We have had many times throughout the years that we had to be very tight around Christmas. I have a ton of tips and ideas to help you have an affordable Christmas as well as find fun and…CHEAP things to do with your family!
101 Affordable Christmas Gifts, Activities and Tips
1. Bake. This is a great way to get the kids involved as well. Bake some cookies, cupcakes or make a yummy candy. Buy some inexpensive colored cellophane and tie it up pretty-or use paper lunch bags, wrapping paper, colorful tins, or whatever is inexpensive and available to you. You can find TONS of wrapping options at the dollar store.
2. Insist in a Price Limit. Some of us have family/friend gift swaps. Set a low price limit that is AFFORDABLE to your family. It really is NOT…or should not be about the price anyway.
3. Feed the Hungry. Buy some groceries and donate them to a local food bank. You can also serve food at a local soup kitchen. Doing this as a family will teach your children the importance of caring for the poor. Habits started in childhood stay with us for a lifetime!
4. Use your talents. It’s FREE! If you are great at organizing, give the gift of a few hours to a friend to help them get organized in an area of their home. If you knit, make something special for someone on your list. If you are great with taxes, offer to do them for a friend or loved one. Skies the limit with this one, ladies.
5. Dollar Tree Christmas. I know this sounds crazy, however, things were so incredibly tight for us one year, that we literally ONLY had $15 dollars to spend on Christmas. Period. So, each of us got $5 to spend at the dollar store on each other. It was the BEST Christmas we have had to date. The torch lighter my husband got me that year is my favorite all time gift and it works FAR better than the more pricy one we received years later!
6. Homemade Gifts. Grandma and Grandpa are sure to love a hand made gift over a store bought one from their little love bugs. It is also a great idea for us Moms too!
7. Volunteer. Visit an elderly home and read books to them. Volunteer where you are needed. There are MANY opportunities in every community! Again, get the family involved!
8. Make your Own Decorations. Threading old beads, popcorn and/or macaroni through yarn can be made into a fabulous garland. One year, my daughter cut out two large strips of an old disposable table cloth I got from the dollar store. She made a pretty bow for each of my lamps. The color worked perfectly and it added a nice touch. You can also make a wreath with pine cones and extra greenery type garland. Get your creative juices flowing and you are sure to come up with some great ideas!
9. Start a Tradition. Each year, have a cookie decorating, gift wrapping or some other contest. Make sure you have some sort of “bragging rights” statue for the winner to keep for the year. There are a few other ideas in this list as well…
10. Sing-a-Long. This is something fun we do at my care group each year. If you have a large family, this can be quite a hoot. Using the 12 days of Christmas song, each group or couple…depending on size of your family gets one part (or two if small family) to sing. It really is hilarious the way each group sings and how it all comes together. We have some real hams in our group that make this a hilarious activity.
11. Wrap Cheap. Make your own paper mâché type wrap. Let the kids color decorative pictures on construction paper and use it to wrap. Reuse last year’s gift bags you received. You can even use old grocery store paper bags or those cute reusable bags they make nowadays. Be creative with what you have…the wrapping goes in the trash anyway!
12. After Christmas Sales. This is a GREAT time to buy decorations, gifts and stuff for next year’s holiday season. You have to plan it though, so you actually have a few bucks to invest. It is worth it in the long run with the money you will save!
13. Sell your Stuff. This is a great way to earn some extra money for the holidays. Have a garage sale, sell on ebay, put an ad in the paper for big items. Take stock and see what you have that can bring in a few extra bucks!
14. Go Caroling. Some neighborhoods do this as a group. Otherwise, start your own caroling gig. Get friends, family and neighbors involved and have fun blessing someone else!
15. Have a Pot Luck. Instead of doing it all yourself and spending far too much time and money, let everyone get involved. It’s a great way to try other dishes, bond, and get the family working together to save money!
16. Go Looking at Christmas Lights. Every year, we put some hot cocoa in travel mugs, get a cozy blanket and all snuggle up in the car while looking at Christmas lights around town. We are quite the critiques you know-Look out! LOL!
17. Attend Church on Christmas Eve. Many churches have a Christmas Eve service. This is yet again another free activity to do with your family!
18. Acts of Random Kindness. Pay for the person’s toll, fast food meal, etc. behind you. Help someone put their groceries in the car. Offer to go grocery shopping for an elderly person. Get creative with kindness and it is sure to spread around and come back around your way! It’s the Biblical law of sowing and reaping!
19. Make Candy Apples! Yummy! Caramel, candy, nuts, etc. Give some away to friends and family-or keep them all to yourself! LOL!
