How to Give Frugal Holiday Gifts without Looking Cheap

christmas gifts

Flickr Image by Mackenzie

Remember how exciting Christmas used to be as a kid? You would wake up early, sit under the Christmas tree in your pajamas, maybe read the Christmas story, and then tear open your presents. But, as you grow up, Christmas becomes more stressful than fun, especially when you are on a tight budget. It can be hard to find a good gift that is inexpensive, but not cheap!

I’m not a stranger to cheap gifts. One Christmas my brother and I received calendars that were from the previous year! Another Christmas, a friend of mine received a set of hotel toiletry items! Maybe you’ve experienced a similar situation. Have you ever received a gift that has clearly been used—a half eaten box of chocolates, tarnished jewelry, used makeup, even used undergarments? What about a gift that was clearly free—promotional pens, rebate drug store items, even happy meal toys?

While we can all laugh looking back at these gifts and tell ourselves that we would never do something like this, it’s hard to be frugal at Christmas. We want give something special to all of the important people in our lives but we feel caught between racking up the credit card debt and resorting to the sort of cheap gifts listed above. I think the difference between cheap and frugal gifts comes down to the heart of the gift. Are you giving for the sake of giving a gift? Or, are you giving for the sake of the person? If you have the receiver in mind, as you think about frugal gifts, you aren’t likely to go wrong.

Here are some ideas for heartfelt, inexpensive gifts:

  • Write from the Heart: Make or purchase a nice card and write the recipient a heartfelt note about why you appreciate having him/her in your life.
  • Frame It: Find a nice photo of the recipient and frame it. Or, gather some photos and postcards from his/her favorite destination and frame them. You could also frame the recipient’s favorite poem.
  • Thrifting: If you have a good idea of the recipient’s style head to the thrift store for some great frugal finds on clothing and accessories.
  • Fun Reading: Head to a used bookstore and find a few classic books that fit with the recipient’s interests. If the recipient prefers magazines, find some current editions of their favorite magazines for a little light reading over the holidays.
  • Homemade Items: Spread some Christmas cheer with homemade cookies, bars or candy. Try out some of these recipes! Use your creative skills to knit some mittens, make jewelry or write a song. Try your hand at some of these homemade gifts!
  • Gift Baskets: Create a personalized gift basket with some of their favorite items. Depending on the recipient’s interests, you might create a movie theater basket, spa basket, snack basket, grocery basket, the possibilities are endless!
  • Gift of Experience: Give the recipient tickets to an upcoming movie, museum, concert or event. You and the recipient can enjoy the event as well as some time together.

Join the Conversation: What frugal gifts have you given that have been well received? Have you ever given a frugal gift that didn’t work out?

This entry was first posted Dec. 4, 2012.

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Why Frugality?

Author:
Grace Duddy
Photography Credit: Tyler Pomroy

On my first date with my boyfriend last winter, I mentioned to him that I write a blog on frugality and he gave me a nervous look. His response took me by surprise. Most people, when I mention the blog, nod their head or give a word of encouragement, but I had never seen someone look seriously worried. It turns out that he was initially concerned because to him frugal meant cheap. In his mind, the girl who was sitting across the table from him was a stingy person who avoided spending money at all costs. She was among the likes of those who don’t leave tips for wait staff and those who give complimentary hotel toiletries as Christmas gifts. Boy, doesn’t that sound like second date material? I encouraged him to take a look at the blog and he quickly discovered that my brand of frugality was far from cheap.

So, why frugality? What does ‘frugality’ mean? And, why is it important? I realized that I have been writing this blog for almost a year and a half and I have never answered those questions. So, here is my story.

I created this blog while I was in my final year of my Master’s studies at Luther Seminary. I was looking for a forum that I could use to share the wonderful tips and tricks that I had learned from my financial coach. She taught me that I could still live a fun, social life enjoying all that the Twin Cities had to offer and still stick to my budget. With such great news, you can’t help but share.

My coach taught me that frugality isn’t just about saving money, it is about balancing your sharing, saving, and spending. Frugal people are creative people who know that saving money in small ways makes a big difference. But, unlike cheap people, they know what expenses are worth making so they can spend with pride. While a cheap person might skimp on a Valentine’s gift for a loved one by just buying a cheap trinket to save money, a frugal person might invest his/her time in a homemade gift or save their money over a few months so that they can give something special. While the frugal person is certainly conscious of their spending, they know that the most important thing is not saving a few bucks but showing their love for this person. Frugality is intentional.

In his book, The New Frugality, Chris Farrell writes, “Frugality isn’t cheapness. You can be frugal and a generous host. Cheapness doesn’t take the needs and feelings of your guests into account. The frugal approach seeks out quality, not quantity. ‘Cheapskates aim to buy as much as they can for as little as possible, not caring for the quality or environmental or ethical virtues of the items they’re consuming,’ writes Farhad Manjoo, technology columnist for the online magazine Slate. ‘To be frugal, on the other hand, is to consider the full ramifications of every purchase.’” (p. 8) Frugality is sustainable.

Similarly, frugality is generous. Frugal people are intentional that the way that they use their money reflects their values. They don’t just say talk about world hunger, they invest time and money into the cause. In some ways, you could say that frugal people are the most generous because they know the true value of a dollar and they still choose to give it away.

