Unique Gift Ideas for Everyone

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This Unique Gift Ideas for Everyone Tips Page contains a growing number of money-saving ideas for Buying, Making and Giving Gifts!

Cheap Sweaters Make Great Gift Ideas

I have gotten sweaters half off at Goodwill, I only purchase items that have the discounted colored tag of the week. I then make slippers/leg warmers out of the sleeves and throw pillows out of the body.   Timbers – East Hampton, CT

A white pillow made out of an old knitted sweater.

Making  Memory pillows out of sweaters or special clothes is a great way to remember a parent or grandparent!

Christmas Presents Without Spending Money

We have a large family and cannot afford to buy Christmas gifts. A few years ago I discovered a wholesaler who sells fleece and cotton fabric to retail stores. I noticed that they had a lot of scraps lying around. I mentioned that I would be happy to pick up their scraps instead of them throwing them out. Now, about twice a year they call and ask me to come and get the scraps. The scraps are large enough for neck scarves and fleece hoodies. I use the cotton scraps to make crazy quilt tops.

For two years I haven’t spent a dime on Christmas gifts for family, friends, and even their pets. Everyone knows to expect something handmade and a jar of jelly. This year we found a company in our area that sells 50 lb. bags of Epsom Salts. Now I pass out quart canning jars of Epsom Salt bath crystals with a few drops of scented oil added to them. After a recent fall, my step-daughter was excited to find her new aches and pains were gone by morning from using my scented Epsom Salts. Suzanne H. – Waynesville, NC

Rebates and UPC’s for presents

A spiderman lunch box with wheels on it.

A great way to get new and inexpensive gifts is to watch for companies that are running various promotions. They usually require you to send in a few UPCs from a product, your receipt, and a couple of dollars to cover the shipping and handling. I recently sent in three UPCs from Kraft Cheese singles and got a Spiderman lunchbox and watch set. It only cost me $1.95 shipping and handling! Most of the time the promotions are on products I’m buying anyway, so it really is a great deal. Carrie Odgaard – Lincoln, NE

Men’s Gift Ideas – Military Surplus

Army Surplus military museum.

Look for gifts in small, unique shops. I volunteer at a Military Museum where there is a store that sells Military and Camouflage items. I have found that some of the best gifts come from small and independent stores. They are not the most expensive gifts, but they are different, unique, and memorable.   Joe Mullee – Florida

RELATED ARTICLEBest Retirement Gifts Ideas

 Coasters as Gifts from Last Summer’s Beach Vacation

Coasters for glasses made from old pictures at the beach.

I recently went yard-sale-ing and found a set of those coasters that you put pictures in. Then I went through my Mom’s old black and white pictures and found photos of my brother when we were kids, playing at the beach. Next, I copied the photos and put them in the coasters. I plan on giving the coasters to him for Christmas for use at his beach house. They make the cutest economical gift. Pam Estes – Alexandria, VA

Toy Buyback for Gifts

Mom in a blue dress picking up kids toys.
advent calendar in the shape of a christmas tree.

All year long our kids leave toys and things throughout the house and we end up picking them up. To help our kids and our wallet we collect them and place them beyond the reach of the kids and hold them til Christmas time. The large box is then wrapped with all the kids’ names. They now actually ask for their toys back as part of their Christmas list. An added bonus is that some lovely toys are forgotten and become more interesting again when re-gifted to the child that owns them.   Allison Amos – Cartersville, Georgia

Editors’ Note: If you’re interested in a book that deals with the subject, read our review of The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room. In our MoneySmart Kids Financial Training Kit, we deal with the subject of teaching our kids to clean up after themselves. It’s a daily task called Round-Up and they can earn or lose a point if it isn’t done correctly. You can read about the system in our book, “The MoneySmart Family System” or in our audio seminar, Teaching Kids About Money Isn’t Kids Stuff.

Music, Books & DVDs for Affordable Gift Ideas

A great, inexpensive Christmas gift is a Christmas music CD. I always look for after-Christmas markdown sales, but as that is not much help right now I will share my favorite Web site for Christmas music CDs – Christian Book Distributors, www.cbd.com bargains or you can order a free catalog by calling 1.800.247.4784. They sell more than books and their prices are really great! Even with shipping these CDs to myself, the cost is under $10 per gift.

You can easily find Christmas music CDs for around $3 at this site. They are brand new CDs and range from classical music to modern. One great gift example is “We Need A Little Christmas” by Andy Williams on CD for $1.99.    Vickie J. – Sahuarita, AZ 

Simplifying Christmas Gifts, and Traditions

After reading your blog I looked through my bookshelf and decided to re-read a book we have had for a while “Simplify your Christmas” by Elaine St. James she has several suggestions to make the holidays more meaningful and less stressful. I’m about your age, a mid-life mom with adult children, and wish I had found this book when the kids were little.

