Homemade and Frugal Christmas Ideas

Homemade and Frugal Christmas Ideas

presents under the christmas tree

Written by Kate Tietje, Contributing Writer

Christmas is coming…soon! It’s a huge, commercial, and expensive holiday. Many families spend well over $1000, and some far more than that, on Christmas presents and paraphernalia every year. For families who are trying to be frugal or have to stick to a budget, it can be hard to provide a wonderful, stuff-filled Christmas for not too much money.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have so much stuff. Christmas would be primarily or entirely about celebrating Jesus’ birth and enjoying time with our families. And for many families I think this is true!

However, presents are one of the ways we show appreciation for those we love, so selecting (and paying for) gifts is something that we all have to think about to some extent!

In our home, we strive to live debt-free, so it’s important for us to select gifts that we can afford to pay for. It saves us from having to get rid of credit card debt after the holidays are over. Last year, we accomplished this by doing a totally homemade Christmas! It was really neat and we made a lot of awesome presents for our family members, including a set of homemade wooden blocks for my nephew!

Rebekah Christmas 08
The picture above is my daughter, Rebekah, at Christmas '08. She was 11 months here.

Homemade Christmas gifts are excellent, and they really show that “it’s the thought that counts”.

Here are some ideas for homemade Christmas gifts:

  • Homemade lotions, soaps, lip balms, bath salts, or other bath products
  • Blankets (knit, crochet, or simply sewn), scarves, pot holders
  • Candles
  • Rice- or flax-filled heating pads (various sizes and shapes!)
  • Clothes or diapers (home-sewn)
  • Wooden Blocks, or other wooden toys
  • Cloth around the house (kitchen towels, wipes, “unpaper” towels, handkerchiefs, “Swiffer” reusable pads, etc.)
  • Decorated t-shirts (painted, iron-on, etc. – look for environmentally friendly decorations!)
  • A baked good (fudge, pumpkin bread, or cookies)
  • Coupons for help – babysitting, dinner, other chores or errands
  • Doll clothes or accessories (for little girls)
  • Homemade jewelry
  • Handmade cards, scrapbooks, poetry, or an essay (on why you love them so much)
  • Anything else you love to create!

Making homemade gifts for everyone does take time and equipment. It can be hard to figure out what to make each person, source what you need, and find the time to create it. So, you may want to limit homemade gifts to people you are closest to. Or, you may want to try some of the easier gifts, like coupons for help or baking something. Everyone appreciates those, it will be obvious how much you care, but you’ll find that your holiday check-list isn’t ridiculous.

homemade beewswax candles

Image by psyberartist

Frugal Gift-Giving Ideas

Supposing, though, that you’re someone who just loves to give gifts, and/or just doesn’t have the time to make all those gifts (maybe, like me, you have little kids and lots of other projects…but that doesn’t describe anyone here, right? 🙂 ). So, it may be most feasible for you to purchase some gifts. How can you do this and still be under budget?

There are lots of ways!

Don’t be afraid to check thrift stores for gifts, especially for children! My children do not need new toys or clothes; lightly used are just fine! You can often find excellent deals at children’s resale shops, Craig’s list, Ebay, garage sales, or other resale places.

Perhaps you have a crafty friend (or two) who would be willing to make gifts for you, or help you make some. Etsy is also a fabulous option (very small plug for my friend – she runs the Malot’s Hope Etsy shop, and all the proceeds are going to their adoption journey. But there are tons of excellent Etsy shops).

Everything on Etsy is handmade by the shop owner, and each shop owner focuses on different things. Some do purses, clothes, reusable cloth, diapers, perfumes, body soaps and lotions, jewelry, wood working, and just about everything else you can think of. Some shops are much more affordable than others; each shop owner sets their own prices. You will be getting top quality, handmade stuff and the artisans really earn what they charge. There is a wide range of prices available, though.

wooden elephant on green

This adorable wooden elephant is from this Etsy shop!

Try a “swap” event. Gather together many of your friends and swap items. It could be used toys that your children no longer play with, or clothing that no longer fits. You could swap electronics if you want (don’t like that Xbox360 and want a playstation?). If you’re all crafty, you could even get together and swap a bunch of small items that you’ve each made, so that everyone goes home with a bunch of gifts for others! i.e. someone makes and bring soaps, someone makes scarves, someone makes jewelry, etc. Wouldn’t that be neat? Like a cookie swap, but with crafts!

You could also choose to re-gift items in your home that are unused or lightly used that you think would bless someone else. I hesitate to do this personally, but I know a lot of others enjoy it. If it’s something you don’t want, and know that someone else would enjoy (please don’t give them junk!), it may bless everyone to pass it along.

