I love celebrating the holidays. And I love seeing the joy on my kids’ and loved ones’ faces when they open the gifts we’ve gotten them.

I also love to not spend money. This might seem like a rather conflicting statement. But as I’ve learned over the years, there are ways to give frugal holiday gifts that save money, yet still bring joy to the giver and joy to the recipient as well.

Here are 32 frugal gift ideas that you can consider this holiday season:

1. Handcrafted Fleece Blanket

We did these one year for the grandmas in the family, and it was by far the favored gift of the year. We still see the grammies cuddling up with their fleece blankets during the cold season. Simply grab a coupon from your favorite fabric or craft store, pick out a fleece pattern that matches your gift recipient’s favorite colors or their home color scheme, and follow these instructions for a no-sew fleece blanket. 

2. Homemade Candies

My aunt Brenda makes the most fabulous homemade candies. Some candies can be difficult to make at home, but others, like these homemade caramels, are easier. Either way, it’s worth the effort and a gift those on your gift-giving list will surely enjoy.

3. A Themed Gift Basket

This is something we’ve been doing for years with Rick’s brother. Instead of buying each child and adult a gift, we exchange themed gift baskets with the family. Some ideas for themed gift baskets:

4. Service Gifts

Service gifts are great for the elderly, the exceedingly busy or the frugal-minded. We’ve used our gifts and talents to give a variety of service gifts such as hair cutting (I was a cosmetologist in a former life), house painting, landscaping and babysitting. Simply make a list of the skills that you have and match those skills with those on your gift giving list who may appreciate having gifts in the coordinating areas.

5. Homemade Baked Goods

This is another terrific gift for those on your gift-giving list. Make a batch of homemade cookies, bars, brownies or fudge and place them in a wax paper-lined decorated tin box. The perfect gift for nearly anyone. Bonus points for using a secret family recipe.

6. Gifts of Time

Gifts of time work especially well for children. Give the gift of a day away or a sleepover with a niece or nephew. Spend the day playing at a park, watching a movie at home or baking cookies in the kitchen. Those frugal “experience” gifts are often far more valuable than a gift of money or a new toy.

7. A Hand-Written Recipe Book

Purchase a note-booking journal that’s cute and hand-write all of your favorite recipes in it. Be sure to leave some pages blank so that your recipient can add some of his or her own favorite recipes too.  You can also choose the recipes you add based on a theme too, such as a grilling theme, a foreign country theme or an easy-to-make recipe theme.

8. A Good Book or Movie

I love getting great books or movies as holiday gifts. When choosing a book or a movie (or both) that would be a good fit, consider your recipient’s favorite subjects, hobbies or pastimes, or grab an up-and-coming book or movie off of the best sellers’ or newly released list.

9. A Homemade Bath Set

There are all sorts of ways to make fragrant bath salts or body rubs at home to include in a homemade bath set. One of my favorite scrubs is a simple blend of equal parts of coconut oil and sugar. Add a loofah or bath scrub, a nice CD with relaxing music and put it all in a nice basket and you’re ready to go.

10. Tea or Coffee Lovers Gift Set

We get our 2.5 lb bags of Colombian Supremo from Sam’s Club for $14.98. Occasionally we’ll pair this purchase with this inexpensive coffee grinder as a gift. If your budget is a bit bigger, you can add in a nice coffee mug as well. You can also do this using tea instead of coffee. Simply replace the coffee and grinder with a variety of teas and a good book.

11. Cookie or Brownie Kits

One of my favorite gifts I’ve gotten was this Sandcastle Brownie Kit. You can use a large canning jar to make several layered cookie or brownie recipes that look absolutely adorable and taste even better. This is a great idea for kids to give to grandparents or teachers. For more cookie or brownie kit ideas, click here. 

12. Home Canned Goods

One of the most well-received gifts we’ve given since we moved to the farm was our home-canned Homemade Smoky Chipotle Salsa.

We canned the salsa using our garden ingredients, added some spices and voila: gift-giving success!

Other canning ideas for gift giving can include jams, pasta sauces, pickles, and soups.

