Special Occasion Gifts, Tips & Ideas

Ideas for saving money on hosting special occasion parties.

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This Special Occasions Tips Page contains a growing list of money-saving tips from our readers to help you save time and money on special occasion expenses.

Free Post Cards for Special Occasions

I have five great-grandchildren whom I stay in touch with by sending postcards. I never purchase the postcards, instead, I make them out of photos, the fronts of cut-off greeting cards, cut-out cereal box graphics or any kind of interesting boxes. Last week I sent out a postcard to the five-year-old made out of an ice cream cone box – she loved it! And for postage . . . I save my cans, take them to a recycling company and then use that money for stamps.   Billie Williams – Lewisville, TX

How We Save on Party Supplies

When our kids were younger, we’d buy lots of party decorations and party favors from Oriental Trading Company (use coupon code AFFOTC to get free shipping). Whenever the catalog would arrive, each of the kids would spend hours circling the “cool” things that they wanted to have for toys and as trinkets to decorate with when guests arrived. We experienced good delivery and good customer service.

More recently, we hosted a Medieval Party and a Pirate Party at our church for a young adult group. We ordered great background murals and other decorations from Oriental Trading, they looked great and the guests thought they were fantastic. If you’re putting together a theme party, start here — you’ll be amazed at all of the stuff they have.

Joe swinging on a rope while dressed in Medieval garb.

The brick castle wall background is from Oriental Trading Company. We bought 2 of the 30′ murals and they covered the whole wall. We borrowed the throne from a drama troupe we know. That’s our son Joe swinging from the rafters.

A girl standing with a Johnny Depp poster from Pirates of the Carribean.

Office Birthday Parties – Flowers for the Ladies!

Here’s an inexpensive idea for all those office Birthdays! I grow beautiful hydrangea bushes in my backyard. They multiply over time and you can start new bushes from clippings. I pick up beautiful vases for around 50 cents each at yard sales and run them through the dishwasher. They come out looking like new. Then I make bouquets from the hydrangea, put a ribbon on the vase and then give a beautiful gift for the girls in the office for only pennies!
Alexandria, VA

A Quick Way to Do Bridal & Baby Shower Thank You’s

Here’s a time-saver for bridal or baby showers that I learned from a friend recently.

When hosting a bridal or baby shower, purchase or make thank-you notes ahead of time. At the shower, have each guest address an envelope to themselves. This saves time for the bride-to-be or mother-to-be and helps her get her thank you cards mailed more promptly after the shower.Nancy Manos Gilbert, AZ

Wedding Present Idea – Your First Christmas

If you know you will be attending a wedding in the next year, why not prepare a “First Married Christmas” box? Most newlyweds (especially younger couples) do not have many holiday decorations of their own. Shop right after Christmas for ornaments, table linens, candles, stockings, etc. You can really fill up a box of nice things for a low total cost.
Ann Thomas -Bridgeville, PA

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Stocking Up on Scholastic Books

When my son comes home from school with a Scholastic Book order, there are always one or two $.95 books listed on the front. I stock up on these for birthday gifts or even baby shower gifts. Sometimes they will even come with a matching pencil or another item that makes a great gift. And for only 95 cents. No more running out at the last minute and paying more for a gift when my children are invited to a birthday party. And I love giving books as a gift anyway, instead of toys. Dana Prescott – Rochester, MN

Discount Greeting Cards for Special Occasions

I have a card organizer that I use to sort birthday, anniversary cards, etc.  I make a list of all the occasions for the year and make one to two trips per year to the dollar store where they sell cards 2 for $1. This saves me time, it assures that I have cards ready and on hand, and saves a lot in the way of money spent on cards.   Julia L. – Scottsdale, AZ

Mysterious Greetings – Save the Envelopes

A greeting card envelope with a large heart floating over it.

