Need some creative ways to help keep your Christmas gift exchange thrifty?
I received the following question from frugal friend Lea Ann…
“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!“
Here are just a few of the awesome ideas that were shared here and on The Frugal Girls Facebook Page…
Karen said: “The adults in the family buy a $10.00 item wrapped. You then choose numbers for how many gifts there are. The person with #1 chooses first, then #2, etc. Each person can select a gift from the pile, or they can steal another person’s gift!! If someone steals your gift, you take a new one from the pile. The person with the highest number gets the best and last choice. There always seems to be some favorite gift, and it goes around more than once.”
Whitney said: “We buy birthday/Christmas presents all year long. We look at yard sales for like new items, resale shops, and clearance items. I have a closet full of presents for the kiddos, so that means we don’t have to spend anything for Christmas this year.”
Holly said: “We do this as well. We cannot afford to buy everyone in our families presents during just November and December. We instead buy gifts 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!”
Elizabeth said: “We live in a major metropolitan area and that means we have a great selection of thrift stores (Goodwill, Salvation Army, independent stores). By trial and error, I have learned that in certain locations you can find beautiful designer apparel for a song (e.g. impeccable Ralph Lauren sweaters for $2, like-new Anne Taylor dresses for $4). A spin in the washing machine erases all traces of “used.” My teenage daughter thinks there is nothing finer than a “surprise box” of eight or ten carefully selected thrift clothing items, some of them quirky vintage items she can use as costumes. I scout around for a couple months before Christmas, taking advantage of half-price sales. I like the idea of reusing, rather than buying retail. I have also learned (as a former Macy’s gift wrapper) that if you wrap something like this up beautifully, it has a lot of grandeur.”
Christy said: “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.”
Nicole said: “I shop the day after Christmas clearance sales, for gifts to give the next year. I’m able to get all sorts of gifts for my Christmas shopping list and check off the names as I go. I keep a list of gifts I have purchased on a document in my computer to update and change as needed.”
Sara said: “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 given board games, gift certificates to restaurants, family friendly movies, etc.”
Debbie said: “I keep it really 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 any kids think 99 Cent Store! Stickers, coloring books, hair bands, bubbles, you name it!”
Katrina said: “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 stuffers. Same goes for socks and underwear, they are cheap and a good thing to stock up on while on sale. Don’t forget yard sales, you just never know what gift you will find that will be just perfect for the mother-in-law. Hope this helps someone.”
Noreen said: “Gift baskets are great. Fill the baskets with items from dollar stores. They have everything you need for under 10 bucks, and you will have a great gift that looks more expensive than it cost!”
Pam said: “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 play sand in the bottom, a battery operated tea light, wrap raffia around the top and voila! A nice little gift for little money.”
Connie said: “Jar mixes are great gifts and not expensive to make. I have four books full of jar gift recipes, with instructions for a “mix” of cookies, soups, brownies, etc. Place these 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.”
Mandy said: “This year I am painting a bookshelf that we were going to get rid of and turning it into a barbie house for my daughter. All I need to do is buy some furniture and we are set to go!”
Sandy said: “For the past couple of years, the adults in our family have exchanged homemade gifts. Some have included collage frames with family photos, a dish of cranberry scones with recipe, wax-dipped pine cones for fire starters, and homemade soaps with decorative hand towels. This gives us the opportunity to put thought into the gifts, as well as spending time with our family making the gifts. My kids and I had fun hunting for and making the dipped pine cones!”
Debra said: “Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, I begin making cream filled chocolates and peanut butter cups. I box or bag these as inexpensive gifts. It takes a little time, but the effort is worth every minute. If you can get friends or family to help, it’s a fun, yet sweet afternoon project that everyone on your Christmas list will love receiving! You can get imaginative with your packages too!”
Bee said: “If you’re at all into knitting or crocheting, check out ravelry.com – they have tons of free patterns for just about anyone’s needs.”
Pam said: “I seen this cute idea at a craft show. Make a fleece scarf, but add an extra piece of fabric on the bottom, to use as hand warmers. The scarf can be tied up like the popular blankets.”
Becky said: “Christmas is for the kids right?? We do a cousins gift exchange and draw names. 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.”
Nellie said: “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, a diary book, compilation CD’s, etc.”
Kelly said: “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).
Also, in past years we’ve gotten family pictures done or pictures of the kids. I love those package coupons for JC Penny. Then we go to the dollar store and pick out frames. This is a particularly 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.”
Jan said: “Last year my family decided to have a white elephant gift exchange, using fun items bought at the local charity thrift store. We then donated whatever cash we felt we could afford to another charity. Everyone had a great time and two charities benefited (the thrift store and the chosen charity).”
Christa said: “The last few years my parents and sisters decided to adopt a family with young kids and give gifts to them, complete with all the things for a holiday meal. We just kind of came to the realization that we don’t need anymore candles and lotion, and there all a lot more needy families out there… especially in these tough economic times.”
How do you keep Christmas gift exchanges thrifty?
Do you have any tips… or thrifty gift ideas to share?
Leave a comment & share!