Passion Lilie's Guide to Gift Giving on a Budget

Person wraps a small present

The holidays are fast approaching and it’s time to start planning your giving strategy if you haven’t already. If gift planning stresses you out, take a deep breath and read on. We LOVE this season of giving, and we’re here to help make yours easy, special, and budget friendly.

Between inflation and the rising cost of living, our circles have been full of conversation about gift giving on a budget. The Passion Lilie team is here with some of our favorite tips for thoughtful gifts that won’t break the bank.

Before we dive in, a couple of hot takes from a self-proclaimed gift enthusiast. First: Gift giving should always come from your desire to bring joy to the recipient. When you give a gift, make sure it’s because you want to. Gift giving out of obligation serves no one and is a quick way to add up both financial and material waste. Second: “It’s the thought that counts” is a tired excuse for lazy gift givers. It’s the thought and the effort that count. If someone is important enough to make a spot on your gift list – especially when you’re gift giving on a budget – you can take the time and put in the effort to make sure it’s something they’ll appreciate and use.

Gift planning with computer, coffee and notebookThe Planning Process

As a person who loves gifts and is always thinking about the next occasion for giving, there are a few things I’ve found helpful when it comes to gift giving on a budget.

  1. The most important part of gift giving on a budget is pretty obvious: you have to start with a budget. Figure out exactly how much you can spend without having to pull from other essential categories. Your loved ones would never want you to go into debt or struggle to pay bills just so that you can give them a gift.

  2. Before you start shopping, make a list of everyone on your gift list. Start with the most important people in your life, like family and friends. My list also includes my kids’ teachers and coaches, my husband’s coworkers, our neighbors, a beloved mail carrier, and our garbage collectors, but yours will be unique to you. Making this list will help figure out exactly how much you can spend on each gift.

  3. I recommend buying gifts year-round, when you see sales or find something that makes you think of a loved one. Right after Christmas is a great time to shop, when so many stores have their best sales of the year. Keep a list of what you purchase in the notes app on your phone so that you don’t duplicate or overbuy. I find it helpful to write what I bought, who the gift is for, and where I’m storing it until it’s time to give. Speaking of sales, Passion Lilie has tons of great gifts and our biggest sale of the year will be on Black Friday. Sign up for our newsletter to get sale updates and plan accordingly!

  4. Many years ago, someone in an online moms group recommended hoarding credit card points and cash back rewards throughout the year and using it for the holiday season. This has been incredibly helpful for our family. We set aside a little bit of each paycheck to save for gifts, but the extra chunk of cash back to use in November and December is a huge boon to our holiday budget.

Person gives plant as a gift

Use The Skills You Have

With your budget and recipient list in place, it’s time to start thinking about what you’ll give each person. Gift giving on a budget can be an extremely meaningful experience when you use your own skills and resources to make your presents.

For example, if you like to garden, you could grab terra cotta pots in bulk and pot herbs or flowers that you’re growing. Nothing growing this season? No problem. Just stop by Trader Joes or your local grocer and pick up some inexpensive herbs to plant. Personalize the gift by writing out some tips for keeping them alive. If you like to cook, perhaps prepare a meal that can be frozen and reheated on a night when your recipient needs a break and some good comfort food. Whether it’s embroidery, painting, jewelry making, baking, or any other hobby, you can turn it into something meaningful for your loved ones. Person gives gift to a friend

Put Some Thought Into It

The best gifts are given when you know your recipient well and listen to what they care about. It doesn’t have to be about the most expensive gift, just something that’s thoughtful and will be appreciated by the recipient. Often, an innocuous comment can lead to the best gifts of all. For the friend who loves coffee, pick up a bag of yummy local beans. If you have a book lover in your circle, check out their Goodreads account and choose a book in their favorite genre, or give them a favorite of yours. The most important thing is to think about what your recipient likes and go from there.

