Recession Christmas – 12 Frugal Christmas Present Gift Ideas

Frugal Christmas Ready or not, the Christmas season is upon us. Stores are stocking up on anything and everything related to Christmas gift-giving, while many families are trying to find ways to survive Christmas during a recession. Christmas may not seem so “Merry” for those affected by job layoffs, home foreclosures and in some cases, outright poverty. Many families are in need of life’s basic necessities, due in part to the economic downturn, and will be in need of Christmas donations from those more fortunate.

According to a survey by Ing Direct, only about half of American adults (54%) plan to spend $300.00 or more on holiday Christmas gifts this year, a 10% decrease from what Americans spent last year during the 2008 Christmas holiday season. The survey results show that only 11% plan to spend between $1 and $100 in 2009 on Xmas gifts, and 23% plan to spend $100-$299, compared to 21 percent last year.

11% of those surveyed don’t plan to spend any money at all on Christmas toys or gifts in 2009, compared to 7 percent in 2008, a 57 percent increase. 14% of parents are giving children smaller Christmas stockings this year, while others are choosing to not fill Xmas stockings at all, and some will just hang the stockings as a Christmas decoration. Older Americans (55 years old and up) show the most dramatic change, with 61% planning to spend $300 or more dollars on gifts this year, compared to 71% from last year.

41% of Americans say saving more and spending less is a top priority for the remainder of the year and beyond. According to, 67% of Americans say they will continue their frugal ways by saving more money and spending less even after the economy recovers. The recession creates a great opportunity to rethink priorities in life, with less focus on luxuries and frivolous spending, and greater importance being placed on real “needs” vs. “wants”.

If you are being frugal by choice or by sheer necessity, Christmas presents a financial challenge for those who are needing a less expensive, affordable Christmas holiday. Here are twelve inexpensive, frugal Christmas gift ideas that won’t break the bank.

Frugal Christmas Present Gift Ideas

1). CandlesScented candles are one of the best Christmas gifts candle lovers can receive. You can buy candles and wrap them in cheap wrapping paper and/or ribbon, or make homemade candles yourself in your kitchen (if you enjoy doing do-it-yourself craft projects) and wrap the candles with inexpensive, decorative tissue paper and ribbon as a gift.

2). Stationery or journal, with or without a fancy pen, makes a great gift for someone on your gift list who enjoys keeping a writing journal or writing letters to family and friends. Older folks especially, who don’t use a computer to send and receive email, still enjoy writing to friends and family the “old fashioned” way, and being gifted with beautiful stationery just might be their favorite Christmas gift of all.

3). Jewelry – Jewelry gifts for Christmas don’t have to be fine jewelry made of expensive diamonds or pearls, but can be inexpensive costume jewelry and accessories like: cufflinks, bracelets, necklaces, lockets, charms, earrings, sterling silver rings, birthstones, wrist watch, pendants and chains. Jewelry tops the list of the most romantic Christmas gifts to show your love for the special him or her in your life.

4). Books and/or Magazine Subscriptions – Researching the most popular, best-selling books and ebooks for adults or children is a great place to start, with many adults preferring to read books on a Kindle eBook reader. Books by a favorite author, and/or magazines for kids or adults makes a great Christmas gift that avid readers will enjoy. Children’s classic books are always a good choice, as are newly released books or kid magazines that are fun and educational at the same time.

5). Music and DVD Christmas gifts can sometimes be tricky, especially if you aren’t quite sure what kind of music or movies the gift recipient likes. iTunes gift certificates or gift cards from, in whatever amount you can afford, will satisfy the music-lover and movie-lover in your life without a doubt.

Homemade Christmas Gifts in a Jar 6). Homemade Christmas gifts from your kitchen. Homemade food gifts may include such tasty treats as chocolate spoons for the coffee lover; chocolate-dipped pretzels or marshmallows; homemade caramel popcorn or Kettle corn; cappuccino mixes; homemade breads or muffins; peanut brittle or fudge just to name a few.

7). Christmas gifts in a jar are an inexpensive, frugal gift for anytime of year. Gifts in a jar may be cookie or brownie mixes, holiday beverage mixes, baking mixes, gourmet coffee mixes, tea mixes, soup mixes and even bath salts layered in a glass canning jar, or Mason jar.

8). Homemade gifts of quilts, embroidered handkerchiefs, scarves, hats, gloves, socks, shawls, sweaters, hair ribbons and other things sewn and made by hand are meaningful gifts to be treasured and passed down through the generations as family heirlooms.

9). Photo albums, scrapbooks and picture frames with photo(s) of special occasions and loved ones create long-lasting memories that can be personalized for each gift recipient. Try your hand at scrapbooking with some inexpensive scrapbook supplies and start making homemade crafts and gifts now, and see for yourself if your handmade gifts aren’t the most treasured Xmas gifts of all.

10). Board games and card games are cheap Christmas gifts that can get the whole family (and friends) involved in having fun together on Christmas day and after the holiday season is over. Researching classic board games and checking out the list of the most popular board games and card games is a great place to start, and many of the old board games have been updated and re-released as new and improved.

11). Inexpensive Christmas gifts for him may be travel toiletries, favorite specialty beer or wine, hand tools, car wash kit, shoe polish kit, personalized golf balls, business card case, wallet, money clip, coffee mug, One For All Universal Remote control, men’s cologne or aftershave, gift certificates for guy gadgets. There are also many personalized Christmas gifts for men that are not expensive and will fit in just about anyone’s Christmas budget.

