Money Saving 301
December 14, 2023

Cheap Gift Ideas Under $20

As Christmas draws near, there’s no need to fear.
Check `n Go’s cheap Christmas idea list is here!
To get started you’ll budget, and fidget, and smudge it,
Before you know it you’ll have checked every digit.
Then it’s off to shop, and create, and such.
These gifts under $20 that they’ll love so much!

When you’re living on a tight budget, the holidays can be hard. You don’t love your friends and family any less, yet you can’t spoil them with the gifts you’d like to give. You may love to host, but you can’t afford all the groceries to cook for others.

No matter our financial situation, we all need to remember this time of year that spending doesn’t equal love.

It helps to make a holiday gift budget to get started with your gift-giving. List the people you want to give gifts to in order of their importance in your life. Then look at how much you can afford to spend on the holidays this year, and what part of that can go to gifts. Take the amount you can afford to spend, figure out how much of it to spend on each person on your gifting list, and you’re ready to roll. If you can’t spend money on some people this year, talk with them about it.

However you decide to handle the holidays, one thing is certain – you want to avoid racking up holiday debt, especially with the temptations of Black Friday.

This list of ideas and things to get for Christmas can help you show all the love without losing sight of your financial goals. Also, check out 10 Ways to Save on Gift Giving. Happy shopping, making, and giving!

Handmade Holiday Gifts

Handmade holiday gifts are such a treat to receive. Yet many of us only think of them as a last resort – or avoid them altogether thinking they make the giver look cheap.

Nothing could be further from the truth. A handmade gift shows the recipient you care because you used your most valuable asset – your time – to make something unique just for them. Handmade gifts are a great, inexpensive way to celebrate the holidays.

Now, it’s true that some handmade gifts may be better received than others. Your 15-year-old niece might not want a tea cozy. Your highly allergic mother-in-law might not want that handmade eucalyptus soap you love so much. Cookies for your gluten-free bestie? Not so much, unless they’re gluten-free. A profane tea towel you think is hilarious… for your very traditional grandma? Bad idea.

The secret to great handmade gift-giving is to make something the person will love rather than making something just because you love it. When you’re attentive to your recipient, you’re bound to make gift-giving magic.

Try these handmade holiday gift ideas for inspiration.

  • Personalized artwork. Have your kids make drawings for each family member – or of each family member – and frame them for the recipients. If you can paint or draw, make a picture for a friend, perhaps of a memory you share. Consider digitally enhancing a meaningful photo and framing it. You don’t need fine art skills to make something personal and beautiful.
  • Handmade cards or crafts. Try out a pottery painting shop to make a gift, or buy the supplies and let your kids make gifts. If you have beautiful handwriting, make your own cards with a decorative stamp, ink, and a genuine message. If you know how to make a pretty wreath, do that. It’s all about making something meaningful and appropriate for the recipient.
  • Baked goods. Are there fabulous family cookie recipes everyone loves? Are you an exceptional, passionate baker? Is there a unique local baked good unavailable to family living elsewhere? There’s gifting opportunity there!  Whether you make cookies, cake pops, or pies or buy something special, if the recipient loves it, it’s a golden – or golden-brown – gift.
  • Knitting or crochet. It can be tricky to fit a knitted gift to a recipient, but if they’ve been dying for a new scarf in their school colors, that’s a great opportunity. If someone wants a unique item or color, knitting it yourself might be perfect. If you make beautiful knitted sweaters or baby blankets, you might be in high demand come the holiday season! Just be conscious of the cost of materials, which can be high for quality products. If you’re going to put in all your time you’ll want it to last.
  • Sewing and quilting. What can’t you make as a sewist? From a glow-in-the-dark quilt to match your nephew’s bedroom to a table runner or placemats, you can use this skill to create gifts the recipients are sure to love. Free tutorials are everywhere. Be strategic to ensure a well-received gift: look and listen for your family’s needs and wants and use your sewing skills to meet them. Be sure gifts are consistent with the recipient’s style.
  • Candles & soaps. Special handmade candles, soaps, and lotions are very popular these days. Just keep in mind that not everyone enjoys strong scents, and not everyone likes the same ones. If a friend loves candles, you know you have a match. If your mom uses essential oils, you’re in. But if your brother has allergies and hates perfume of any kind, it’s probably better to gift him something else!
  • Woodworking. If you have this super skill, run with it! Handmade bowls, bird feeders, and cutting boards are extremely popular nowadays, especially when personalized. A monogrammed cutting board for your newlywed friends? That’s a touchdown gift. Think about the recipient’s home and style to identify what they might like.
  • Carpentry. If you know how to build things, you’ve got the gift-giving love potion. Look and listen for needs and use your superpower to create something perfect. Use reclaimed lumber to make a bike rack for your cycling-obsessed dad. Make a tiny picnic table for your nieces and nephews and monogram it with a stencil and wood burner.