20. Read the Christmas Story. If you can get dad to do this, that’s awesome. Make it a big production. Hot cocoa, tree lights on, etc. Then have “father” read the story of Christmas.
21. Scrapbook Fun. Take last year’s pictures and create a scrapbook as a family. Each person gets their own stack of pictures and pages they can make.
22. Shop Online Outlets. Amazon has tons of gifts in many different price ranges!
23. Garage Sales. You would be surprised the re-giftable treasures you can find at a good garage sale!
24. Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These are both GREAT money saving days to shop. Companies are competing for YOUR business!
25. iTunes. Purchase a $5-$10 iTunes gift card for the music lover in your life.
26. Calendar. Have a friend that loves kittens? Get her a calendar with cute kittens for each month. This works for ANY person…golfer, fisher, precious moments, cows, etc. You know what your family and friends like. This is a cheap…yet personal gift!
27. Make a Coupon Book. This is always fun. Create a special book of things you will do for someone on your list. What you put in the book really depends on who the gift is for. However, here are a few ideas: back massage (hubbie would love this), clean house, hug, lunch, spa day, an hour of your time, etc…
28. Nativity Fun! You can make one as a family using stuff you have in your house. You can have each member make their own and make it a special “bragging rights” contest of who made the best each year. You can even act out the story as a family-or get the kids to put on a show for you. So many options.
29. Advent. You can find books and info Online to help you do your own Advent celebration activities.
30. Have a costume contest. The rules: Must have something to do with Christmas and can ONLY use stuff you have in your house. Then, vote for who has the best. Oh, and each family member must vote for ONE other member -NOT themselves!
31. Something Old. Re-gift something you received that you have not opened and most likely will not use in the next 100 years. NO there is NOTHING wrong with re-gifting! Especially if money is tight. Just don’t re-gift to the one who got you the gift! Um…Awkward! LOL!
32. Gift Card Deals. A lot of companies offer gift card deals. You just have to take the time to find them. For example: you can get a $25 gift card for $15. Look Online…you may find yourself a great deal!
33. Cards. Create homemade cards and write a special message to the person receiving it. Make it personal and it is sure to be a favorite!
34. White Elephant. This is always fun. Have a party. Make sure everyone brings a dish to share. Don’t break the bank decorating either. Then, have each person bring a gift valued between $5-$20 depending on what you think everyone’s budget will be. I have been to parties with $5 limits and $25 limits. I had a BLAST at all of them! Make the limit what YOU can afford! Look up “White Elephant” party on Google for rule variations.
35. Donate. Have the family go through their rooms and closets looking for things to donate to those less fortunate. It will make space for new gifts as well as bless another human being!
36. Nuts. They sell these in bulk, bags and in cans. You can create your own pretty jar, bag, etc. Nuts are a yummy, inexpensive and nice gift to give.
37. Recipe in a Bag. Do you have a cookie, cake, sauce, pasta or bread recipe that people love? Put all the dry ingredients in a pretty bag/jar with a recipe card of what else they need and how to make it!
38. Clay. Use clay to create a nativity scene, ornaments, etc. Kids love to play with clay and play-dough. Let them get creative with the Christmas theme. You can also find instructions Online as to how to make your clay creations last for years and years.
39. Family Pics. Grandparents love pictures as gifts. If you can get your pictures made, do that and put it in a pretty frame. Otherwise, take them yourself, develop and put it in a pretty frame. Either way, the grandparents are sure to love them!
40. Snowflakes. Making snowflakes was always fun as a child. All it takes is scissors, white paper, crayons/markers, glue and glitter!
41. Journal. I love journals. This is a frugal gift idea for the writer in your life. You can find them anywhere for $3-$10. Be sure and write a heartfelt note to add a special touch to it!
42. Twelve Days of Christmas Fun! Each day do something fun that relates to that verse of the song. I included a few ideas, but please do not limit yourself to them…you may think of something better!
A Partridge in a Pear: make a pear tart, roast pears or make a pear jam.
2 Turtle Doves: make candy turtles, draw turtles, do some sort of turtle craft, or go to the pet store and look at turtles. (Yes, I know turtle doves are birds, but there are other birds in the song! LOL)
3 French Hens: make your family’s favorite chicken recipe. Learn a French recipe that uses chicken or poultry and make it as a family!
4 Calling Birds: go on a nature walk and see if you can find 4 different types of birds-or 4 different birds calling! Do a bird craft.
