Christmas Gifts The Prudent Homemaker

Every year there are articles and advertisements for Christmas gifts under $25. Sometimes, they are for stocking stuffers under $25.

Every time I see these articles, I think a couple of things. First, I think that if each of the gifts I gave cost $25 each, it would be extremely expensive. Second, I think about my own gift-giving budget. My budget varies each year, but it is usually $15 to $25 total per child for my own children, including not just the gifts under the tree, but also the stocking stuffers.

Here’s how I give gifts within that budget:

Have a list

I start a list at the beginning of the year for birthdays and one for Christmas. As my children mention items they would like, I add them to the list. As it gets closer to the birthday or to Christmas, I double-check to see if I should add to or take things away from the list. As I purchase items throughout the year, I simply add a checkmark to the list to know when I have that item. Having the list helps me to focus on what each person actually wants and needs, as well as stops me from overbuying for that person because I’ve forgotten something I have already purchased and hidden away. This year I decided to also add a star to each item as I wrap it so that I know I’ve found the purchased item and made sure it ends up under the tree!

October Garage Sale Christmas Gifts 1 The Prudent Homemaker

Buy Used

Garage sales, thrift stores, and local Facebook garage sales are my sources for used gifts. I’ve given used clothing (and sometimes, it’s been used so little the tags are still attached!) (bought for $0.25 to $5.00 each), books ($0.25 to $2 each), games ($1 to $2 each), picture frames ($0.50 to $1.00 each), jewelry–often brand-new!–for $0.50 to $1 an item, tools, bicycles (as low as $5 for small ones!) and toys (including Legos). I shop garage sales with a list and I do most of my garage sale shopping on two Saturdays a year when my local neighborhoods have huge community garage sales.

Shop Sales

The year everyone wanted a fleece blanket, I purchased several for $5 each on a Black Friday sale.

I buy toys and clothing on sales and on clearance. End-of-season clothing in the next size up can be put aside for the next year’s holiday.

I look online for less-expensive options of items that everyone wants. For example, if someone wants a long-sleeved pink t-shirt, I’ll check around to see who might have one on sale for the lowest price (around $4 to $5 for a new shirt is what I paid this year).

I watch for sales and printable coupons for everyone’s favorite candies. If several children want the same candy that year, I’ll buy a few large bags of candy (often on sale and with a coupon) and divide it up between the stockings in plastic bags or in homemade paper cones for those children. Grocery stores often have candy bars on sale for four for a dollar in December, which is another way to put a little candy in everyone’s stockings for less.

I shop at the Dollar Store and dollar sections at Target. At the Dollar Store, I’ve bought earbuds, coloring books, activity books, puzzles, hair elastics, brushes and combs, headbands, and bobby pins. At Target, I’ve bought huge packages of modeling clay, character-themed memory games, wooden cooking toys, hats, scarves, and pretty pencils.

You can see more of my stocking stuffer ideas here, here and here.

Cloche The Prudent Homemaker

Make Gifts

Homemade gifts can easily be really expensive, so keeping costs down involves careful choices. I buy fabric on sale for 40-60% off, buy patterns on sale (when possible) and use them more than once, use free tutorials from Pinterest, make gifts using pieces cut from old clothing and broken jewelry, sewn dresses from curtains that have been given to me, and made pajamas from old sheets that have been given to me. I have sewn doll clothes, a tie, hats, mittens, library tote bags, a purse, aprons, slips, puppets, handkerchiefs, scarves, pillows, skirts, blouses, and dresses.

I’ve made homemade playdough for my little ones, printed free downloadable paper toys and paper dolls (some are printed on cardstock, so I buy a ream of cardstock for around $5 and use it for years), made bookmarks, and made rosemary olive oil bread in small loaves for friends and neighbor gifts (using rosemary from my garden).

You can see more of my homemade gifts over the past several years in my past posts from my Gift a Day series.

Purchase “Free” Items

Once in a while, a store will offer a free item. It might be a free item with purchase, a coupon for a totally free item (like a lotion or a free 8 x 10 photo), or a coupon for $5 off a $5 purchase or $10 of a $10 purchase. I’ve used these coupons to purchase items that just meet the minimum, paying only the tax or a tiny bit more.

Chirstmas Stocking The Prudent Homemaker

Split Multi-Packs

I usually split multi-packs of inexpensive items into stockings.

I’ve split packs of fancy pencils from the Dollar Section at Target; bouncy balls and multi-card deck games from the birthday section at Target; bought the cards that have multiple pairs of earrings from Walmart, redivided and repackaged them for each child; split multi-packs of Chapstick and LipSmackers so that each child gets one; and split hair elastics, combs, toothbrushes, bobby pins, and headbands from the dollar store.

I’ve also split Legos that I’ve purchased at garage sales. Each child will get so many people, the same colored basic blocks (like one will get the white blocks, another the pink, another the red, etc. so that they can build something cohesive).

Rose scarf complete

Stick to the Classics

The classic gifts are items like dolls, blocks, balls, toy cars, books, card and board games, scarves, hats, gloves, sweaters, dresses, and ties. These gifts will still be around and being used long after the new year (unlike some toys that are quickly broken and forgotten). Many of them fulfill needs, which also means they’ll be used for a longer period of time. Additionally, these items always go on sale at Christmastime, often for many weeks.