We have quite a few nieces and nephews and when we really couldn’t afford it we were buying and shipping things across the country and asked to give towards a group gift for my mother-in-law. I spent many years in a whirlwind of baking, buying, shipping, and dropping off gifts at pre-school, church, daycare, grade school, doctors, dentists, car mechanic I thought all this over-the-top activity was just normal for the Christmas season. This year I have gone through a divorce and kept the traditions that are meaningful and let go of those that aren’t. I found some nice used books at Savers, and all my family are getting one useful gift- a blanket throw and that’s enough, we will be together and observe our
Christmas with less stress, I will be more present and less exhausted.

Adopting a Needy Family

Its okay and just reality to say no to things you cannot afford in terms of money or your energy. I asked my kids if they wanted to continue doing “Adopt a Family” a local agency that helps people with food, utility bills, rent and referrals to outside agencies has a Christmas program, the families and the donors remain confidential.

We have great fun putting together gifts for families who need and appreciate what they are getting. It feels good to do good, and it serves as a reality check for my family to hear kids that need shoes, or a jacket, or ask for something for their Mom and nothing for themselves.
This book is great for those looking for ways to save money, be kinder to the environment, and have a meaningful Christmas as a family.  Ann Magner


Unusual Christmas Gift Ideas

Send advent calendars with the paper doors to open one a day (available from Current catalog) to relatives and close friends with small children in lieu of other gifts. This is a very thoughtful gift as kids get to help countdown to the big day and the parents know you thought of them. One year when I didn’t think far enough ahead I found Christmas placemats at the dollar store and sent them in early December. Their mom reported they were a big hit.   Catherine Swope – Mesa, AZ


Christmas Gifts Bought From a Church Bazaar

In our area, churches have bazaars featuring handmade items. These are usually reasonably priced –afghans, pillows and baby clothes. You can do a lot of Christmas shopping there. And as long as weather permits, sometimes well into November, bargains can be found at neighborhood garage sales. I suspect that some items being sold are presents – never used!
Ann N. Pittsburgh, PA


Gifts for the Young Adult or Seniors

Great gifts for the older generation, college students and people just starting out on their own —Postage stamps, phone cards, Walmart or grocery store gift certificates, boxes of birthday and greeting cards with stamps included. Other gifts that are always welcome include a grocery sack filled with soups, small cans of fruits and veggies, canned tuna, salmon, chicken, ham etc., packets of hot cocoa, coffee or tea, small packets of crackers and cookies, paper goods – the list is endless. Set a price limit and see how full you can make the bag!
DLS – Missouri 


Christmas Gift Ideas for Under $10

1) Cookies in a Jar – submitted by Kimberly Nalda from Maryland and Lorraine Diserens from Texas.

A bake-it-yourself oatmeal cookie kit. These sell for $10 at the store, but are simple to make up yourself. Use an empty mayonnaise jar. Hot glue a fabric circle trimmed with pinking shears to the lid and tie a ribbon around it. Place the following into the jar, tamping down layers as you go:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Print the following instructions on a colorful paper tag and attach it to the jar.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Cream brown and white sugar with 1/2 cup margarine or butter. Add 1 egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, mix well. Pour oatmeal and flour mixture from the jar into a bowl, mix thoroughly with chocolate chips and nuts. Roll into 1 inch balls, place on lightly greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 min. For more recipes do a Google search for Cookies in a Jar

2) Gift Baskets with Goodies – submitted by Anna Stange from Illinois and DLS from Missouri

I can often purchase baskets for 10 to 50 cents each at garage sales or thrift stores. These are collected all year long. I line the baskets with napkins, tissue or squares of leftover fabric, pinking the edges to give them a finished look. Then I fill the basket with themed gifts, such as the following:

Breakfast Basket – a package of pancake mix, a bottle of syrup, a can of fruit and a can of flavored, special coffee and/or tea, or hot cocoa mix.

Abondonza Basket – One pound of spaghetti (uncooked), a jar of spaghetti sauce, a can of mushrooms, a small can of grated Parmesan cheese, two cans of veggies, a bottle of Italian salad dressing and a small white card with the word “Lettuce” printed on it and a dollar bill folded like a fan stapled to it.

Homemade Goodies Basket – Home-canned goodies, homemade candles and embroidered dish towels.

As a finishing touch, wrap the baskets with sheets of plastic wrap, tissue or fabric remnants.

3) Dolls’ Bedding

Here’s another perfect way to use scrap or remnant fabrics. You can use old bed pads or stockings for the filling. We’ve made darling blankets, pillows and bottom sheet pads.