5 Golden Rings: make homemade napkin rings. I am sure you can find a ton of ideas if you just Google “napkin ring craft”.
6 Geese a Laying: make fabergé eggs. Simply poke a small hole in the top and bottom of a large egg. Make sure you allow all of the egg to empty out, rinse and dry. Then decorate with paint, jewels, etc.
7 Swans a Swimming: give the kids a bubble bath, make homemade bubbles and have fun blowing bubbles with them, or go to the park and feed the ducks!
8 Maids a Milking: make chocolate or colored milk, go milk a cow if you have a local farm, read a book about where milk comes from, or just eat milk duds!
9 Ladies Dancing: dance around the house and get silly with your kids to Christmas music, do a dance slipper craft, watch a dance.
10 Lords Leaping: Put on praise music and LEAP in the joy of the Lord. Play leap frog, go look for frogs, draw frogs, read about frogs, etc. Forget frogs and think of another idea! LOL!
11 Pipers Piping: make homemade wind instruments. Google; pipe craft, trumpet craft, etc. Watch a band or listen to wind instruments.
12 Drummers Drumming: make a homemade drum, play the drums, use different items to hear the different “drum” noises, listen to the little drummer boy song, watch the little drummer boy…
43. Beauty Bag. This can be all done at a dollar store, or the dollar sections at Walmart/Target. Get a cute inexpensive cosmetic bag and add some nail polish, samples, eyeshadow and other inexpensive beauty items. Fabulous idea for the teenage girl in your life!
44. Share a Recipe. Do you have a friend that has been begging you for a certain recipe? Why not give it to her!? What’s the big secret?? Who will have it when you are dead? Spread the love. Write it out on a pretty decorative recipe card and show her how much you love her. Better yet, make it an invite instead…have her over and SHOW her how to make the recipe!
45. Candy Jar. This is a nice gift for the chocolate lover in your life. You can find an inexpensive and pretty jar just about anywhere. Fill it with Hershey kisses, tootsie rolls or some other favorite sweet treat.
46. Year Round. Instead of waiting for last minute shopping. Try starting right after Christmas and keeping an eye out for sales all year long. IN the long run, you will save money and time by carefully doing a little at a time.
47. Scavenger Hunt. This can be a fun family tradition. Create an age appropriate scavenger hunt for the kids/family. Make it fun and have some sweet treats along the way. In the end whoever wins gets to open one present. Make sure you have some small things for the runner ups so there are no hard feelings!
48. Local Tree Lighting Ceremony. A lot of towns have a tree lighting ceremony down town. It is a free activity to do as a family.
49. Make ornaments. Have your kids make special homemade ornaments to give to the Grandparents. Not only is it a fun activity for them, it is a special gift that any grandparent will treasure for life!
50. Green Thumb. This is for the gardener in your life…give a plant, flower, tree, pot with seeds, or even gardening tools. You can take it one step further and decorate a pretty pot for them. Then, plant something pretty in it that they can nurture and grow!
51. Games. Board games are cheap gifts and also a great family activity!
52. Fire Pit. If you have a large back yard, why not make a fire pit and have a bonfire on a cold night close to Christmas. Make some s’mores and tell your kids the story of Jesus and why God sent Him. If you do not have a place for a fire pit, just use a grill and pull out some chairs around it! No room for any of this?? Microwave the s’mores, light some candles and have a living room “bonfire”.
53. Family Field Day. Do you remember “field day” at school? Create your own family style one. Have sack (pillow cases) races, don’t drop the egg, wheel barrel, etc. Seriously, this can be a blast and a new family tradition. If you have a small immediate family, branch out and invite aunts uncles, etc.
54. Books. I love books and so do many of my friends. Most books are affordable-especially if you shop Amazon or an online book store. Even ebooks make GREAT gifts these days! Many are under $5 & $10! If your friend is married, why not get her the Proverb’s 31 Wife handbook?
55. Make a Gingerbread House. You can either buy a kit, look through some cookbooks, or Google; ‘how to make an easy gingerbread house’ or ‘kid friendly gingerbread house’… or something in that range. Better yet-wing it. That’s always the funnest way to do stuff like that.
56. As Seen On TV. My husband LOVES these items! LOL! They actually have an “As Seen On TV” store in a local mall in our town. You can also find many at Target. They are cheap and cool gifts!
57. Library. Check out your local library for story time and other free events they have going on during the holiday season.
58. Gas Card. We all know gas prices are not going to be dropping any time soon-if ever! A gas card can be an AWESOME gift to give!
59. I Love You Because…Fill a jar, gift bag or decorative box with a bunch of notes telling all the reasons you love or appreciate the receiver.
