Gift-Giving Ideas for Tight Budgets

giftsThis year, Americans plan to spend an average of $1,175 on holiday gifts, an increase of 12 percent compared to 2015, according to the latest data from Rubicon Project?s Holiday Consumer Pulse Poll.

If this sounds intimidating, and you?re not quite ready to shell out more than a grand to buy gifts this holiday season, don?t panic. You can celebrate without overextending your budget or sinking into debt. By simply making a few smart shopping decisions, you won?t be left empty-handed when attending holiday social events ? and you can keep your financial house in order.

Here are some gift-giving ideas that can help you avoid spending $1,000 or more this holiday season.


Setting some ground rules for gift-giving among friends and family might be all it takes to save some money this holiday season. With a Secret Santa exchange, everyone in your group secretly gets assigned one person to give a present to on Christmas.

?Instead of buying gifts for seven to 15 people ? depending on the size of your group ? buy one great gift that the recipient is more likely to use and appreciate,? said Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot.

Set a budget limit on how much each person can spend on a Secret Santa gift. When it?s time to purchase those Secret Santa gifts, maximize your $10 or $20 gift stipend by ?double dipping? to earn multiple rewards on your purchases. Shop for items through an online portal like to earn cash back on your purchases from stores like Target, Macy?s, and Best Buy. You can even use the site?s coupon codes on the purchase.

?You?ll usually get between 1 percent and 5 percent of the purchase back, though many retailers will run promotional increases in cash-back rates that can bump that figure as high as 15 percent,? said Erin Warren, smart shopping expert at


Whether you work for a large corporation or a small business, you might have to buy gifts for many people ? even people that you don?t know too well ? out of courtesy. While giving a gift to all of your colleagues is a kind gesture, those extra purchases might not fit into your budget.

Instead, suggest a white elephant party at your office so nobody feels obligated to buy gifts for each other. Here?s how it works: Each person brings a wrapped gift to contribute to a pool of gifts. Then, participants draw numbers from a hat to determine the gift-grabbing order. The first person grabs a gift from the pool, and the following participants can either choose a gift from the pile ? or steal someone else?s gift.

Take the lead on coordinating the event to ensure everyone who wants to participate is included. This can be a fun way to get together with colleagues and exchange gifts without the pressure of having to spend a lot of money to celebrate the season.

Talk to management, and block off some time for a gift exchange at work so everybody can attend. If that?s not an option, set up an event after hours, and have everybody RSVP. You?ll need an accurate head count to make sure all attendees give and receive a gift.


If your recipient has never been indoor rock climbing, horseback riding or paddle boarding, gift them the opportunity to try it out for the first time. These experiences can range anywhere from under $20 to more than $50, depending on the activity.

Don?t overlook attraction tickets and experiences on social shopping sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial, where you can buy these types of experiences at a discount. ?It?s also a good way to find unique, experience-based gifts, like recreational zip lining or going on a kayak adventure,? said Warren.

The adventure will be something the recipients will never forget. And it can be a good excuse to set up a date or social gathering with the individual at a later date.

If you?re a pro at a particular sport or have years of experience in a certain activity, you could even volunteer to host lessons or an introductory session. Give them a gift card or handmade gift certificate so they can follow up with you when they?re ready to test the waters.


If you?re the crafty type and don?t mind making a few trips to the store amidst the holiday decorating frenzy, give homemade presents that reflect the spirit of the season. Take advantage of ?buy one, get one free? deals and other specials at Michael?s and other craft stores. Michael?s posts its coupons online and also sends updates via email and text upon request.

Themed candleholders, fruit baskets and handmade soaps with wintery scents are a few ideas. Skirboll even suggested finding a DIY recipe online for homemade bubble baths and body scrubs, which are typically well-received gifts or stocking stuffers.

Another option is to gift some food items. ?You can buy plain white mugs from your local arts and crafts store, and decorate them with enamel-based markers,? said Skirboll. ?Fill each cup with goodies like a bag of hot cocoa or the recipient?s favorite coffee, and add individually wrapped treats or a few candy canes.?


Seventy-five percent of gift-buying Americans are expected to purchase technology as a gift this holiday season, according to Consumer Technology Association?s 23rd Annual Holiday Outlook. And, Americans are expected to spend $241 on technology products.

If you don?t have room in your budget for a tech purchase but need a gift idea your tech gadget lover will appreciate, consider giving accessories or even a gift certificate they can use for a future tech purchase.

You can save money on gift cards by shopping at warehouse clubs. For example, Sam?s Club offers gaming gift cards for Xbox Live, Nintendo, Windows Store and more.

?You can also check out sites like Raise, and Gift Card Granny,? which offer gift cards from tons of different brands, said Warren.


Re-gifting isn?t off limits ? as long as you do it right. If you have unused gifts that you received for your birthday or another special occasion, give them to somebody who can make use of the item.

?Last year, my husband and I gifted our nephew with a Nexus 7 tablet we hadn?t used in months, and he was thrilled to receive a gadget on which to play games and stream shows and movies,? said Kendal Perez, a savings expert for ?I?ve also re-gifted candles I received and never used, as well as gently used scarves.?

And, don?t overlook items that have a special meaning for you.

?If you have any movies or books that impacted you and now just sit on your shelves, re-gift them with a special note inside explaining why you loved that film or read,? said Skirboll. ?It?s a personal gift they will surely treasure and will make zero dents in your budget.?

If you?re not comfortable re-gifting one-on-one, host a party specifically for recycling gifts. Similar to a white elephant party, guests bring one gift they want to re-gift and draw a number. They can then trade their gifts with other partygoers as the gifts get unwrapped so everyone goes home with something they actually like.

(Source: TCA)