Christmas Gifts for Under $10 — Frugal Doesn’t Mean Frumpy

Five pound flour bags converted into gift bags.

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What to do about Christmas gifts when there is no money? Here’s a great list of possible gifts below to help you get started. While we’re all for making the holiday spirit last longer, most families’ holiday bills take between four and five months to pay off, and this isn’t our idea of holiday cheer.

There may be some folks in your life where love is calculated based on the amount you spend on them. You may have to choose carefully with whom you can give homemade presents. Spending less on gifts doesn’t mean we love the recipient any less. It just means that we put more thought, effort and creativity into the procurement and development of the gift.

Generosity Survey Results

We live in a very generous society. We see evidence of this whenever there is a hurricane, flood or some other type of national disaster. This generosity isn’t limited only to times of crisis; every year it also shows itself in our gift-giving habits. According to an AC Nielsen survey, Americans spend an average of $948 per person for holiday gift giving, second only to the UK where $1,003 per person is spent.

1) Heart-to-Heart Christmas Gift

Each year, I write a letter from the heart to my husband and each child. It includes a scripture verse that I have been praying for them throughout the year along with my heartfelt sentiments for their lives.  Annette Milanowski –  Queen Creek, AZ.

2) Ornaments Create Memories

A great Christmas gift for grandchildren is to give them one Christmas ornament each year. After Christmas I look for cute, but discounted ornaments. I put them away for next Christmas. Each grandchild receives one. Their mother loves seeing their faces as they open them, and she stores them carefully for when they get older.

Several christmas tree ornaments on a white background.

Our kids love this tradition, too. Steve’s parents started doing this years ago and put the child’s name and year on each ornament as an annual keepsake. Each year the kids line up the ornaments from Yiayia and Papou and smile, knowing that when they get married, their first tree will have many ornaments to display.  Verna Enlow –  Huntingburg, IN.

3) Creativity in the Bag Christmas Gift

Giving gifts of home-baked goodies is a longtime and much-appreciated treat. But often, it’s difficult to package these gifts without spending a small fortune buying special boxes, bags or wrappers. I make a gift bag that also has the advantage of recycling paper that would otherwise go to the landfill.

I save all of my five-pound sugar, flour or cornmeal bags. They are usually quite colorful and very sturdy.
1) When the bag is empty, shake, wipe or vacuum it until it’s clean.
2) Turn down the top of the bag evenly once or twice to make a one- or two-inch cuff.
3) Punch two holes with a hole punch — one on each side of the long sides.
4) Make a handle. I usually use leftover macramé cord, but other ideas include ribbon, braided yarn, raffia, torn strips of cloth or even shoelaces. Try to match your handle to the bag’s color scheme. Lace the handle through the two holes on each side and tie — either into a loop or by making knots inside each hole.

This bag is the perfect size for holding a bag of cookies, muffins, homemade candy or a loaf of bread — wrapped in foil or plastic wrap. I usually get more compliments on my gift bag than on my cooking . . . hmmm. Michelle Gourley –  Johnson City, TN

4) Framed for the Family

At one of the kid’s birthday parties last summer, I managed to get a really pretty, outdoor group shot of all the nieces and nephews. I had 5 x 7 prints made for everyone in the family (less than $1 per print at Between summer and Christmas, I looked for inexpensive frames everywhere I went. I found great frames on discount at fabric/craft stores and at discount retailers; TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and Burlington Coat Factory. Everyone received a great photo, nicely framed, and they cost me, on average, $7 each. Hardly anyone had a photo of all the kids together — it was a hit! Caitlyn Henderson –  Clawson, MI.

Meaningful Photos for My Son

I recently found a brand new picture frame at a garage sale for $1.50. It’s the kind with several cut outs for various-sized photos. The large frame is very pretty antique silver trimmed in gold with room for seven photos. I am giving this to my son for Christmas, and will insert photos that are meaningful to him. He wouldn’t take the time to do this for himself, but I know he will love it! Loretta Garrett –  Blanchard, OK.

5) Pre-owned Christmas Gifts

You can find everything from clothing to books to movies on the secondary market. Many Half Priced Books stores have a used CD/DVD/Video Game section. You can also find books in excellent condition at used bookstores or library sales. Many libraries have “Friends of the Library” groups that hold regular sales. Many books on sale are library discards, but there are some donations from avid readers who are making room for new titles. Don’t forget thrift stores and even eBay. EBay can have great deals if you know how to look (see “eBay in Your PJ’s”). Anne Burner – Cincinnati, OH.

Giving used items can be a touchy subject. We do this regularly for our immediate family — our kids know that a book reads the same whether it’s new or used. You’ve got to know the recipient — will they appreciate the thoughtfulness of the gift or will the fact that it is “pre-owned” be a stumbling block for them? Over time we’ve seen friends and family grow to appreciate the thought rather than the “new.”

6) Green Thumb Gifts 

If you are a gardener, plants make wonderful Christmas gifts, as well as birthday and other occasions. And they last longer than cut flowers. You can also grow herbs to give away.

