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How To Save Money On Gifts: Budget-Friendly Gift Giving Ideas And Suggestions

Updated on September 27, 2011


The holidays bring out the best in people but they also bring out the worst in people. How? Because sometimes because we are consumed by gift giving.

Sometimes, it can just become overwhelming as you look at the ever-growing longer list of people you have to buy for.

In reality, most of these people you don't "have" to buy for but we feel obligated to because it's become a pattern in past years. We feel that we are locked into buying gifts or that these things are expected of us.

There really is no written-in-stone rule that says we have to buy gifts for our kids' teachers, the mailman, our hairdresser, etc. etc. etc. The list just goes on and on!

But if you're like most people, you are going to feel very guilty if you don't buy some of these people gifts. So what to do?

Let's take a look at some alternatives that might help you (and me) sleep better at night and still let you feel like you're giving!

For more ideas on how to have a budget-friendly holiday season, join me for my interview on Flora Brown's Internet radio program Color Yourself Happy - Budget Friendly Gift Ideas Make Sense.



First and foremost....if you can buy it on sale it! People sometimes worry that if they give a gift and someone knows that it was on sale, they'll look down their noses and think you're a cheapskate. Who cares? Wouldn't they do the same? And would you think less of them if they bought YOUR gift on sale? Heck no! I'd think they were clever (and frugal).

Pick up little things during the year..... especially if you see them on sale. If you see a tiny decorative basket for a buck somewhere, grab it up. It'll make a great little present like a teacher gift at the holidays with teas or flavored coffee packets in it. You'll have saved a bunch and come up with an excellent gift. Or if you see other things that are appropriate for those small gifts we sometimes need throughout the year and are at loss as to what to get......grab them up and keep them until they’re needed. Some people even wrap them ahead but I prefer a stash where I actually can see the gifts and remember what they are!

Gift cards get a bad rep . I think gift cards are an excellent way to save money. How? Because you can't overspend on them!! You can give a person exactly what you can afford and there's no waffling around about it. I don't think they're impersonal at all if you take the time to get them cards that they can really use. Or a basic card that they can use anywhere. You can also use small amount gift cards for some of those little gifts that you increments of $5 for the newspaper person or $20 for your hairdresser. Whatever you can afford, you can just buy that amount and you're done!

For office workers or even a large group of family and friends, if things are tight, suggest a gift exchange or a Secret Santa . You draw one person's name and instead of having many people to buy gifts for, you can buy just one substantial gift. Set a dollar value on the gift and then breathe a sigh of relief that there is only one gift coming out of your pocketbook rather than 15! It's a great way to celebrate the holiday and save money.



Hostess gifts can be something as simple as a homemade basket of goodies such as candies, cookies, or cinnamon rolls.  Or give a moderate-priced bottle of wine or a small poinsettia.  Gifts do not have to be large to engender the spirit of the season!  They just have to be thoughtful.

Kids love gift cards .....just about any aged kid loves getting a card that means cash in his or her pocket.  Especially if they're saving for something special.  Multiple gift cards bring them that closer to getting what they want.


Less is more .  You don't have to have 25 boxes under the tree to show your child (or anyone) that you love them!  Sometimes it's far less confusing to have several quality items under the tree rather than many different kinds of toys and gifts. If you get into the habit of overspending and overindulging your kids, they'll associate that with the season....a bad habit to get into and probably missing the point.  Go for quality over quantity and remember....none of us EVER gets everything we life or at the holidays!

Stocking madness .  Along the lines of quality versus quantity, when thinking of Christmas stockings, they don't have to be jammed with 10,000 items!  We have gotten so accustomed to super-sizing everything that we think we have to have the most lights on our house at the holidays to be cool, we have to have every spare inch under the tree covered in presents, and we have to have a gazillion things in the kids' stockings to be "good parents".  Get over it!  Think of old fashioned holidays where a great stocking stuffer was a yo-yo or a big candy bar.  These gifts meant something special because they were usually things that they just didn't in ever! They were a TREAT!  Think of stocking stuffers that are small treats or things that are unique.  Even old fashioned things like special candies or trinkets are great gifts....a new pair of socks or gloves.....all these are small and affordable but not over the top.

Family gifts .  If things are tight in your home around the holidays and everyone can agree that to buy a family gift or take a family vacation is more important than buying many superfluous gifts, do it!  Sometimes the best Christmases are the simplest.  Going somewhere together and having a wonderful time that you will remember forever might just be the ticket instead of having meaningless gifts under the tree.  In a year, will you even remember who gave what to whom?   

Feeding frenzy .  There are a lot of foodies out there these days and I'm one of them.  I'm of two minds on this myself.  I love making new and wonderful recipes at the holidays because it gives me an "excuse" to try new recipes.  However, overindulgence in anything is never a good thing and somewhere there is a fine line between just enough and too much.  Use your meal preparation times and dishes that you make to create an atmosphere of warmth and comfort during the season, but don't get so carried away with making things that you miss out on the fun of playing games, watching a movie together, decorating the tree or just talking!  Too often we forget what the season is about while we dash here and there to do everything when in fact, it might just be better for everyone to have an overall simpler holiday and enjoy our time together more!


Of course, we have budgeted for the holidays , right? Ha! It's estimated that at least 70% of Americans do not ever budget for the holidays. It does help in the long run if you set aside X amount of dollars in an on-line savings account (where you can earn roughly 5-6 times what you'll earn on it in a bricks-and-mortar-bank for the year) each month that is earmarked just for the holidays.

It takes the stress out of receiving the credit card bills and realizing how much you actually spent. You kind of had an idea but you figured you'd just worry about it later on, right?

Seeing that you are now $1000 in debt after the holidays kind of kills the holiday spirit after the fact.

Get savvy about saving and spending within your limits at the holidays. You won't believe the great feeling it'll give you afterwards.

In short, these are just some of the ways that you can have a wonderful holiday and not kill your budget!

If you have more ideas, please share them with all of us because we all need reminders from time to time on how to spend our holidays less stressed....and come out on the other side with a rosier financial picture!

Wishing you the merriest of holidays and the happiest of new years!

These ideas can also apply throughout the year.  Being frugal doesn't have to be painful.


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