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?