60. Flash Drive. They sell these for less then 10 bucks. Many have cool designs on them as well. This would be a wonderful gift for the techie in your life.
61. Mallow Men. Love this idea from my daughter! Make snow men with marshmallows! GREAT and tasty activity to do! All you need is large jet puffed marshmallows, white frosting (to keep the marshmallow stacks together), pretzel sticks, and a variety small candies to use. Each person creates their own special mallow men!
62. Homemade Flavored Oil. Purchase a tall pretty jar. You can find cheap jars in almost any store. Fill it with olive oil and other tasty flavorings. A few ideas: fresh herbs like rosemary, garlic, peppers, etc. Make it a couple weeks ahead of time so flavors are melded well. Make sure jar is sealed tight as well.
63. Let it Snow…I live in the sunshine State. However, if you have snow in your neck of the woods…enjoy it! Go sledding, make snow angels, build a snow man-have fun!
64. Freebies. Use your free offers as gifts. Let’s say you buy a body lotion and you get one free. Give the free one to someone else. Two gifts in one. You can do this with all ‘free with purchase’ offers. It is a great way to stock up as well. Save all your freebies throughout the year, and you will have a stash of “go to” presents to help keep you on budget!
65. Acronym. Create an acronym for a special person. My daughter loves to do this and I have done it for a few friends. It is a special gift that takes time and effort. However, it is worth it! You will take each letter of their first name and come up with a nice word that describes them. Make it pretty!
66. Candles. Who doesn’t love candles??
67. Target Sales. I love Target. I find so many fabulous deals by walking the back wall. They put all of their clearance items (some marked down 75%) on the inside end of almost every isle.
68. Track Santa. We do not celebrate with Santa at all, but a lot of people do, so, if you celebrate Christmas with Santa, there is a cool site that “tracks” where he is on Christmas Eve. It is very cute. (noradsanta.org)
69. Christmas Around the World. Our homeschool group used to do this each year. If you can get a few families together that would be even better. Each family picks a country they will represent. Then you all get together and share several things from your country choice. For example: you will share a little about how they celebrate Christmas, one traditional treat (make sure you give the kids the recipe for it too) and a craft. If you can get at least 3 families together that will make an afternoon of fun for you and the kids. Each kid will come home with a recipe from each country, a craft and fact sheet from each country represented as well.
70. Indoor Camping. If you have a tent, pull it out and set up your “camp site” close (not too close) to your Christmas tree, and create a Christmas camping experience. If you do this the week before Christmas, you may even let the kids open one gift as a special treat. This can become an awesome family tradition that your kids will love and treasure the memories for a lifetime! No tent? No problem! Make a fort with blankets or just throw some blankets on the floor!
71. Family Twister. Without breaking a hip, pull out the old twister game and have a blast with your kids. Make it a competition. Whoever wins gets to open up one present!
72. Fruit Basket. A healthy gift indeed! Make it pretty!
73. Fuzzy Socks. We love fuzzy socks. You can find them at Target, Walmart, pretty much anywhere! They are fuzzy and have cool designs. Very fun and frugal gift!
74. Letters from Home. Have your kids write letters to the troops overseas. It will not only make those in the military smile, it will teach your children patriotism and to appreciate the sacrifice they make for our country!
75. Sponsor a Child. Have you ever seen those trees in stores with names on them? Those are kids that need gifts! I was one of them and someone sponsored me and made my Christmas one year! I was living in a children’s home and no one came to visit me on Christmas. I was so thankful…and still am for the person who took the time to get me the few things on my list!
76. Magazine subscription. Buy a one year subscription for a friend/family member’s favorite magazine, or hobby magazine you think they would enjoy!
77. Short List. Honestly, it is not frugal to buy for everyone. Shorten your list. Do not break the bank to get everyone a gift! Live and buy within your means. Going broke to give others gifts is not what Christmas is about and they would not want you to do that if they love you anyway!
78. For the Birds. This is a fun activity to do with your kids. Make a homemade bird feeder! Plastic soda bottle, peanut butter and seeds are the basics. Google the rest. Then place your feeder in an area you can view from inside. Hopefully you will soon have some fine feathered friends come to visit!
79. Dollar Bowling. Many bowling alley’s have a dollar bowling night. It is a cheap way to get out of the house and have fun with the family. However, a nice Wii bowling night will work too! Those are my favorite nights at home!
