Gift-Giving on a Tight Budget

Giving gifts

In my family there are 11 kids, and there are five of us – yes, five – that have birthdays within three days of each other. On Christmas, we draw names for gift-giving so it’s less expensive for everyone, but birthdays are different – everyone needs to be celebrated, so this time of year gets pretty expensive.

Here are some ways we’ve navigated “birthday week” and gotten everyone a gift they love. Remember, a good gift has meaning behind it. It shouldn’t matter how much it cost.

1) Start Shopping Early – meaning “shop” for people all year long. We try to keep our eyes out for gifts people we know would love at all times of the year, so we don’t have to buy gifts for everyone at once. When we see something they would like, we get it and store it away until it’s time to give.

2) Buy Online – you can comparison shop without having to stand in line, saving you money AND time! Some sites that can help you find the best deal are,,, and, to name a few. keeps a list of websites that offer free shipping and coupons for more than 500 online stores. It’s also a good idea to subscribe to email lists for your favorite stores to get coupons and special discounts.

3) Research Store Policies – Shop at places that will match competitors’ ads or offer price adjustments. Some stores will allow price adjustments in their own store if the item you bought goes on sale within a certain time frame, usually within a week. Also get to know their return policy, in case you find a better deal somewhere else.

4) Give Meaningful Gifts – Daisy Reese, co-author of “True Self, True Wealth: A Pathway to Prosperity,” recommends giving gifts that are “emotionally rich,” like personalized items with pictures, setting up traditions (like holiday cookie baking), or offering your time to babysit or help with a project. These gifts mean the most and have the longest lasting value.

5) Use Your Talents – If baking is your thing, share your favorite homemade cookies with them and include the recipe, knit them a scarf or a hat, paint or draw them a picture, build them a footstool with their children’s footprints, or offer to do handiwork around their home. Handmade items are always more meaningful, but make sure you’re not spending more on the materials than it would cost to buy something pre-made.

6) Buy in Bulk – If you have several gifts to give at a time, buying in bulk will save you money, and you can individualize by making gift baskets – at home spa treatments, “movie night” with a DVD and treats, or ingredients for a picnic are just a few ideas. Purchase baskets and tissue paper at the dollar store to save even more money. You could even purchase white mugs at the dollar store and personalize them with a favorite quote and fill them with a favorite treat.

7) Go in on a Present Together – rally the family to work together to get one nice present for someone instead of several small ones. Getting grandma and grandpa new carpet might mean more to them than everyone buying them books and 10 cans of their favorite nut assortment.

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