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WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Thoughtful and frugal gift giving ideas

Posted December 8, 2015
Updated December 9, 2015

Are you hoping to avoid going into debt with holiday spending this year? The fabulous news is that you can still give meaningful and appreciated gifts on a reasonable budget. Take a look at the following frugal gift ideas, and start thinking about all the people on your gift list. I’ll bet you can find some perfect matches.

Memory Jar

This is one of my favorite frugal and thoughtful gift ideas this year. Have friends and family write down a few wonderful memories about the person receiving the gift and put them all in a decorative jar. Encourage the recipient to pull a new memory out every day so the gift keeps on giving for months!

You can also put one together for your own family. Starting January 1, every time something good happens to someone in your family, write it down on a small piece of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, empty out the jar and take turns reading about all the great things that happened during the year. This is something we are going to do this year with my family.

Gift baskets

People love receiving gift baskets. There is something irresistible about lots of goodies packed into a cute basket and covered with cellophane and curling ribbon. Look for bargains all through the year, and make themed gift baskets geared towards the people on your list. For the person who loves to watch movies (or any teens on your list), put together a Movie Theme Basket with movie rental certificates, microwave popcorn, candy bars and soda. Other themes include a Baker’s Basket, Chocolate Lover’s Basket, Coffee or Tea Basket, Sewing or Knitting Gift Basket, Gardening Gift Basket, Bath and Beauty Gift Basket (great for college students) and Kids Craft Basket.

Do-it-yourself tower of treats

It’s such fun to open up a stack of gift boxes filled with different treats inside each box. If you buy one of these towers from a retailer, you will probably pay $25 to $50 or more. If you make your own, you can cut the cost dramatically and still give a fun gift with fantastic presentation. Dollar Tree has stackable boxes for only $1 per box. Fill them with homemade cookies, brownies or fudge, fruit, candies, chocolates, movie rental gift certificates, microwave popcorn packs, candles and more. The choices are endless, but the reaction is always the same: “Wow”!

Homemade treats

Some of the most popular frugal gifts during the holidays are edible treats. Choose from cookies, fudge and brownies baked from scratch, hot chocolate mixes in a mug, soup mixes in a bowl, fudge, pies, homemade bread, fudge, quick bread mixes in a loaf pan, and little gingerbread men. Did I mention fudge?! See Gifts from the Kitchen for a number of recipes, including brownies in a jar and fudge, of course! We all know that homemade gifts can be time consuming and can get expensive, depending on the ingredients, but shopping for baking items on sale and stocking up when they are a great price is a super way to keep costs down.

Hobby related gifts

Many folks have hobbies they love. Some people collect coins, stamps or glass horses. Some are train enthusiasts or enjoy taking pictures or gardening. If someone on your gift list has a hobby, find a gift that will contribute to that hobby, without breaking the bank. Buy a magazine subscription for the train collector, rolls of film or photo paper for the photographer, specialty scissors, paper and stickers for the scrapbooker, or exotic spices for someone who loves to cook. Gifts that help people enjoy their interests are always a winner. If you are buying from the craft stores, make sure you cut out the 40 - 50% off coupons from the ads in the newspaper every Sunday. Most craft stores also take competitor's coupons from other craft stores. I used a Micheal's coupon and a Jo-Ann's coupon at Michael's last week.


Picture perfect

A great way to share your family with loved ones is through framed photos, scrapbooks, photo albums and digital photo frames. Take your own photos and have them printed at a drug store, Target or Walmart. Use a frame from a craft store like Michaels (with 40% off coupon) or even the dollar stores for a very frugal but sweet gift.

Arts and crafts

Nothing says love like a piece of artwork from a child or a handmade scarf (which would probably take me 800 years to produce). Drawings from the grandkids in inexpensive frames, handprint concrete stepping stones (these can be found in kits for under $10 at most craft stores), knitted scarves and crocheted blankets all make for impressive and lasting gifts. Five Below has a good assortment of craft kits for kids to make for only $5. They include bracelet and jewelry sets, handprint sets, kid-friendly needlepoint sets, painting and more). The kids can then give the crafts they make as gifts to grandparents, friends, teachers, etc.

Corny coupons

It may sound corny to give a coupon you made on the computer, but it’s an ideal gift to the right recipient. Consider the new mom who could really use three hours of free babysitting so she can go to the store all by herself. Or consider a coupon for a homemade dinner for that same new mom who has no time or energy to cook. Sometimes just helping with the everyday responsibilities is the best gift of all. Coupons are also great for kids. Consider a coupon book with coupons for an afternoon at the park, dessert at the local ice cream shop, a trip to the museum, their choice of movie rental, etc. None of these outings needs to be expensive, and they are great ways to spend time with the kids or grandkids.

