Holiday gifts can be inexpensive without being tacky

Inexpensive Holiday Gift Ideas for Tight Budgets

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Inexpensive Christmas Gift Ideas Needed

With the holidays approaching, thoughts turn to getting through them without refinancing our home. I'm looking for ideas for gifts for our very large family that are inexpensive but still of high-quality. In the past we've gone to discount stores like Big Lots and purchased things like giant candles and stands, which were great but I was hoping for something different this year.

I have two children under three and so don't have a lot of time or the inclination for crafts. Can you our any of your readers give me some suggestions for gifts and getting through the holidays without going bankrupt in general?

Make Inexpensive Gifts on Your Home Computer

Use your computer to make gifts. Make calendars for anyone or brag books for relatives and close friends. If you don't have a digital camera, use any kind, take a roll of family pictures and have them developed and put on a disk (Wal-Mart does this). And if family photos don't appeal, consider clip art or other illustrations that are available for personal use. In the latter, make sure you follow the site instructions for giving credit.

Another idea is a book of family recipes with pictures in this also or even family stories. The only limitation on what you can do with the computer is your own imagination. But I'd guarantee gifts of this type will please the recipient and be cherished for many years.

Enjoyable Homemade Treats

While I was still working, I needed some nice but inexpensive gifts to give my co-workers. I knew they liked to eat, so I got busy and made several kinds of fudge, like chocolate and peanut butter, and then made some jelly. I then made up a "care package" with layers of fudge, a jar of jelly, and I also purchased a bag of Hershey kisses and dropped some of those in around the jar of jelly to finish off the package. I used colored plastic wrap in the tin and then put in the food.

Everyone liked the personal touches. I have also gotten some bulk pecans and made sugared nuts, or some of the cereal snacks. I have even made a complete recipe of cookies and boxed them to give to people. Most people do not make these items and really appreciate receiving them and the time you took to make them.

Another idea is to make up a gift certificate for a family member to receive a home cooked meal at your house. I have done this before and it went over well.

Related: An Easy Homemade Candy Gift Idea

Jar Treats for Gifts

One neat gift idea is giving out cake or brownies in a jar. You neatly layer all the dry ingredients into a canning jar and then place the perishable items and the instructions onto a tag and tie it around the top. You can also take a square of Christmas material and place it over the lid and tie the tag around the neck of the jar. You can look up "Jar Creations" on the Internet for recipes to do.

A Great Gift Giving Idea

Make gift jars for dried Split Pea Tortellini Soup


  • 3 oz dried cheese-filled Tortellini (about 2/3 c)
  • 1/4 c dried tomatoes (sun-dried or other)
  • 1/3 c split green peas
  • 1/2 c dried chopped carrots
  • 1 tbsp. instant chicken bouillon granules
  • 1 tbsp. dried minced onion
  • 1.5 tsp. crushed dried basil
  • 1.5 tsp. crushed dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Layer ingredients in a clean 1-pint glass-canning jar in the following order (from bottom to top):

  • Tortellini
  • dried tomatoes
  • split green peas
  • carrots
  • all other ingredients

My 3-year-old loves to be the pourer. Then cover the jar (you can get jars at dollar stores) and write out a gift tag with the following instructions:
Empty jar ingredients into a 3-quart saucepan. Add 5 cups of water. Bring mixture to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 50 minutes or until peas are tender. (Option: add 1 cup chopped cooked ham or sausage). Makes 4 servings.

This is an excellent teacher/caregiver gift and the child helps make it.

Related: Holiday Mix and Gift Recipes

Inexpensive, Yet Personal Gifts

My brother and sister-in-law were both out of work one Christmas. They had a six-month-old and a two-year-old to feed and still wanted to get something for the whole family for Christmas/Hanukkah on both sides. What they ended up doing is going to the Wal-Mart picture studio with a coupon and getting a family portrait made. They received 60 pictures in the package and with the coupon they bought a sheet for any additional photos. All of the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles received either an 8X10 or a 5X7 and were absolutely thrilled.

