The Low Budget Guide to Gift Giving

By Hannah Wisterman
Blog Content Contributor

‘Tis the season for white elephants, secret Santas, and gift exchanges with aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews—the whole gang. Everyone gets excited at the idea of presents, but what do you do when you’ve got a heart full of love and a wallet full of next to nothing? With the holidays upon us, you could scour the web and the mall for the sweetest deal, or you could think a little outside the box. Below are some of our tried and true budget-friendly gift ideas, fit for any of your friends or family.

 

The Gift of Music

We all have the one friend who is always tweeting song lyrics and putting #aesthetic videos on their Snapchat story of some ambient visuals with their song of the day. What better gift for that friend than more music? I’ve been doing it for years now: I take a couple hours and pick out some songs that I think a particular friend will enjoy. Maybe a friend of yours wants to break into a new genre, or needs some happy tunes to start their day, or maybe you just really think they need an anthology of every metal song beginning with the letter R from 1990-2005. There’s no shortage of playlists to make. And to turn it into a gift, all you have to do is slip it on a USB drive or burn it to a CD. You can even decorate it for some personal charm. Especially if it’s a playlist of songs that make you think of that person, this is an ultra-personal and thoughtful gift.

cake
What better way to say you care than with a cake? Photo by Hannah Wisterman.

Baked Goods

This one’s slightly more of a challenge. Not everyone is cooking-inclined, and if your gift recipient of choice isn’t a fan of sweets, forget it. But I find that baked sweets come in handy especially if you’re going to a party where you can’t get everyone a personal gift. Let’s say you’re doing a secret Santa exchange, but you love all your friends, not just the person you got a gift for—whip something up before the party to bring for everybody. Cookies in particular are a good pick, because you can put them in gift bags and personalize them. You can always drop by the grocery store and pick up some pre-made dough, or you can take it a step up and try a homemade recipe like this one. Best news: baking is super cost-efficient. (If you’re completely devoid of kitchen skills, store-bought treats will be just as welcome.)

“Treat Yourself” Gifts

heb bath bombs
HEB’s bath bombs come in scents like lavender chamomile, frankincense and myrrh, and grapefruit. Photo by Hannah Wisterman.

There’s a special joy in taking care of your friends when they need it—but sometimes “when they need it” is exactly when we can’t be there. In that case, it’s a good idea to arm them with the tools they need in order to do what you wish you could. You can get Starbucks gift cards with five or 10 bucks on them—enough to treat your friend to a hot chocolate or two. HEB sells bath bombs (admittedly half the size of Lush’s) for a couple bucks each, and you can buy a bag of six for $10 at Target. Think of stuff that your gift recipient does to unwind, and then meet that need! Whether it’s fluffy socks or a face mask or a slice of pizza, you’ll find that often, little treats are less expensive than you think.

Sentimental Stuff

Here’s a hack: Hobby Lobby’s picture frames are almost always significantly discounted. Pair one of those with a printed photo of you and your pal (and printing glossy photos is super cheap in itself) and you’ve got yourself a sweet little gesture of friendship. You could pick up a mason jar/gift bag/jewelry box/whatever and fill it with encouragements and compliments so your friend has a grab bag of emotional pick-me-ups. There’s tons of DIY gifts on Pinterest that are especially for sentimental value if you’re the artsy-craftsy type. If all else fails, go on a Goodwill hunt for a ridiculous gag gift; in my experience, friends love a good laugh as much as they love a twenty-buck gift.

You absolutely don’t need to spend a lot of money to get someone a present they’ll really love. I hate to be cliché and say that it’s the thought that counts, but it really is, in a way. Showing someone that you thought about them and made the effort to make them happy always warms the heart. But hopefully with a little help from us, you can make more of an inspired effort and nail just what your loved one needed.

Featured image by Hannah Wisterman.

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