I have a love-hate relationship with giving gifts. Don’t you? I mean, on the one hand, it’s so much fun to shop for gifts when you can afford to get just the right thing. On the other hand, it’s no fun when you feel like you can’t afford anything nice.
Even when I’m careful about budgeting for holiday shopping and birthday presents, there are always events that take me by surprise, especially in the summer. From graduations to weddings to baby showers, sometimes coming up with beautiful gifts that fit your budget feels impossible!
Maybe you’re one of those thrifty shoppers who gets excited about finding deals. Or perhaps you’re a clever do-it-yourselfer who takes pride in her Pinterest-inspired presents. But chances are you’re like most of us, and you panic at the last minute and spend more money than you intended.
Regardless of where you fall, I thought it might be fun to share some clever and useful ideas for gift giving that will help you stay within your budget.
CREATE A CANVAS
Creating a canvas is personal, fun, and around $5! A quick Google search for “create your own canvas” will bring up several sites that allow you to upload an image or graphic which will be printed onto canvas.
You can take someone’s favorite Instagram photo from the last year, or make your own design using a favorite quote or someone’s name to personalize the canvas. This makes such an excellent gift because it looks like you put thought and effort into creating a piece of art, especially for the recipient. Win!
MASON JAR GOODIES
Mason jars are great for storing just about everything! Plus, they look cute on shelves and window sills. They can be painted, dipped in glitter glue, wrapped in fabric or ribbon. You have endless possibilities for personalizing them!
One of the biggest perks to Mason jar gifts is you can buy them by the case, so multiple gifts have a starting price of .75 cents, plus whatever you fill them with! They come in several sizes, from 4 oz. to 32 oz., accommodating just about anything you can think of!
- Herb-infused oils for cooking
- Seasonings or flavored salts
- Whipped butters – cinnamon, honey, strawberry, garlic
- Candy (homemade or bought)
- “Coupon” jar with notes that promise backrubs, babysitting, bathroom cleaning, book reading – basically any free service you want to offer!
- Baby items like cotton swaps, tubes of lotion, brush & comb, nasal aspirator
- Cookie mixes, complete with a wooden spoon or small spatula ribbon-tied to the side of the jar
- Bath beads or bombs
- Flowerpot or tiny herb garden, complete with dirt and seeds
- Vessels for DIY candles
The list could go on and on! Be creative with your contents. Give one jar or a set of jars. These work great when you need multiple similar gifts. Plus, with a ribbon around the neck, they’re cute enough you don’t need to wrap them!
SIMPLE WOODEN TRAY
Who doesn’t have a use for a nice tray? Most craft stores like Michael's or Hobby Lobby have unfinished wooden trays pretty cheap. From there, you can paint or stain the tray, line the bottom with a piece of decorative scrapbook paper, then seal the whole thing with a clear coat.
And just like that, you have another great personalized gift that Dad can put his snack bowl on, or a college-bound first-year student can use on the end of her bed.
TRAVEL TOILETRY BAGS
While these can range from high end to low end in price, if you do a little shopping around you can find a variety of great storage bags. I happen to love travel organizers – especially the kind with clear zippered sections that easily hang in the shower or on the back of the bathroom door. Toiletry bags are useful for men and women of all ages and don’t have to cost much money.
I love giving and getting a nice combination of something to write on and something to write with!
- Notecards with a pretty pen
- Adult coloring book with colored pencils
- Sketch pad with charcoal pencils
- Journal with multi-colored markers
- Puzzle books with a mechanical pencil.
What I also love about this gift is that you have tons of options and can even get these at your local “dollar store.” You can buy a complete, cute gift for as little as $5!
HOMEMADE BAKED GOODS
You cannot go wrong with the gift of yumminess! Homemade bread, brownies, cookies, a bag of spicy Chex Mix or sweet “puppy chow” fudge, Rice Krispies treats…the list goes on and on and ON!
Deliver your goodies bow-tied in a clear plastic bag or gift-wrapped in a simple box, and you have a present that will make everyone on your list happy!
A LAP DESK
The ultimate in useful gifts! Whether your gift-recipient is heading off to college, or does Sudoku puzzles from the recliner, or just loves to eat cereal in bed, these gems are practical, cute, and fun! Amazon has a great one that comes in multiple colors for under $10!
Around here, rain gear is essential summer equipment! Look for unique shapes and patterns to make these extra-fun, especially as a gift for kids! Think cute travel umbrella ($5) or spunky rain boots ($15) and throw in a clear “Cloak of Invisibility” emergency rain poncho for $1.
Such an awesome summer hostess gift! A simple pitcher, filled with lemons, a plastic bag of sugar, and a wooden spoon tied to the handle, all for about $7. The key is picking up your pitcher at a local thrift store or dollar store. You will pay three times as much at a bigger store.
A MIX CD
Yes, these are still a “thing”! They can be a romantic gift for a significant other filled with songs that express how you feel. Or, they can be a fun gift to share “old music” with your kids or “new music” with your parents. Regardless, this is a very personal gift that costs virtually nothing!
You can find fun summer tumblers, complete with lids and straws, for as little as $2.50! Throw in some flavored water packets or pouches of drink mixes, and you have another great teacher or hostess gift!
BATH & BODY BASKETS
Places like Big Lots, Dollar General, and the $1 stores are great for these items! A small basket can be filled with lotion, body butter, shampoo, conditioner, etc. And often the “off-brand” items look like boutique brands.
A GREAT BOOK
Never underestimate the power of sharing something to read. Go for hardback books whenever possible, and take advantage of your city’s used book stores. Once you find the perfect book, take a few minutes to write a note inside the front cover sharing your love for the book or your love for the person to whom you are giving the book.
These are just a few great summer ideas for cheap gift-giving that make you look clever, creative, and thoughtful!
Remember: the keys to cheap gift-giving are:
- Don’t be tempted to buy big gifts. It really IS the thoughtfulness that counts. A small, specific gift will always be appreciated and cherished.
- Buy in bulk (things like Mason jars, cute pens & pencils, baking items, etc.). This means you get multiple gifts for less money!
- Shop at thrift stores and dollar stores whenever possible.
- Google or Pinterest your gift choice for ideas on ways to personalize it.
- Complete your gift with cute wrapping. Taking the time to make an extra-large bow, or put the gift-getters name on the wrapping paper in giant stickers, or blowing up a balloon to tie on it are all inexpensive ways to make it feel “extra.”
- Writing a personal note is a cost-free touch that makes every gift personal and special.
You don’t have to break the bank to get somebody a gift they will love or cherish. A perfect gift comes from the heart and is a thoughtful one. Fortunately, you can add creativity, cleverness, humor, and style to make your gift one of a kind – on a budget.
- Resources: Sign up for Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, Ebates/Rakuten, and Mr. Rebates now to start earning cash back when you shop for Christmas. If you shop online, sign up ASAP for Ebates/Rakuten.