My husband and I enjoy exchanging cards for different holidays during the year, but we never address the envelope. Instead, we save and recycle them. That way we always have plenty of envelopes, especially the large size, for the occasional card- purchased or homemade – that we need an envelope for. Louise Hahn – Frederic, MD 

Missing Envelopes for Greeting Cards

Kind of like socks without mates, I found several of my greeting cards did not have envelopes. So I went into an office supply store that sold greeting cards and asked if I could buy their extra envelopes. Well for about a nickel per envelope and about 45 minutes of time, I came out with envelopes that were prettier than the original ones. Angel A. – Southern California

Anniversary Celebrations as a Special Occasion

We do lunch instead of dinner because we can get a steak for almost half price. We also go to five-star resorts when their rates go down and you can get a $500 room for $100 and eat and sleep like kings and queens.   Alan Heller – Phoenix, AZ

Free gifts Through Radio Station Prizes

An old time radio that is printing out a free concert ticket.

I listen to the radio and have won numerous prizes by just calling in. Most radio stations give prizes such as; tickets to concerts, amusement parks, movies, vacation packages, or airline tickets. Many stations limit your ability to win to once every 30 days. Three years ago I started trying to win prizes from my favorite station.

Since then, I have been able to win tickets to Great Wolf Lodge Amusement Park, tickets to seven different concerts, and tickets to the local dinner theater — a $125 value. I’ve also won numerous DVDs, zoo tickets, and other things that make great birthday or anniversary gifts. Just for fun, I entered my daughter’s teacher in a contest for the best teacher in our area . . . she won second place and received a $100 gas card. If you’ve got the time to listen and dial the phone, you could win too! Katina Lebo – Urbana, OH

Creative Graduation Gift Ideas!

Oh the places you'll go book cover by Dr. Seuss.

While not too frugal, my standard graduation gift to give for the High Schooler (and only to those who send me an announcement) is a copy of Dr. Seuss’s, “Oh the Places You’ll Go” along with a small check because every graduate needs cash.

For the College graduate, I give a copy of one of the “Worst Case Scenario” books and a modest check. This is my standard gift for those two events. I do keep a “gift” box so that when my daughter needs a last-minute gift item for an event she has been invited to, I don’t have to rush out shopping. Walmart and Target after Christmas have neat “Gifty” things that have worked over time. Angela Wilkins – Mesa, AZ

Cards Online Save Cash and Time

I have discovered sending Ecards through email. With the cost of greeting cards reaching $3- $5, it is great to do it online. Many companies offer a selected number of free cards. Just do a search for “e-cards” and a lot of results will appear. Cassie Homer – Canoga Park, CA

One free online card company is Spark.Adobe.com/make/card-maker. You need a colored printer and card stock to print your creation out. And also an envelope to fit!

A Different Kind of Baby Shower Theme

Start with Book-themed invitations that include animal and toy stickers with a request for each guest to bring a favorite children’s book as a gift. Books with matching stuffed animals and toys from thrift stores for decorations (e.g. Curious George and stuffed monkey).

Also, have foods connected to the books (e.g. Bread and Jam for Frances with sandwiches).

Plan Book-themed games (e.g. give a synopsis of the plot, and guests guess the title).

And lastly, have frosted cutout animal-shaped cookies or bags of animal crackers for favors. Jane Hopkins – Scottsdale, AZ 

Birthday Party Cake Savings

Make your own ice cream cake. It’s MUCH cheaper to make it yourself.
Bobbi Burger Brunoehler – Los Angeles, CA

Anniversary, Valentine and Birthday Special Occasions

My husband Jeff and I have a rule for Anniversaries, Valentine’s Day and Birthdays. We put a $20 limit on each other and encourage a creative gift, something which reflects that we really know each other. It always turns out great!  Venita Ballard – Phoenix, AZ

50th Anniversary Special Occasion Event

Years ago, I organized a 50th anniversary for my parents. With the invitation, I asked everyone to write their favorite story and send a picture if available of what my folks looked like. (My parents were trap shooters as their hobby). People sent the most amazing things and stories. My daughter put them in an album and my folks loved it. And, I learned lots of stories about my parents I didn’t know, LOL!  Donna Burham – Salem, MA

Easter Baskets – How Much Do You Give & Celebrate?

