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Holiday Gift Giving - the Frugal Way

Living a frugal lifestyle does not hinder you from giving great gifts to your friends and family. Just roll up your sleeves, do the math, and flex your creativity muscle! Read on for my family’s process when it comes to holiday gift giving.

Make a spending plan. Aka, a budget (but I don’t like calling it a budget because it sounds limiting)! A spending plan is the first step to any frugal endeavor. Ideally, the spending plan you set should be based on the money you have saved throughout the year. At the beginning of the year, my family comes up with an amount for our holiday gift giving. That way, we have almost a full year to save up. If you do not have money saved up this year for holiday gift giving, don’t panic! Create a spending plan now and do not spend over your set limit (now’s also a great time to create a holiday spending plan for next year).

Tip: I recommend saving 5 to 10 percent of your spending amount for ‘forgotten gifts’ because there is always someone you have forgotten to make a gift basket for, even if you made a list and checked it twice! This way, you never overspend, either.

Pick a theme. Every year, my family gives our friends gift baskets based on a theme we have chosen and then tweak based on individual or family dynamics. We choose a theme that provides the gift of experience, the gift of creating fun memories together. With gifts of experience, it’s the thought that counts!

Last year, we gave our friends gift baskets that contained cute mugs, hot chocolate mix, popcorn, and chocolate. We designed and included a homemade card (using, explaining that our family loves creating memories with movie nights, complete with hot chocolate and popcorn, and would love for their family to create memories with movie nights and snacks, too!

For our friends with kids, we gifted the kids homemade STEAM kits (Science, Technology, Art, and Math), and they loved them! Our friends told us their kids got more excitement and entertainment out of the kits than the expensive store-bought toys from Santa. STEAM kit ideas include, but are not limited to, a slime-making kit, crystal Christmas ornament making kit, build your own snowman kit, etc.

Tip: If you choose to make DIY STEAM kits, make two or three extras for (you guessed it!) the kids you have forgotten on your list - worst-case scenario, your kids can play with the extra STEAM kits after Christmas. 

This year, my family will be gifting homemade charcuterie boards (and, of course, STEAM kits for the kids). If you would like to gift a basket with a charcuterie board theme, foods should include cured meats, cheese, crackers, fruits, pickles, honey, jam, etc. A nice-to-have item could include a bottle of wine or a bottle of sparkling apple juice for the family to ring in the New Year with.

Flex that creativity muscle with math. Once your family has chosen a theme, list the materials you will need for each gift basket. Start with necessary items and end with ‘nice-to-have’ items. Now get creative and do the math to figure out how all the necessary items will fit into your spending plan with room for nice-to-have items, too.

Tip: For non-consumable nice-to-have items, check out thrift/goodwill stores, Kijiji, and Facebook Marketplace. I’ve been having fun tracking down vintage charcuterie boards selling for less than $5 each! Yes, I’m one of those people who starts their holiday shopping in September!

It’s all about presentation. Making elaborate gift wrapping and gift baskets gives me joy, so I take my time creating an ‘expensive’ presentation for the gifts my family gives others. I believe that the gift-receiver can feel the time and love you’ve put into their gift when they open it. At home, I always have ribbons, baskets, and gift-wrapping accessories on-hand, which I’ve collected over the years. If you don’t, include this expense in your spending plan. And for each gift my family gives, we include a card that explains our thought process on why we gave the gift and how it can help them create memories to enjoy for a lifetime.

Tip: You can score gift-wrapping items for free from Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace.

The last and most important step is to make sure you enjoy the process! Make memories with your family while creating the gifts for your friends and family. My family makes a weekend out of decorating our home for the holidays and wrapping the gift baskets. Enjoy!

Find more tips for frugal living on Klynne’s blog,

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