4) Decorated/Painted Aprons, T-Shirts, and Sweat Shirts

We’ve picked up T-shirts, sweatshirts, and aprons in mint condition at yard sales and thrift stores for pennies. We use fabric paint to do acrostics of a person’s name. Use your creativity and come up with other decorator ideas.

5) Special Song in a Frame

Do you have a friend with whom you share a special song? Calligraphy or type out the lyrics on fancy paper and put it in a garage-sale or thrift-store frame. If you are adept at using the computer, combine a picture of you and the friend with the lyrics. It is a touching gift that will be treasured forever.


The Gift of Homemade Jelly

Jelly Jar

Jelly is an easy-to-make and priceless gift. I always put the word out that I will trade a jar of homemade jelly for extra jelly jars. This year people have given me over 30 jars. Then I pick wild fruit and make jellies to give away as Christmas gifts. Last fall, my sister-in-law and I spent the day together. We first picked wild grapes along a roadside, then made jelly while our children played in her backyard. The kids had a great time, and we canned 39 jars of jelly in under seven hours (including the time to pick the grapes and feed the children lunch).

With the jars given to us and free fruit, each jar costs under 50 cents and makes a wonderful Christmas gift for church friends, relatives or acquaintances. This year alone, I have canned strawberry jam, wild grape jam, wild cherry jam, raspberry jam, salsa, and several “combination” jams. I’m looking forward to picking free apples this fall to make applesauce and apple butter. I not only have gifts for just about anyone, but I have an easy dish to take to a potluck. Homemade jam and rolls are always popular! Amy Davis – Omaha, NE


 Personalized & Silly Christmas Gifts

I am the eldest of three sisters, and we have two “kid” brothers. At Christmas time we don’t exchange expensive presents, but rather things that are pertinent to our interests or hobbies. We limit expenses by requiring that the gifts cost less than $10 — the cheaper the better, so we can brag about it later.

The sisters’ names are Ann, Barbara, and Rose. This year at my local grocery store I noticed “Barbara’s” cereal and “Annie’s” macaroni and cheese. From there I went to the local “dollar” store where I saw “Rosie’s” diced tomatoes.

So, my 2 brothers each received as a Christmas gift: A box of Barbara’s cereal, a package of Annie’s macaroni and cheese, and a can of Rosie’s diced tomatoes! Sister Rose received 4 cans of “her” tomatoes — $2, and Sister Barbara received a box of “her” cereal — $4.

I made my own gift card with a drawing of three females and stated that each gift was packed with loving care by The Three Sisters Specialty Group! I put the appropriate name under each female.  Ann Nieser — Pittsburgh, PA 


Giving the Christmas Gift of “Events” Rather than Stuff

Here’s a Christmas idea that ended up saving us a lot of money. I decided in October that we would have an “event-oriented” Christmas. So I told all family members and friends who normally buy our children gifts that this year would be different. We didn’t want to continue accumulating “stuff.” We have six children and live in a small three-bedroom house. So you can imagine how I feel on December 26th when I have no place to put all the new stuff.

What does an “event-oriented” Christmas look like? Here are our guidelines:

1) You may purchase any gift card providing it is an event.

2) The most that can come home with a child is a happy meal prize.

We had great responses!

The kids really enjoyed it! They will be going to several local food places—which is never in the budget. Two of the girls are getting pedicures at the local beauty school; the boys are going to be swinging a bat at an Adventure Sports place, movie tickets, roller-skating, ice-skating, and much more. When I presented my idea to the children they were a little leery, but Christmas morning I heard one of the boys say, “This isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

I had several people tell me our idea was unique but couldn’t imagine trying it. I almost caved to the pressure twice but stuck to the plan. I’m sure glad I did. We didn’t have any gifts to take back and Christmas keeps returning each week. My personal favorite is when we go on the “doughnut parade.” Each child received a $3.00 gift card in their stocking to the local grocery store to pick out a special sweet treat. Again, this is a rarity—doughnuts seldom make it on the grocery list. If you could have seen all the smiles we received as we paraded through the store. The bonus was at the checkout when everyone was allowed to swipe his or her own card through the machine.

This is one of my personal favorite Christmas memories. In the end, we spent less than usual but had many more memories.
Lori Sangrey – Millersville, PA


Awesome Stocking Stuffers

Christmas stocking full of toys.

If you’re at a loss as to what to put in your Christmas Stockings this year, try some of these fun ideas sent to us by Aimee Lenger from Renton, WA.

  • Postage Stamps
  • Fun school supplies Gel pens, unique erasers, and fancy markers.
  • Special Coins or Bills Sacagawea or Susan B. Anthony coins or 2 dollar bills.
  • Hard candies, gum, tic tacs, or full-size candy bars bought on sale — 4 for $1 or less.
  • Hobby / Game supplies, such as crochet needles, small cross-stitch kits, rubber stamps, foreign coins or stamps, a deck of cards, beads, matchbox cars, modeling clay/playdoh.

