Thrifty Thursday – Christmas Gift Challenge

It’s been fun to spend a few days Christmas shopping over the last couple weeks. I started a week ago on Monday and went on a full blitz yesterday – stopping at 19 different stores before I was done. Today I’ve been wrapping and watching a couple cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies (check out this funny Hallmark Christmas movie drinking game).

When we exchange gifts with my wife’s family, we have a very affordable $30 limit and I enjoy the challenge of seeing how much fun I can purchase for that amount. Here are a few of the strategies I’ve used that you might find useful …

  • Ornaments – Really nice glass ornaments are marked down 33%-55% the week before Christmas and make for a memorable, appreciated gift. We have a huge ornament collection on our tree and enjoy sharing the ‘hobby’ with others. After the discounts you can get beautiful ornaments for just $5-$10
  • Grocery Stores – Who doesn’t want a great box of candy, Pop Tarts, caramel corn, or package of their favorite cookies? For $3-4, you can wrap up a favorite, high-calorie binge. If you want to go all out, you can go to Sam’s or Costco and buy a ginormous pack. Department stores usually have boxed candy & treats in fancy packaging, but the cost is usually 2-3x what you find in the grocery store.
  • Old Pictures – This takes some time, but it is great to digitize old photos and share them with family at the holidays. You can frame a special one or two, or scan a bunch of them and put them on a DVD or flash drive.
  • Bottles / Refreshment – We are mostly a group of adults, so a bottle of wine, bottle of rum, or 6-pack of an interesting beer is always appreciated. Even a fancy root beer or flavored soda is a welcome new taste for someone who doesn’t drink alcohol. Many people drink the same thing day after day, so it’s fun when someone introduces you to a new taste.
  • Joke Gift / Packaging – My nephew and I have been exchanging the same dollar store Barbie every-other-year since he was a little kid and thought it would be a funny joke. I returned Barbie the next year and it has become a game of the funniest way to package her up. This same ‘gift’ has been packaged almost a dozen different funny ways.
  • Classic DVDs – Its amazing how cheaply you can get great DVDs nowadays. I’ve picked them up at flea markets, thrift stores, and even pawn shops for just a couple bucks a disc. They are “pre-owned” but I double check they still play well. Many times I find disks that are still wrapped in their original plastic. For the price, I will usually wrap three up together.
  • Gift Cards – Gift Cards are easy to give, but I like to wrap the card up with something else to make them a little more fun. The Dollar Store is filled with funny bric-a-brac that can you can use as a ‘wrapping base’. A small box of LEGOs, a small plush, or a Hot Wheels car might only cost a buck, but make a gift card more fun to wrap and funny to open.
  • Classic Art Print – Our son is a poor college student and one of the gifts he liked the most last year was a simple print of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. How simple & sophisticated to have a priceless work of featured on your wall for the price of a poster or canvas print?
  • Classic Board Game – Even better than getting a board game is to get one packaged with a giant bag of popcorn and a free afternoon “date” between Christmas and New Years to play. Almost any boxed game is less than $20 and there are many fun ones that sell of under $10.

With a $30 limit, I try to combine a few different things for each person so that there are more packages to open. While it would be easy to raise the limit, I enjoy the challenge of trying to find things that ‘fit’ each person’s interests without simply resorting to the lowest-common-denominator gift cards.

Any other simple, low cost holiday gift ideas?

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4 thoughts on “Thrifty Thursday – Christmas Gift Challenge

  1. I scored a Google Home for $30 for a Secret Santa gift. We often try and disguise our gift cards in something else. It helps throw the receiver off, and it’s fun to watch the fight the wrapping and ribbon too. Wishing the Firestation family a very Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When you talk about high-calorie indulgences and new tastes, I think homemade stuff fits both those calories. I make my own jam in pretty sophisticated flavors with peak-season, local fruit. It costs me about $5 per half pint, and I mix and match flavors across family members, who guard favored flavors very closely. And I *love* my mom’s caramel puff corn, which she only does at the holidays due to the sticky mess of making it. a turkey pan full never lasts beyond our family time together. Many people make their own variety plates of cookies out of several batches of holiday favorites, too. These gifts become more about time invested, rather than money–something unobtainable to those still working, and perhaps more available to those retired. Back to my own specialty, it also allows me to both contribute time and get in the holiday spirit throughout the year, during each season for the different fruit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes – those are great ideas! Homemade from the kitchen isn’t my specialty, but I have a good friend that gives out lusciously-buttery caramels and my wife made strawberry jam (although we ate it all before it could be gifted!)


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