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of Christ, and emulating the gifts of the Magi. Not $10,000 rings and fear of getting some gift wrong. And Laura Anne Lee had another brilliant idea for anyone: who doesn’t love a big basket of yummy produce? It’s why I love dogs-they are just happy to have you with them, every day of the week.

  64. Cindy in the South says:

    I paid a water bill for one child, an electric bill for another, an insurance bill for another one of my children, and a gift card for another. I will also gift the local children with food I know they like, and maybe deodorant, and toothbrushes. I am a practical mom…lol. I gave money to go in with the parents on my one grandchild, and I gave her one toy from the store (she is three), only because it had her name on it, and I was, well, besotted with it…lol. Otherwise, I would have done a used toy gift also.

  65. I think the suggestions in the article are wonderful. I have two young nieces (3 years and 8 mos). This year I told my sister I was not buying them stuff (a) they are too young to care (b) They have so many toys they are tripping over them. My sister was fine – she told me they did not need a thing. In fact, she told me she was currently busy returning an abundance of generous but un necessary gifts. She let the my older niece keep one toy of several. I may gift my nieces a subscription to a National Geographic – Little Explorers magazine. As for my parents and friends, we do not exchange gifts but we choose experiences over stuff. I will get something small for my partner and a couple of close friends. And with one of my friends – some years we do a pj exchange, other years we pick a a fun activity to do together. One year we went snowshoeing for our girls date. And that is about it. In the past I have baked cookies, made candy jars etc. Oh, and re -gifting is the best. This past weekend, we were able to attend a free christmas concert as a date night. I told my partner that was his gift to me. I love decorating for Christmas as well. Our space is small, so we have to be creative, but we have found perfectly good items that people have disposed of during junk days in our spring cleaning – we found a Christmas tree that lights up. Our lights are 5 years old or more and I hand painted wooden letter blocks to spell joy because I did not want to buy a tacky sign. In the end, Christmas is never really about the stuff, but about making memories with the people you love. No one remembers the stuff you gave them (I usually do not) but they will remember shared experiences. Happy holidays!

  66. Katie Camel says:

    It’s so refreshing to see a parent who doesn’t feel the need to inundate their children with gifts. I love how practical you are about it. Children don’t need an excessive amount of gifts, and they’re often overwhelmed by them. Plus, they tend to lose focus on a gift, oh, about 3 seconds later. My niece always received far more than she could ever handle, so my brother would set some aside for her birthday, which is about 6 weeks after Christmas. Inevitably, she had so many toys, etc. that he would become frustrated by all the stuff lying around or falling off shelves that he would throw it all out. What a waste for both everyone’s pockets and our environment!

    After traveling through a number of third world countries and seeing the abject poverty that so many in this world live through, I decided last year against giving adults (other than my parents) Christmas gifts. Instead, I increased my donations to organizations I already supported and purchased hot meals for some of the homeless people I see around my city. It just seems silly to give people who have all their basic needs and wants met another candle or useless item.

    As for teachers, baked goods are a nice idea, but with so many people trying to lose weight and improve their health the preserves would be better. Or maybe purchase some wishlist items for their classrooms, like Kleenex, wipes, etc. Of course, a good old fashioned Amazon card is always good too!

    Merry Christmas to you all!

  67. Caroline Bowman says:

    I had to come back to this thread, just had to, because apparently I am sad and have no life! No SERIOUSLY…

    My BFF does not have children, but is the very loving and generous godmother to my 3 boys. We long ago hit on the ”no gifts” at Christmas for each other… but she gets for the kids. Given that there’s 3 and she’s generous (and not even remotely a bean-counter) it feels… unfair. So I try to find something practical and / or special that is from them to her, within very reasonable limits.

    This year MY WORD but I have struck gold. At our local amazing christmas market (I get extra points for supporting local small business, amiright?) I got her, from the boys, a doormat for her apartment. It says, Carpet Diem. Yes it does. I laughed for about 10 minutes when I saw it and realised that of all my friends, she’d be most likely to find that just as funny and that this was the perfect gift, being funny, very appealing to her, practical and a useful, not-expensive item that isn’t just clutter and tatty rubbish.

