A few years ago, online financial services company Think Finance did a survey of 1,000 Americans across all income levels and found that nearly half of them would prefer to skip Christmas. It wasn’t because they didn’t like the holiday. It was because they were worried about finances.
In a recent Harris Poll survey, 69 percent of Americans said they would give up holiday gift-giving if their friends and families would agree to it. About 43 percent said they feel pressured to buy gifts and spend more money than they could afford. If they could eliminate gift giving, 60 percent said they’d spend more time with loved ones, 47 percent said they’d save money or invest it, and 37 percent said they’d pay down debt.
If you’re feeling stressed about holiday spending, you’re not alone. If you have children still living in the home, however, or other family members who look forward to gift-giving, you may feel trapped into having to spend more than you’d like.
We want to help. Below, we’ve got 12 days of low-cost gift ideas for the holidays that may help you enjoy the feeling of giving this season without breaking the budget.
Most people enjoy spending time with loved ones, but busy schedules can make it difficult. A promise of a special day at the spa, park, mall or on the ski slopes can be just the thing to light up a loved one’s face.
You can also offer to help, particularly if you’re giving the gift to an older individual. Maybe you could help her clean out the garage, organize some of her things, fix something that’s broken, or gather up excess “stuff” to donate.
Time is our most valuable resource. Giving it away is one of the most loving things you can do.
2. Give a Framed Poster
It’s likely that most of your friends can’t afford fancy artwork for their walls. You can give them a lasting gift they’ll enjoy for years by first, finding out what they like. Is your girlfriend a Bruce Springsteen fan? Is your buddy into superheroes? Does your mom still wax nostalgic about listening to Elvis Presley while she was growing up? Does your grown daughter simply love landscape shots?
You can find posters online that are less than $10. The frames can be more expensive, but if you search for sales or check with your local craft store, you can save money on them too. Check sites like AllPosters, FramedArt.com, Art.com and more.
Everyone needs sticky notes, don’t they? We use them to remind ourselves of things we need to do, to communicate with family, to post uplifting sayings around the house and office.
You can make a personalized pad of sticky notes and then give it away. There are many online sites that will allow you to add your photo, logo, saying or another special touch. Whenever your friend or family member peels one off, they’ll think of you. Most of the pads, even after they’re personalized, will cost less than $15. Try Zazzle or Vistaprint.
4. Give Your Best Family Recipes
Everyone needs to change it up in the kitchen now and then. There are plenty of cookbooks and online resources available, but there’s something special about recipes that are handed down through the years.
You can find or make a unique box to put them in, then handwrite the recipes on index cards to give them that added personal touch. If you want to help a loved one eat healthier, choose your recipes accordingly. Maybe you have a low-calorie way to make macaroni and cheese or a special vegan casserole. Sharing these with others can help them become healthier too.
5. Give a Collection of Kitchen Tools
How long have you had your cheese slicer, peeler, paring knife, potato masher, garlic press, ice cream scoop, and spatula? If you’re like most of us, it’s been a long time. These are things we usually don’t think about upgrading or replacing, even if the tools we have are old, rusty or broken.
Everyone can use kitchen tools, and the nice thing is most of them are not expensive. You can get a group of five together into a nice gift box for less than $25. The gift may also remind the recipient that home-cooked meals are fun — and usually far healthier than eating out.
6. Make Homemade Ornaments to Give as Presents
If you decorate a tree every year, which ornaments do you value the most? Most likely it’s the handmade ones. You hold the ornament in your hand and memories come rushing back.
You can give your friends and loved ones a similar warm feeling by making handmade ornaments. There are many options available online. Search for “homemade ornaments” on the internet, and you’ll find a variety of instructions on how to make ornaments from all sorts of materials that are either readily available or are very economical.
Choose the ones that sound fun to you, and set up a day to create. If you’ve got kids, get them involved, and then they’ll have special gifts to give away too.
Most of our photographs these days are on our computers, tablets, and cell phones. What happened to those prints that sat on the mantel for decades, ones that graced the walls in the entryway or sat on your office desk?