Perhaps you’ve read this list and, while hoping that I would offer you a solution for your gift-giving needs this year, you still can’t come up with any money this year for Christmas gifts. You didn’t have a chance to do any shopping earlier in the year and have very little time to find something for your family. You still have a few options:

List unneeded items that someone else might want for sale on your local Facebook garage sale pages. Outgrown clothing, toys, tools, kitchen items, etc. might just be what someone else needs this year. Use the money from these sales to purchase gifts.

Use Swagbucks to score yourself a gift card to Target, Walmart, or Amazon and use it to purchase items.

Make items using what you have on hand already. Cook and wrap someone’s favorite cookies or brownies, repurpose something that you already have into something new, print bookmarks or paper dolls.

Christmas Spritz Cookies The Prudent Homemaker

Give Gifts of Service

Coupon books of service work for children as well as adults. Coupon books for children could include doing a chore for them, a chore-free day, a promise of an at-home date night (where you can play board or card games, perhaps individually with the child after their siblings have gone to bed), and cooking or other skill lessons with you. The gift of time with you is even better than a store-bought gift.

Flourish 7

Last week I read that the average family in the U.K. spends two weeks’ salary on Christmas (gifts, food, decor, etc.). If you don’t have two weeks’ worth of money to spend (or don’t want to spend two weeks of income on Christmas!) you don’t have to do so! You can have a debt-free Christmas within your budget and still give good gifts to your family!

Disclosure: As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through my links. This means that I earn a small percentage from any items you place in your cart and purchase within 24 hours after going to Amazon from one of my links (i.e., it doesn’t have to be an item I have linked here). If you’re going to be making a purchase from Amazon this week, I thank you for using my links to support this site!

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  1. Check out local attractions and public service centers in your area (particularly smaller, more off-beat ones). For example, our local water treatment plant has a free children’s science center attached, and they offer coloring sheets and little sandglass timers to measure showers. Our local police stations offer free children’s books about when it’s appropriate to call 911. Look up where the Little Free Libraries are in your area (bring a book to donate, too). For older kids, look for gently used sporting equipment or chopsticks and candy from your local Asian grocery store (or equivalent). And ask yourself if you have something already that your older kids might find appealing: a forgotten record player? A tennis racket from high school? Dress shoes that can only be endured by younger feet than yours? Good luck, and happy holidays!

  2. My money saving “hack” this year was a conversation with my sister gently asking if we (the adults) could not exchange gifts this year. She quickly agreed. We’ll still be giving gifts to each others’ children but it is a relief to not have to think of anything – or spend the money on – for my sister and brother-in-law.

  3. Great list, Brandy. I would just add that no one should feel pressured to get anyone something they cannot afford. I think that might be harder to do with some adults than with children. It can be very difficult to stand your ground but if you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money.

    We did not do Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny when my daughter was little. We still had gifts and candy baskets but I saw no reason to have these secular characters on holy days. I think knowing gifts were from me and her relatives kept expectations in line, too.

    P.S. and totally off topic – I guess your rain is helping given how much Lake Mead has risen this month.

    1. I agree! I have been pressured to give gifts before. “It’s only $5” per person–when I didn’t have the $5 per person, or even just $5. I really dislike the words, “It’s only” in regards to cost. People who say it don’t understand that that amount, be it however so small, is a budget breaker for you and just something you can’t afford. When we had been eight months without any income, I had someone pressuring me to spend money on something that was “only $2” per child. I had just told her that we hadn’t had any income at all for eight months. I didn’t have the money. We hadn’t bought ANYTHING-not food, not diapers, during those eight months. I realized that she hadn’t been listening to a word I’d said about not having any income that year. It was a very difficult moment for me. So, dear readers, if you’re in that situation, I hope this post was helpful to you in finding a way to give gifts to those closest to you (such as your children). The adults can choose or not choose to understand, but when you don’t have it, you don’t have it. I know a lot of my readers are in this situation currently and I wish you all the best!

  4. One more thought: I have accumulated a LOT of credit card points the last 2 years and will be doing that again in 2020 due to charging everything, including the upcoming thousands in dental work (card is paid in full every month). I don’t like to fly so I use my points to get several hundred dollars’ worth of gift cards each year, often to restaurants or department stores, and give the cards as gifts.

  5. I often give food gifts to my husband and son and daughter. Sometimes I make something, like last Christmas I made bagels and wrapped them in a box for my hubby. He was delighted, and honestly, it filled in for some supper meals (we eat lunch as our main meal and at supper do just toast and fruit) so was easy to take from my grocery budget. The main “gift” was the time I took to make something a little more labor intensive than our regular bread. For the kids, I have given things such as a bag of oyster crackers, a jar of peanuts, or a small package of dried fruits. These are items that they normally only get a little of to eat, so having an entire package of their own (which they usually offer to share) is a big deal!

    1. I love consumable gifts! They don’t take up more space in the house. My dad loves nuts; my husband likes sausage. My children asked for a bag of chips last year. It was $2 (store brand) and they each had their own bag. It’s not something I normally buy at all, so it’s definitely a great treat!

  6. One of my favorite gifts you have given in the past was a year when you gave each child a bookmark (I think it was a bookmark) with a list of what was special about that child. Each one was different. As a child that would have meant SO MUCH to me. I’ll bet it meant a lot to your children, too. And that was a gift that only cost a little of your time and attention (and a sheet of cardstock.) The equivalent for an adult might be a letter in which the giver shared why that person is so special to them. Or perhaps frame a letter or poem with that sentiment.

