Creative Ways to Keep Christmas Gift Exchanges Thrifty…

How to Keep Christmas Gift Exchanges Thrifty - tips from

I received the following question from frugal friend Lea Ann on The Frugal Girls Facebook page.  Let’s help her out, and share some ideas!

“Do you exchange gifts with your extended family at Christmas time?? Do you have any thrifty gift exchange ideas that would keep us all from buying for each person?  We have drawn names in the past, but even that can add up when you have three kids.  Thanks for any ideas!”

Great question, Lea Ann!  As we near towards Christmas, be sure to check out these Thrifty Gift Ideas, Photo Freebies and Deals, and Thrifty Craft Projects for some inspiration on fun gifts that won’t break the bank!

How do you keep Christmas gift exchanges thrifty?

Do you have any tips… or thrifty gift ideas to share?

Leave a comment & share!

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41 Responses to Creative Ways to Keep Christmas Gift Exchanges Thrifty…

  1. Debbie says:

    I give gifts to my children and grandchildren…my parents if I will see them as well. Other than that, if I will be seeing extended family, I keep it realy simple (and inexpensive). For the females: small candles, purse size hand lotion, sanitizers, lip balm, etc. (most of these you can get as samples, free with coupons or extremely inexpensive). Home baked items are wonderful for the men. Photo cards are another option. For other kids that may be there, think 99cent store! Stickers w/album, coloring books, hair bands, bubbles, you name it! I hope this gives you some starting ideas.

  2. Katrina says:

    at back to school time i stock up on crayons, markers, colored pencils and other random back to school things. they make very good stocking stuffer’s or even a gift with a coloring book for a child. same as socks and underwear they are cheap and good thing to stock up on while they are on sale. yard sales as well, you’ll just never know what you will find even that hidden gift that is just perfect for the mother in law.. hope this helps someone

  3. Christa says:

    The last few years my parents and sisters have decided reather than give gifts to each other we adopt a family with young kids and give gifts to them, complete with all the things for a holdiday meal. We just kind of came to the realiztion that we don’t need anymore candles and lotion and there all alot more needy families out there….especially in these tough economic times.

  4. becky whetten says:

    Lea Ann,
    Christmas is for the kids right??
    We do a cousins gift exchange (pull names so if you have 3 kids then all you buy is 3 gifts).

    As for the adults we play a white elephant style game.

    Nothing is to be bought, you have to find something laying around the house that is not TRASH but something you just don’t want or use.
    You wrap it up in a bag or box as pretty as can be to make it more appealing to someone else =)
    All the adults are handed a card from a deck, then the dealer has a different deck to pull from. As your card is called you go look at all the pretty boxes and bags and pick what one you want (cant open this round). After all the cards have been called and all the boxes/bags have been taken you do another round, this is the “steal round”, you go trade someone your bag for their bag then you open it, show it off and put it back in the bag/box…after all cards are gone you do the last round where it gets FUN =)
    You have to remember what was in each bag/box and trade with someone if you want what they have, if you want to keep what you have then you just say “keep”. The object of the game in the last round is to be the last card called so you have the ultimate pick =)
    Good Luck!! Becky

  5. MamaNellie says:

    I know what you mean! I’ve got 4 children. Before drawing names with cousins we agree on a price limit we can live with like $5-$10. Then we get creative with meaningful gifts such as homemade baking mixes (blank-in-a-jar), photo collages of great memories, supplies for a favorite hobby, books, diary, compilation CD’s et c. We’ve also had lean years where we’ve spread the gift over a year with an activity coupon book of special dates, one for each month-these can be a little more extravagant like a dinner at a restaurant, out to a movie, trip to a zoo… or they can be frugal like picnic in a park, game night, pizza and movie night, midnight drive with snacks to chat and look at the stars et c.

  6. Daniela Wogh says:

    Get them a gift certificate when they’re 80% off. You’re giving a gift worth $25 but only paying 2 or 3 bucks. Sounds like a great deal in my book.

  7. Be says:

    Library Sales for the literary-minded (Got a professor friend a 10 volume set of the OED for $10 at one. He’d been dying for one forever and the one volume with the magnifying glass edition can cost a couple hundred dollars in some places.).

