9 Great Gifts to Give Without Blowing Up Your Budget

Times are tough, money is tight, and the holidays are fast approaching. Many shoppers need to keep a tight rein on their spending, but don’t want to feel like the Grinch when it comes to giving budget gifts to friends and family. How can you save money while giving thoughtful gifts on a budget? Believe it or not, it can be done with budgeting help! Here are 9 affordable – and in most cases, free -gift ideas to make holiday gift-giving easier, more fun and a lot cheaper.

Give the Gift of Charity

With all great gifts, it’s the thought that counts. Consider donating to a charity in the name of the person you are gifting. No one has to know how much you donated, either, so you can easily keep this gift affordable. With so many charities to choose from, you can customize the type of donation to the person’s personality. If you’ve got a friend who’s an animal lover, for example, you can adopt a tiger at ChangingThePresent.org in his or her name. You can choose the cause, the amount you want to donate and a personalized greeting card for your friend, all while earning a tax deduction in the process.

Re-gift with Care

For a close friend or relative, gift something personal that you and this person have in common or have shared. If you share a favorite book, give your friend your copy with a handwritten note on the inside jacket. Play on nostalgia and give items associated with an inside joke or a fond memory (a childhood toy, your favorite CD, ticket stubs of movies you saw together paired with a DVD, etc). This gift idea is inexpensive, but the sentimental value is priceless.

Be a Tour Guide for a Day

Invite your out-of-town family or friends to a weekend in your city and offer them the gift of an afternoon tour followed by dinner at a favorite local joint. Surprise them at dinner with a pop quiz on all the facts you shared about the city during the day and offer inexpensive prizes as gifts (a $5 iTunes gift card, a key chain or coffee mug with the name of your city, etc). Take pictures of the day’s events and turn them into postcards to capture the memories and fun time you had together.

Turn Points into Presents

If you have a credit or debit card that rewards you with points to use towards shopping, use them to purchase gift cards or gift certificates for your loved ones. With an American Express Blue Card, for example, you can redeem 500 points towards a gift certificate to Pottery Barn for your mother. If you can’t find a suitable store for your recipient, many cards allow you to buy Visa/Mastercard/American Express gift cards with the points that can be used wherever the card is accepted.

Give the Gift of Time

For your friends who never have time for themselves because they’re busy taking care of everyone else or are bogged down with work, give them a well-deserved break. Offer to baby sit kids or a pet. Help run some errands or tidy your friend’s place so he can have a breather. The gift of your time will always be appreciated.

Wrap Up Your Skills

Gift your skills in a thoughtful way. Are you an interior designer? Offer to redecorate a room in your friend’s house for free. A web developer? Build a website for your friend or sketch out a plan for their new blog. Skilled in the kitchen? Cook a delicious meal for friends and family. A photographer? Offer a photography lesson or take some portraits of your friends for free.

Shop Early & Often

Start hunting for bargains early in the year, before the holiday rush, and pay attention to summer deals and back to school savings. You can buy lots of great stuff for a fraction of the cost when you shop in the off-season. Put aside the gifts until the holidays roll around, then hand them out and pat yourself on the back for money well-saved.
Peruse Online Deal Aggregators and Bargain Websites

Sites like fatwallet.com, slickdeals.net, bensbargains.net and dealspl.us can give you a daily rundown on deals and steals. Other sites like eBay and Etsy allow you to name your price, ensuring you never go over budget when shopping for gifts. Check deal websites regularly to see what pops up, and stick to a pre-planned budget to ensure that you won’t go overboard with your spending.

Use the Internet to Compile Thoughtful Gifts

The Internet is a vast resource of information and can be utilized to create a personalized gift for your friend. If your buddy is a cook and loves Mexican food in particular, compile the best Mexican recipes you’ve found on the web, print them out and assemble them in a simple cookbook. For a musician friend, find sheet music of his favorite songs. Create web albums of your friends’ favorite music videos/jokes/resources/etc. and compile them. Most of this information will be free to access, and by putting it all together you’re taking time to show how much you care.

Remember, it is the thought that counts. And with a little time and even less money, you can give great holiday gifts your friends and family will appreciate without breaking the bank.

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