      1. I made bookmarks years ago (maybe that year or 6 years ago) due to that post and many of my kids still have them!

  7. Such good ideas! My favorite parts of your blog (I love all the inspiration, gorgeous photos, beautiful family, but my very fave, I mean) are your gifting ideas. My husband and I are giving the grandkids each a book for Christmas, and now I’ll make and tuck a personalized bookmark in each one.
    A gift I sometimes give is a free printable to suit the holiday and the person. I collect inexpensive frames throughout the year (often from Goodwill) and use them as is or paint them. So the gift is usually about a dollar total.

  8. My husband’s parents used to give a coupon for a day off from school, only one day a year. They could take it if they just were feeling mentally off or were exhausted and wanted to stay in bed all day…whatever. He said it was “so delicious” to watch his brothers head off to school on the day he decided to take off. His mother, who was a stay at home mom, would fix them tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches and they would eat lunch together. He also said the anticipation was half the gift—he would plan to take a day off and then decide to wait and then select another day, but the planning was so much fun that one year school ended and he had not taken his day off yet and had to wait until the fall! His brothers always took their days right away, in January. Anyway, I know that some kids could not afford to take time off from school and home schoolers get to make their own schedules but for some kids this might be a fun coupon. Another thing his mother did was to have coupons they could turn in to get their favorite meals made. Each kid got 12 coupons. One time his brother asked for spaghetti and meatballs for 12 days running, so the next year the rule was you could only use one a month!

  9. Brandy – When you wrote that you sometimes made gifts from cardstock and free printables, I wondered if you and your readers had ever seen this website? He is an artist and dad in Portland and has a section of free printables (coloring sheets, paper city toys, etc.) on his website that are just amazing. I used to print them out for my kids when were younger. I still love the Paper City Paris! Awesome (almost) free gift!

      1. I’m kind of embarrassed to ask, but the technological world keeps whizzing by me faster than I can keep up. Brandy, I would like to print out a couple of the above mentioned city scapes by Joel for my Paris loving granddaughter, but I am unclear what kind of paper I should buy for the printer. Is it cardstock and does that come in a full letter size?

        Thanks for your help.

        1. Regular printer sized paper works fine. Cardstock comes in standard paper size. I like cardstock because they are a little thicker.

        2. Decorating a large-ish envelope with a few Parisian images would keep the pieces together neatly.
          Some years ago, my in-laws had their movies transferred to VHS tape and we made copies for all the siblings. I decorated the tape boxes as though for a real movie, with a title, stars, a summary of contents, photos, etc. This slightly elevated the gift above simply giving it in the store box. My point is not to return to VHS, but that anything presented as though it is a set or whole appears special.

          1. Brandy, I love your ideas! You seem so organized too, which is so wonderful especially with your extra large family!! I feel like every year Christmas completely sneaks up on me!! My goal is to be better prepared and organized this year.
            I agree homemade gifts can definitely end up being very expensive. I wrote about 55 Simple Homemade Gifts You Can Make in a Hurry here:
            and the ideas I put on the list are all ones that can be made quickly and are fairly inexpensive, especially if you have some items on hand like you also said, cooking supplies, leftover yarn or fabric.
            I think it’s also important to think about keeping Christmas simple and just being ok with that. I think it’s so easy to let our expectations rise a little every year. More thoughts on How to Simplify Christmas and Enjoy it More here:
            Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas and I hope you are your family have a wonderfully blessed Christmas!

  10. A lovely helpful post! I do a huge amount of second-hand shopping, in fact, most things we buy generally are second hand. But for whatever reason, I still struggle with the idea of gifting second hand at Christmas to my kids unless its an item that we would never be able to afford otherwise in excellent condition. However, stockings are filled with things they will need for the new year. New undies, lunch boxes/school bags if theirs are worn out, bathers (Christmas is in our Australian summer, which is our big holiday period) stationary for school etc, as well as a book each and some lollies. Our new school year runs differently to yours and it starts at the end of January/beginning of February so I find this approach kills two birds with one stone. Like you, I shop for items on sale in advance and have a careful list I stick too and cross items off as I go. I have the list in my phone. All those little things can quickly add up!

    This year all our boys want money to save towards one large item they each covet and I’m happy to give towards that within our pre-set budget.

    1. I have found some very beautiful second-hand items–and not all are even used! I bought some earrings for $1 a pair that were new on cards this year!

      I have bought very expensive brand pullovers for $2 each at garage sales that looked brand-new.

      I offered to buy my son some new trousers this year and he said no thanks–he would rather buy them second hand at the thrift store where he works! He has bought himself all sorts of new clothes and an entire library from the thrift store (plus a few out-of-print books from Ebay). He loves vintage books and loves getting new books that retail for $20 for $2! I asked him what I was supposed to buy for him since he was buying everything he wanted. He asked me for an old book that was on Ebay!

      My eldest daughter bought ties for $0.25 each at a garage sale that she is giving to her brothers and her dad.

      I think a lot of people donate and sell items that are used because they only used them a few times and didn’t really like them, so they’re in great condition!

      My mother bought me a hat at a garage sale last year as my Christmas gift. I get compliments on it every time I wear it. It’s one of the best presents she’s ever given me.

      So, I think used items can be quite nice.

      I love that your boys are saving up for something they want. That’s a great skill to learn!

