Giving cheap Christmas gifts doesn’t mean buying ugly, junky presents. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.
It just takes a bit of creativity to find cheap Christmas gifts that fit into your budget and the gift receiver will love. With some budgeting and planning, you can easily stick within your budget and still get that gift list checked off!
Why You Should Focus Your Gift List Around Cheap Christmas Gift Ideas
Everyone’s had that New Year’s hangover – I’m not just talking too much food and drinks, but too much holiday spending as well. You get caught up in the spirit of the holidays, end up buying waaaaay more than you intended, and come January’s credit card bill, your bank account is officially “hungover”.
Then the buyer’s remorse and belt tightening settle in, making for a painful start to the new year.
If you’re not convinced yet, here’s some gut-wrenching statistics out there on holiday overspending:
- 56% of Americans will take on new debt to pay for holiday gifts1
- 16% will take longer than 6 months to pay it off1
- 34% of parents will spend an average of $500 per child!1
The worst statistic I’ve read? 25% of parents are taking extreme measures such as withdrawing from 401ks, using emergency funds, or using payday loans to buy holiday gifts1.
When did it get like this? And how do we stop it?
It’s pretty clear we need to stop it before it starts by trimming down our spending for the holiday season.
Why not choose to start January off with financial peace rather than regret, worry and a HUGE credit card statement?
How to be smart about what you spend on Christmas Gifts
We all love to celebrate and show our appreciation for one another through gifts. It’s an tradition as old as the first caveman dragging home extra loin cloths made especially for his cave family, right?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with giving Christmas gifts. However, it shouldn’t cause you panic or wrack up a huge amount of credit card debt that you pay a ton of interest on.
Start by listing out everyone you need to buy for. Don’t forget non-family members, like teachers, coaches, neighbors, coworkers, and your boss, to name a few.
Got your list? Great. Next, decide how much you want to spend on each person. Once you add that up, you might find yourself a little overwhelmed.
See if you can either trim your list or group people on your list into subcategories. That way you think of creating or buying gifts that apply to multiple people.
For example, instead of buying individual gifts for coworkers, why not bring in one gift to share, like a dessert tray? Everyone’s covered, it’ll be cheaper, and it’s less stress and work for you. Done and done!
While the average American family spends approximately $1,000 on Christmas, there are a lot of great cheap gift ideas that you can give that can help keep you from burning a hole in your credit card.
Cheap Christmas Gift Ideas Don’t have to mean…Being Cheap
Now it’s time to get creative. Just because you’re looking to trim your gift giving costs doesn’t mean you’re going to give everyone a stale fruitcake or some plastic cheap Christmas stuff.
Think about what you’re good at, what you enjoy creating, and what you know your loved ones (or boss) will enjoy.
The trick is to find something that you know they’ll appreciate and enjoy – whether it cost $1,000 or $10.
The Best Cheap Unique Gift Ideas
Spoiler Alert! Anyone and everyone would rather spend time with you and your loved ones than to get yet another trinket. The gift of time is so much more precious than we realize. However, that being said, here are some other cheap holiday gift ideas to consider as well if you still feel like you want to give a physical gift:
Give the gift of a homemade meal.
I know, food sounds too easy, but bear with me. The average American is so incredibly busy balancing work, kids and home duties that we all struggle to get a meal on the table. Especially a warm, yummy homemade one on a cold winter night, right?
Give the gift of a family dinner. Prepare their favorite meal in a freezer safe dish with instructions on how to heat it, and add bread and a dessert to make it a meal.
While you’re at it, double the recipe and throw one in the freezer for your family as well. It’s a total win-win for those crazy busy holiday nights when you don’t want to cook, right?
Don’t forget that everyone loves to receive cookies, breads and cakes as well. If you love to bake, now’s your chance to give them something made with love in a beautiful container.
Give the gift of free fun.
Invite your neighbors or friends with kids to meet up at the best sledding hill in the city. Host a cookie exchange, or better yet, use your kitchen as cookie baking central and let all your friends’ kids work on frosting skills.
My absolute favorite free holiday activity? Having a sleepover under the Christmas tree with my kids.
While none of us get much sleep, it feels very magical to be surrounded by all the beautiful lights and the excitement of the tree. Every year, my daughter tells me it’s her favorite and asks if we can do it again!
Give the gift of memories.
One of my favorite money saving ideas for the holidays is to give experiences. Think back to when you were a kid during the holidays. What sticks out to you the most? Was it stuff? Or was it specific memories of times you spend with grandparents, parents, siblings and extended family?
While I can remember some of our gifts, I mostly remember very specific outings with family members. Now that some of those family members are gone, those times are truly cherished memories.
This year, we’re treating my in-laws to a train ride instead of giving gifts. My father-in-law is a huge train buff, so I know they’ll love it. There’s an awesome Chinese lantern festival here in Columbus that we’re taking my parents to. We’ll also be able to take them to see the holiday lights at the zoo for free with our zoo pass.
It’s a win-win because we’re able to give these experiences as their gifts, and they’re also getting time with their grandkids.
Check out local websites to see what free or cheap holiday activities are available in your area and plan around them.
Some frugal outing ideas include:
- Driving through neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights
- Snowball fights
- Cookie Crawls (where businesses hand out cookies in an certain area, and you visit each one)
- Take advantage of free activities at school, like visiting Santa
- Look into your memberships for discounted activities, like seeing the Zoo Lights
Give them the gift of time.
