12 Ways to Save on Gifts

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It is better to give than receive — unless it puts you in hock! Avoid debt and overspending by giving gifts wisely and economically.

overhead shot of cloth lined gift basket filled with spa items, snacks, and hard cider as well as a copy of home spa experience how-to printable.

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1. Bake something.

Bake someone happy with homemade breads, cookies, cakes, and pies. Homemade is always better than storebought. And the ingredients can often be less expensive that a fancy bakery. Package them nicely in a cloth lined basket or paper box. Deliver with a smile.

2. Give a gift card.

It is the thought that counts! A lower value gift card to a fun splurge like Starbucks or iTunes is often more welcome than an expensive doodah that will eventually end up in the donations pile. It doesn’t need to be high priced to be fun.

open chocolate box of money with liner

3. Package some cash.

Likewise, a creative cash present will bring a huge smile to the honored friend. When Aunt Cass sent us our “box of chocolates”, I was bowled over by her creativity. I haven’t even spent any of it ($43.15 to be exact) since it’s just too cute for words. It’s a little emergency fund, perfect for teens, college students, and, ahem, grown-ups.

4. Shop the clearance.

You will be amazed what great things you can find on clearance, especially if you start looking early. I have found great culinary gifts on clearance including a French press for $5! Keep an eye on the clearance section in your favorite stores for great deals.

chocolate butterhorns with rainbow sprinkles

5. Give an experience.

Sometimes time doing an activity together is worth more than any gift. Think picnic, a day at the beach, a trip to an amusement park, a movie night with popcorn and large boxes of candy. Consider your birthday person, graduate or other honoree to be the guest of honor and treat him or her like royalty.

6. Stock up on seasonal sales.

If you’re looking for token or hostess gifts, then keep your eyes open at back to school time, the holidays, Valentine’s Day and Easter. Candy, chocolates, candles, dishes, other small gift items, and school supplies often go on great sales at these times. Stock up on these items and save them to repackage as gifts.

Yes, you can even transform humble school supplies into gifts.

overhead shot of lavender soaps on a white tray.

7. Use Swagbucks.

Swagbucks is a search engine that rewards you with “Swagbucks” for searching online, participating in surveys or in other actions. You can redeem your Swagbucks for a number of prizes including Amazon and Starbucks gift cards. We have used the Amazon cards to offset gift giving costs at Christmas and birthdays.

Plus, Swagbucks will also award you points when you refer friends. For instance, if you signed up with this link, I would get some Swagbucks for sharing the love with you.

8. Pre-order new releases on Amazon.

Amazon offers a number of great services including Prime free shipping, a lending library, and free streaming movies. But, many folks don’t understand their pre-order policy. If you pre-order a new release (ie. before it hits the stores), you will be guaranteed the lowest price on that item between the time you pre-order and the release date.

Since Amazon prices fluctuate so frequently, this can save you a lot of money — as well as time spent checking the price.

9. Make a meal to deliver.

Who doesn’t like a home cooked meal? Everyone from busy moms to starving students to hungry bachelors will appreciate a home cooked meal. Take a few extra minutes to package it in a fancy manner and deliver with a smile.

For new parents or other busy folk, consider stashing several meals in their freezer so that they can enjoy your gift for several days into the future.

10. Order online to save money on gas and to use cash-back programs.

Shopping online has been a real blessing to me, especially in the days when all the kids had to be latched into carseats. Not only did it save me money to shop from home, but it also saved me from endless errands and dragging more poor kids into a myriad of stores when we couldn’t find what we were looking for.

I can also use cash-back services like Ebates to get cash back on my purchases when I initiate my shopping session through their portal. I can maximize my rewards by using Ebates’ tell-a-friend referral program. Whenever a friend signs up with my link, we both win.

Plus, it’s nice to shop in my pajamas.

11. Request free samples.

There are so many wonderful free samples available out there. One year, I planned ahead and saved up enough free granola bars to stuff the kids’ stockings at Christmas! And now that I think about it, some samples are very generous, making it easy for you to put together a fun gift basket — for FREE!

12. Give a memory.

A picture really is worth a thousand words. Some of the most meaningful gifts I’ve ever given have been of the photographic variety. Whether it takes the shape of a video slideshow, a photo album, or even just a framed picture, photo gifts are fun, meaningful, and typically quite frugal.