While this blog is primarily geared towards graduate students, frugal living is a positive way of life for anyone no matter their life circumstances. Frugality teaches us the value of money, helps us to form good money habits, and aids us in aligning our values with the way that we use our money. Frugality has changed the way that I live my life. I hope that it has changed yours as well.

Join the Conversation: What does frugality look like to you?

How to Give Frugal Gifts without Looking Cheap

Remember how exciting Christmas used to be as a kid? You would wake up early, sit under the Christmas tree in your pajamas, maybe read the Christmas story, and then tear open your presents. But, as you grow up, Christmas becomes more stressful than fun, especially when you are on a tight budget. It can be hard to find a good gift that is inexpensive, but not cheap!

I’m not stranger to cheap gifts. One Christmas my brother and I received calendars that were from the previous year! Another Christmas, a friend of mine received a set of hotel toiletry items! Maybe you’ve experienced a similar situation. Have you ever received a gift that has clearly been used—a half eaten box of chocolates, tarnished jewelry, used makeup, even used undergarments? What about a gift that was clearly free—promotional pens, rebate drug store items, even happy meal toys?

While we can all laugh looking back at these gifts and tell ourselves that we would never do something like this, it’s hard to be frugal at Christmas. We want give something special to all of the important people in our lives but we feel caught between racking up the credit card debt and resorting to the sort of cheap gifts listed above. I think the difference between cheap and frugal gifts comes down to the heart of the gift. Are you giving for the sake of giving a gift? Or, are you giving for the sake of the person? If you have the receiver in mind, as you think about frugal gifts, you aren’t likely to go wrong.

Here are some ideas for heartfelt, inexpensive gifts:

  • Write from the Heart: Make or purchase a nice card and write the recipient a heartfelt note about why you appreciate having him/her in your life.
  • Frame It: Find a nice photo of the recipient and frame it. Or, gather some photos and postcards from his/her favorite destination and frame them. You could also frame the recipient’s favorite poem.
  • Thrifting: If you have a good idea of the recipient’s style head to the thrift store for some great frugal finds on clothing and accessories.
  • Fun Reading: Head to a used bookstore and find a few classic books that fit with the recipient’s interests. If the recipient prefers magazines, find some current editions of their favorite magazines for a little light reading over the holidays.
  • Homemade Items: Spread some Christmas cheer with homemade cookies, bars or candy. Try out some of these recipes! Use your creative skills to knit some mittens, make jewelry or write a song. Try your hand at some of these homemade gifts!
  • Gift Baskets: Create a personalized gift basket with some of their favorite items. Depending on the recipient’s interests, you might create a movie theater basket, spa basket, snack basket, grocery basket, the possibilities are endless!
  • Gift of Experience: Give the recipient tickets to an upcoming movie, museum, concert or event. You and the recipient can enjoy the event as well as some time together.

Join the Conversation: What frugal gifts have you given that have been well received? Have you ever given a frugal gift that didn’t work out?

How To Do Frugal Christmas Presents Without Looking Cheap

Remember how exciting Christmas used to be as a kid? You would wake up early, sit under the Christmas tree in your pajamas, maybe read the Christmas story and then tear open your presents. But, as you grow up Christmas becomes more stressful than fun, especially when you are on a tight budget. It can be hard to find a good gift that is inexpensive, but beware of giving a cheap gift!

One Christmas my brother and I received calendars that were from the previous year! Another Christmas, a friend of mine received a set of hotel toiletry items! Maybe you’ve experienced a similar situation. Have you ever received a gift that has clearly been used—a half eaten box of chocolates, tarnished jewelry, used makeup, even used undergarments? What about a gift that was clearly free—promotional pens, rebate drug store items, even happy meal toys?

While we can all laugh looking back at these gifts and tell ourselves that we would never do something like this, it’s hard to be frugal at Christmas. We want give something special to all of the important people in our lives but we feel caught between racking up the credit card debt and resorting to the sort of cheap gifts listed above. Here are some ideas for heartfelt, inexpensive gifts:

  • Write from the Heart: Make or purchase a nice card and write the recipient a heartfelt note about why you appreciate having him/her in your life.
  • Frame It: Find a nice photo of the recipient and frame it. Or, gather some photos and postcards from his/her favorite destination and frame them. You could also frame the recipient’s favorite poem.
  • Thrifting: If you have a good idea of the recipient’s style head to the thrift store for some great frugal finds on clothing and accessories.
  • Fun Reading: Head to a used bookstore and find a few classic books that fit with the recipient’s interests. If the recipient prefers magazines, find some current editions of their favorite magazines for a little light reading over the holidays.
  • Homemade Items: Spread some Christmas cheer with homemade cookies, bars or candy. Try out some of these recipes! Use your creative skills to knit some mittens, make jewelry or write a song or poem. Try your hand at some of these homemade gifts!
  • Gift Baskets: Create a personalized gift basket with some of their favorite items. Depending on the recipient’s interests, you might create a movie theater basket, spa basket, snack basket, grocery basket, the possibilities are endless!
  • Gift of Experience: Give the recipient tickets to an upcoming movie, museum, concert or event. You and the recipient can enjoy the event as well as some time together.

What frugal gifts have you given that have been well received? Have you ever given a frugal gift that didn’t work out?