13. Handmade Knitted Items

My mom taught my kids and me to knit this year, and we’re using our new skills to make some homemade items such as scarves, hats, and mittens for family members. We caught the knitting bug after reading Little House in the Big Woods, and we love this back-in-time activity.

I can make a scarf using a high-quality yarn for roughly $6 by putting in some time and effort. Knitting is quite easy once you get the hang of it, and it’s a great activity to keep you busy during the cold winter months.

14. Freezer Meals

If you’ve got a recipient on your gift list who’s strapped for time or not able to cook, they may appreciate you giving them some homemade meals for their freezer. That way, they can pop them out quickly and throw them in the oven. Soups, stews, casseroles and lasagnas all make great meals for freezer storage.

15. Infused Olive Oils

Homemade infused olive oils are fairly simple to make and are a great gift for a food-loving friend or family member. Just remember that infused oils usually take about four weeks to complete (they need soaking time) and must be kept in the refrigerator. For some great ideas for homemade infused olive oils, click here. 

16. Spice Sampler

If you’ve got a gift recipient who loves to cook (or to eat), consider giving a spice sampler pack. You can pick up not-so-basic spices at your favorite big box store, or hit a local cooking store to gather some sample packets.

17. Teach a Skill

This is another great gift idea, especially for kids. If you’ve got a skill, such as knitting, playing an instrument or baking, give the gift of education. Offer to spend some time teaching your skill to your gift recipient. Not only is this gift frugal in terms of cost, but the time spent with your recipient will be invaluable to both of you.

18. Microwaveable Heating Pad with Rice

One of the very best purchases I made when I became a mom for the first time was a felt-covered microwaveable rice bag that we use as a heating pad. It was shaped like a fish and filled with rice and cloves, and was a wonderful comfort to the kids when they were scared or not feeling well. “Smelly” as he is called, still gets used in our family to this day. For sewn rice bag instructions, click here.

19. A Memory Book

One year we gave our moms memory books filled with a lifetime of pictures of us kids and the grandkids. They loved looking through all of the cherished photo memories from long ago.

20. A Personalized or Decorated Picture Frame

Buy a simple wooden picture frame from a store, and you can add a variety of personal touches to it to fit your gift-giving recipient’s likes and talents.

Find some decoration ideas by clicking here. 

21. A Heartfelt Letter or Poem

For my mom’s 60th birthday, my siblings and I made up a personalized poem that summed up who she was as a person and how much we loved her for all she had done for us. That framed poem, printed on decorated paper, still hangs in her living room over a decade later.

Sit down and write all of the things about your loved one that makes you love them, work to turn it into a poem or heartfelt letter, and frame it as a Christmas gift. Don’t worry too much about your poetic skills; simply write from the heart.

22. Savings Account Match Program

This is a terrific gift for little ones. Offer to open up a savings account in their name (with their parents’ help if it’s not your child) and then offer to match any money they choose to earn and put into that savings account for the next year.

Consider choosing an online bank that pays a high interest rate for a savings account, such as CIT Bank. CIT Bank currently pays up to 2.15% on your savings account balances.

23. Home-Sewn Cloth Napkins, Kitchen Towels or Hotpads

Most people can always use fresh kitchen towels, hot pads or cloth napkins. By learning to sew or make these things from scratch, you’re  adding a personal touch. And you’ve got yourself a frugal and fantastic gift that is sure to be used.

For some ideas for a stamped kitchen towel, click here. 

24. A Gratitude Jar

Take out a piece of paper and think of every reason you are grateful for the person that you want to give the gift to. Then write each of those reasons on a tiny strip of paper and put it in a jar with a lid.

The goal would be to have at least 20 to 30 reasons so that jar appears full. This gift will be sure to make the person feel special this Christmas.

25. Handmade Bookmark

Handmade bookmarks are super easy to make and are a favorite gift of grandparents everywhere. To make one, just cut some cardstock in a color of your choice to a standard bookmark size or a little larger.

We usually do 6 inches in length and 2 inches in width. Decorate as you wish with markers, glitter, or pictures.

