Gifting Fabulously and Spending Little

We all wish we had the money to buy our loved ones a new car, or even a new house, but that is not something most of us can afford. But how do we celebrate special occasions with loved ones without breaking the bank? First, realize that we don’t need to get someone a gift for everything. In today’s world, many are happier with how many wishes or congratulations they get on social media than actual gifts. If they get 100 birthday wishes everyone sees and thinks they’re awesome because they have so many friends. If you stop by with a gift quite often only they and you know and that doesn’t make them feel as “important.”

That said, there are some people in our lives and some occasions when we do want to do a little more. Let’s look at some ideas of how to gift without wasting money. With luck, the ideas here will either be exactly what you need or the inspiration to help you find it.

The Older Generation

Grandparents, Mom and Dad, whoever fills your heart with love that is older, chances are they aren’t looking for more gifts, what they need is time. Oh, I know, you’re ducking away already, feeling guilty, but hang in there, these ideas are rather painless and maybe enjoyable.

Whether you’re near or far, record their life story. Give them a call and record it or record when visiting, asking them to tell you stories about their life. This can be a quick project that involves several phone calls or visits, or you could make this a weekly/monthly thing for a year. You may want to pull a list of questions off the internet to help guide you. You can download a free program to help you edit the calls (audacity is a good one) and then give them their life story as your gift. Be sure to share with others in the family. You may even want to transcribe it.

Sit down with them and help go through their memory boxes, labeling photos and getting them put in albums is a fabulous gift for generations. If those photos aren’t labeled, it doesn’t take long before no one knows who they are. Be prepared, this can stir up a lot of memories and they will quite often just sit holding an item and talking about it or thinking about it for a while.

Help them clean or do yard work. Stopping in even once a month to help with basics is a huge help for people as they age. You don’t have to be that old to find climbing a ladder to clean out the gutters a dangerous idea. Some folks shouldn’t be up on a stepstool changing a lightbulb. Others have difficulties with looking up and moving about like you do when you sweep cobwebs from the ceiling. Our family had an annual get-together for my grandparents. Everyone came and did – some painted the fence, others pulled weeds, some cleaned out the fridge and freezer, and so on.

The Younger Generation

Toys, toys, toys, do kids play with all of them? Do they need more clutter? They do love and go through craft supplies like crazy. Shop the back-to-school sales and get your gifts for the year. Fill up a small box with construction paper, glue, colored pencils, and more. I like to stop at the dollar store for googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and other fun things. Don’t forget tape, kids love tape and can use it up fast. This is a gift they’ll love and use.


The easiest is to give them a gift card to Amazon or check out their wish list on Amazon. The biggest problem with teenagers is they are constantly evolving, and their interests can change faster than the day of the week. I like to encourage them in creativity and spend time with them. I will do classes with them that feature their interests, remember this is their gift. I’ve gone to plays, cooking classes, museums, and other places that they said sounded good. I went to a class on how chocolate is made that was free and we had a wonderful time. My teenage friend has mentioned that class several times.


Adults tend to go to work, home, and kids on repeat,  so a little time off is often what touches their hearts. You can offer to babysit or take them out to lunch. I have a friend who takes her kids and another friend’s kids to the park and watches them for an hour or two so that her friend can get things done kid-free or even take a nap. Make them a birthday cake, who wants to make their cake? I remember one year that I received three birthday cakes! It made me feel special even though I had too much cake to eat. Don’t worry, I froze some. I don’t even remember what else I received that year.

If there are several of you, you may want to suggest something where instead of doing gifts you all add x amount to a fund and then when the goal is reached you use it together. Your goal might be an overnight trip together. It might be an evening out that includes a fancy dinner and dancing. Maybe you enjoy playing the slots and you want to rent a bus to Vegas and back. I have some friends who go on history tours. Find something that makes you all happy and work toward it.

Making it all More Affordable

Use your talents. Paint a birthday card, create rock animals to decorate their yard, or use your skills to create something else. Do you grow beautiful flowers? Pick up a vase at a thrift store and fill it with flowers you grew. Maybe you have a green thumb in the garden, gift a special basket of goodies. A friend once brought me a basket that had homegrown lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and an onion. I loved it! Do you sing? Serenade them with some favorite songs. A plate of cookies, a freshly made pie, or homemade fudge can make someone delighted.

Have a designated gift drawer or closet in your home where you put items you find deals on so you can go there when you need a gift. This is where you keep those school supplies you picked up on special or fun stuff you found on clearance that may be holiday-themed but can hang out in your closet until next year.

Set dollar limits as a family, and others you gift to. Also, don’t be afraid to suggest that you don’t give gifts. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve suggested no gifts for extended family, and they agreed, but some kept giving anyway. They find joy in it. They have money to spend and like to shop. Instead of spending money in return, we will quite often work with the kids and make something artsy that they can display on the fridge for a bit and then save or toss. Others are just as happy as I am to save a bit of time and money and not give gifts, they just didn’t want to bring it up.

Even Make it Free

I also keep items in there that I’m going to re-gift. If you’re re-gifting, be sure to put a note on it that reminds you of who gave it to you so you don’t give it back to them. I love to give books, I read them first, then gift them. People know I love books and will often give them to me. They are read and then put in the gift drawer with a note of who gave it to me so it doesn’t go back to them.

Use your points for gifts. I save my credit card and loyalty points to purchase gifts. If I have some that are about to expire I will look at the clearance deals and pick up gifts for my gift drawer. I love Kohl’s, they have some great deals and you get Kohl’s cash. I often use my Kohl’s cash and a coupon to get scientific kits for kid’s gifts. They can be pricey, but I can often get them for less than $5 out of pocket with a coupon and Kohl’s cash.

Check out places like where you can earn points for shopping online, completing surveys, clipping coupons, and more. You then turn in those points for rewards cards, the best deal is a virtual MasterCard, which I often use to buy Amazon gift cards. I like to give Amazon cards because they can buy whatever they want or need.

You can also check for boards on social media where people post things they don’t want or need. I’ve gotten brand new items, still in the shrink wrap off of these. You can also find collectibles and other goodies. I like to get casserole pans to gift a meal in.

Consider the Person, That’s the Thought That Counts

A birthday card that you took the time to write a favorite story about time spent together or where you listed your favorite things about that person will probably be kept for years to come. My mom always wrote a special note inside each birthday card about why she loved me, something about me that made me special to her. I kept all those cards and now that she’s passed on I am so grateful for them. They are of greater value to me than anything should spent money on.

The ultimate key to a successful gift is the thought that went into it. Did you consider the person’s interests? Did you share a bit of yourself? Are you giving them a gift because you care or because you feel like you have to? If it’s just something you’re doing because you think you should, you may be better off saving time and money and not doing it. When love is involved, and thought, you may quickly discover that the gift naturally becomes something that doesn’t cost as much.