    Hand crafts: has a lovely 4 hour baby sweater that only takes one skein of worsted weight (Red Heart is under $3/skein!) and is adorable. (They ask that you knit one for charity). Just an added plug here: if you’re at all into knitting or crocheting, check out – they have tons of free patterns for just about anyone’s needs.

    Cooking: Tins of cookies! If you can’t find the tins cheap or free, just get a bunch of tupperware containers and put a pretty bit of ribbon (or yarn) around. The same goes for jams/jellies. I’m both a big baker and a preserver – take the latter even further because I only make jams or jellies out of what I find when I forage (and don’t say “Ick!” Google Euell Gibbons!). There are a lot of peach trees, ornamental pears, wild grapes and crabapples in my neighborhood. By far, I think the crabapple jelly’s the best received because it’s considered nostalgic.

  8. Pam Roland says:

    This year, I am doing candle jars. I work in a kitchen and am able to get plastic jalapeno jars and glass pickle jars for free. I am going to use a spray paint can of frost with stencils to decorate the jars. Then you put a little bit of playsand in the bottom, a battery operated tea light, wrap raffia around the top and voila!, a nice little gift for little money.

    I might even bake these cookies to put into the jars:
    These are simple and very easy!

  9. mandy says:

    This year I am taking a bookshelf that we was going to get rid of and paint it and turn it into a barbie house for my daughter. All I need to do is buy some furniture and we are set to go!

  10. Kelly Stivers says:

    We focus on the kids as much as possible… I do like to put a price limit on gifts though… usually only $10 and under… (this doesn’t apply to our children though).

    If we have money left over then we buy for the adults. In past years we’ve gotten family pictures done or pictures of the kids (I love those package coupons for $7.99 for JC Penny) the trick is that if you need more pictures than are offered in the package, chose another day and make another appointment. You can use another coupon at this appointment. If you don’t feel comfortable going back to the same place so soon… chose another location. Then we go to the dollar store and pick out frames. This is a particularry great gift for grandparents! They always love the pictures and this way all they have to do is hang it or set it out on a shelf.

    We’ve also done the drawing names thing…

  11. noreen says:

    gift baskets are great fill with dollar stores items they have everything you need for under 10 bucks you have a great gift that looks like you paided more.. i am a artist myself so i can pretty much turn anything into something good with paint. but you can also get some paint and sponages and sponage a flower pot and put a plant in it. nice gift let the kids do it… add a dollar store clear wrap and a bow and it looks like it came from a florist..
    now any kind of wooden gift can be re-done with paint and if you are not a artist stamp or stencil or even decals add a special touch to a gift that matchs the reciever house.

    buy christmas balls from a yard sale buy some glue and feathers and some beads re do the ball in what style you want and you have a fancy expensive ball for little money that can look just like the fancy xmas shops..

    good luck and i have written way to much

  12. Connie Mrazek says:

    Jar mixes are great gifts and not expensive to make. I have four books full of jar gift recipes, where you assemble a “mix” of cookies, soups, brownies, etc. in a jar and decorate the lid with material or ribbon. They are great for unexpected gifts. You can quickly grab them and give them to neighbors, etc.

  13. Connie Mrazek says:

    One more thing, be careful of the coupons, as some have a minimum purchase, so you end up spending money you didn’t plan to! I went to one restaurant, and they were real sticklers about the $50 minimum, and I kept having to buy more and more.

  14. Jan says:

    Last year my family decided to have a white elephant exchange with fun items bought at the local charity thrift store and donate whatever cash they felt they could afford to spend and choose a charity to donate to. Everyone had a great time and two charities benefited (the thrift store and the chosen charity).

  15. Jen says:

    Thanks for all the great ideas everyone!

  16. whitney says:

    We buy birthday/ x-mas presents all year long. We look at yard sales for like new items, resale shops, clearance items. I have a closet full of presents for the kiddos so that means we dont have to spend anything for Christmas this year :)

    • Holly says:

      We do this as well. We cannot afford to buy everyone in our families presents during just November and December, so we buy throughout the year and put them up. This way when the holiday season comes, we can see what we already have and just buy a couple of items to finish up. I also only shop end of season clearance, outlet stores, sales and never pay full price!

