Seeking Inexpensive Christmas Ideas:

Updated on August 12, 2011
C.S. asks from Crescent City, CA
26 answers

I know, right? Christmas already? LOL I was just in the spirit I guess.

So, my family is huge into gift giving. Everyone buys for everyone! That is 11 neices and nephews, 7 siblings, 6 grandparents, 2 great grandma's, and a partridge in a pear tree (of course!)...

I get an extra check each year that is a set amount and we have always used that for Christmas. I don't know how my other family members do it without that...Well, this year I will still get my extra check, but we are using it for Disneyland. My hubby and I have never been and we are taking our two kids...So, I am already stressing about how I am going to work this out with buying for everyone and not using my check.

I have tried so many times to pare down the spending and gift giving, but I always get shot down, or not everyone sticks to the no gift rule and then I feel bad that I didn't get them something.

So, I want to plan early and come up with some cool ideas for gifts that are sentimental or thoughtful and don't break the bank. Any ideas???

2 moms found this helpful

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the ideas!

We have been doing the photo calendars for the great grandmas for a few years. I think that I will exptend that to the grandparents as well.

I also LOVE the photo book idea. I do stuff like that all the time with my family. I think doing one for each family and then a small gift for each kid would be perfect. If I start early (i.e. today) I might be able to do it for Christmas! : )

P.S. I am soooo not a homemade cookies are not an option! :)

Thanks so much!!!

Featured Answers



answers from Portland on

I'm big on magazine subscriptions. It's a gift that keeps on giving all year, and they cost $20 max. Usually more like $12. Also, a lot of mags are now offering a BOGO deal, so it's even better!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

I just went to Target today, and looked on their clearance toy aisle, and saw so many great gifts marked down about 90%. Example: A set of dragons that were originally $30, were $3. I stocked up on Zhu Zhu pets for $1.25 each, Transformers for $3.74, etc... Hope you can find what you need!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

We make ornaments for individuals or buy a gift (like a movie or board game) for an entire family, depending on how the gift exchange is set up.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from San Diego on

What a lot of people in big families do is draw names and you only buy for your family (Spouse/children) and the one person whos name you picked. It's fun and inexpensive. Juli

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Topeka on

How about a gift for each FAMILY...instead of each PERSON...a board game...or have a picture taken of your family and get some reprints at walmart and get inexpensive frames...that would do nicely for the grandparents and great grandmas...shoot even the siblings would like it. Have your children make something for the grandparents and great grandparents...we grandparents love ANYTHING that the little ones make!!!
I Would think that your family would certainly be understanding about financial todays' economy we are ALL looking to stretch a dollar.... try talking to them NOW....long before Christmas...suggest either a gift exchange...or drawing names for who is going to give to whom ( one person gives to one other person) and the dollar limit. Just be up front with someone else already said...Christmas is NOT about running yourself into debt...then digging your way out the rest of the year. Christmas is about that little Baby in the Manger, about family, love and caring. My oldest daughter is going "minimalist" on me...she knows how I ADORE gift giving...and I am the first one to admit that I can get WAY carried away!! SO gift for her, one for her husband and only one ( sob!!!) for the grandson!!!! They don't want their son to connect me ( and my husband) in his mind with what he GETS from us...she wants us all to build memories together. And I must really IS nice!!!
You don't say how old your children I don't know what kind of crafts and things that your children would be capable of doing...but there are a lot of great ideas online that you could find if you just google...and lots of things that are just not that expensive to make.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Start now and collect christmas ornaments for everyone. I would go to second hand stores and garage sales. You can buy beautiful ornaments and put them into boxes with tissue paper. you know the people so you know the kinds of things they are into. My sister and I trade gifts and I always buy her an ornament that is shaped like a purse as that is her true passion. you don't say what you spend on everyone. that is a lot of people. the other thing I like to give is books. you can get those for a pittance at garage sales. and lots of times they are like new good luck

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Make ornaments. Start a tradition. Either use a favorite family photo, or an old vintage photo of a great-grandparent taken decades ago, or find an ornament craft. There are instructions on websites for making cinnamon teddy bears that pretty much use cinnamon and glue I think, or something similar. If there has been a big event this year (new baby or wedding that the whole family celebrated) use that as your theme. There are tons of websites that tell you how to make photo ornaments, and craft stores have lots of ideas. It would be a nice project that your family could do together (even the littlest kids can help choose a photo). Some hand-made ornaments are as simple as submitting a photo online and having them produced as ornaments, and some can be a child-friendly craft, and some involve skills like crocheting or sewing. It all depends on the time and effort you want to expend.

Don't waste your time trying to adjust everyone's attitudes. Do what's right for your own family and don't try to please everyone.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

When My wife and I were having economic difficulties, she and I made a calendar for my mom and dad plus my brother. We put family photos together plus marked on the calendar everyones birthday and anniversary. Mom and dad loved it. When they died, I found it hanging up in their home office. The calendar had been for years earlier, but they kept it and changed the months every month to see birthdays and anniversaries.