Keep the gifts small. You don’t need to have a big pile for every person, and you don’t need to buy something expensive. One Christmas we gave my father a new router (expensive). Another Christmas, a jar of homemade skin cream (frugal). He loved both and asked for more of the cream. It really is the thought that counts!

You could also buy a small scrapbook, a cookbook, or another type of book that your recipient would love (and on that note, I just want to remind you that my new book, Real Food Basics, makes an excellent gift for those new to real food!). A small basket of soaps or candles with a loving note could go a lot further than any extravagant purchase.

If all else fails, decide on no presents. Bring “I love you” cards or something you’ve baked if you want to do something. Decide to have a day or a weekend of exclusive family time – no phones, computers, TVs, or any media. Just spend your time with the ones you love! Enjoy your Christmas.

How do you plan a meaningful, frugal Christmas?

Top image by alancleaver

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  1. Hello, I have been blessed by reading some of your blog posts before. Great ideas in this post! I thought you may be interested in a Christmas guidebook that I am offering for just .99 cents:


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  2. We are definitely having to plan ahead to stay in budget! I’m the only one on both sides of our family who enjoys making everything, so its hard encouraging everyone else to keep it simple. Both my husband’s and my family are big gift givers…its their love language and they love to speak!

    We’re trying to focus on activities as well…caroling, playing games, making a big dinner, going for a walk together…things like that 🙂

  3. Hi Kate,

    Great post! Does your church participate in The Advent Conspiracy? My husband and I learned about this organization a few years ago and it has dramatically changed the way we think about Christmas. It has encouraged us to focus more on giving to those in need and to take more care in choosing simple, meaningful gifts for our family. Resources and info at http://www.adventconspiracy.org/.

    Also, we’ve had luck finding inexpensive gifts through online, fair-trade stores that bless and support artists and craftsmen in other countries – http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/ is a great place to start!

    Thank you again!

  4. what wonderful ideas! we are struggling with what to give our families this year, and these suggestions are quite helpful. one idea that we are tossing around is making calendars, prefilled with important dates like birthdays and anniversaries, and with a different picture of our daughter for each month’s picture. it’s practical, pretty and inexpensive all at the same time!

  5. Like someone already posted, definitely planning ahead helps me. Also, I’m thinking about gift baskets(maybe a tex-mex theme?) for families instead of individual gifts this year. Our salary has been cut in half from where we were last year because of a career change so we are definitely going to need to get creative! Thanks for the great ideas- very timely and great to think about!

  6. I love homemade gifts! In previous years, I have made various homemade jams (kiwi, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, peach, etc.) and also homemade fruit syrup. Those gifts always seem to go over well!

    A few years ago I made homemade mosaic trivets out of broken up tiles and decorative glass. Several people leave them out all season long as a decoration. (Always make me smile when I see a gift being used and loved.)

    This year I think I am going to use the last idea of homemade infused honey. What a great idea! I have been working on sourdough, and if I can successfully make the sourdough I think I will do a little gift basket with infused honey, sourdough rolls and recipe suggestions for the infused honey. I am so excited about this one!

  7. I always do as much hand-made gifts at Christmas as possible. Unfortunately things like bicycles can’t be made by me 🙂

  8. Does anyone have any ideas for homemade gifts for teenage boys?

    I making my family homemade gifts this year and my sisters are easy (purses, lotions, candles), but my brother is 15 and he wouldn’t like any of that. He plays football, the trumpet, and is on the crew team at school. Any suggestions?

  9. WONDERFUL!!! We’ve done ‘homemade/handmade’ CHRISTmases for the last few years. Unfortunately, we do have some extended family the have the ‘if it isn’t store-bought or expensive it’s not good’ mentality. But I can’t help that. I enjoy making this specifically for someone…I think about them & pray for them while I’m working on their gift.

    Blessings from Ohio…Kim<

  10. Hi guys, I make my own christmas tree ornaments from salt dough, which I in turn decoupage. I now sell them online, but they are also great gifts!
    Recipe as follows:
    2 cups flour
    1 cup salt
    1 cup water
    1 Tbsp wallpaper glue (in powder form. Makes them harder)
    1 Tbsp vegetable oil (or other, if you have it)

    Roll out dough and cut heart shapes with cookie cutter. Cook them until they go hard on 190 F on a baking sheet. When they cool down, get some cute napkins and decoupage the hearts!

  11. Great gift ideas for Christmas. This is the first time I’ve read about herbal pillows. Looks interesting
    Anyway, I’m planning on semi-DIYing my Christmas gifts

  12. Nice to have a doll that doesn’t look scary! Both my girls have one each as their ‘baby’ and they are definitely a special toy.

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