You can still get your photos printed, and they make nice gifts — perhaps even more than they did years ago, as printed photos are a rarity these days. Take your photos to Walgreens, Target or other local stores that offer printing services or send them away to online printing sites like Shutterfly and Mpix. Print a single photo and then find an inexpensive frame or print a series of photos to help remind the recipient of a certain event you enjoyed together.
If you’re sending the gift to grandparents, print out pictures of the kids and then include them in a college. The present will cost you no more than $20, and your parents will love it for years.
8. Give Away Winter Gear
How many times have you lost your gloves? Or your hat? If you’re like most people, it’s quite a few times. It’s really easy to misplace these items, and we can always use a new pair. Fortunately, you can get things like hats, scarves, and gloves for under $20 each. You may also want to look at nice winter socks, as most everyone suffers from cold toes in the winter months.
9. Give Away Food
Do you make homemade bread? Cakes and cookies? A wicked lasagna? Amazing homemade jam? Everyone loves getting food, so it’s always a good gift and usually doesn’t cost much. If you’re stumped on what to get neighbors or co-workers, this could be your answer.
Even if you’re not handy in the kitchen, you can get a ham, bag of quality coffee beans or box of assorted tea bags, brown rice or healthy pancake mix, dress it up with a ribbon and bow, and you have the perfect gift. Make your own trail mix with a variety of nuts, dark chocolate chips, figs, dates, and raisins, then fill up a gift bag, attach a card and watch for the smiles.
If your friend has a sweet tooth, find a decorative container like a vase or glass jar and fill it up with his or her favorite yummy treat. If you’re crafty, dress up the container, and your friend will have something he or she can use for years.
10. Give a Gift Card
Gift cards work for most anyone, especially if you know the person well enough to know what he or she likes.
If your pal is at Starbucks every morning, a gift card there is a superb gift. Have a bookworm in your life? An Amazon or Barnes & Noble card. Have a friend who loves Italian food? A gift card to her favorite restaurant. The beauty junkie? A gift card to Sephora or Ulta. That family with eight kids? A grocery-store gift card.
Every little bit helps, and when the recipient uses that card, she’ll think of you.
11. Give a Fun Game
When was the last time you and your family sat around and played a game? Have you forgotten where you put the Monopoly, deck or cards or Scrabble game? It’s likely your friends have misplaced these games or haven’t had a new version of the game in years. If you resurrect them, they may remember how much fun they can be.
You can also think about your friend’s interests and choose a game to match. In “Dinosaur Island,” you work with your friends to build the most lucrative dinosaur park. If your friend is crafty, try Sagrada, which encourages four people to compete to design and craft amazing stained glass windows. Got pals way into science fiction? Try Anachrony, an apocalyptic game in which the competitors work to build the best society to withstand Armageddon.
Add a gift card to the nearest pizza place, and you have a gift a whole family can enjoy.
What is your loved one’s favorite magazine? You can get a subscription, and he or she will enjoy it for six months or longer. Most magazine subscriptions cost less than $20 a year yet they make superb gifts as they can seem like luxurious “extras” that the recipient struggles to indulge in. If your friend is a movie fan, a Netflix subscription costs about the same for a couple of months.
You can also look at other things your loved ones may need on an ongoing basis. If the person struggles with eating healthy snacks, there are a number of subscription boxes available now. Prices vary, but you can choose a low-cost option that will show up at her door as a nice surprise. Check out UrthBox (gluten-free and vegan snacks), Nature Box (healthy snacks), Graze (healthy snacks), Fit Snack and Vegan Cuts.
Berk, C. C. (2012, November 19). Survey: 45% of Americans would prefer to skip Christmas – NBC News. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/businessmain/survey-45-americans-would-prefer-skip-christmas-1C7155109
Pirani, F. (2017, November 10). Nearly 7 in 10 Americans say they’d give up gift-giving this holiday season. Would you? Retrieved from https://www.ajc.com/news/national/nearly-americans-say-they-give-gift-giving-this-holiday-season-would-you/l2PTRFjwFzMnnsQlX6KBFO/