When my son and his wife were having economic difficulities I told him about it. He had told me they weren't going to be able to participate in the traditional family Christmas gifts. He took pictures off facebook, old family files, pictures sent to him and he called siblings for the birthdays and anniversaries he couldn't find and made a calendar for my wife and I and the siblings on his Christmas list. It was a tremendous success. Everyone wanted a copy.

Good luck to you and yours.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

Buy some blank books and have you, your husband, and children write/illustrate stories for everyone. You can get nice hardcover blank books at Toys R Us and craft stores.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I've fallen in love with a blogger who always makes the cutest kids' crafts for her home daycare kids. I plan to make these for my nephews and niece.

Peek-a-boo Sprites in Nature Vases:

And hopefully learn to felt before Christmas comes and goes.

Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

In my extended family we went from everyone gets for everyone to the pollyanna where we draw names and only gift that person. The exception is that for IMMEDIATE family (dad/sis, etc) we get together and exchange gifts. So it's business as usual for the immediate family, and extended family doesn't really care cause we're not around them all the time. It works out fie. But of course, everyone has to be into it. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Give them all a picture of you and your family at Disneyland....take a picture with Christmas Santa hats on or something to that idea. j/k but that would be funny!!! (You could thank them,per se, for sending you to Disneyland)

First of all...strip the guilt when it is agreed no gifts but then others break the rule. Or just let everyone know ahead of time that your family will not be bringing gifts for everyone, regardless of other family's plans, and that you are trying to scale back and simplify. Then make cookies for each family and put in a cute bag or tin with a thoughtful letter or sweet photocopied Christmas story or poem.

We pick names so everyone brings and gets one gift. We have done "homeade only" gifts. That year everyone said it was the best year.

One year my mom put together a slide show type presentation for our family as her gift to us. We loved it! It was so fun going down memory lane while looking at the old,dusty slides she pulled out of the garage. I have now inherited all those slides and my gift to each family this year is a dvd of allllll those photos.

Make a music c.d. for each family of all time favorite Christmas songs.

Give each family a homemade gift certificate inviting them to your home for dinner. (families all come over separately throughout the year) Give them three meal choices on the certificate to choose from...tell them how long in advance they need to make "reservations" and then your gift is your time and cooking...and everyone ends up enjoying "the gift" together.

Just some ideas off the top of my head at 11pm. But I do think it would be funny to give them all pics of you and your family at Disneyland. That is Christmas money well spent!!

Best wishes for an inexpensive, relaxing and joyous Christmas season..with no guilt!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Do a grab bag.
It really is a financial burden.... when there is that many people to buy for.
And... one should NOT have to go into DEBT... just over Christmas presents. What kind of 'gift' is that?
Only buy, what is within your means.... and your immediate family/kids/your own nuclear family needs... should come first.

And, you just have to say, you CANNOT afford to buy everyone presents.
Why have a guilt trip over it?
I wouldn't want someone to get me a gift or my kids... if it puts them into financial debt or anything.
Even home-made gifts... can cost a lot of money. Because all the supplies for it, costs money. Too.

Anyway, is great for photo gifts. (a photo magnet costs only $3.99, for example. I have gotten this, and it is real nice, good quality and the receiver really liked it. It was for my son's Teachers and Preschool Director). Or they have Photo Christmas Ornaments that are like $12.99 each. I have gotten those too. VERY nice.

Or, for photo gifts too or personalized gifts.

You have: 11 nieces and nephews
7 siblings
6 Grandparents
2 great Grandmas
And... what about YOUR own kids or your Husband???? Did you factor them into it, too????

IF the other relatives do not stick to the no gift rule, that is their problem.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

How about baking treats for everyone? This is what I started doing a few years ago for my large, extended family.

I start gathering ideas around October for cookies, candies, breads and cakes. Around the second week in December the kitchen is a whirl with everything going on for a few days. And you don't have to get fancy-schmancy either. Simple ready-to-bake cookies rolled in colorful sprinkles look so homemade, peppermint bark candy can be made with just 2 ingredients, dollar stores sell cute bags and tins to put goodies in, and most everyone enjoys homemade goods, it symbolizes love.

Here's some recipes (the first 12) I use every year that are easy as can be, they use pre-made cookie dough in tubs. My grown son loves the Merry Cranberry Cookies the best:

Have fun packaging your goodies, in big tins for families or individual bags or tins for just one person. I send a Priority Mail box crammed with goodies from SoCal to NJ to my son every year, and they've always arrived fresh. He usually has someone over, this year his girlfriend and her daughter will be there, and they get out the coffee and cocoa and enjoy. You can also make some homemade cards or tags to accompany your gifts to really personalize them.