80. Popcorn Fun. There are so many things you can do with popcorn. Why not make some flavored popcorn balls? Or use them to create cool Christmas characters (you will need a few other items for this…be creative)? Popcorn is cheap and you can enjoy creating and eating all in one!
81. Candy Cane Craft. We made a reindeer one year, using pipe cleaner for antlers and googly eyes for the eyes. It is amazing what googly eyes, pipe cleaner, glitter and glue can do! Come up with your own creative creatures. have a candy cane craft contest. Skies the limit, here too, ladies. It would also be a great time to share the story of the candy cane…
82. Make a Meal. Give a loved one the night off! This is a fabulous way to share a bit of you with someone…Make them one of your signature recipes and take it over for them to enjoy with their family. You can make it so they can freeze it, or plan ahead so they know to be ready for it.
83. Get Crafty. The best thing about the Internet is that everything is as close as a few key words typed into the search bar. You can find tons of things to do. However, my favorite kid friendly craft site is Kaboose.com They have TONS of ideas to help keep the kids busy and creative!
84. Starbucks. Even a $5 gift card will make someone on your list smile. I know I would love you forever! LOL! Five bucks is good for one fabulous cup of yumminess!
85. Decorate Cookies. Easy, fun and oh so yummy!
86. Visit the Local Zoo. Many zoos are not too expensive for locals. However, if money is too tight for even this idea, visit your local pet store and let the kids cuddle a kitty or puppy. We have one that has fish, kittens, puppies, reptiles, bunnies, and many other animals.
87. NO Credit. Never ever ever buy on credit! You will be paying more for the gifts! Only buy with cash or a debit card. You will save the interest and have more to spend later!
88. Spa at Home. Great for Moms, teenage daughters or both! Find some homemade recipes online. Send out a special invitation to a few of your girlfriends and have a spa at home day. You will each bring ONE inexpensive spa item to contribute and one to give away. Everyone should also bring their own beauty stuff to use. So, you will have your stuff, stuff to share and so on. Put each of the items brought to “give away” in a big “grab bag” and at the end of the party draw straws for order, and let each woman pick a gift from the bag!
89. Collage. This is a great idea for a close friend, relative, Mom or daughter. Create a collage using pictures, memories and things they love. It is sure to bring some loving tears to the receivers eyes.
90. Gift Basket. This can go in just about any direction…crafty, cookies, fruit, sweets, hobby related, spa, movie night, fun, etc.
91. Coffee Mug. Do you have a coffee or mug lover on your list? Buy a nice mug and a bag of their favorite coffee. This is also a great tip for a tea lover or hot cocoa fan!
92. Eat Free Days. Treat the family to a night out to dinner. Just make sure to do it on a “kids eat free” night!
93. Bath and Body Works. They have HUGE sales. You can get 5 lotions or fancy sanitizers for $20 many times throughout the year. That’s FIVE gifts! Wrap it up pretty with a personal card and it is a sure winner!
94. Pet lovers. You can get treats, new leash, pet bed, grooming, etc.
95. It’s OK to be Practical. Not all gifts need to be knock your socks off original. Try buying a hair cut, socks, mani/pedi, stamps, computer paper, ink, groceries, etc. Be creative in your practicality! LOL!
96. Herb Garden. This is a winner for the cook in your life. Herb gardens are cheap and they do not take up a lot of space.
97. Deck of Cards. If there is a card lover in your life, buy them a deck of cards. Then, Google card games and rules. Print out the rules and give them with the cards. Or, if you have a few extra bucks, buy a card game rule book to go with the cards.
98. The Entertainment® Coupon Book. This is an GREAT gift to give someone. You can get it from your kids school many times or just go to entertainment.com.
99. Christmas Time Capsule. This can be a yearly tradition. Purchase a large Christmas themed box (like the kind you would put a gift in with no wrapping), and every year have each family member put one item in it that represents their year. Then the next year, open it up and enjoy the memory making moments and conversations. Then, repeat it every year! It is an AWESOME way to encourage communication and promote memorable conversation. Keep adding to it year after year to see how life changes. Make sure that you date the items and add a pic of each family member too, or at least a family photo from that year so that you can see the changes over the years. When the kids grow up, Mom will have a box of wonderful memories! (Thanks to my beautiful daughter for this idea!)
100. Date Night. Make a decorative “certificate” that states the bearer will receive free child watching services. Basically, you will watch a friend or family member’s kids so they can have a night off!
101. Take a Year Off! Try a NO Receiving ONLY Giving Year. This can be a real character building opportunity for the whole family and a great way to teach giving is better than receiving. It is important to teach our children-and ourselves to be generous.