Gift Cards

Gift certificates are an excellent choice when you aren’t sure what someone would want or you want them to be able to choose something they can really use. For the college students on your list, those big box stores have just about anything they could ever need. For the kids, certificates to bookstores or craft stores make great gifts. For the person on a fixed income, a grocery store certificate would be very appreciated. You don’t need to spend much. Even a $10 certificate can go a long way. Many stores offer incentives to buy their gift cards like a $5 bonus gift card when you spend $25 on gift cards. The drug stores are offering these incentives almost every week. Click the link above for a long list of bonus gift card offers for December 2015.

Groupon Deals (up to 80% off right now)

One of the best places to find discounts on a huge variety of gifts, local restaurant gift certificates and local services is through Groupon.com. You'll find discounts of up to 80% off of local restaurants, beauty products, massages, manicures and pedicures, chromebooks, tablets, headphones, photo shoots, photo books, canvas prints, clothing, paintball adventures, jewelry, concert tickets, candles and so much more. Check out the holiday deals at Groupon.com.

Donations to charity

Some folks would rather not receive a gift themselves but would love for the money to be spent on a donation to a favorite charity. You don’t have to donate $10,000 for the gift to be meaningful. Any donation is deeply appreciated when it is to a charity that is important to that person.

Holiday cards

The high cost of holiday cards is shocking to me. I love to send cards to our friends and family, and I would go broke sending cards purchased at full price. For the last 10 years, I have bought my cards in January when the boxed sets are marked down 75% to 90% off the retail price. The marked-down selection is surprisingly good at many stores (including Target, CVS and Walgreens), and the deals are excellent. You can always have the kids make cards, as well. It's a great activity to do with the kids and family members will love them!

See a list of 63 inexpensive gift ideas under $10 at BetterBudgeting.org.

Just think of all the joy you can bring to your friends and family with fabulous frugal gifts. Don’t forget the peace of mind you’ll feel because you stayed well within your budget. As I always say, it’s your money – spend it wisely!

What other frugal gift ideas do you have?

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11 Comments

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  • Pepper2 Dec 9, 2015

    Don't forget to 'pay it forward' too...It can be something as simple as paying the parking fee for the person in line behind you.
    If you know someone who is sitting with a family member in the hospital during this holiday...consider gifting them some change for parking fees or take a tray of homemade goodies for them to snack on (vending machines get old).
    It doesn't take a lot of money to make a difference...the best gifts are ones from the heart:) Even something as simple as 'spending time' with someone who doesn't have family to spend the holidays with.

  • Faye Prosser -WRAL Smart Shopper Dec 8, 2015

    ascherer - I bet they will love their care packages filled with goodies and love!

  • ascherer Dec 8, 2015

    This year I am doing care packages for my nieces and a few friends because they are not able to come home for Christmas. They are getting homemade peppermint bark chocolate cookies, congo bars, candied spiced nuts, and seasoned oyster cr*ckers. I picked up a few holiday themed matching kitchen towels, oven mitts, and pot holders from the Dollar Tree to use as filler in each of the boxes. Between the sales on baking supplies and the stuff from the Dollar Tree, it will cost me more to ship the boxes than what I put in the boxes but it was all made with a smile.

  • Faye Prosser -WRAL Smart Shopper Dec 8, 2015

    mothar1 - that is a great gift idea and I am sure it saves her both time and money throughout the year. Thanks for the idea!

  • mothar1 Dec 7, 2015

    I get an assortment of cards for my Mom to send out; birthday cards for her daughters, sons in law, grandchildren and friends. Plus some sympathy cards. If you use coupons during the year, it helps on the cost. The first year I did it, I got a notebook and some of those envelope organizers and set it up with labels for her. It is not all that frugal, lol but she uses it all year and doesn't have to worry quite so much about running to the store for a card.

  • Faye Prosser -WRAL Smart Shopper Dec 7, 2015

    aneal426 - I bet the free babysitting was a wonderful gift! Enjoy your date night!

  • aneal426 Dec 7, 2015

    We did a secret santa at my job and I got a gift card. But the real gift was free babysitting so my husband and I could go out! It is an amazing gift even without the gift card.

  • Faye Prosser -WRAL Smart Shopper Dec 7, 2015

    antonmotherhow - some of those DIY chandeliers are actually really cool. The one that makes the shadows of trees all over the walls of the room is so amazing. I think that some of them might not be up to code safety wise, though. The one made out of paper baking cups looks cool but would probably catch on fire in on time. They are really interesting to look at though. Thanks for sharing!

  • antonmotherhow Dec 7, 2015

    You can always make DIY Christmas chandelier, for example!!! it's a good gift to yourself and family :) Here some good ideas http://chandeliertop.com/diy-chandeliers-25-ideas-for-handmade-chandelier/

  • Faye Prosser -WRAL Smart Shopper Nov 12, 2015

    justinsmommu - that is a such a thoughtful and helpful gift. I am sure she loves it! Thanks for sharing.

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