      1. I very much agree with you Brandy. There have been sparse Christmases during which I filled out a child’s gift list with gently used toys, coats and the like from tag sales, thrift shops and consignment shops. If you are careful in your selection no one will ever discern their origin if you don’t care to share it. So many items (especially at EBay and consignment shops) are literally brand new; gotten as gifts or ordered online and not returned within the time window for a refund. I have even been known to buy luxury items such as silverTiffany key chains, expensive brand name purses, sunglasses, clothing (often new, with tags) from EBay, consignment stores, and thrift shops for a fraction of their retail value (using discernment in order to avoid poorly made knock-offs.) . Of course, these are more rare, special gifts that for the most part must be treasure-hunted in advance. In a nutshell, my own long term philosophy has been that “used quality looks and wears much better than cheap new.”

        Thank you for this wonderful article (I enjoy all of your posts). I believe, it’s well past time to remove any remaining stigma on this type 0f shopping. In my humble opinion, it’s a badge of honor and speaks of being a good steward of your God given resources.

        Also, thank you so much for your lovely site. I don’t comment often but am a regular reader and appreciate you and all the wonderful souls who gather here to share their wisdom.
        Wishing you all a miracle-filled holiday of love and perfect abundance.

        1. I love this, ““used quality looks and wears much better than cheap new.” It’s so very true!

          One Christmas we were chided for buying used gifts and back then I was too scared of conflict to speak up. However, it was one of the best Christmases. My husband suggested that we set up everything like a toyland around the tree. We had purchased an huge box of Hot Wheel tracks for $5. He set them up so skillfully and it was so fun. That same year, I made each child a gingerbread house and put them beneath the tree as a gift. It became a treasured tradition.
          Another year when things were a little sparse, I filled the whole room around the tree with red balloons. It was fun watching the children run and play with the balloons. Merry Christmas!

  11. I taught my children that good gifts come in all price ranges. (That year I gave my son a set of J.A. Henckels knives that I bought for $24 on eBay, and that included shipping!). I think this is an important concept, especially if you need to cut back this year (or any year). My budget is higher than many here, but I haven’t increased it in 10-15 years and it gets easier every year to come in below budget. This year’s gift list included new items, used stuff, homemade stuff, and some gift cards I received for buying toilet paper at Target and getting a flu shot. I don’t always just give the GCs…I use them to buy presents.

    My kids are adults now. One of my son’s all-time favorite gifts was the book written about the band by Motley Crue members. He laughed and laughed. I had to buy it used because it was out of print, and the one I got wasn’t even in particularly good condition. He went to one of their shows on their farewell tour and appreciated that I’d gone to the trouble to find him a copy. That appreciation was…priceless.

    PS If you can barely afford presents for your children, this is the year to quit giving gifts to friends and co-workers and even some relatives. If someone gives you a gift, just smile sweetly and say Thank You. The more you do this, the easier it gets.

    1. I agree about the gifts for others outside of one’s children when funds are tight. It’s a hard thing, but it keeps one from going into debt.

  12. I have s Xmas club account. Every year I increase it by $15. I do not touch it until Nov. My kids are getting older and usually want money. So I do $100 per child in cash and then another $100 in smaller items. It is hard living in a materialistic society. With 1 in HS she thinks she needs an Iphone and name brand clothes. She turns 16 in Feb and she will be getting a job.

  13. It takes a few months to “make” but I am gifting my sister a bag of compost (from my veggie and fruit scraps) and a regional gardening calendar and related refrigerator magnets, all from our university system, given out free during a community event. Another freebie gift that also takes a while of advance planning is new baby plants from your succulents, herbs, or other plants. They can be potted in a throwaway can or jar, or for a natural look, hollow out a piece of tree limb that has fallen, or use a dried spaghetti squash shell. Another gift from throwaways involves the cost of sugar only and making candied orange and lemon peels. Someone with a fireplace would appreciate a bundle or basket of firewood from your fallen oak limb and starters such as dried grasses or twigs tied
    with an attractive ribbon. I can often get nice baskets from the thrift store for .25-.50 each. It’s fun to get creative with what is normally just thrown away. Attractively packaged, these gifts can be welcomed by their recipients.

  14. I definitely utilize the “make gifts” tip a lot! My usual options are:
    * Hot cocoa or latte mixes (usually about $3-5 per batch of mix, which makes about 20 servings). I’ve made varieties such as: regular hot cocoa, orange hot cocoa, cherry hot cocoa, mint hot cocoa, chai latte mix, eggnog latte mix, caramel latte mix, and vanilla biscotti latte mix. These are also nice because they generally only require ingredients I can keep in my pantry (powdered or brown sugar, pudding or jello mixes, instant coffee or tea, powdered milk, powdered coffee creamer, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and spices).
    * Spice blends (usually in the range of $1-$1.50 per bottle- I save bottles from other spices throughout the year to package these in at no additional cost). These are an excellent choice for those in your life that have dietary restrictions, since you can omit sugar and salt (and any allergens). I buy the spices and herbs for these in bulk from San Francisco Herb Co.
    * Caramel corn (about $1-$1.50 a batch, depending on if I add peanuts). One batch fills a gallon storage bag, and once again only uses items I regularly keep in hand (corn kernels, brown sugar, baking soda, vanilla, butter, and corn syrup).
    * Cornbread ($1 or so for a 9×13 pan for the plain version, plus additions like jalapenos, cheddar, or sweet potato). This is another great option to make from pantry storage!
    * Cookies and other sweets- obviously you can go the traditional route with things like gingerbread, but brownies are something I get requests for on a regular basis and they’re relatively inexpensive (like $2 for a 9×13 pan), and my mom loves blueberry baked goods (muffins, corn bread, etc) so that’s my go to choice for her.