Regardless of your craft/skill of choice, look online for an endless supply of ideas and inspiration. Pinterest is the motherlode. From crafting, sewing, and knitting tutorials to woodworking and carpentry plans, the possibilities are endless for beautiful, inexpensive handmade gifts. Just be sure to carefully watch your costs for materials, which can add up if you don’t plan carefully.

Photo Gifts

Photo gifts are fantastic cheap Christmas gifts.  They’re a great way to remember good times, bring faraway friends and family closer, or share moments others may have missed. Sites like Shutterfly, Snapfish, Vistaprint, Zazzle, and others allow you to make almost anything with your photo on it – calendars, pillows, mugs, clothing, and more.

If your recipient loves a nostalgic moment and you’re the crafty type, you could make an old-fashioned scrapbook. These are especially great for memories of shared trips and experiences with little odds and ends from your trip thrown in for decoration, like different currencies, maps, or tickets.

If you have experience creating and editing videos, or you want to learn, think about making a holiday video to share with friends and family. There’s free video editing software like OpenShot, HitFilm, or iMovie (also an app). You can even edit your video directly on your smartphone, iPad, or other device using free apps like Video Up!, Canva, and others. Create something special, like a movie of your year, of a trip you took together, or a story. Compile a video of your love story for your significant other. Your giftee will remember it forever.

Write a Gift

If you’re wondering what to get for Christmas, remember that written gifts are some of the best gifts. There’s very little we treasure more than a special, intimate message from a friend, loved one, or partner. What’s more, the written word survives for future generations.

There are 1,000 ways to write a gift. Write a story or poem about the recipient or your friendship/relationship. Write a note to someone telling them what they mean to you. Write a story especially for the kids in your life – you can even self-publish with Amazon and others these days.

If you’re a dedicated writer, consider writing your autobiography for your family to enjoy for generations to come. But if you’re just getting started, that’s probably a better target for the next holiday season! Writing down childhood memories and sharing them could be a great gift for your older kids.

Give the Gift of Time

For most of us in today’s world, our most valuable resource is our time. So it’s a great idea to think about how you can give someone what’s most valuable to them.

This can work in many ways.

  • You can free up time for a friend or sibling, say by babysitting their kids so they can have a night to themselves or a date night.
  • You can give your time to a friend, maybe helping them with a task that’s hard for them and causes them stress, like organizing or decluttering.
  • You can take a stressful or time-consuming task off someone’s plate, say by mowing grandpa’s lawn for a year. This is an especially great gift for a teen or young adult to give.
  • You can volunteer time at your grandchild’s school for a year, giving the gift of your presence.

One fun way to give this gift? Make your own “gift certificates” for chores or personal items you’re gifting, anything from massages to rides to the store to taking out the trash. Again, this can be a great gift for teens to give.

Personalize Common Items

One great holiday idea is to customize or personalize everyday objects. You can even enlist a friend’s help, or trade things you each know how to make.

If your friend has a side business making custom signs and you do graphic design, you might make a new logo for their business in exchange for a sign you want to gift. Or if a friend has a Cricut machine or makes t-shirts, ask them to make a custom mug for grandma or matching shirts for your family and you can make or do something they need, even babysitting. (This kind of trading used to be common and is a great way for everyone to get something they need without spending.)

These aren’t the only things you can personalize. If you’re a child of the 80s or 90s, you probably remember mix tapes. These were a collection of songs you chose and recorded from your collection onto a cassette tape, then gifted to a special person.

While cassettes are a thing of the past, there’s no reason you can’t still make playlist song mixes as special gifts. Collect nostalgic songs from high school for a lifelong friend. Make a mix of big band 40s hits for your grandparents. Express your love for your significant other through songs.

If you’re the creative type, you can transfer a favorite photo onto a tote bag for mom or paint your niece’s name on an inexpensive jean jacket. Paint a picture frame for a newlywed friend with their new last name and the year. You can decorate or customize almost anything to personalize it for a great gift.

Plants Can Be Presents

Plants can make great presents. Not only do plants bring the outdoors in and brighten our spaces, but they also help clean our air. This can be especially helpful in newer, well-sealed homes and buildings, where air quality is often – surprisingly – worse.

Choose a plant that fits the recipient’s experience with plants. Succulents can be a great gift for non-plant people; just water once a month and you’re golden. African violets are also easy to succeed with if you water them from under the pot; there are African violet pots that include a saucer to make this easy.

Gift a potted plant that can be placed in the recipient’s yard come spring. Azaleas and roses are a popular choice and are often readily available at grocery stores. If someone you love has experienced a recent loss, a beautiful plant or tree for their yard in memory of their loved one makes a great gift. If winter is cold where you are, make your own gift certificate. You could even let them choose the plant with you in the spring.

Some plants can be started with a cutting from an existing plant, like a spider plant, making them FREE for gift-giving. Plant in cute pots and you’re set. You could also give a friend or loved one a handmade “gift certificate” for spring transplants from your plants for their yard. Irises, day lilies, ornamental grasses – many plants actually need to be split every few years for the best growth. Throw in helping to plant and you’ve got an excellent gift.