Easter baskets full of candy.

Question: I thought I would ask you this question as I really respect the way your family deals with issues like holidays and consumerism.

What do you do for Easter Baskets? In my family, we did just candy, but in my husband’s family, they did candy and presents. My concern with this is that Easter is already becoming very consumerist (almost like Christmas), and I think that it takes away from the religious aspect of the holiday. What do you do in your family? Thanks so much and Happy Easter!

Answer: We do give everyone in our family an Easter basket, but no presents. It is very easy to indulge our kids without realizing it or meaning to harm them. Keeping the holidays simpler can help you focus on the real reason for the celebration. And it will cost less too.

Our third book, The MoneySmart Family System talks all about what we do with our kids. You should be able to check it out of your library if you don’t have it yet.

You may also want to read the book: Easter Bunny—Are You For Real?

This is a delightful book and part of a series for kids that takes these common cultural icons and traces them back to their roots and then introduces the spiritual side of these special holidays. The presentation is very tactful and positive. The explanations are written in such a way that children can easily grasp them. Annette just can’t imagine any household with kids that wouldn’t benefit from reading these books.

Another book in the series is Santa — Are You For Real?

Easter Gifts for Needy Families

Over the last several months I have been encouraging my children to think about sharing a few of their stuffed animals. We watched for baskets at the thrift shop and bought Easter grass at Walmart.

Then we found several Christian books about Easter and made Easter baskets. Finally, we then took these to a local church that has a “store” (all items are given away, no charge) for families torn apart by domestic violence. Many of these women and children (primarily) flee their homes with nothing. The volunteer staff is very good about reminding my children that sharing in such a way is like sharing with Jesus! It’s wonderful. At Christmas, we also shared things that were still nice and clean. Becky & Mark Erickson – North Dakota

Recycling Cards and Memories

What do you do with all the greeting cards you receive for birthdays, anniversaries, valentines, etc.? Most people display them for a while and then throw them in the trash. What a shame and what a waste of money.

Well, we came up with a novel idea for recycling them. I created a system consisting of an inexpensive binder with a package of about 6 plastic pockets. I mark each pocket with a category: birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, anniversary. After a card sits out for a few weeks, we place the card in the appropriate pocket. We have one album for me and one for my husband.

When those holidays or occasions come around again, we ‘shop’ in the album for our card. The most beautiful thing about it is that aside from adding our new sentiments in the card for the current occasion, we get to read the previous sentiments. It’s so beautiful and meaningful. So instead of just discarding all those cherished words, we get to relive them over and over again. Roseanne I. – New York

Money-Saving ideas for Special Occasions - with balloons and streamers.

If you have a tip related to saving money for special occasions, please leave it in the comments below and we’ll review it for posting on this page.

4 thoughts on “Special Occasion Gifts, Tips & Ideas

  1. CarolynEPCMM

    I like decorating fir holidays, but I don’t want to just buy more stuff. I take the time to filter through what I have and put up collections. Fir example, on Valentine’s Day I knitted a heart shaped banner that ran across my bookshelf. On the bookshelf I placed a pair of two red glasses, 2 candles, and included anything red or white that worked like a red vase with white flowers from the yard.

  2. Rebecca in MD

    We recycle special occasion cards by reusing the pretty front of the card to make gift tags. Depending on the design of the card we make between 1 and 4 gift cards from each.

  3. Laura Stockdale

    Dollar Tree! So many things! get a basket & put things in there! Also, there is a website called Wish making shopping fun, they have Sterling silver jewelry! $ 1.00 & up, plus s& h – it takes a Month or two to get your items but Still!

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