7 Small Gifts That Can Make A BIG Impact This Holiday

by Tracy · 11 comments

cheap holiday gifts

The holidays can be some of the best times of the year, and a tremendous way to close the calendar, so long as you don’t allow the stresses that come with too much family, food, and gift giving to fill you with unnecessary and unwanted anxiety.

Most holiday stress originates from gift giving, which feels all too frequent by the end of the year. When you have a lot of family and friends, almost no budget seems big enough to amply satisfy everyone.

But who wants to spend the first half of the following year paying off presents?

Big-ticket items are at the top of everyone’s list—iPods, iPads, and the Kindle Fire. But big doesn’t necessarily mean better. You can give a gift that’s meaningful, without breaking the bank.

Here are 7 small gifts that will make a big impact this year.

1. Gift certificates

Sure, gift cards may seem boring or even cliché, but they make a great gift, as long as you buy them with intent. Don’t just grab any old gift cards from the display while you’re waiting at the check out line. Get a gift card your recipient will love, but would never buy for themselves, can serve as the perfect gift. The dollar amount doesn’t need to be big, it just needs to be from somewhere your recipient will actually love.

2. Any item that represents a specific memory

Perhaps an artifact from your first date or an early encounter with your significant other, a photo in a nice frame, or even a coupon for a home cooked meal with a favorite shared dish. You can’t buy time or memories, but you can spend a modest amount to represent what you already have.

cheap holiday gifts3. Ornaments

The magic of Christmas ornaments is that they make a grand return to the family Christmas tree, year after year. Ornaments are a gift that will keep giving, reintroducing your present into memory with every passing Christmas. Your gift ornament can be store-bought one or, even better, homemade. Either way, ornaments are generally inexpensive, and always thoughtful.

4. Music

Rather than buying a $10-$15 commercial CD, why not take an hour or two of your time and create a custom mix for someone you love? Of course, different people enjoy different types of music, so you may not be able to make a single mix to satisfy every recipient on your list. Yet, it’s the time and thought required to make the CD that makes this gift so wonderful. Mix CD’s work best when they follow a theme, so rather than simply burning a CD of random songs by random bands, arrange them in a way that is meaningful to the person you’re giving the CD to.

5. Books

There are few store bought presents that are as personal as a well chosen book. Like music, you won’t buy the same books for everyone on your list. To be truly meaningful, each book must be tailored to a specific reader. Your cousin probably won’t like the same book as your grandma, but that’s okay. Hit Amazon and fill your list. You could probably get a great book for everyone on your list and spend an average price of $10, or even less. If your reader has a Kindle, you can download an eBook instantly and send it to their Kindle via e-mail.

6. Games

Who doesn’t like to play games? If you have children on your gift list; sons, daughters, nieces, or nephews, then you can’t go wrong with a great game. Stay away from overpriced video games, especially those shy on problem solving or social interaction. Choose a classic board game that will help the child develop critical thinking skills while stimulating imagination. Board games are a great, inexpensive gift, but even better, creating memories while playing is easy.

7. Movies

Arguably the best bang for the buck on the list. A good movie is something that can be enjoyed over and over again. Like books and movies, tailor your film selections to the individuals on your list. With thousands upon thousands of available DVDs, many at ridiculously low prices, finding what you want, from family favorites to the newest releases, is as easy as a point and click away.

The holidays are a fun and festive time, as long as you don’t let the stresses get to you, especially the anxieties which come from holiday gift giving. This year, rather than spending money you don’t have, give a small gift that really matters, and will actually be remembered.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Katy says:

    A bit late to be answering this one, but for any avid PC gamers in your life it’s definitely worth making out like a bandit at the Steam sales each summer and winter. Wait long enough and big titles that usually go for significant prices will show up regularly at 75% off or more, and they’ll also sell bundles that can be split up and the individual games distributed at further discount. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a game off Steam at full price because the sales are so good – and just scored a very new game as a present for my brother’s birthday in a month’s time at 60% off the RRP. What’s nice is you can store games in your account until you want to gift them – so if you spy something a family member or friend wants and they have a birthday coming up, you can stock up your gift stores and send the pass to download it out on the day of their birthday.

  • Cleo says:

    A red pocket of cash is the most selfless ego-free gift.

    • KS says:

      Cash is ALWAYS a great gift. If anyone has any cash that they cannot use, I would be happy to help you with that problem :). Unfortunately, most people in my family feel like that is an impersonal gift and would rather buy crap that I don’t need.

  • Jean says:

    Gift certificates were always my favorites gifts to give and receive. It is of course best if you know what the person has been longing for and buy that for them but there is also the risk that someone else might also buy the same. But with the certificate, you have free choice to get whatever you want.


  • ReneeReader says:

    These are all good gift ideas, except for #1 – gift cards. Unless these are something they’ll use immediately, or are eCertificates, they are a pain to keep track of, and they make work for the recipient. I have gift cards from 2 or 3 years ago that I either didn’t want or don’t have in my wallet when I’m in the store. Who knows if theyre even still valid. They can also seem impersonal since they are such a grab and go item. If they’re on target they can be great, but if not they’re like an obligation.

    Something I like to give is an experience, vs. an object. So, tickets to a movie fan (or a play or ballgame), or a $40 museum membership that gives my artist brother free entry to exhibitions and receptions. Or an annual pass to the state parks, which can be less than $20 and give free entry for every visit. Of course, not all these are going to be less than $20, but they create memories, like the hand-made gifts others have mentioned.

    • KS says:

      I agree about the gifts that are “experiences”, but I would have to TOTALLY DISAGREE with you about a gift card. I would much rather have a gift card than some item (or a bunch of items) that a relative THOUGHT I would like. I carry ALL gift cards in my purse so I ALWAYS have them on hand when needed. If by some chance it is a gift card you will NEVER USE, just re-gift it (just be sure you aren’t giving it back to the person who gave it to you :). Make sure that you know the person well enough that YOU are giving the card to, to make sure THEY will enjoy the gift card. (So far, even if I receive a gift card for some place I would not ordinarily go, I still use the card. All gift cards that I have re-gifted were ones that I would have LOVED to use.)

  • Jana @ Everything Finance says:

    We do a combination of these gifts every year. Another gift we sometimes do is make a personalized calendar. We’ll take family pictures and put them in a 12 month calendar, fill in important dates like birthdays and anniversaries and give them to the grandparents. Snapfish and Shutterfly usually offer great deals around this time of year.

  • KM says:

    My husband and I came up with the idea to make our own liqueur, create our own label for it, and use it as a gift. Most people we know will drink it, and hopefully they will appreciate the homemade touch. It’s also cheaper than just buying it.

  • Emily says:

    Last year both of my nieces received from us gift certificates to buy books for their respective digital reading gadgets they’d received from their parents, and they were pleased as punch.

  • Pam at MoneyTrail says:

    Best present I ever gave my mother was a memory box. I bought a small, decorative box and filled it with 365 slips of paper. I had written a family memory on each piece of paper. It took a few weeks to accomplish but was definitely worth it. Every day, for a year, my mom could pull out a piece of paper and read about a nice family memory.

  • thefrugallery says:

    Picture frames with a cherished photo also make great gifts. I buy inexpensive frames and then paint them to match a theme or decore. I’ve also gotten large frames with many spots and made a collage of black & white photos. It works great for the grandparents!

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