  15. I really appreciate this post and the ideas given by others in the comments.

    Two years ago, I had a very tiny Christmas budget. I tried to find gifts using items I already had on hand. My four grandchildgren were each given a bin of art and craft supplies. I had some items like pencils, boxes of crayons, and glue sticks that came from the Staples back-to-school 25 cent sales. I also had reams of paper that I’d gotten for free after a rebate. Leftover craft supplies like feathers, pom poms, and pipe cleaners were added. I did need to purchase the plastic storage bins and some other art items but over all my cost was low. The gift was very well recieved by the children as well as the parents who were particularly happy I put everything in a lidded storage bin.

    An idea for the adults came from an advent calendar I had seen where each day came with a tea bag. I keep many varieties of tea in my food storage pantry so I created envelopes of “comfort and joy” for each day, beginning on Christmas and going through the end of January. Each envelope had a tea bag, a piece of candy or individually wrapped biscotti, and a piece of paper with an inspirational quote. The candy was left over from Halloween because I had not been home to hand it out during trick-or-treat. The biscotti was in my pantry. I did two versions of the quotes (one for the men, one for the women) so that couples could open their envelopes together and read the quotes to each other. All I needed to purchase for this gift were the envelopes and containers to hold them. The containers came from Dollar Tree so it was very inexpensive. The adults really loved this gift so I did it again the next year with different quotes.

    My point isn’t that these are inexpensive gifts anyone can make. These ideas worked for me because I started with what I had on hand. If you look around at what you have you might find inspiration as well. I went from feeling kind of desparate to feeling very good about the gifts I gave that year.

    1. Carolyn,

      I love this idea! I grow my won herbs for tea, so I could make up my own herbal teas. How fun!

    2. I really love this idea. It is a gift that extends well beyond Christmas day and would really add to someone’s quality of life! So thoughtful.

  16. I often barter my “life skills” for “life skills” of another person to “buy” gifts.
    I am a seamstress so I trade my sewing for someone to do wookworking perhaps.
    Even though trading skills isn’t free…it somehow feels like it is. *laughing*
    We all have things we can barter for other things.
    I’ve had people helping me purge my closet. I paid a little cash, a Walmart coupon, some of my items from the closet and some things I made to sell. All of these items cost me next to nothing and nothing. It was a win win for the 3 of us.

    1. And what one person detests, another might enjoy! A friend of mine hates wrapping presents, and I don’t mind it. When she was most uncomfortably pregnant, I went over to her house and wrapped the many presents they had for their extended family. She provided the (expensive and elegant) paper and bows, and her husband wrote out the tags and put them with the items so there was no confusion. We continued this tradition for several years.

  17. Here are some of the specific items I am making or gifting this year, in hopes that the list may help someone get ideas.

    1. Sewing: Pillowcases–I used fabric I already owned and sewed a contrasting band on the top. I used a pillowcase from my cupboard as a pattern. Much of this cotton fabric was purchased by a daughter years ago and was in around 1-yard pieces, and she never used them, and left them when she moved out, so this was a perfect way to use them up. I made my husband sleeping shorts from some fabric I bought on a sale for 60% off. It’s a running joke around here–I just buy kid’s fabric with things like dinosaurs or dogs on it, and make him a pair each year. This year, he’s lost so much weight, it’s actually super necessary that he have a new pair!

    2. Embroidery: I have been working on dish towels for quite some time now. I get the flour sack kind from Walmart. They come in a bundle and are less than $1 each. They really dry dishes well, so I keep getting those. I stamp them with a transfer. The Aunt Martha’s transfers work multiple times, so I’ve had these same ones for a long time. I use floss, much of which is gathered from garage sales over the summer. This year, several people will be getting one of these pretty towels and a bag of Skinny Dipped almond snacks, which were on the Whoo-Hoo rack for a greatly reduced price, even though they were still not outdated for a long time. Guess the store just wanted to clear them out for some reason.

    3. Food gifts: Home-made sea foam candy, chocolate-covered pretzels, banana bread, mint-chocolate cookies, and purchased bags of chips, peanuts, sunflower seeds, etc. that were gathered from the sales or at places with good prices. I also bought a couple of 24-packs of sodas when they were a great deal ($4-$5)and am wrapping them for certain grown children who love their soda, such as my niece. My husband hammered together 2 wooden crates for a couple of families that we are giving family gifts to and I filled them with a combination of food gifts and individually wrapped pillowcases for each family member and a few toys for one of the families such as play dough that was purchased last summer for 50c/can, “Frozen” food items such as Ziplocks with Elsa and Ana on them, chocolate chips with Frozen characters on the bags, etc., plus the chips and nuts, and home-made food items. In one box, there is a small bag of sugar, flour, a small oil, and stuff like that in the bottom, because they can and will use those basics right now.

    4. Woodshop: My husband has made nativity scenes with tea lights behind them, cutting boards, and small decorative wooden trees for his friends, some family members and to use for decorations. He gathers most of what he uses for free along side the road at certain businesses here in town that throw out the scraps for people to collect.

    5. Bargains: We shopped on-line and a little in the stores and used all the coupons we could find, such as a free $10 Macy coupon we got by taking slow shipping with our order, t-shirt tops that were being clearanced out since it is winter, Bath and Body works freebies, etc.

