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Christmas Shopping Ideas on a Tight Budget

Updated on February 8, 2015
Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannie has been writing for over 7 years. She covers a wide variety of topics—anything from hamsters to office work.


Christmas is Coming

Whether you like it or not, Christmas is just around the corner. If you are like me, you are on a budget and wasting too much money on Christmas is not an option. This means you need to tackle the Christmas shopping issue head-on as soon as possible. Let me give you some low-budget suggestions for this Christmas to help you out.

Some of these suggestions do take a bit of preparation, so if you do not have the time to do them this year, hopefully you can use some of these ideas next Christmas. Also, you should try to keep an open mind about some of these ideas. I would have at one time never considered re-gifting a present or making a gift as opposed to buying one, but times have changed.

Another hurdle I've had to overcome recently is trying to spend the same amount of money on each person in my life. For example, I have two best friends and I would force myself to spend the exact same amount on each person. So that meant if I found the perfect gift for one friend that was slightly more in cost than what I spent for the other friend, I would then have to add an extra gift for the friend that I spent less on. From now on, that is not a priority. It is all about quality not quantity. Spending extra money to "even out' gifts is just not practical.

So now that you are approaching Christmas gift ideas with an open mind, let us explore some options you may have never considering until now. My goal this year is to give Christmas gifts to 7 adults and 1 child and spend less than $100. I hope you can also benefit from my research and strategies.

Buy an adorable Christmas tree with Mechanical Turk money!

Mechanical Turk

You may not know a wonderful site called Mechanical Turk even exists, but it does. The website is an Amazon website and you can visit it at Basically, the website allows companies to list small tasks, assignments, surveys, and research projects on its site. Workers (like you!) can register on the Mechanical Turk site and earn money for each task you are willing to complete. Some tasks only pay as little as 1 cent. Many other tasks pay 50 cents to $1 and only take about 10 or 15 minutes. Generally, the more complex the task, the more the pay. I've seen some transcription assignments pay around 50 bucks.

Obviously, you are not going to get rich using this site. However, if you have just one hour each day to work on the site, you can easily make a few dollars a day. That does not seem like too much until you realize you've made about $90 in one month. After you've registered with the site and all your account verification is complete (it takes about 2 weeks), you can transfer your earnings over to Amazon and buy anything you'd like on their website. For that matter, you can even transfer that money to your bank account (once they verify that information) and spend it wherever you like.

If you are just sitting there at your computer eagerly awaiting Cyber Monday, it is great to know you've got all that money on an Amazon gift card and you can purchase plenty of quality gifts using your Mechanical Turk money. This is especially helpful if you just really need a little extra cash and you intend on buying all your presents through Amazon anyway. Even if you do opt to send the money to your bank account, surely you can use that money towards your Christmas presents or any other expenses in your life.

My Coke Rewards

If you drink Coke, do I have a deal for you! On the My Coke Rewards website, you can enter in Coke Rewards from any Coca-Cola product you purchase. If you buy cases of soda, each case is worth 10 points. Most bottles of soda are worth 3 points each. If you are drinking Coke anyway, why not cash in?

If you have never entered Coke Rewards on the site before, it will take a while to build up a lot of points. If you are starting now, chances are, this may not help you this Christmas. However, it is great for the future. Your friends won't have to know you got them an amazing Coke sweatshirt for free. Furthermore, you can also use the rewards for online gift cards like Old Navy, PetCo, and Barnes & Noble. No one is going to realize you bought their Christmas present on the Barnes & Noble website using Coke Rewards. It is a great (free) gift option!

Dollar Store Gifts!


The Dollar Store

If you've read my other hubs, you will know I am a huge fan of shopping at the dollar store for Christmas stocking stuffers. Never rule out the dollar store for major gifts either! My father often needs packs of socks for Christmas, and you can purchase those at the Dollar Tree. My mother usually wants a new pair of slippers each Christmas. Once again, that is another $1 item at the Dollar Tree.

Some other items you may want to consider purchasing from the dollar store for Christmas are:

  • Candy
  • Tupperware containers
  • Stockings
  • Christmas cards
  • Glasses
  • Socks
  • Nail polish
  • Eye shadow
  • Eyeliner
  • Mascara
  • Hair supplies
  • Flashlights
  • Night lights
  • Jewelry boxes
  • Balloons
  • Word puzzle books
  • Puzzles
  • Stuffed animals
  • Small toys
  • Wrapping paper
  • Gift bags
  • Ribbons
  • Christmas bows
  • And much, much more!

Thrift Store

You might think it is tacky to shop at the thrift store for Christmas, but that is not the case at all. Plenty of your friends and relatives will enjoy one-of-a-kind gifts. The secret to successful thrift store Christmas shopping is finding hidden treasures someone will love.