It went over so well that they have used the same gift every year since and since they have better jobs now, they add a little gift from the Dollar store or Big Lots with all the pictures. Last year everyone got frames they had bought at Big Lots and the kids, now 9 and almost 11 had decorated the frames with buttons, shells, or other trinkets that fit each recipient's personality according to the kids. I can honestly say that my picture each year means more than anything else they could ever come up with giving me and it does not cost a lot either.

Baskets Make Great Inexpensive Gifts

Since my husband and I married a few years ago, we have given homemade gift baskets every year for Christmas. This year we were telling family members at our 4th of July get-together that we were thinking of not doing our gift baskets this year since we have paid off a good deal of our debts and are doing much better financially! Talk about a family uproar! My family said that they wanted our gift baskets for Christmas! They've been waiting all year for our baskets of homemade goodies!

Well, here are a few of the things we do as gift baskets for whole families:

  • Movie basket for a family. Include a video tape or gift certificate for free movies, a box of microwave popcorn, a six pack of their favorite soda, and some bags of their favorite candy
  • Movie basket for a couple. A candle, a bottle of champagne (I use sparking juice), box of chocolates, a video/DVD or gift certificate for movie rental, and a box of popcorn or you can include jar of caviar, and crackers and omit the popcorn.
  • Soup Basket for family. Buy a bag of 13-bean soup mix at grocery. Empty soup contents into glass quart jar, add the following spices to jar with beans: 2-tbsp. garlic powder, 2 tbsp. chives, 2-tbsp. oregano, 2 basil leaves, 3 tbsp. parsley. Cut a square of cloth to cover the jar lid. Tie on cloth with ribbon and secure a new wooden spoon to jar with ribbon. Add in the basket a bottle of hot sauce and bottle of sparking cider or you can give just the soup w/spoon and people love it!
  • Christmas Morning breakfast basket. Pancake mix, cocoa mix, kitchen towel, spatula, and small frying pan, (and a pancake mold for the kids), and 4 cocoa mugs. Add their favorite coffee instead of or addition to the cocoa mix. This is easy to assemble: I buy a box of pancake mix and pour it into quart jar. To have "flavored" pancakes you can add: chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, pecan pieces, and dried apple or dried banana pieces to the mix. Mix and match the add-ins for some unique pancakes! I like the banana with pecans! For the "homemade cocoa", I buy ready-made boxed cocoa and add mini chocolate chips and mini-marshmallows to it and put it in a quart jar. You can also add a packet of raspberry unsweetened Kool-Aid to the plain cocoa mix for a yummy hot cocoa flavor! This is a great family gift that is sure to add a smile to each of their faces!

I buy most of my items at the Dollar store, and use boxed food items but "dress them up" like homemade by pouring them into quart jars or even the Ziploc bags with the Christmas designs on them! You can purchase your baskets at the thrift store or at the Dollar store for next to nothing. Most of the family Christmas baskets can be made and assembled for around $5-$10 each.

Related: Affordable Homemade Gift Basket Ideas

Find Inexpensive Gifts in Your Kitchen

My extended family is also large. A decision was made about 8 years ago that the adults would exchange a family baked good. (Did you really need another candle or pair of socks?) I have made quick breads, layered the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies or bean soup in pretty jars in the past, and made up a tea/coffee selection with a set of pretty cups. This is a great way to give something you have put together personally and it doesn't cost a fortune.

Name Grab

I also come from a large family; I have 14 nieces and nephews. Some of my nieces and nephews have now married and have children of their own. I was tired of buying junky gifts and giving things that people didn't want. There is a wide range of incomes in my family, which added to the gift giving challenge. We solved the problem. First when the children were all small we bought for the kids but did a name grab among the siblings. As the children grew we entered everyone's name in to the pile. Each person, right down to the smallest child picks a name and buys for that person. We have put a $15 to $20 price tag on the gifts. Everyone receives only one present now, but chances are it is something that matches their interest. My siblings were much more receptive to the idea than I thought they'd be. It is not only a money saver to the frugal members of the family but also a time saver to the overworked, high achievers.

Reviewed January 2018

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