    6. Used: I bought books from the library store, mostly discards that looked like they had never been read, for a gift. We gathered certain items from garage sales throughout the year and are using them for my nephew especially. We added some new items, but he has a whole bag with around 10-15 presents in it this way. The bag itself is one of those store shopping bags with Star Wars Characters on it, so it can be used over and over later one. One used item is a paper airplane book I got for 50c–it never was used. He can cut out the planes and fly them and then it will be chopped up anyway! Win-win, in my mind:). My daughter wrapped each thing separately, and he will get to open and open. The funniest thing in the bag is a fly swatter I got for 10c on clearance last summer at Safeway. He loves his FLY-SLAPPERS for sure, so I got him his own.

    7. Silly presents: Each year, we do at least 1 silly present. This usually consists in how we wrap it. It could be a gift card frozen in a block of ice, a wooden crate hammered together that can only be broken apart with a hammer with a small gift inside, a tissue box with a dollar bill to pull on and a whole row of taped ones comes pulling out in a long line, a package wrapped with many layers with a small gift in the very center, and “kits” for things such as quilt-store shopping kit with small jars of candy with sayings like “take one when you need some joy (Almond Joy bar),” or other cute sayings, or one year, the “12 Spoons of Christmas” with decorated Good Will spoons to go with the song for a family member who had complained that they could never find a spoon when they needed one! So they got a large pile of them–78 to be exact and lots of silliness! It never seems to matter if there was only a $5 gift inside, these are the presents that are talked about for years afterwards.

    The truth is, we have a huge family, with many, many children, nieces and nephews, and a lot of friends. We cannot give everyone as much as we would love to do if we were millionaires with unlimited time and crafty skills, but we feel very good about how we’ve stretched our resources to the maximum and made sure each person has a gift that is special for them.

    1. Becky, I love your gift ideas especially the silly gifts. Reading the comments from readers is one of my favorite things about Brandy’s blog. Your comments are always kind and sincere. Thank you for sharing your good ideas.

      1. Thank you, Tammi. That is nice of you to say. I’m glad you liked the ideas. One thing I will say is that it has been even more fun to introduce the concept of silly gifts to my friend who is an immigrant from Africa. She has spent the last few Christmas seasons with us. So, that first year, when she was just getting to know us well, when we did the 12 Spoons of Christmas, I will say the woman was extremely confused as she watched me decorate spoons like ornaments, and all the other silly things that I did. She was so baffled about what in the world I was doing! But, when she watched it unfold the next day, she laughed as loud as anyone else as my sister acted silly, sang the song, wore the ribbons on her head, etc., and generally took the gift in the spirit it was offered in. She watched in amazement the next year as my niece chipped her gift card out of a block of ice. I’m sure she thinks we are a bit crazy, but she has a good bit of humor in her, and I’m thinking one of these years it may be her turn to receive a silly gift:)

  18. I am back with one more comment. Those of us who are older likely have stacks/boxes/albums of photos tucked away and possibly lots of duplicates because back in the day you could get two prints of each picture. The younger kids in my family LOVE looking at pictures of their parents and other relatives; even their parents enjoy them. You can put them in an album, a box, or an envelope but giving some of the photos you have to the kids is a great way to start conversations and relive memories. I just suggest doing it at a time when you are sitting down and talking, not in the chaos of opening gifts.

  19. Hi Brandy,
    I like this conversation topic a lot.
    This year I found a box of 96 Crayola crayons on sale for just a couple dollars. I work in a police station and we were doing some cleaning and found a large box of soft, cushy little police cars we once used for some sort of community event. I asked if I could donate the left-overs to a daycare. They were happy to get rid of them to free up some space. I put the crayons with the little toy police cars and it made a really cute gift for a local daycare.

    It cost me only a couple dollars and a little of my time but I know it will bring joy to lots of little ones. I really liked this idea because several children share the same toys. I am a grandma and have no children in daycare anymore but I know these things are greatly appreciated and it made me feel good to help a little even though I don’t have a big budget of my own.

    The other thing I did this year was to buy a large bag of generic rice for $4 and used my fabric left-overs to make small rice packs that are kept in the freezer and used when little ones have bumps and bruises that need some cooling comfort. I made some of these last year and got several requests for a new supply. My $4 of rice made dozens of these which I packaged up and gave to elementary teachers. I made enough for about 8 teachers this year plus a few grandmas.

    Again, this made me feel good to help out my community in a very small way with my limited income. The teachers are so very appreciative because often times they get very little support.

    One last idea to share: While cleaning out our office at the police department, I found a handful of unused card stock paper that had been 3 hole punched. I put string thru the holes to tie them together to form a book and will give that to my 7 year old grandson because he loves to write his own books. Of course I asked permission to take the paper and they said they had no use for it. My grandson will feel very special and it will encourage his writing skills.

    I hope these simple, inexpensive ideas will help someone.
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone.

    1. Kim, your comment reminded me that for years I wanted one of those large 96 boxes of crayons with so many colors. One year, someone gave me a box for Christmas (it wasn’t my parents). My brother and I were each given a box, and we were THRILLED. They’re a great gift for a child.

      1. I was a kid in the 1950s, but never even had the luxurious box of 64 crayons, which I think was the largest at that time. In my mind only rich kids had those boxes. ?