Bring the bookmark to your local office store and have them laminate it. Use a hole punch to make a hole in the top and add a pretty ribbon.

26. A Tissue Box of Dollars

My teen daughter got this one year for her birthday and LOVED it. Simply buy a square box of tissues, carefully pull off the tab at the top to expose the tissues.

Pull out one or two tissues and set aside. Get a pile of $1 bills from the bank; 10, 15, 20 – whatever your budget is – tape them together end to end and roll them up neatly and tightly.

When you get to the last bill, tape a tissue to it and put the roll back inside the tissue box.

Make sure the tissue that’s taped to the money is sticking out of the top, and place the tab back on the top of the tissue box.

Gently write “pull” on the corner of the tissue that’s sticking out a bit. Wrap as you would any other present. When the recipient pulls out the tissue, they’ll get their real present.

27. Roll of Coins Stocking Stuffer

This is a great idea for kids – or anyone on your gift list who likes money. It’s also super easy for kids to make.

You’ll need:

  • A roll of coins – quarters or nickels will probably work best
  • Some striped wrapping paper (or you can use white wrapping paper and ribbon)
  • Some clear cellophane wrap
  • Small ribbons for tying

See pictures below for instructions.

28. Handprint Board

This is a gift that my hubby gave me for Christmas years ago, and it’s still one of my favorite gifts of all time.

Simply cut out a 1×4 or 1×6 piece of wood (he used pine), bevel the edges (you may also be able to find the wood ready to go at a craft store) and sand until smooth.

Have each of your kids paint one hand with a thin-ish coat of acrylic paint in complimentary colors (Rick used red, blue, yellow and green) and place their painted hand strategically onto the board in predetermined places.

After the paint dries, paint the board with a couple of coats of clear polyurethane coating to secure and protect the handprints.

You can make it sans hooks or nails for setting on a shelf or fireplace mantle or add hooks or nails for hanging it on the wall or turning it into a coat rack.

29. Homemade Bath Salts or Spa Kit

Bath and spa items are so easy to make yourself, and many items can be made from things you have around the house.

Here are some ideas of bath and spa items you can make yourself.

  • Scented bath salts: just use Epsom salt (available at any big box store) and mix in just several drops of your favorite essential oils, such as lavender
  • Body or hand scrub: Mix equal parts of coconut oil and sugar and transfer the mixture to a Mason or other jar
  • Body spray: Mix 8 ounces of water, 1 tablespoon of witch hazel and twenty or so drops of your favorite essential oil.

Put the items in a pretty jar, basket or another container, add a ribbon or two and you’re good to go.

30. Turn a Favorite Picture into a Watercolor

Any picture can be turned into a watercolor portrait with this cool app called Waterlogue. The Waterlogue app can help you turn a favorite picture into a beautiful watercolor in just minutes.

31. Movie Night Kit

Movie night kits are super easy to make and can benefit multiple people at once. So it’s great for a family gift! Just find a cute basket or colorful metal pail that’s fairly good-sized.

We usually scour the $3, $4 and $5 movie bins at Walmart. After finding a fun movie that fits the recipient’s tastes, we shop for a few fun extras such as theater-style candy boxes, individual packages of microwave popcorn or drink powder packages.

Add some brightly colored tissue paper to make the pail or basket shine and wrap in clear cello paper.

32. Recipe Ring

This is a great gift idea for a young person newly out on their own or a newlywed couple. On some 4×6 index cards, neatly print some favorite recipes.

Or if you’re looking for some extra creativity, print the recipes from your computer onto colored cardstock paper. You could even choose different colors of cardstock for different recipe categories.

Before you print, make sure the recipe will fix onto the cardstock in a 3.5×4.5 format so the white on the index cards shows through after you cut and paste the recipes onto them.

Have the cards laminated at an office shop, use a hole punch to punch holes in the corner and slide each recipe onto a silver ring. For an extra special touch, include a rubber spatula that has a hole in the stick and add that to the ring as well.

With a bit of time and effort, you really can find ways to give heartfelt gifts on a frugal budget.

What are your ideas for frugal holiday gifts?

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