For instance, I happen to love My Little Ponies, but I only want the classic original ponies from the 80s. Guess where you can find those adorable little collectibles? The thrift shop! Do you have a relative that only likes antique furniture? You might find something nice at the thrift store. How about a grandmother that loves collecting horse figurines? You might be able to find a real deal on a horse statue at a thrift store.

The secret to finding the perfect second hand gift is making sure it is in good condition. No one wants to get a Christmas present that looks like it is going to fall apart. Even worse, no one wants a gift that is potentially infested with bugs. It looks like you don't care at all when you give a present like that.

If possible, purchase items that need a little "fixing up" if they are a good price and you are sure you can spruce up the items yourself. Sometimes a quality piece of furniture just needs a little patching up and some furniture wax. In some instances, you may be able to paint an item to personalize it and make it a really special Christmas gift for a special person in your life. Many people will find much more sentimental value to a gift you've personalized for them rather than anything you can buy at the mall.

Macklemore loves the thrift shop, too!

Re-Gifting a Gift

In the past, I would have never considered re-gifting a gift, but times have changed. Many people are not offended to receive a present that is re-gifted if it is something they absolutely love. I believe that is the real ticket to re-gifting success... finding the perfect gift match!

Make sure to never re-gift a present within the same circle of acquaintances. For instance, if your friend gives you a gift you don't need, do not re-gift it to a mutual friend. Eventually she will figure out you gave that "adorable" purple elephant statue to a different friend when she sees it sitting in that person's living room.

I've found re-gifting usually works best with clothes that are simply not a good fit. For instance, if a relative gives you sweaters that are really pretty, but they simply do not fit you, it is fine to re-gift that to a friend that really wants new clothes and is that exact size. This works out great because now you don't have to take the time to exchange the clothing and now you don't have to spend money on a new gift for your friend. (Just don't wear the clothing first - that is tacky! As a general rule, if the tag is not on it, it is no longer new. Don't re-gift it!)

I am making soy candles for Christmas!


Get Crafty!

If you have a special craft you enjoy, why not make some of your own creations to give as Christmas gifts? Many people like receiving gifts that are handmade, especially if you are giving a quality item. I am not saying it is a good idea to glue a couple of used Popsicle sticks together and pretend it is art. I am saying for all you crafty folks out there, it is time to break out some materials you already have (or purchase a few new items at a low price), and start making some beautiful gifts for people.

I've found the type of handmade Christmas gifts people seem to enjoy the most are:

  • Candles
  • Soap
  • Jewelry
  • Scarves
  • Blankets
  • Food related items

Also remember not to "overdo" a Christmas present. Yes, everyone may have enjoyed the hand-crafted jewelry one year, but after the 5th year in a row it can get a little boring. Unless someone specifically asks for a craft you make, I would change it a bit each year or try something new after a couple of years.

Another idea for crafts is to make money selling your handmade items. You can often make a lot of money at craft fairs, or selling items to friends and family members. If you start early enough in the year, you could have a lot of extra cash saved for the holidays. Not only can you give crafts as gifts, you can also earn cash with your crafts to buy gifts.

Sales and Coupons

My final words of advice to you are: never pass up a good sale! My definition of a good sale is a sale where you actually come out ahead. If you get a coupon for a relatively expensive store, $10 off a $50 purchase is probably a sale you can pass on. After all, that means you still have to spend $40 or more just to use the coupon. However, if you see a coupon that says 50% off any item, and you are genuinely only buying one item, it might just be worth it.

Always compare coupons and sales to find your best options. I know some of you are fans of Black Friday sales. For me, I would personally rather eat a Christmas fruitcake full of bugs than go shopping on Black Friday. However, I do know there are some great deals out there. If you are brave enough to face the crowds, compare store sales papers before beginning your journey. If possible, you can always shop online on Black Fridayif stores are offering the same bargains on their websites. It is awesome to get the same discounts and not get trampled over by shoppers!

Good luck to you and your low-budget shopping adventures. Never be afraid to look around and get creative with your Christmas presents. If you have any other money-saving ideas for Christmas shopping you'd like to share, be sure to add that to the comments below. Merry Christmas!

Copyright ©2013 Jeannieinabottle



Submit a Comment
  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Sunshine625 - You see... you've already given her a great Christmas gift! :-) I collect the points at my job and they really add up. Thanks for your comment and Merry Christmas to you!

    cfin- Thank you for the awesome advice! I have not used before but I will give it a try.

    DzyMsLizzy - You are so right! I worded that completely wrong. I am going to fix it right now. Thanks a bunch! Oh, and the dollar store is perfect for toys, especially for little kids. Thanks for the comment, the votes, and the share!

    MartieCoetser - I love shopping sprees at the dollar store, so that sounds like a great gift for kids. Homemade gifts are great... but you are right, they can be time consuming to make. Thanks for your comment!