        1. YES! I thought that too! My parents had a mortgage at 17% because those were the rates when they bought. It took my dad three weeks’ salary to pay the mortgage. The last week had to go for utilities, food, clothing, and everything else. Big boxes of crayons were not on the list.

    2. Thank you for mentioning 96 packs of crayons! I just bought one for an adult who colors. I don’t know if she uses color pencils or crayons, but who wouldn’t be thrilled with a 96 count box!! Under $5 at Target, perfect gift.

  20. When my son was born, people just kept bringing us hand me down toys. I kept the newest ones back and gave them for his birthday, Christmas, and a toy after a hard doctor appointment (he’s special needs). This will be his third Christmas and it’s the first one where we’re spending any money. We bought new because we were trying to get what his speech therapist suggested to work on needed skills and wanted to be sure it would hold up/have all the parts (they’re fun AND educational – I promise!) Anyway, we didn’t want to set any tradition that might be too much for us in the future, so we set a present number and price limit on ourselves. If we openly admitted it in our circles, we would be met with shock for how little we keep it (and spent!) but Christmas isn’t about the presents! Yes, we want him to have fun but he also doesn’t need a huge number gifts – or to be overwhelmed! My husband was shocked at how low key and “small” presents were on my family’s side at first but he loves how calm and peaceful it is. It’s so much more about the family than the stuff. If you can focus on that, the presents can fall into a reasonable place.

  21. Buying used thins is such a good way to save money. Yet people don’t get it. Why to invest in New Depreciating Asset when you can buy a Used one at a much cheaper price tag.

  22. Thank you for all the thoughtful, fun gift ideas, everyone.
    Becky, seafoam is one of my husband’s favorites , and I have never thought of making it. It is hard to find, so I’m excited to give it a try! Do you have a recipe you recommend?

    1. Amy,
      I put a link on my blog on this week’s Thriving In My Thrifty Week–December 16, 2019– If you don’t want to try to find it there, just go to Taste of and search for Angel Food Christmas Candy–that’s what they are calling it there. The one thing I wish I had done was to sift the baking soda before I started the process. You have to add it in a big hurry right at the end and I found mine had a few lumps in it that it was too late to do anything about at the point when I discovered them. I poured it onto a Silpat silicon baking sheet that was on a cookie sheet, let it cool and then broke it up into chunks. It made a real mess, and I had to throw away a bit that had lumps of soda right on top. But for the most part, it broke easily and I put the chunks into a large ziplock until I had time to dip them. I dipped in two different sessions. Oh, and I didn’t have dark Karo syrup, so I just used the light one that I did have. This was very inexpensive as it was made from sugar, Karo syrup and a tiny bit of vinegar and soda. The chocolate was the most expensive part, but I got that on sale, so it was reasonable. When you eat the candy without the chocolate, it is a little strong, but once I got it dipped, it tasted right. I kept the undipped candies, and the dipped ones in tightly sealed containers, and they were still crisp after several days. I would worry that it would get soggy otherwise. Hope this helps!

  23. I love this post and those like it. I too keep a lookout during the year and keep a bin in the closet with my finds. It also helps when my girls get invited to birthday parties, I am not running out buying something at full price. For my almost 5 year old daughter I found a like new large Disney princess stories book for a quarter at the thrift store. At this same store in the summer I found a new with tag flannel Disney nightgown for $2 in the summer! I wrapped them together for Christmas. It is so nice to be able to stretch your budget and give things you know they will love!

  24. Last year Target had a deal where if you bought a certain amount of home health/bandage type things (I think $10 worth?) you got a free first aid bag. I was at a loss last year for a gift for a smaller child and ended up taking that free bag and throwing some band-aids, antibiotic cream, left over gauze packets from a past surgery and a few other “medical” type things that were kid safe and gave it as a gift and darned if it hasn’t been the one thing he loved more than anything else. It was all stuff I already had on hand, I just had to package it to look nice

  25. I love paper crafting so this year I made my older sons each a bundle of “Thank You” cards. I used inked stamps and old envelopes I already had. I usually have my boys make thank you cards which they don’t really like to do. They don’t mind writing them so they will be so glad I made them .
    With some scrap paper I used my sewing machine to make my 7 year old some blank books. I used a piece of cardstock on the outside and folded the paper in half. I then sewed up the fold. I made a bunch in all different sizes. I will put them in his stocking with new Christmas pencils that were bought after last Christmas.

    1. I love these ideas! I have sewn blank books before but not recently. Such a great reminder!

  26. My four children are grown and either are approaching 30ish, or past it. I give them a hundred dollars a piece ($400 total for all four kids) and I say it is for a utility bill or for a college book, expense etc. They can actually spend it how they like, but I say that to emphasize taking care of needs first. Once a thrifty mom, always a thrifty mom….lol. They appreciate it. That is not exactly cheap for me, but it is something I have deducted from my bank acct and put in a savings acct $50 a month for ten months, so I can do this. I didn’t buy anything for the grandbaby because she is a baby. For the almost four year old, I found a $5 Barbie at Dollar General. I did find gloves for one son at Dollar General, and because I noticed his hands were chapped and he works outside, I bought them. I don’t think I have shopped anywhere other that Dollar Tree, Dollar General, and Walmart in years, for Christmas. I do not buy for adults, other than my four grown children. The only children I buy for are the grandchildren, and only when they are old enough to understand. I have been, at rough times in my life, where I didn’t buy anything at Christmas, and my mom bought for my kids.

