You don’t have to spend a lot (or even anything!) to have a meaningful holiday season with your family and friends. Here are 7 tips to help plan meaningful Christmas gifts on a budget.
Set a budget.
Make a list of everyone that you think needs a gift from you or your family this season.
Now, go through the list and seriously consider the recipients: Does your boss really need a gift from you? Or your distant Aunt Sandy who you only see once a year? Or your dear friend who has everything?
Some additional questions to ask yourself: Are you giving a gift because you feel obligated? Are you giving a gift merely to impress or in some way influence the other person?
I know that for me, personally, I would rather receive a sincere, thoughtful gift that I truly enjoyed instead of some trinket given to me out of obligation. The same goes for most people. Narrow down your list and set a budget for each of them. This doesn’t mean that you will spend the same on each person, but rather that you will decide how much is the maximum you can spend on each (someone might be $5 and another might be $50, that’s ok).
My husband and I hardly ever get each other specific gifts. I might buy him a small gift on his birthday and he will buy me flowers on mine, but that’s it. We don’t buy each other Christmas gifts. I think this is partly because he’s from India and growing up his concept of a Christmas gift was new clothes (only clothes!), and there’s just no way he could buy me clothes that I would like (and vice versa). We don’t feel obligated to buy gifts and we show our love and appreciation in other ways.
Try homemade gifts.
Homemade goodies (meals, cookies, snacks) tops this list for me! Honestly, a thoughtfully planned food gift can’t be topped. Who doesn’t love their favorite snack wrapped up with a bow?
The most important part here is 1. Do you like cooking? 2. Can you consider something special that this person would like you to make? (Don’t just bake something to check off the box and say “Yes, I got this person a gift”).
One year my sister gave me a wicker basket full of my favorite treats and it was the BEST gift ever. I can still picture the gift in my mind. Not only did she take the time to carefully select my favorite treats and snacks, but she put them in a lovely basket and wrapped it carefully with a bow. If that isn’t love, what is?
Other homemade ideas include anything special that you can make. Do you sew, knit, stitch? Have a picture frame you can fill with a photo of family or a special memory? Do you like to make useful items like soaps and lotions? Think outside the box and come up with something special.
Consider a name draw.
One year we (brothers and sister and in-laws and parents) did this (when we were all adults). We set a maximum amount for the gift and every one put his or her name on a piece of paper and a short list of desired gift ideas. We put all our names into a hat and each person drew out one name. This worked really well and was lots of fun! There’s the added benefit of a surprise when the gifts are exchanged (like a Secret Santa) because you don’t know who drew your name. Shopping is also easier because you’re shopping for one person and you already have a set budget.
Give the gift of an experience.
I love this idea because I would rather get the gift to a show or other fun activity than some purchased item that I don’t want or need.
For adults: a massage, a spa night, movie tickets, tickets to a concert or favorite show.
For children: museum passes, tickets to a favorite show or indoor play place, a night out with their favorite Aunt or Uncle, a trip to a favorite place, ice cream passes to a special shop, season passes to the zoo or a favorite museum.
Give the gift of time.
Consider giving the gift of yourself and your time by volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Give the gift of your time or presence to some people who would really benefit during the holidays. This also would be a wonderful example and experience for your children.
Also, consider adopting a family during the holiday season and purchase specific gifts for each member. Many places (churches for example) have holiday trees with pieces of paper listing needed gifts for families in the area. Take your children shopping and have them help you select gifts. Talk about how the families will feel to receive gifts that they can’t afford to buy this year.
Another way that you can give the gift of yourself is by offering free services to someone. Some ideas: babysitting, fixing something, sewing, helping someone with a project, cleaning up. My mom has everything that she needs (and more) but she really appreciates me visiting and helping her with things around the house (balancing her checkbook for one).
Plan special outings or mini-vacations instead of gift giving.
Get together with your family and plan some special activities during the holidays that mean a lot to all of you. Maybe you enjoy the snow and would love to drive to the snow-covered mountains one weekend and spend it sledding. Maybe a drive around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights, followed by hot cocoa and a favorite Christmas movie at home would be so special.
Set a gift limit.
Another popular idea is to set a limit on a number of gifts per person. For example, some people choose to get 4 gifts for their kids, often along these lines: Want, Need, Wear, Read. Give each child something they want, something they need, an item of clothing to wear and something to read.
You may have to set a price limit on this if your child has a very expensive WANT list (i.e. car or other expensive items). You can save money on these items by buying second-hand books or magazines from a used bookstore or thrift shop, buying clothing on sale ahead of time or looking for bargains online or used clothing through eBay or Craigslist.
Sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in the gift giving craze, but these ideas can help you plan meaningful gifts for your family that won’t just be trinkets to toss later and that won’t break the bank.