12). Christmas gifts for her under $50, $25 or even under $10 may be bath and body products, her favorite perfume, slippers, scented jar candles (see #1), digital photo frame, affordable jewelry, cashmere sweater or socks, jewelry box, small purse or handbag, iPod, mobile phone accessories, tickets to a play or concert, lingerie, or even engraved/personalized Christmas gifts for women within your Christmas budget.

Are you planning or having to cut back on your Christmas spending this year? What are some of the ways you are going about enjoying the upcoming Christmas holiday season during these tough economic times? Are there any Christmas traditions or expenditures that you and your family have decided to eliminate this Xmas season, perhaps not sending Christmas cards or trimming back on the list of gift recipients? Share your ideas for a frugal Christmas in the comments below.

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10 Responses to “Recession Christmas – 12 Frugal Christmas Present Gift Ideas”

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  1. Todd Morris says:

    Hey Lin,

    Oh, good stuff, Ana has become a craigslist junkie here lately, so we’re all about “frugal” gift. I’m just on my way out the door to the Olive Garden … but I’ll pop back in later and leave a better comment after I’ve had a chance to really read the whole post 😉

    .-= Todd Morris´s last blog ..An Easy Way To Reward Only Your Blogging Friends With DoFollow Comment Links =-.

    • Lin says:

      Hiya Todd,

      Craigslist is a pretty good site to buy and sell stuff at very reasonable prices. Just ignore the weirdos and creepy stuff. I’ve never actually bought anything (yet) from Craigslist, but we have listed things for sale there. I’ve been impressed with eBay and Amazon myself, and have bought and sold stuff on eBay many times over the years.

  2. Todd Morris says:

    Hi Again,

    Ok, after looking through this list, it appears to mainly describe the type of gifts that I usually end up getting. lol, that’s the life of a dad … once I get everybody else what they want, I might have enough left to pick up something for myself.

    As for cutting back, I think if I was going to be home for Christmas this year, we would be. However, if there’s one good thing about going back to Iraq, it’s that for the time I’m gone, we’ll get a nice little bump in the monthly paycheck … which Ana will dutifully spend. 🙂

    I do feel really bad for all the people who are out of work this time of year. Kids (especially younger ones) usually have no concept of money, so it’s tough for them to understand why they’re not getting “fancy” presents this year.

    … then again, a smart parent might use it as one of those “learning moments”, and take the opportunity to teach their kids about the value of giving. I think that’s what Christmas is supposed to be about anyway, right?

    Ok, enough rambling from me … I do appreciate all the good ideas.

    .-= Todd Morris´s last blog ..Is It Wrong To Use My Daughter As A Prop? =-.

    • Lin says:

      Hi Todd,

      From the reports I’ve been seeing lately, there is an expectation that there will be a lot more families with young children especially adding their names to donation lists like Angel Tree and other charitable organizations over the holidays.

      The economy has really hit families hard, not just last year but this year too and there’s still no end in sight.

      Not being home for Christmas this year with your family has to be hard in many ways, but I’m sure Ana will have it all covered, gifts for the kids and you too. Maybe she’ll leave some money for you to choose something you want, lol.

  3. talia says:

    I love the list, I have made candles and baked goodies for family for years. The best part is that a lot of these kind of gifts are things the whole family can do together.

    My son and I make the homemade candles and cookies and it’s a nice bonding experience, it’s like a great bonus 🙂
    .-= talia´s last blog ..I Make Buying Jewelry Online Easy! =-.

    • Lin says:

      Hi Talia,

      Homemade Christmas gifts are a real treasure in my opinion, but it seems there are quite a lot of people who think that receiving a homemade or “hand made” gift for Christmas is tacky. I disagree immensely. I wish I was “crafty” like that, a great seamstress or a do-it-yourselfer, but I’m just not. I’ve been reading some info sent to me by a friend about “second hand” Christmas gifts, where even used items that a gift recipient collects or enjoys (books and other stuff) are found at thrift shops, garage sales etc and given as gifts. Hmm.

  4. Carlo says:

    My kids came up with the idea of notes with promises for time together, like going for a walk together, a movie together, cooking dinner together, going out to lunch,cleaning the garage, the house, the car together, or going for a hike, etc. It is very hard to get some quality time with kids now-a-days and the one-on-one is more precious than any material gift. (Even if I end up paying for the event).

    If we are talking material presents, as a Dad I like practical gifts, inexpensive things that I can use, like those keylights, workout gloves since I go to the gym, unique, inexpensive accessories for clothing, etc.

    • Lin says:

      Hi Carlo, thanks for stopping by. Handwritten notes like that from kids are really adorable. Offering to do chores etc as a way of giving a gift to someone for Christmas (or any other special occasion) shows some real ingenuity on their part. Good for them!

  5. We do handwritten notes from the kids for a variety of occasions, including Christmas, and they are always well received. These days, simple things like that are so rare that most people seem to be extremely happy to receive them!


  1. […] for sure. Parents are either finding cheap and creative ways to fill xmas stockings during this Christmas recession we’re in, including sticking to traditional ideas of filling stockings with fruits and nuts, […]