And have a blast at Disneyland, it's great at Christmastime!! : )

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Christmas ornaments
Pictures of their kids framed (you could do one or two for each family)
Grandparents - Pics of your kids with handprints on the frames
Craft kits for the kids ( They sell bulk stuff)
Put a little in savings now if you need to
Siblings could get something small that is thoughtful (family guy figurines or A christmas story figurine, I don't know if they like it just examples based on my dad's likings lol)
If someone is obsessed with itunes/ipod, gift card for itunes
If someone loves books, barnes and noble gift card

I like Julie L's idea for a secret santa type of thing :P

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Consider this,

You can go on to Blurb and make a photo book, or any other kind for that matter. You could include a picture of each of the people mentioned and share a favorite memory as a caption. It is inexpensive for the smaller books and you could have all the shopping done at once. Furthermore it is great fun!

Good luck and let us know what you decide to do please. And DO have fun at Disneyland. Everyone should go once:-)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

You could do kmart layaway and give yourself eight weeks to pay off some stuff. Another thing to do for the grandparents are pictures of the grandkids or even pictures done professionally of the whole family. I would do the kmart layaway for the neices and nephews. another thought is that every pay day until christmas buy one or two christmas gifts or may be buy gift cards every pay day so the neices and nephews can buy what they want and your siblings as well.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I love Sherry's idea! Also talk to family members about changing to a different system (in our family each aunt or uncle pulls a niece or nephew's name our of a hat and gives to that child). For adults You could make homemade gifts, my relatives have made kahlua, mustard, candy, jam cookies, bread....

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I'm in the same boat, although it's me that refuses to enter into some sort of gift exchange system ;-) On my side, I'm the baby of 6 and there's 13 grandchildren (plus spouses!) and 3 great grandchildren. My parents and grandparents have since gone, so it's a little smaller now, but I feel your pain! :-) I actually kind of have fun trying to figure out what I'm going to give each year. I often start the Christmas before during the Christmas/New Year's Clearance sales. My rule is that it has to be something I can give to everyone-- except the nieces/nephews that are younger than 18. I also do a family gift.
This year, I'm collecting recipes from everyone and printing them out on pretty paper and making a family cookbook using the YourStory bookbinding system.
Last year, I trolled the internet for various card/dice games, made them into a book, bought a couple packs of cards and dice and made a game kit.
I've made drink mixes, gathered ingredients and a recipe in a Christmas bowl that I found cheaply on clearance, stenciled cheap kitchen towels, made no-sew scarves from polar fleece, just a few ideas.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Rather than giving individual gifts would it be practical to give a family gift.
make each family a scrapbook
a family game night package
buy discount tickets to the movies
a specially designed ornament

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

How about having your children make plates for everyone? You can buy a kit and then send in the artwork for the company to turn it into a plate:

Before doing this, make sure you figure out all the costs affiliated with it. I think it might be around $10 each, but it's a nice sentimental keepsake that relatives can have for years to come.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I totally can agree with this.
Have fun on your trip, btw. need to break the bank
-Nieces/nephews - small universal toy or a wooden sign for their room in
their name, iTunes gift card if they have iPod, for small kids a piggy bank w/$20 bill inside, a game like Pictionary or something like that
-Ornament (a special one) for each sibling (you can even get silver pen
at Michael's in order to customize them w/a saying or few words from u
-Photo albums w/pics of your and your kids for your grandparents
-framed photo and a warm, cozy throw for your great grandma's
other gift ideas:
a book
bottle of wine w/set of 4 wine glasses
a fave family movie

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My mom likes to get home-made cards that she can use for birthdays and anniversaries. Home-made candy, treats, jelly, cookie mix or soup mix in a jar, etc. I also like to do the family gift with a package for a movie night or a game night complete with snacks - I spend about $20-$30 on a gift for a family of 4 and it is a fun gift that they remember every time they watch the movie or play the game. Also a gift card to a restaurant for a family works too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

All adults (the siblings, grandparents, etc) and maybe anyone over than 18yo (or out of college) doesn't get a gift. Instead, pick a family charity and everyone donate a small amount to that. In our family, the charity changes each year, and each "branch" of the family tree gets a chance to choose the charity by taking turns. (With parents and four siblings, I get to choose once every five years.)

For the littles, buy small gifts.

If folks can't stick to the plan, too bad. No guilt.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Okay here is my answer. We don't have such a huge family and are really not into buying christmas gifts. But, one year we did garage sale/or used X-mas gifts and it was quite fun. Of course we had a year to search things out and we ended purchasing a bamboo fly fishing pole for my father in-law at a thrift store and he really loved it, he said it reminded him of the one his dad or grandpa had when he was a boy. Lately, we have just been buying for the kids and maybe parents but, that is all. Good luck. You can always say that you will be taking a trip with your family to Disneyland and will not be doing Christmas or, if everyone insists then they can make a contribution to a local charity or something in your name. Hope that helps.


answers from Eugene on

At $30 per person that is $540. for nieces and nephew and 7 siblings. And, there are more yet.
For your kids and your husband the Christmas present is Disneyland. They don't need anything else.
Start going to garage sales finding jewelry, gently used DVD's and whatever else they use. If you are handy make things to give as gifts, necklaces, knit socks, go to thrift stores and sales and do whatever it takes to get the price down an still present a lovely gift.
Normally I shop in July when I am on the road for everyones presents.

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