Related Article: Fun & Inexpensive Hobbies

  • Toiletries such as lip balm, fancy soap, aftershave, lotion, toothbrush.
  • For Girls / Ladies. Small hair accessories, make-up, costume or real jewelry.
  • Tools such as a multi-tool, a small screwdriver set, kitchen gadgets, tire gauge. Check out Dollar Tree StoresHarbor Freight or Big Lots
  • Film for those who haven’t yet entered the “digital age.”

<Favorite Things. Watch for items that friends and family especially like. For instance:

A young friend of mine (11 years old) routinely asks for duct tape for Christmas, because he enjoys finding many uses for it. To my knowledge, those uses do not include using it on his brothers.

My husband goes through several Fisher Space pens — or refills for those pens — each year in the course of his job. These pens write underwater, upside down, and on oily surfaces.

>My mother would be happy with a package of cashews, as she enjoys eating them, but doesn’t enjoy the expense of buying them.

Gift Certificates / Gift Cards

From local businesses and restaurants: Wal-Mart, Hardware stores, Drug Stores, Grocery Stores, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, McDonald’s, Olive Garden, the persons’ favorite store to splurge (massage therapist, etc.) Save time and pick them up at the gift card kiosk at your local grocer.

KSAZ TV Fox — Arizona Morning – Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

It was December 21st and we were asked to give out some quick and inexpensive last-minute gift ideas for Christmas. Hmmm, how can you make something meaningful quickly and inexpensively? If you’ve got time to plan, then meaningful and inexpensive gifts can be accomplished. But if you wait until the last minute your options are limited.

Fox News - Ron Hoon with Steve & Annette Economides

We suggested giving:

Special Ornaments (our kids love receiving them from out-of-town relatives),

Home Baked Cookies or Breads (who can resist them)

Personalized Gift Baskets – we gave 5 ideas of inexpensive gift baskets that we have made.

Pre-Owned Gifts – We know this is a touchy topic, but gently used cookbooks and toys can be enjoyed just as well as new ones. This website will help you find thrift stores in your zip code: TheThriftShopper.com

A Gift From the Heart – Write a personal letter sharing your hopes, dreams, and appreciation for the recipient.

A golden gift box for the unique and creative gift ideas super page.

If you want a personalized gift for your child that shares some family heritage history, this blog shares a very special book you can order!

If you have other creative gift ideas that are not listed on this page, please leave them below in the comments and we’ll review them.

12 thoughts on “Unique Gift Ideas for Everyone

  1. CarolynEPCMM

    I challenged myself to a no spend Christmas.

    I made a Family Cookbook on MS PowerPoint and sent it via email to family.

    I got a blank mug from a friend and drew an amusing cartoon of a squirrel based on an event with my boyfriend. Baked in oven for half an hour the impression generally stays!

    I use cotton yarn to knit washcloths and towels. I make spa baskets with knit and crochet items.

    I knitted a sweater for a bottle of wine that a friend favored using yarn I had.

    I got books from my Buy Nothing group to gift.

  2. J MOORE

    I make something that doesn’t take much space, keeps, and will not likely contribute to hoarding – processed jam is a treat long after holiday sweets have gone.

    1. Steve Economides

      Homemade jam is a great gift idea. We call those kinds of items “disappearing gifts.” And you’re right, it doesn’t add to clutter and does last a long time.

  3. Sharon

    Last year we collected rocks at the beach and painted them to look like vegetables. Everyone used them as their garden markers the next summer.

    1. Steve Economides

      Wow, Sharon this is a Fantastic gift idea for crafty people – so cute. Do you have a picture of the painted rocks? We’d love to see it and share it.

  4. Tracy

    I’ve picked up some pretty flower pots at Good Will for 25 cents each. I’ll print black and white pictures of the person I’m making the gift for (or their children and/or grandchildren) on my home printer. I decoupage the pictures on the planter and buy a $3 plant at the store to put in it. People always love how personalized it is. Decoupage sounds so fancy but it’s very cheap and easy to do. A bottle of Mod Podge costs $5 and lasts a while. All you do is put the pictures on the pot and paint on the Mod Podge and wait for it to dry. Voila! You have a nice gift under $5!

  5. Joanna

    When I go to a baby shower, I like to take baby lotion for the baby and a fragrant lotion for the mom. I put on the card that there’s a gift for each of them. The moms are always so excited to get a gift just for themselves … they need a little pampering just like Baby does!

    1. Steve Economides

      Joanna – what a great gift idea – pampering both mom and baby! Super thoughtful and really easy to stock up on when there’s a sale.

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