    I feel that I have won Christmas folks.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I agree that you have won Christmas. Carpet Diem! That’s hilarious. And I do indeed think you get extra points for shopping local. 🙂

  68. Mary says:

    As the wife of a teacher and the one that stores (or pitches) the gifts, I can say that gift cards or books the teacher likes are most appreciated. NO NO NO food (or any kind!) I know they are made with good intentions, but we don’t have room to freeze or store food, and I don’t know your kitchen (no matter how clean you are!) Baked or preserved, we don’t like giving or receiving these items. It may be frugal for you, but so many of our teacher friends also pitch the food (which is the ultimate waste).
    If a gift card or cash isn’t in the budget, a simple card or heartfelt note from the student (or even words written down from young ones about their thoughts on their teacher) is appreciated!
    At our children’s school the room mom finds out items the teacher likes, we pool our money and give an assortment of things we know they’ll use and enjoy.

  69. Cherry Mack says:

    If anyone’s interested in learning more about this topic, I’d definitely recommend checking out Ivan Maldonado’s book Head Start 2 Riches at headstart2riches . com. Such a great book, and definitely a much needed read for anyone that wants to focus on wealth-building in this upcoming New Year! I’m definitely shocked he’s released it for free, but I’m so glad he has.

  70. Sarah says:

    My kids are 17, 12 and 10 and Amazon money is the perfect gift.

    For my niece and nephews, since we live in different states and don’t get together every Christmas we have an arrangement with their parents. Each parent buys a gift for their child and writes love Aunt and Uncle on it. This works so well because we know pretty much what they want and if our budgets differ there’s no problem. We don’t exchange gifts with adults. I told my work friends, “not this year, please. ” and I think we were all relieved.

    Overall we still spent $1,000 on Christmas but it was planned ahead of time and we didn’t break down and buy for anyone who wasn’t on the list.

    Our church participates in the Advent Conspiracy and if you ever need a good reason to cut back watch their Youtube videos.

    Merry Christmas to those who celebrate and Happy Holidays to those who do not.

  71. Marisa Stone says:

    Giving the teens that teach in the church was brilliant. I have 2 teens and although gracious and sweet homemade gifts do not carry the same weight.

    One thing not to give to small kids, donations in their name to an animal reserve in Africa. The kids have no connection to them, and no appreciation for them at a very young age. A certain relative did that for many years, more for herself than for the kids. They are sweet and gracious but did nut really understand.

    We just focus on our kids, without going over board. They get stuff they need(clothes, shoes, technology for school, toiletries or make up) then something fun.

  72. Jennifer says:

    I’m a teacher and I agree that homemade goodies are the best! It’s especially thoughtful when the student (when old enough) helps to make it as well– this year I had a student who struggles in class bring in a gingerbread loaf, and it was so neat to hear her share that she loves baking with her mom. It brought a whole new dimension to my understanding of her. It’s also much appreciated when parents band together (such as through PTA) to provide restaurant or grocery store gift cards– it’s imminently practical and will certainly be used! I agree that coffee mugs/ teacher snow globes, etc. are not particularly thoughtful (and as a minimalist are the bane of my teacher-existence), but a small potted plant is an incredibly thoughtful but “tangible” gesture as well.

  73. I too prefer to give and receive consumable presents—food, wine, tea, soap, and the like. I do not like “stuff” and I am avowed minimalist, though that is a challenge with my 2 kids and their toys. This year I flat-old told several extended-family relatives who are known for buying/giving mountains of useless junk at Christmastime that we did not want to receive any gifts from them, period. They were stunned but obliged. (They can’t afford to spend the way they do, either—maybe they were relieved!) I also successfully got another relative to follow a strict list of needed gifts (school uniform replacements, money for a school field trip) for my two kids rather than more stuff that will just get forgotten in a closet.

    Great tips!

  74. Cath says:

    I love the ideas from these posts. It’s hard in my family as my household, teenager included, are the only frugal ones. Its slowly sinking in with some family members but we often end up with something useless that i then feel guilty about.
    Our biggest problem, and a warning to you all, my daughter and I have numerous, serious food allergies. We CANNOT be gifted any edibles. With allergies to gluten, all pulses, fermented foods, and for me, alcohol, it’s really a no go area. I’ve been gifted some lovely foods over the years (despite all family knowing I can’t eat them) and had to give them away before the use by date. Often, no one wants them as we all have too much at Christmas anyway. What a waste, not to mention upsetting that we can’t eat these things. Please make sure edible gifts are suitable for the recipient.
    I always ask for kindle vouchers to feed my bookworm trait. I would be happy with just that.

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