  27. Great post and great comments!
    Personally, I love giving food gifts at Christmas, especially caramel corn (inexpensive and so much better than storebought) or spritz cookies (using flour and butter bought on sale, with homemade coloured sanding sugars).
    As well, this year all of my daughter’s gifts (3 of them) have come from my local trading app. They’re brand-new in boxes, and I wrapped them using wrapping paper that I got on deep discount last February, and reused ribbons. I only gift a few friends gifts, but most of those have also come from that trading app, and also brand-new. I wrapped those presents up nicely too, in discounted wrap, re-used ribbons, charms from a Christmas cracker that was given to my husband at work, and candy canes that I saved from last year. One of my friend’s kids even said that she should taken wrapping lessons from me — and it was all done very frugally!

  28. One of my favorite gifts I gave was 6 weeks, of once a week dinner for my in-laws. My MIL was still cooking most meals at the time and she was so appreciative. They basically own more than everything they need and they love my cooking, so it was a welcome gift.

    One of best gifts I received was from my MIL. She is a retired nurse and she assembled us a huge First aid kit that included her handwritten instructions. Not only did it have the standard bandaids, alcohol wipes, it had several different sizes of band aids, wraps, instant cold packs, aspirin, ointments that she made. All told, two very large bins of items, one of my favorite gifts.

  29. I have bought some amazing gifts in the charity shops(UK) , some are brand new still with tags or in their cellophane wrapping and others are in such good condition they look brand new. I buy throughout the year so I have gifts for birthdays and plenty for Christmas. I have emphasized to my family that I am very happy to receive second hand, particularly books and this has rubbed off on them so now they ask for second hand books too. I often find jigsaws brand new in their wrapping and these are always well received. I also pot up a few flower bulbs in pots I already have ( terracotta pots can be found cheaply at car boot sales etc) which will flower in spring. This year I gave an elderly friend who has everything she needs a flower arrangement for Christmas – I cut Holly, pine cones, teasels etc from the hedgerow and added just a few flowers from an inexpensive supermarket bunch – she was really thrilled with it. I also harvest seeds from my garden flowers, things like hollyhocks and love in a mist, dry the seeds then package them in glassine envelopes and attach a picture card of the flowers. These can be tucked in a Christmas card. I make my own Christmas puddings and it’s easy to make enough mixture for gifts too -small pudding bowls are often for sale in the charity shops. I have bought plain black woollen gloves in the pound shop and embellished them by sewing on pretty buttons from my button box. I love the ideas on here – thank you Brandy for your ideas and for hosting this space for sharing. Happy Christmas!

  30. Each year I ensure that everyone gets a book. I try to get the books free throughout the year, but will spend some for theM used. Everyone is used to me giving used, so there are not any comments. I am picky about the smell of the book. If it is musty, it’s a no-go.

    Other gifts tend to be useful in some way. I just cannot give frivolous presents or junk. Waste not; want not.

    I just haven’t found the time or energy to make gifts. Not sure what I would make even. Great ideas here though!

  31. One of my favorite shopping days of the year is December 26th. All the gifts sets and Christmas=marked candies go half price. It is a great way to stock up on things that we use throughout the year. My son is a big Chapstick fan so I will be looking for those sets. All my guys use razors and shaving cream and I have seen multiple sets with those items in it. Ladies gift sets often have body wash, lotion and deodorant in them. I will buy 3-4 of those and stock them in my cabinet for me to use through the year. My husband is a fan of Claxton fruit cake and I found them on clearance last year for $1 each so I bought several and froze them. Now he can have them whenever he’d like. I have even heard of grocers marking down specialty cuts of meat the day after Christmas though this is one area I haven’t personally done. I have seen stores mark down specialty baking items half price and often times these items can be frozen and used throughout the year. Have fun searching and like Brandi recommended, keep a log of the items you have purchased and where you store it.

  32. I love to give good quality children’s books to my nieces and nephew, but new book prices are terrible (especially hardbacks!) So throughout the year I pick them up at yard sales and the thrift store for between 50 cents and $1 each and by Christmas, I have a nice selection to give as gifts. I love being the aunt that helps to develop their love of reading!
    Another thing I do for my kids is to make a favorite things box. This box is filled with their favorite food items that I rarely buy or little things that I know they will enjoy and need like hair clips or cute socks found on clearance. This box is always their favorite gift:)

  33. I love the idea of making meals, however my family is spread hours away. This year I bought and made consummables for many (ex: penzy spice sets on sale, homemade soaps) and gift cards for needs for my in laws.

  34. This Christmas we decided not to exchange gifts with family and friends. I brought it up and everyone was so relieved. We can afford it, but I really hate how commercial it has become. We had our adult Children and their spouses, neighbors and some family for dinner. It was the most relaxing Christmas ever!! I decorated my table with Pine boughs, flowers , pine cones and candles I had. Everyone agreed it was a great Celebration and no gifts were exchanged except good food, conversation and fellowship.

  35. Are you going to add to the Gift in a Day series? I love those. I’m thinking about hot chocolate bombs this year. So many YouTube tutorials. What do you give the kids that are out of the house?

    1. Not this year (the backyard is a huge project right now that is very time-sensitive), though I seriously considered making hot chocolate bombs! They look amazing!

      Because my children who are out of the house sometimes read my blog, I hesitate to say what they are receiving! I ordered items for both of them and my son-in-law from Amazon and had their gifts shipped to them early.

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