Just be sure that the recipient enjoys plants. Pots can be found inexpensively at garage sales, as well as neighborhood trash piles. Tie a pretty ribbon around the pot to give it a festive look.
Anne Burner – Cincinnati, OH

7) Tubed-out Christmas Favors

I save empty tubes from paper towels and toilet paper rolls to make table and party favors. Then I fill them with small toys and candies, and use tissue paper to cover them. Finally, I tie both ends closed with ribbon or string. The kids think it’s really fun to have a giant “firecracker” to open.  Francine Nichols – Franklin Furnace, OH

8) Peanut Butter Cocoa Fudge

This is a “No Fail” recipe and makes a great tasting gift. Just be sure to buy your baking supplies when they are on sale. My average cost is between $1 and $3 for two pounds of fudge.

Peanut Butter Cocoa Fudge


1 cup + 3 Tbs chunky peanut butter
1 cup butter (no substitutes)
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 Tbs baking cocoa
1 Tbs vanilla extract

Instructions: In a saucepan combine the
peanut butter and butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until blended. Remove from heat. Stir in confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Spread into a buttered 8-inch square pan. Freeze for 30 minutes. Cut into squares. Francine Nichols – Franklin Furnace, OH

We think everyone baking this recipe should test one or two squares just to be sure it’s okay.

9) Baskets of Love – Perfect Presents

My favorite way to give thoughtful, but inexpensive gifts are gift baskets that I make myself. Items for baskets can be found in many places and for a low cost.

Dollar stores are one of the best options for a wide variety of things. Just know your prices; you might be able to find some items less expensively at discount retailers.

The Basket

Many things can be used as a basket. It can be part of the gift or fit into the theme—a regular wicker basket, a plastic pail, small trash can, plastic caddy—lots of items found around the house that have no better use can often work perfectly for your gift basket.

Other materials include: tissue paper, cello bags or wrap, clear tape, multi colored ribbon or bow, bread tie/small piece of floral wire (to hold cellophane before ribbon is tied).

If you have a large basket, instead of wasting a lot of tissue paper use plastic grocery bags to fill the bottom then cover the very top with tissue paper.

Basket Theme Ideas

BBQ or Griller    Use a disposable tin foil roaster pan (2/$1) filled with BBQ sauce, grilling tongs, flipper, fork, wire grill brush, decorative hot pads, skewers, & corn-on-the-cob holders.

Dessert Lover   Use a glass desert dish or bowl filled with dessert cookbook (yes, at the dollar store), box of pudding mix, cake mix, decorative spoons and colored sprinkles.

Ice Cream Lover   Regular basket filled with ice cream dishes, ice cream scoop, sprinkles, mini marshmallows, & toppings: caramel, chocolate syrup, strawberries and more.

Beauty Girl Basket   Use a plastic container that can store makeup filled with nail polish, nail clipper set, nail files, nail polish remover, cotton balls and other cosmetic accessories.

Moving Out Basket   A laundry basket filled with frying pan, cookie sheet, hot pads, kitchen utensils, food, etc.

Sewing Kit including needles, thread, safety pins, other craft items.

Car Wash Kit   A plastic pail filled with washing liquid, towels, tire cleaner, etc.

Root Beer Float Basket   Filled with a 2-liter bottle of root beer, two nice glasses, a container of straws and a grocery gift card and coupon for ice cream or a gift certificate to Carvel or Baskin Robbins.

For any theme basket, you are giving a large gift that costs you between $5 and $10. Depending on your creativity, you can spend more or less — creativity and thoughtfulness make this gift go WOW!  Kristin Tice –  Birmingham, AL.

10) Holiday Tinsel Wreath – Christmas Gift Decor 

This is an inexpensive favorite Christmas gift of mine. Start with a wreath — styrofoam, straw or grapevine — about 18 inches in diameter, and two bunches of metallic tinsel garland.

Paper Clips for Fastening

Take two large paper clips and cut them in half so you have four narrow “U” shapes. Loop the end of the garland around a “U” shape and poke it into the wreath to secure the end. Slowly and firmly wind the tinsel around the wreath. When the first string of tinsel ends, make a loop in both ends of the first and second string and secure them with another “U” clip. Continue wrapping until the wreath is completely covered. Secure the final end with a third “U” clip.

If using a grapevine wreath, you may need to twisty tie the end of the tinsel garland to a particular spot, and start wrapping around the wreath from there.

The Bow

To finish off the wreath, make or buy a bow with a wired edge and attach it to the top. This project will take less than one hour to make and always elicits oohs and aahs from those I give it to. I usually find the tinsel on sale after Christmas or at garage sales. I love to put this in a “My 1st Christmas” gift that I give to newlyweds — they usually have so few holiday decorations.  Annette Economides – Scottsdale, AZ

There you have it— ten great ideas for Christmas gifts. These are abundantly creative, totally inexpensive and a real testimony to the power that festive frugality can have at this fantastic time of year. Give the gift of cheer for much less.

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