Give a Book

Books are a great gift, especially for avid readers. It’s easy to choose a favorite or meaningful book based on the recipient’s interests. Try sites with book ratings, like Amazon or Goodreads, for ideas.

Used bookstores like Thrift Books or Half Price Books are great gifting resources when you’re on a budget. You may be able to find a special edition of your loved one’s favorite book at a reasonable price. Used bookstores often have beloved books from our childhoods, which can make a great gift for the kids in your life. If a loved one wants to learn to paint, you could find them an inexpensive how-to book, perhaps even one that includes a painting set.

Never underestimate the power of a book!

Under $20 Charitable Donation

What do you get for the person who has everything? It’s a hard question, but it can feel even more difficult when you’re on a budget.

One option is making a donation in their name. This is an especially good fit for older friends who may be trying to get rid of their things rather than accumulating more. It’s also a great gift to give in memory of a lost loved one.

As a gift for a child, a donation in their name can be a great way to introduce them to and emphasize the importance of giving to others. It can also help them understand the joy of giving rather than just receiving. A $20 toy may be nice, but that money can also feed a struggling family for a month in some places.

There are so many worthy organizations:

A donation is a great way to reinforce the meaning of the season.

Gift a Subscription Service or Membership

Subscription services are unbelievably popular these days. There’s a service for everyone, it seems.

From jerky lovers to beer or wine people and even produce connoisseurs, you can find a service to gift to others. These can be expensive, but many run sales during the holiday season.

The gift of a subscription to a favorite magazine or online publication is a great one, especially for hobbyists and those with special interests. Those who love print publications will appreciate having a magazine to read each month, or even a subscription to their favorite newspaper.

You can also gift streaming services. If your recipient is a Marvel or Star Wars fan, a month or year of Disney+ would be a great treat. Just be sure the service doesn’t continue to charge you monthly or annually after your gifted period.

Especially for young people it can be hard when everyone is into a show but they don’t have access. If a teen in your life is desperate to see Stranger Things, for example, a month or year of Netflix service might make their day. This is an easy gifting opportunity.

Often you can gift a friend a membership in their area of interest. This has a fringe benefit of receiving publications, information, or other benefits from the organization. For example, if someone you know is looking for a job in public relations, pay for a year’s membership to the Public Relations Society of America. If you know a young volleyball player, membership to USA Volleyball gets them access to online instruction from Olympic and distinguished coaches.

Gift Store-Bought Treats

A great essential gift-giving question is, what does your recipient love? If you know the recipient well, it’s bound to bring up gift ideas. Knowing their favorite treat is often a perfect gifting opportunity.

If your friend loves mixed nuts but can’t or won’t buy the pricey item, spend the gifting budget you set aside for them on whatever size container you can afford.

If your aunt has a thing for fudge, buy her a pound (or the amount you’ve budgeted) from the small business candy shop near you. Wrap it nicely and you’ve got a fantastic gift.

Perhaps your bestie loves Cherry Coke more than life itself. Make a Cherry Coke-themed gift, with Cherry Coke lip gloss (yes it exists), a jar of maraschino cherries, cans of Cherry Coke, and maybe a bag of chocolate-covered cherries. Build something from a friend’s favorite candy, like a castle or gift box made from Snickers minis, or a picture arranged from M&Ms. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

A bag of a favorite candy is also a great stocking stuffer or small, simple gift.

Give Access to Online Classes

Knowledge is one of the most valuable gifts you can give anyone. With so much online instruction, it’s easier than ever to give the gift of knowledge.

Online courses and workshops are available on all kinds of subjects. From artistic topics like painting to professional certification courses, you can help a loved one feed a hobby or reach a career goal. Instructors often post their work and course opportunities on Instagram or Facebook. A local arts school or community college often offers fun courses on everything from job skills to flower arrangement, pet grooming, guitar lessons, photography, and more.

There are lots of services that offer online coursework, from Skillshare to Udemy. Video courses are available through providers like MasterClass. The company offers courses from masters in their fields, like Independent Filmmaking with Spike Lee and introductory Cooking with Gordon Ramsey. They offer excellent holiday deals.

The avid learners in your life will surely appreciate these gifts. Watch for sales this time of year.

Whatever you choose for your gifts, if you pay attention to what the recipient likes, needs, and wants, you’re bound to have a great gift on any budget. And don’t forget to think about wrapping – check out 3 Tips to Save on Holiday Gift Wrapping for more on that topic.

FAQs: Cheap Gift Ideas Under $20

What are tiny inexpensive gifts called?

These are usually referred to in the U.S. as “stocking stuffers.”

What are some handmade gifts for holidays?

From personalized items to paintings, pottery, baked goods, and more, there are endless ideas out there for handmade gifts. Check out the article above for more ideas, and explore Pinterest or the web for instructions and inspiration.

What are some creative gifts?

Put your child’s face on a mug for grandma. Make a movie of your year to share with friends. Build a bookshelf or window seat for your sister if that’s your thing. The idea is to match your skill set to something the recipient needs or will love. Check out the article above for more ideas.

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