  17. Amanda says:

    At Christmas we usually only see my side of the family and my sister and I have agreed to only buy for the children. She has 3 and we have 1 but when we were buying for everyone it ended up being 5 gifts that we purchased for just them on top of everything else. She was fine with just buying for the kids. We set a $10-$20 limit. I start this time of year looking at sales for toys for my youngest nephew (4) I can usually find a nice toy on sale that falls below our budget. As for my niece (11) and older nephew (12) it can get a little trickier. I know what stores my niece likes and look out for discounted gift cards. My nephew loves sports and hunting so I have been checking magazine discount sites to find sports illustrated for kids or a outdoor magazine subscription for him. When it comes to grandparents we will watch for sales on picture frames and have some of the best pictures from the year printed and then wrapped as gifts. We have also used Walgreens to create picture books for both sets of grandparents. I’ve seen in the Walgreens ads the past few weeks that those books are BOGO or buy one get one 50% off so those are great ways to get gifts for grandparents at a reasonable price. There will also be some ornament making projects in our home later this year. We plan to make cinnamon ornaments and some stick ornaments. Both will be inexpensive to make, fun for my son and the grandparents will love seeing handmade ornaments every year.

    In the past we have also done dollar store gifts with my husband’s side of the family. We buy 10 $1 gifts (one for each of the children at that time, now it would be 12!) at different age ranges and the kids take turns picking gifts from a basket. The adults were given a $10 limit and each adult brings a $10 gift and everyone draws a number. You choose a present in order by #’s and it’s basically the white elephant game and gifts can be stolen and so on. It was a lot of fun and interesting to see what everyone was able to find for $10.

    I think the ideas about baked goods and gifts in a jar are great too. I’ve found over the years that people tend to enjoy homemade sentimental gifts more than the expensive ones. I’m even going to try my hand at making homemade chocolate covered cherries for my mom because they are one of her favorite candies at the holidays.

  18. Sara says:

    We have done a ‘family’ exchange, so instead of buying one gift for each member in a family, we buy one gift for the whole family to use. We’ve done board games, gift certificates to restaurants, family friendly movies, etc.

    It is helpful to only have to buy one gift and usually it is way cheaper than buying all of the individual gifts.

  19. Christy Goettel says:

    The key is to keep Christmas in mind all year. When you see something that is a great deal and you know someone will love it – get it! Even if that means buying it in March. I have a Christmas Budget spreadsheet and I love totally how much under budget I am each year. :)

  20. Missy Asche says:

    For our Christmas exchange, we play a game with the entire family (extended and immediate). We ask each family member to contribute one item per person if they are able. This one item can be store bought, an item they no longer use from home or even something from Goodwill/Salvation Army. The game is simple, fun…and everyone wins!
    How the game works:
    We place the gifts (wrapped of course) in one big pile in the middle of the floor. We pick numbers as to who goes first (for example, if there’s 25 people, then everyone picks a number out of a hat/bowl up until all 25 have a number). The first person to go simply picks a gift from the pile. They open it and place it in front of themselves so everyone can see what they got. The next person in line can either pick a gift from the pile or, if they like what the first person got, they can “steal” that gift! If they choose to steal the previous gift, the person that had the gift “stolen” from them now gets to pick another gift from the pile. They keep this gift (unless it is stolen from them again!) If a gift is stolen twice, that is the LAST time it can be taken. The person who is the second person to “steal” an item is the final owner of that gift. This continues until all gifts are taken and everyone has had a chance to play. You’re actually the lucky one if you’re the last to choose because you have the chance to see most, if not all, the gifts opened and you can decide if you want that last unopened gift or pick from the ones that are already opened and you know what you’re getting!
    We have had great success with this game and we usually even end up with so many gift items in the pile that we have to go around the room more than one time!
    We’ve had everything from family games to peanut butter to even toilet paper wrapped up for gifts for this game!! It is a lot of fun.

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