Giving Gifts for the Holidays on a Budget

by Guest Contributor · 6 comments

Here they come again: the holidays. For some reason, even those of us who manage to keep a tight rein on the budget the other 11 months of the year lose control at the sound of a Christmas bell. The bills roll in come February and then the trouble really starts, but all is forgotten by November and the cycle starts again. If you still have at least a faint memory of those dreadful bills, here are some great ways to save a bit of green and still have a great holiday.

Make Things

I know it sounds cliche, but there is no reason not to plan ahead and make some gifts this year. Everyone has some talent they can use, be it knitting, baking, or computer skills. Use these skills to create a unique gift for your loved ones and friends.

Last year I started in August and made a pair of hand knit socks for each friend. I got the yarn at an outlet store and I had a lovely gift for less than $10 a person. My friend hit the fabric store and picked up fleece on sale with a coupon. She made tie blankets for everyone for about the same amount. These gifts are more personal and less expensive than any of the junk you can find at the mall.

Form a Gift Exchange Group

Do you have a number of common friends in your circle? Create a gift exchange circle. Set a price limit and have a random pot to see who purchases for whom. Plan a pot luck dinner at someone’s home a week before the holiday, so it doesn’t conflict with family plans, and exchange the gifts. I, for one, would much rather spend $20 for a single decent gift than have to purchase eight $3 gifts. It strains my creativity less, not to mention my wallet.

Dealing with the Teacher Issue

Come the holidays, kids are faced with a need to purchase something for each of their teachers. Thankfully, this ridiculous trend ends with elementary school. I have had years where each of my three children had between 6-13 teachers. Can you imagine what that would have cost?

Instead of having a million little cheap gifts to present to the teachers, one parent coordinated a collection. With 30 students in the class we were able to give the main teacher a $50 gift certificate and then add a $30 gift certificate with a very small individual contribution. Yes, this takes a bit of coordination and time, but is well worth it.

What about Work?

Fortunately, many employers are placing a moratorium on gift giving for the holiday season. If you find that you have to give a gift, try to purchase an appropriate gift certificate when the store or restaurant is offering a special. Many places offer an additional $5-10 of gift money when you purchase $100. Split that total onto several cards. It isn’t extravagant, but it is a nice gift that doesn’t cost too much.


If you know well in advance who will be on your shopping list, you can always pick things up throughout the year to lessen the blow at year’s end. One of the catches is keeping the receipt to prevent problems with necessary exchanges. Others include not being able to estimate sizes that far in advance, remembering where you stored that gift, and opting not to exchange with those people by the time Christmas rolls around.

The holidays are a stressful period and adding financial problems to them doesn’t help. No matter what you do, set yourself an affordable budget and stick to it. You won’t regret leaving that porcelain Santa on the shelf nearly as much as you will paying 18-26% interest in February.

This is part of the How to Save Money on Everything ebook, which is free for all MoneyNing newsletter subscribers (also free). The ebook is already over 40 pages and will continually be updated and expanded. Grab your copy today, or find out more about it by clicking here.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Sherry says:

    Sandy I agree the gift exchange is fun when done in a large group and you get to swap for what you like. Granted I have gotten stuck with a bra ball but we all had a good laugh. Don’t forget re gifting is always an option in these humor gift exchanges. In our family we have taken to a gift starting with a letter in the alphabet… which takes off the pressure of themed gifts. this year we are doing the letter “C” so any thing start with C (car, candy, calculators) …last year was B hence the Bra Ball.

  • gifts says:

    With the festive season of Christmas closing in many of us take the calm organized approach in knowing exactly what your loved ones and friends wish for. The gifts are probably already wrapped, tagged and stored away, waiting for the 25th to hopefully bring a little joy and big smile to the recipient’s face. Others find this yearly ritual stressful and are probably too busy with their hectic life styles that for them the best way to cope is to do the mad dash for gifts on Christmas Eve. Whichever method of choice works best for you, there is still that decision in making your selection a fitting one for the lucky person in question. Once those gifts are purchased it’s just fingers crossed that duplicate items from other folk are not making their way under the tree. We all want to give and receive something special and different, not the run of the mill pair of socks that you mischievously rewrapped for your dad as an extra little prezzy.

  • Sandy says:

    I’ve been using the gift exchange group idea for ages. It really saves everyone money but even more so, time and stress since we don’t need to think of a gift for everyone we know.

  • min says:

    Yeah, making something…. will definitely save some money especially during this economy downturn.

  • Financial Samurai says:

    David, can you share with us what you will be making to give to your family/relatives?

    I was thinking about drawing something, like a Picasso sketch and photocopying it. Now that’s scale yeah?

    • MoneyNing says:

      Surprises always work well, so I would suggest doing something that they weren’t expecting (or something that you ARE NOT good at).

      As for me, I have to keep it a secret because my parents is my #1 loyal readers and they will read every comment on here 🙂

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