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  1. I wonder if these ideas hold up as well today as when this was first written. So many are now on the declutter bandwagon (including me) they just dont want more “stuff”. Outings, which I love giving, are now out of my retired price range. Baked goods, which is always a great idea meet with many on low carb/other healthy diets etc. My grown kids and several of my grands have more money than I do, so money doesnt work. Everybody gives them gift cards, which statistically get lost or never used. Photo books have been my go to for years (amateur photo buff here) and they each have several already. For years I sewed many gifts which I am too old and decrepit not for that time commitment! HA! HHmmmmm, I really feel at a loss this time around. I would love to hear of any other suggestions that I completely overlooked, short of no gift giving which just feels sad.

  2. If you have basic sewing skills, you can make a “hooter hider” for an expectant mama for about $5 or less (if you know that she is planning to breastfeed). That sort of became my signature gift at showers amongst our circle of friends at church. I usually pair it with a tube of Lansinoh cream and/or reusable nursing pads. The $5 definitely beats prices I’ve seen elsewhere online–$40 (regular price)!

    Another frugal gift for someone with basic sewing skills is a hooded towel (for the birthdays of small kiddos). If you watch the white sale prices, you can usually get a good-quality bath towel and a hand towel for about $10 or less. A hooded bath towel only takes half of a hand towel, too, so you could use the other half for another towel. I usually jazz these up with an applique of some sort, so my total cost comes to probably $12-14. But preschoolers and toddlers who’ve outgrown baby towels love these! And I always pair it with a bath toy or bottle of bubble bath, both found inexpensively at dollar stores!

    These probably aren’t the cheapest ideas out there, but they’re still a pretty good bang for the buck!:)

  3. I just sent my daughter to a friend’s Harry Potter birthday party. I sent her with homemade gifts that she helped to make. She made a headband with flowers in Griffindor colors. I made her some candy to take with her. I printed some Harry Potter-ish bookmarks(printable coming soon on my site) and some labels from some Diagon Alley stores that I made for her in Photoshop that she used to label her packages. She had lots of fun making and wrapping the gifts, and she truly enjoyed the giving part of giving a gift.

  4. Happy Friday! I linked up directions on how to make an iced latte at home without an espresso maker. Making my own saves at least $5 every time I make one instead of making a trip to a coffee house.

    Thank you for hosting this money-saving link up!

  5. I love the ideas! Another idea is to give an old fashioned cookie jar filled with cookies, with coupons for additional cookies during the year.
    That being said, we all need to be sensitive to the fact that many, many people are on special diets these days. The giver should make absolute sure that the recipient is not trying to lose weight, is a diabetic, has celiac, etc.

  6. We often make meals for families of newborns, especially if this is their 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc child, when they probably don’t need a whole lot of baby items. I loved when people did that for me!

  7. We usually go the gift card route as well. I used to think gift cards were a cop-out (“I don’t know this person well enough to know what they really want so I’ll just get the gift card”). But honestly, I love getting gift cards, so that’s the route I usually go! We hit up craigslist for discounted gift cards.
    Thanks for the all the great suggestions!

  8. Great ideas! I’ll often look for containers after the holidays to use for future gifts. For example – a glass jar with a red lid 75% off after Christmas would make a great base for a gift of chocolate or cookies at Valentine’s Day.
    This week I’ve shared how we save money over the weekend by being prepared!

  9. I do #2, give gift cards, but I buy them at a discount. (Giftcardrescue.com is one source for discounted giftcards.) This allows me to give more for less. I also buy discounted giftcards for my own use when I know that I will need to buy clothes and such. Then I wait for sales to maximize my savings.

  10. I always find great gifts at yard sales – most of the time they’re brand new with tags! 🙂 But, I’m a yard sale junkie.
    Thanks for hosting! I’ve linked up a video this week – showing our newly purchased home….we paid CASH. 🙂

  11. I think the best (most appreciated) gift that we ever gave our oldest nephew was totally free. We were racking our brains about what we could give him for his 17th birthday, when we hit upon the idea of driving lessons. He already knew how to drive (and is a HUGE car buff), but he didn’t know how to drive a stick. We just happen to be the only people in the family who own a 5-speed, and my husband LOVES to drive. It was the perfect gift. I simply wrote in a card that our gift to him was 5 driving lessons and he was THRILLED. Not only did he learn a skill that he wanted to have, but it made for some great bonding time between my husband (his uncle-by-marriage) and my nephew. Priceless.