Giving Quality Holiday Gifts on a Budget

Giving Quality Holiday Gifts on a Budget

Ammily CP /

It’s officially the holiday season! Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas, the month of December is sure to be eventful. With all the hype and excitement, there also comes the pressure of deciding what to give to the important people in your life. As a student, finding the funds for gift-giving can be a challenge. We’ve compiled a list of ideas for you, so you can give meaningful holiday gifts without spending too much of your hard-earned cash.


  • Baked goods: ‘Tis the season for cookies, fudge, toffee, pies, and other treats! Try baking something for your friends or family. If you bake cookies or fudge, make extra by doubling the recipe. Then divide the bounty evenly between your recipients. Put the goodies in a cellophane bag, tie it off with a ribbon, and you’re set!
  • Dried soup kits: Follow simple recipes like these for an easy-to-make soup kit! Layer the ingredients in a mason jar and tie a ribbon around the neck of the jar. Be sure to include instructions and a list of the ingredients that the recipient needs to supply. He or she might need to add water, broth, onions, or fresh meat to complete the recipe.
  • A dinner date: Instead of going out, though, stay in. People always enjoy a homecooked meal, so cook for someone! This gift is a great option (especially if you’re the romantic type) because it not only provides food, but also builds in time together.
  • A filled mug or ornament:
    • Find a cute holiday mug (the dollar section of Target generally has plenty of options!) and fill it with a hot chocolate packet and Hershey’s Kisses or other holiday-themed candy.
    • Fill a clear ornament with a hot chocolate “kit.” While the basic ingredients will be the same (cocoa powder and sugar), you can customize the recipe a bit but adding marshmallows, crushed candy canes, or another festive flavor.


  • Homemade anything: Think things like wreaths, ornaments, centerpieces, containers, baskets, candles, soaps, etc. Start with a basic design (or scent) and decorate to match the season and the style of the recipient.
  • Art: If you are an artist, paint or draw a picture for friends and family. Knit a scarf or pair of socks. Whatever your talent, use it! This personal and thoughtful gift won’t cost much beyond your time, but will mean the world to whoever is lucky enough to get it.
  • A collage: Do you have a lot of pictures with a certain friend or family member? Print copies and use them to make a collage of memories. Put the finished product in a cute frame and it makes for a perfect gift.
  • A scrapbook or photo album: Similar to the collage idea, a scrapbook or photo album of shared memories is a great option. Even better, make a new page for the scrapbook each year—it’s the gift that you can keep on giving!
  • A written letter: Not an email. Not a text. Sit down and write a handwritten letter to someone important to you. Tell them what they mean to you, why you are thankful for them, and share a special memory or your hopes for the future. Use nice stationery and seal it in an envelope. This simple gesture will mean a lot. It’s the perfect present to show the out-of-town family members you don’t see very frequently that you’re thinking of them.

Other Personalized Gifts

  • The gift of time: Simply make plans to spend time with people you love. To use this as a “gift,” you should be responsible for making the plan for the day! Go for a hike, rent a movie, make dinner, or visit a museum. The possibilities are endless, but just being with people you care about (and who care about you) is a great gift!
  • Coupons: For people whom you regularly spend time with, consider making coupon books! A lot of children give their parents coupons that the parent can “cash in” for various chores or helpful acts. The important thing is to think of what the recipient would want or need and offer to do those tasks for them. Below are some general ideas of coupons you could give:
    • Clean someone’s house
    • Mow someone’s lawn
    • Tend someone’s garden
    • Make someone dinner
    • Repair something that is broken
    • Run errands for someone
  • A plant: Find cute plants (poinsettias, lilies, Christmas cacti, etc.) and wrap ribbons around the planters. This is a great gift for any friends or family members with green thumbs!
  • Volunteering: Take your family to a homeless shelter to serve Christmas dinner, volunteer to wrap presents at the local bookshop, or find any activity where you work to serve others. This is a great bonding experience for your family and you get to help those in need! Many people volunteer during the holidays, so make sure you pre-arrange your service.
  • A well-loved book: If you have any friends or family members who are big readers, give them your favorite book. But don’t go to the store to buy a brand new copy, give then your well-used copy. Write a note inside the cover or on the first page to make it more personal.

We hope these ideas have sparked some inspiration for gifts you can give this holiday season! While they won’t break the bank, they will require some thought and time. Sometimes, the best gifts come from the heart and not from the mall. Happy holidays!

About Shannon Whitney

Shannon loves traveling, watching Friends, and all things Florida Gators. While she grew up in Northern Virginia, she left the state to attend the University of Florida in 2001. After earning a master’s degree in education, she returned home and has worked as an elementary school teacher for the past 11 years. Shannon recently decided it was time to put teaching on hold and venture down a new professional path. During her free time, Shannon is either traveling, cheering for Florida, binge-watching a Netflix series, or preparing to be an aunt!

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