Giving Gifts Doesn't Have to Break the Bank

For many of us, the holidays are a tough time of year. Whether it’s seasonal depression, spending more or less time with family members, or an uptick in social events to attend, there are a lot of challenges during this “most wonderful time of the year.” One of the biggest strains is the one on our wallets.

Stress and Buying Christmas Gifts

Between all the travel, potlucks, and gift-giving, it’s extremely difficult to keep up with the financial requirements of having a happy holiday, and for those of us who can barely afford a peppermint hot chocolate, anxiety and depression might creep in when we start to wonder how in the world, we’re going to buy gifts for everyone we love.

Finances in general can have a huge impact on our mental health, so if the thought of buying Christmas gifts is tying your stomach up in knots, you’re not alone! And we all cope in different ways. Some people can’t stand the idea of not being able to give gifts, so they go into credit card debt, believing that Christmas cheer has to cost money. Others pick up extra shifts at work or even take on a seasonal job in hopes of affording their gift-giving plans. It’s okay that this season is so important to us, but you don’t necessarily have to make imprudent financial decisions or work your tail off in order to participate in the fun. There are plenty of ways you show your loved ones you appreciate them without causing too much stress on your wallet.

Quality vs. Quantity

The entire point of giving Christmas presents is to express love, gratitude, and appreciation to your loved ones for being in your life! Right? So, if you’re stressing out about how many gifts you’ve gotten for someone or how inexpensive the gifts are, you may be losing sight of the spirit behind this tradition. This can be especially hard in family or friend groups that have an established tendency toward being extravagant. Maybe your BFF’s parents helped her buy amazing $50 phone cases for everyone in your friend group last year, and you can’t possibly afford something like that. Or perhaps you grew up with a mom who stuffed so many gifts under the tree that they spilled out into the rest of the house, but you’ll be lucky if you can afford one gift per person on your list. Take a deep breath and focus again on the reason you want to give gifts. You don’t have to compete with anyone else’s gifting habits. You just want to find ways to put a smile on the faces of your favorite people, and that can be done without going overboard.

Budget-Friendly Gift Ideas

When it comes to gift-giving, it’s the thought that counts. That may sound like a cliché, but it’s actually science. So the price doesn’t really matter! For low-cost items, try shopping at a dollar store or thrift store and look for small trinkets or items that come in packs. You could give everyone in your life a $1-5 knick-knack that made you think of them, or you could purchase a $6 package of candles and give them out individually to 6 different friends! There are plenty of ways to get creative and make your friends and family feel blessed.

Gift Ideas Under $10

  • Cards. You can buy a package of holiday-themed cards at the store, or you could pick up some nice paper and make them yourself. You’ll spend just a few dollars on the materials and end up with a personalized and thoughtful gift for each recipient at a fraction of that price.
  • Coffee Date. Invite your sister on a “Christmas Coffee Date.” The price of the gift will be the price of her latte, and the date will be some quality time for the two of you to bond. 
  • Homemade “Coupons.” Think of inexpensive activities or chores you can do around the house and write them out on pieces of paper. Gift the coupons to friends and family, and tell them they can “cash” the coupons in whenever they like. This may cost you a few dollars if you give them a coupon for an ice cream cone, but it could be free if you choose!
  • Crafts. The internet is full of DIY gift ideas. From making body scrubs and bath salts, to knitting potholders and painting picture frames, you could end up with amazing gifts for the price of a few materials from the store.
  • Hot chocolate jars. Get some jars or other unused containers you have laying around your house, but make sure they have lids. Pick up all the ingredients for a great cup of hot chocolate at the store, and put those in the jars. Give out these jars to friends and family with little tags that say, “Just add milk.”
  • Photos. Very few of us print our photos anymore, but you’d be surprised how inexpensive it can be. Go through your Instagram and phone for great shots of your loved ones, then send them off to be developed and printed at the nearest CVS or Walgreens. This will only cost you a few cents per picture, and people will LOVE receiving them.

FREE Gift Ideas

There are even ways to celebrate Christmas without spending any money at all. Consider choosing gifts that have no monetary value while still bringing plenty of joy to whoever receives them.

  • The gift of your time. Tell your pal that their gift is a movie night or a photoshoot. You have access to free movies via whatever streaming services you already use, and you can use your phone as a camera. The real cost to you here will just be whatever time you spend watching a movie or playing photographer for your friend. Make it fun! This will be way more memorable than an expensive gadget wrapped in fancy paper.
  • Gift something you already have. There used to be a weird stigma about “regifting” something you already own, but passing something special down to a friend or sibling can actually be a very sweet gesture. Do you have a sweater that your mom always compliments? Think about giving her that sweater. It will make her think of you every time she wears it. 
  • Community events. Local organizations like churches, nonprofits, and townships often put on festivals, light shows, or concerts that are absolutely free to attend. Invite someone to go with you to one of these! It’ll be a fun afternoon or evening and won’t cost a thing.
  • Volunteering. If you have access to the internet required to read this article, it’s likely that you’re in a much better place financially than someone else this holiday season. You can save the money you would have spent on expensive presents and give something far more valuable to those in need by inviting friends or family to volunteer with you at a hospital,  shelter, or food bank. Often volunteering at this time of year is great fun, full of music and laughter, so you could end up with incredible memories and know that you’re making a difference.

The Most Important Gift

Hopefully you’re feeling less pressured to spend money you don’t have on gifts and remembering that the ultimate goal is to convey your love for others in some way. If you’re still struggling to connect with that part of Christmas, it helps us at TheHopeLine to focus on the gift of Christ’s birth. There was nothing fancy or expensive about Jesus’ first night on Earth. He was born in a stable and laid in a manger! Surrounded by animals and working-class shepherds, Mary and Joseph welcomed their son into the world, and we got a story that we’d celebrate for thousands of years to come. If a manger was good enough for the King of Kings, a humble present given from your heart will be good enough for your loved ones. So rest easy, don’t be so hard on yourself, and reach out to TheHopeLine if the stress of the holidays is still creating anxiety for you.

We love being with family, giving and receiving gifts, but the real meaning of Christmas goes deeper. So, what is the real meaning of Christmas? Find out here

-Cara Beth

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