  • MartieCoetser profile image

    Martie Coetser 

    5 years ago from South Africa

    Thanks for the tips, Jeannieinabottle! I love to take the kids to a One-Dollar shop and allow them to pick their own gifts - as many as they can manage to carry in their own hands. Down here we call these shops.... can you believe it, I forgot their name. What a proof that I avoid shopping as far as possible... Giving home-made gifts for Christmas would be my favourite, if only I had the time to make them.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 

    5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Good ideas, here....with one caveat on the re-gifting: a tag on a gift means it IS new..not the other way around .. if the tag is gone, I would think it is used, or not least as far as clothing is concerned.

    I have found Dollar Tree a great source of little nonsense that delights the grandkids. I can get them 6 coloring books for the price of one; I can get them crayons and sidewalk chalk and all sorts of silly dress-up accessories that probably won't last long, but they'll have a blast playing with them in the meantime; and they're too young to have developed the concept of "cheapskate grandma." LOL Anyway, my daughter isn't raising them to be divas, but to be grateful for any gift.

    Voted up, interesting and useful; also shared.

  • cfin profile image


    5 years ago from The World we live in

    Use Its decent and gets you some cash back Before purchasing check for coupons. Simply google "coupons" +enter store name. Saved myself $60 on $360 of gifts :D Cha ching.

  • Sunshine625 profile image

    Linda Bilyeu 

    5 years ago from Orlando, FL

    I didn't even consider using my Coke Rewards. Well, they were my points until I gave them to my daughter a few months ago. Hold up! Merry Christmas to her!!! Thanks Jeannie!! :)

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Thanks so much! I am glad you liked the hub. I am still making my soy candles for the holidays. I hope they will make good gifts. :-)

  • randomcreative profile image

    Rose Clearfield 

    5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    You have included so many great ideas here! There is something for every kind of shopper. I appreciate the fact that you included so many ideas for handmade gifts as well.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    I am happy to help. I am obsessing over having a low-budget Christmas this year, so I thought I would share. :-) Thanks for dropping by.

  • AvineshP profile image

    Avinesh Prahladi 

    5 years ago from Chandigarh

    As Christmas is fast approaching, I really want to thank you for suggesting some great gift options. Choosing handmade Christmas gifts can be a good idea. Thanks.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    livewirez - I am glad you liked the hub. Happy to help!

    Sehnonimo - You are so right, Cyber Monday is a good day for shopping. I could stand to get a new microwave myself... maybe I need to check it out, too. Thanks for the comment!

  • Sehnonimo profile image


    5 years ago from San Bruno, CA

    Ah, yes, the dollar store. I spent many a Christmas shopping there for people! One year, I also hand-made gifts for people! It is sooo time consuming, and I'm not sure if it was worth it in the end - my skills weren't that good! But it gave me something to give!

    Just wanted to say, don't forget to mention Cyber Monday, the internet's version of Black Friday! The hubby and I plan to try to obtain a microwave on Amazon during their sales!

    Great Hub! Happy Writing!

  • livewirez profile image

    Romel Tarroza 

    5 years ago from Pearl of the Orient Sea

    Christmas is just around the corner and I have a lot of things to buy. Thanks for this tips.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Hezekiah - You make a really good point. I think people do often keep coupons for themselves, but it helps to use them at Christmas time, too. Sometimes I might even include coupons in a gift so the person receiving the gift can use them in the future. Thanks for your comment!

    AliceFournier - I am happy to help! I hope you have a very merry Christmas!

  • AliceFournier profile image

    Alice Fournier 

    5 years ago from Amsterdam

    I'm an au pair, I was actually struggling with the christmas presents... Thanks for the useful hub!

  • Hezekiah profile image


    5 years ago from Japan

    Thank you very much for the hub. It is coming round to that time of the year again when money needs to be spend. However saving tips are always great especially with coupons. Not too many people consider using them for Xmas presents because they want them all for themselves.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Pamela99 - I am buying for my parents and a couple of friends, a couple of co-workers, and my boyfriend. Luckily, I don't have to buy for other relatives since I have about 40 cousins. Gasp! I would not want to coordinate a gift exchange with them at all. ;-) Thanks for your comment!

    bravewarrior - Those are really great ideas! A poem is a really sweet gift and how doesn't love baked goods? I've been thinking about making some type of photo collage this Christmas, too. Thanks so much for the great suggestions!

    drbj - Oh yes, I've worked at several women's clothing stores in the past and there are "regular returners" that do that crap all the time. It does take a lot of nerve, but as long as the store does not restrict them, they will just keep doing it. Thank you for checking out my hub!