Trio of handmade jamsGive Homemade Gifts & Edible Treats

Homemade gifts and edible treats are great options for gift giving on a budget because:

  1. you can buy ingredients in bulk;

  2. they are typically more sustainable and produce less waste;

  3. they show that you invested your time and effort into your gift; and

  4. your recipients will love them!

Each neighbor on our street has a signature holiday treat to give when December rolls around. My family makes rocky mountain avalanche bars; others make peppermint bark, ugly sweater cookies, fudge, and so much more. The options are endless. Sweet treats make delicious gifts that are fun to make and fun to give (and receive)! 

Special flavored jams and butters also make lovely gifts. With a night in the kitchen, some pretty glass jars, labels, and ribbon, you can make a big batch of Christmas gifts all at once. One close friend makes a different jam flavor every Christmas, and everyone in our group looks forward to finding out what the flavor of the year will turn out to be. Find something simple, thoughtful, and budget-friendly and make your own tradition!

Bath products are another easy and inexpensive homemade gift idea. With a few simple ingredients like sugar, olive oil, and essential oils, you can make luxurious sugar scrubs for the people on your list. Don’t worry about buying fancy ingredients, just buy in bulk and then portion the mixture into small jars to give as gifts.

If sweets and bath goods aren’t your thing, a gift of soup is basically a warm hug in a jar. This is another bulk ingredient gift – just grab some bigger jars and a tried-and-true recipe. Your friends will love having something they can turn to on a cold winter day when they don’t feel like cooking.

Give Your Time

Sometimes gift giving on a budget means no budget at all, and that’s ok too – you still have plenty to give! Knowing your recipient is, as always, the most important factor when giving the gift of your time. Does your loved one hate packing up Christmas decorations? Desperately need someone to clean their car? Long for a kid-free night out? The options are limitless. Think of what your people need and how you can help. Make a gift card with a specific gift of your time, like babysitting, making dinner, hosting a movie night, or something you can do to bring joy or take something off their plate for them. For people who value quality time or acts of service above anything else, this could prove to be the best gift of all!

Friends gather for a holiday meal

Change the Way You Give 

If you have a group of friends or family who give to one another, consider changing up the strategy this year. A Secret Santa exchange allows you to focus on one individual gift rather than dividing your resources between a bigger group. Hosting a Dirty Santa or Favorite Things party is another way to spend less money while still celebrating the season with your loved ones. By drawing names or exchanging favorite things, the focus of giving shifts from quantity to quality, allowing each participant to invest more effort into a single, meaningful gift. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate the things that truly matter and can relieve financial stress will still maintaining the spirit of giving and receiving.

Shopping for gifts online

Use Browser Extensions for Online Shopping

If you’re not using browser extensions like Honey and Rakuten when you’re gift shopping online, you’re basically giving money away. These handy tools help you find the best deals and discounts available. They automatically search for and apply coupon codes at checkout, ensuring that you get the lowest possible price on your purchases. Additionally, many browser extensions offer cash back rewards, allowing you to earn a percentage of your spending back as a rebate. So, whether you're gift giving on a budget, shopping for daily essentials, or treating yourself to something special, these extensions can make sure you get the most value for your money, all with just a simple click.

Give to Charity in Their Name

One of my go-to gifts for hard-to-shop-for people on my list is a charitable gift in their name. Having worked in non-profits nearly a decade, I know that every dollar raised is deeply valuable. Everyone is passionate about something – find out what matters to your person and allocate your budgeted amount to a charity that aligns with their values. The organization should send your recipient a note recognizing them for the gift made in their honor. Not only is this a meaningful gesture, but it may also have tax benefits if you itemize your deductions.

Gift giving on a budget doesn’t have to be stressful. As you can see, there are so many ways to make or buy meaningful gifts for the people you love without breaking the bank. Build your budget and your list, take your time, and think carefully about the best way to give this season. When the holidays are over, start planning for next year so that you can budget throughout the year rather than squeezing every drop out of the last two months. By following these tips and getting creative, you can navigate the art of gift giving on a budget with confidence and joy.

Let us know in the comments if you have any tips for gift giving on a budget!

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