Gift giving ideas and money saving tips for holiday shopping on a budget

Homemade gifts are a great way to express your creative side. (Courtesy of aussiegall)

Homemade gifts are a great way to express your creative side. (Courtesy of aussiegall)

With only a few weeks of shopping days to go, you may be running out of gift giving ideas that you can afford. If your shopping list is larger than your budget, then you could use some money saving tips. It’s time to think outside the box, get creative and come up with alternatives to the usual store bought presents.

Simple gift giving ideas

There’s an old saying that goes, “KISS: Keep it simple, stupid.” Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. Just take a look at the New Mexico State University Housing and Residential Life (NMSU) Pinterest board, “Easy/Cheap Gifts for poor college students.”

On the board you’ll find links to all sorts of easy and inexpensive gifts that you can assemble yourself. Examples of gifts include:

  • an olive oil and sugar scrub
  • pampering in a jar
  • shoe hangers

What makes these presents even more ideal is that they will have a personal touch because you created them by hand.

Relieve shopping stress

It’s bad enough that you have to deal with final exams. Now there’s gift shopping, too! Don’t let it stress you out. There are plenty of ways to show your holiday spirit without blowing your meager budget and your stress level.

Take a few hints from where you’ll find a whole series devoted to saving money at holiday time. For starters, Frugal Girl Kristen suggests that you study the people on your gift list so that you are more likely to give them something that will have meaning and value to them.

When it comes to gifts for your friends, keep in mind that they are probably just as broke as you are. There’s no need to over spend, they’ll understand. Think about giving them something personal. Maybe a photo album with pictures of the crazy things that the two of you have done together. Even a card, whether purchased or made up on your computer can have that personal touch that gives meaning to the gift.

For the person who has everything

Sometimes you’re stumped as to what to give because the recipients are financially well off and already own pretty much whatever they need. This is often the case with parents and grandparents.

In an October 30, 2012 post for titled, “Making Christmas Merry: On giving meaningful gifts,” Kristen offers advice on handling the well-to-do recipient.

“Handmade gifts are often appropriate in situations like these as well. For instance, one year I gave my parents the gift of 12 months of homemade bread. Each month, I delivered a fresh loaf of a different variety of bread. It wasn’t an expensive gift, but it was something that they couldn’t buy for themselves,” Kristen suggested.

Think about goody bags

When your funds are limited you might want to make goody bags. In a November 20, 2013 post for The Arkansas titled, “Christmas Shopping On a Student Budget,” Alex Golden explained how the goody bag works.

You can buy holiday bags, bows and gift wrapping at your local Dollar Tree or similar store. Then start looking for inexpensive, fun but useful items to put into each bag. Golden’s suggestions include:

  • for girls: nail polish, hair accessories, small bottles of body lotion, costume jewelry
  • Starbuck’s gift cards: spend as little as $5 per card
  • books
  • cds
  • magazines
  • movies on DVD from the low-cost movie bin

And you don’t have to make up a bag for every person. According to Golden, “If you’re going to big family gatherings this holiday season and don’t want to show up empty-handed, buy one gift per household instead of buying for individuals. Consider gifts for the kitchen or living room that everyone can enjoy, like something that smells good.”

The gift that keeps on giving

If you’re out of options for giving gifts, how about giving yourself? Donate your time to help a friend or relative. What do you have to offer?

  • rake leaves and clean rain gutters
  • after holiday clean up of decorations and tree
  • babysitting
  • tutoring
  • cooking and baking
  • laundry and sewing
  • house cleaning
  • yard work
  • home repairs

Do a little investigating to find out what services are needed. Then you could make up a card on your computer that says something like: “Good for two free hours of babysitting.”

What are your best tips for holiday shopping on a budget? Tell us in the comments below.

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