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    5 years ago from south Florida

    The Dollar Stores are a blessing for finding gifts for those with limited budgets. I had to laugh when you mentioned re-gifting if the clothing still bears a tag. At one point in my life I worked for a large department store chain and was surprised at how many elegant cocktail gowns were returned a few days after purchase - with the price tags still attached but sometimes pinned carefully inside. Now that takes nerve - to wear and then return.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    5 years ago from Central Florida

    Jeanie, these are all great ideas, many of which I use myself. Dollar stores are great for Secret Santa gifts for co-workers. (Re-gifting what you received from your Secret Santa works, too. Just don't give it to another co-worker!). Thrift stores are awesome. I even bought my Christmas tree one year from a thrift store.

    Another idea for gift giving is to write a poem specifically for a certain person and put it in a frame. You can get beautiful frames from thrift stores, Goodwill and Salvation Army.

    Bundling up homemade cookies and putting them in a Christmas tin (purchased at the dollar store) is a double treat. The recipient has something to use when the cookies are all gone.

    Same with breads, such as banana, zucchini, etc. Pick up a glass loaf pan from the dollar store and bake your gift bread right in it. Now you've not only pleased a palate, but added a piece of bake ware to be used again and again.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Great suggestions for a nice but affordable Christmas. We have started doing gift exchanges in our family from drawing names at Thanksgiving and it works out well. Of course, grandchildren are not included and they get gifts, as well as, the hubby.

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    I think I will be hitting all the major discount stores this time around: Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Ollie's, Big Lots... at this point, Walmart and Target seem too expensive. If you get a chance, I highly recommend making candles. Once you figure out what you are doing, it is pretty fast and easy. Thanks for checking out my hub!

  • Victoria Lynn profile image

    Victoria Lynn 

    5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

    I'm on a tight budget this year, so the Dollar Tree may be my friend. I would like to make things one year, but I don't have time this time around. Cool hub!

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    younghopes - Thanks so much for sharing my hub. I appreciate it!

    Jasmeetk - Thank you! I decided if I planned in advance this year, I would stay within my budget. :-)

    oldiesmusic - Thank you so much. I hope this helps everyone out there this Christmas that is short on money.

  • oldiesmusic profile image


    5 years ago from United States

    Much-needed tips for this coming holidays. They're very exciting options! Thanks for posting :)

  • Jasmeetk profile image

    Jasmeet Kaur 

    5 years ago from India

    christmas is a little bit far and everyone is planning for it. You have shared a best hub at this moment because everyone is planning for it and giving gifts to your friends and family.

    I really liked the idea of crafting candles for christmas. Perfect hub :)

  • younghopes profile image

    Shadaan Alam 

    5 years ago from India

    lovely and i have never thought about these before, sharing it

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Thanks so much! I am glad you enjoyed my hub. I was surprised at how much I was able to write about the subject.

  • LKMore01 profile image


    5 years ago

    Excellent article and perfect timing, Jeannie. Love all of your ideas and have utilized a few of them in years past. Awesome Hub!

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    Kathryn, sorry this isn't a funny one! I initially wanted to put a funny spin on it, but as it turns out, apparently I am so serious about my Christmas shopping strategies, I could not manage that. ;-) I've been putting a lot of thought into how to save money this Christmas. Thank you for the votes and for sharing!

    Southern Muse, it seems like a lot of us are on the same boat this year with basically no money for Christmas. I have a feeling this won't be a great year for retail sales. As far as MTurk goes, I've found I have the best luck at searching for tasks that are $1 or more. If I can't find some tasks that way, I search for .50 or more. I simply won't do a task that pay less than 50 cents. I also won't do a task that takes more than 30 minutes unless I am making at least $2. So far, that technique is working for me. Thanks for your comment and thanks for the vote up!

  • Southern Muse profile image

    Tiffany R Isselhardt 

    5 years ago from USA

    This is a GREAT hub! My family is facing the first Christmas in years where we literally have no money to spend on gifts (and a young child whose list is extensive). These are some great ideas, though I will say that MTurk isn't always very productive. I tried it some time ago and found that I wasn't making more than spare change each day - not even a few dollars. Voted up!

  • Kathryn Stratford profile image


    5 years ago from Windsor, Connecticut

    I was caught off-guard at first, because this isn't funny!

    I like your tips for shopping on a budget. I'm not able to do anything this year, but these are great suggestions for when I do. I love buying gifts for the holidays, and the dollar store is my friend! I also like the idea of making things. Next year I want to find something nice to make, and go that route with many people on my list.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Voted up, shared, and pinning.

    ~ Kathryn

  • Jeannieinabottle profile imageAUTHOR

    Jeannie InABottle 

    5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    You would be surprised at all the stuff you can earn on that website. I am currently aiming for an Old Navy gift card. :-) Thanks for your comment!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    5 years ago from USA

    These are good suggestions and tips. I've never thought of the Coke Rewards. All this time, I've just been ditching those caps.


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