We can all use a helping hand, but some of us are better at asking than others. Think about what your loved ones need most and make them an offer they cannot refuse!
Here’s the perfect unique Christmas gift idea: offer to do something they hate, so you can free up their time. Clean their gutters, help them with opening the pool next summer, or even babysit for free for date night. Trust me, they’ll love you for it!
Heck, even go so far as to make those funny coupons that they can cash in to make it official. Some other services to offer gift certificates for are:
- Wash and detail their car
- Pet sitting
- Handyman services
- Oil change
- Run an errand for them that they hate to do
Give the gift of creativity and fun.
For all you DIY junkies who are itching to make something, now’s your chance to make unique fun gifts for cheap!
Scented bath salts, lotions and bath bombs are amazingly easy to make. Whip up a big batch, buy some beautiful reusable containers, and hand them out everyone on your list. Finding something that you can buy and produce in bulk can help save money as well as time.
Use your artistic talents (or whatever talents you may have) to make something you enjoy creating and they enjoy receiving. You can even get your kids in on the action by having them help create keepsake gifts such as ornaments. There are a ton of cute and creative ideas out on Pinterest using kid’s handprints.
Other great diy ideas for christmas gifts include:
- Family photos in beautiful frames
- Personalized mugs with coffee samples
- Hand painted ornaments or home decor
- Holiday cookies, cakes, or breads in pretty, reusable packaging
- Hair bows, jewelry or keychains
- Re-pot plant clippings from your garden
- Sew clothes, towels, pot holders, or bags
- Make bath items like bath bombs, body scrub, or soap
- Create keepsakes with supplies and craft machines that you already have
Maybe you’re not that creative? Etsy has some cute and fun thank you printables for teachers, coaches, babysitters, and anyone else you can think of! They have cute little sayings that match up with a gift, like lip balm or a Hershey’s bar.
Once you make the purchase on Etsy, you’ll receive a PDF to download. Just add some nice stock paper to the printer, print it, cut it out, and attach to the gift. Easy, beautiful, and creative!
Also, don’t forget to check out Pinterest for homemade Christmas gift ideas.
Give the gift of a night with friends.
Looking for gifts ideas for friends? Host a holiday potluck and movie night with everyone in their best ugly Christmas sweaters. Make it BYOB and play your favorite fun Christmas movies. A great party for friends or family doesn’t have to be expensive and everyone can contribute.
Some other great frugal fun Christmas party ideas include:
- Hallmark Movie night (Everyone loves those, right?)
- Cookie Exchange (or bake cookies together)
- Decorate gingerbread houses
- White elephant gift exchange
- Spend time together while wrapping presents
- Host a Christmas scavenger hunt through your neighborhood
- Play “Minute to Win It” style games that are holiday themed
- Decorate ornaments together
- Do Christmas crafts or make presents
Give the gift of cash (kind of!).
If you must give gift cards, go to Raise.com to purchase discounted gift cards for up to 20% off! They’re 100% guaranteed for a year with purchase protection and refunds, so you don’t have to worry about anything weird with the cards after purchase. Buy these discounted cards for stores you know you’ll shop at for the holidays to save money as well!
Another idea is to cash in those credit card points for gift cards. We use ours for gift cards to gas stations for so we can travel to see family. I’ve also cashed out those points to get gift cards for family members to their favorite restaurants.
You can also earn gift cards through sites like Swagbucks. Fill out surveys, watch videos, and do small tasks to earn points towards gift cards (or cash!). It’s easy enough to do while you’re watching TV to earn some cash every evening.
Give the gift of charity.
While this isn’t necessarily a gift to family or friends, we often find that the holidays are a great reminder to give to those who are less fortunate. However, sometimes we find ourselves struggling to donate the money we’d like to.
There are several ways you can still give without breaking the bank. It’s a perfect time of year to go through your clothes, toys and other household items to see what can be donated to Goodwill or Salvation Army. Winter items that kids have out grown but are still of good use would make a kid in need so happy, not to mention gently used toys as well.
Charities need people to physically help as well. Sign up to ring a bell in front of a store or serve up hot meals to the homeless. A coworker of mine would take his kids every Thanksgiving to work at a soup kitchen. I was awed at not only his devotion to helping others, but his ability to teach his kids what’s truly important during the holidays.
Additional Ways to Save on Christmas Gifts
Let’s say your’e not crafty or don’t have the time to bust our your art supplies. You can still find ways to cut costs when shopping for unique Christmas gifts.
Just remember to use these guidelines when holiday shopping to help you from overspending:
- Consider shopping with cash or a pre-paid card to stop yourself from overspending.
- Stack your savings by:
- Keep the ads for anything you purchase. If you see it cheaper elsewhere, take the ad back in with your receipt and get a price match.
Learn more couponing tips and tricks here to get the best deal possible!
Use these unique and cheap holiday gift ideas to make your holidays better this year. You don’t have to be a painful financial statistic or go overboard in gift giving to show you care. Truly, what anyone really wants is time with you and your family. And maybe a pony. But we’ll settle for time together instead. 😉
Have other unique and cheap holiday gifts ideas? Share them below, I’d love to hear them!