Ten Free and Almost-Free Christmas Gift Ideas

by Katy on November 26, 2012 · 25 comments

Does the holiday gift shopping season make you want to bury your head under the covers until December 26th? Well, you’re not alone. But just because big box retailers get all the press doesn’t mean that the only gift giving options involve the words “big screen and “TV.”

There are countless wonderful free and almost-free presents that do not require parking lot mall camping, and here are just a few:

  1. Give something you already own. This can be as simple as a book (children’s or adult) or as meaningful as a special family heirloom. Grandma’s rolling pin is just gathering dust in your home, but might be a welcome addition to your adult niece’s kitchen.

  2. A gift certificate for your time. Whether it’s babysitting or an afternoon of yard work, nothing is cheaper or more appreciated than lightening the load for a loved one.

  3. Divide and repot your houseplants. Add an already owned pretty vintage tin or a piece of antique pottery and you can help to bring greenery into someone’s home. Not only do houseplants filter indoor air environments, but they also bring the illusion of spring and summer to long winter months.

  4. Share the bounty of your knowledge. Whether it’s your mad sewing skills or your awesome painting abilities, you can help friends and family to craft a project or simply maintain their home.

  5. Frame it, baby! You simply can’t go wrong with a framed photos of the kids for grandparent gifts. Thrift stores are stocked to the gills with gorgeous frames, so there’s no need to ever pay more than a buck or two. And don’t overlook frames you may already own!

  6. Home baked goods. There’s a lot of pricey holiday baking that can break the budget, but remember that there’s nothing more simple and true than a loaf of warm crusty bread. Throw in some herbed butter, and you’ve got an annual tradition.

  7. Fear not the regift. There is nothing wrong with passing gifted items along to a new owner. Whether it’s candles that would irritate your asthma or a book you’ve already read, remember that one man’s clutter is another man’s treasure.

  8. Consignment store treasures. My town has a number of consignment stores that go beyond clothing. (Toys, bedding, household items, furniture, sports equipment come to mind.) Bring in your nice but unwanted items and later cart home some wonderful gifts for friends and family. Trading clutter for gifts, what’s not to love?!

  9. Sew your gifts. Instead of heading to the fabric store, you should look around at what you already own. Unused clothing, bedding and curtains are all possible sources of fabric for projects.

  10. Jewelry. If you are female and over the age of twelve, you have jewelry that you no longer wear. Clean it up and package it up for your sister, your friend, your co-worker. Free bling!

Now your turn. What are your favorite low and no-cost gifts? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Cheapchick November 26, 2012 at 9:59 am

Or remake something you already have into something else, like that jewellery. Perhaps re-thread some beads and make a new creation. Use old clothing and remake them into something else like a bag (if you sew).

Great list!


Katy November 26, 2012 at 10:11 am

Great one, love it!



Katy @ Purposely Frugal November 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm

A similar option is to save beads and things from broken necklaces or a lone earring and give them to someone who likes to make jewelry. I might do this for my mother-in-law who loves making jewelry and knowing her, she wouldn’t care if it was from used jewelry.


lisa November 26, 2012 at 10:23 am

Vintage tree ornaments are often available by the bag at Goodwill and garage sales. Tag them with special sentiments and parcel them out.


Rowen G. November 26, 2012 at 10:47 am

I once sent my then-age-six nephew a small decorated tin (Celestial Seasonings sample size) which I already had, stuffed with: an *old* buffalo nickle, the tip of a deer antler, drilled to put on a cord or key-ring, some vintage marbles, a piece of petrified wood, and an assortment of such things, all of which I also already had. I gather that six years later, it’s still one of his treasures. (It’s just the sort of thing I liked as a child.) No shopping involved.

Something I used to do at work (in a college Financial Aid office) was to make a few dozen pair of simple earrings, many in holiday sorts of colors (I have tons of beads around, and a bag of the ear-wires) and sell them to staff and student workers for $3 a pair, or two for $5. The student workers in particular got a lot of *their* holiday shopping done on the spot, and I used the resulting cash for my own.


Alice November 26, 2012 at 11:09 am

For kids (or adults like me who get a kick out of them), personalized advent calendars are awesome – you can get super fancy, but all you need are images of things the recipient loves, or pictures of them / their family.
1. print a ‘top’ image (one that you’ll cut doors into) on cardstock – a kid-friendly template like this: http://www.sermons4kids.com/santa_advent_calendar.htm, or just put #s onto a still from a holiday movie
2. Cut out 3 sides of each ‘door’ and open the doors to make gluing easier
3. Arrange + print your images on another sheet of cardstock
4. Glue sheets together, and close the doors once everything’s dry


Elaine in Ark November 26, 2012 at 11:14 am

I used to do counted cross-stitch embroidery, and had more than a dozen “pictures” framed and on my walls. I’ve taken a couple off the wall and given them to people who would tell me, every single time they came into my house, how much the liked this one or that one. I was glad that I could make them happy!

I love handmade gift, especially edible ones. Not so much fragrance items, due to my allergies. We have a table at work in the staff lounge where we can “put and take”, and everything I’ve ever put there has been taken. Again, I’m just glad that someone else could enjoy these things.


Sheryl November 26, 2012 at 11:53 am

When my grandparents were both alive, and still living independently in their home, the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would give the gift of sprucing up their yard in the Spring. We did spend some money on mulch/barkdust (each family shared the cost,) and sometimes on a few plants, but it was primarily a day of service.

I would LOVE to be gifted something similar–help with undecorating the house after the holidays, help with putting the yard to bed for the winter, a garage cleanout, etc. As a single mom with a full time job and a busy teenager, I am certainly capable of doing those things (with the help of the teenager) but finding the time is the challenge.


PQ November 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm

As someone with a severe dust mite allergy something like this would be fantastic. I’m not allowed to vacuum or dust and should not even be in the house when it is being done, so a service gift of dusting the whole house while I am out would make me so happy I think I would cry.
Something like this is SO meaningful to me but people don’t think about it because it is not a big deal to them and they can take it for granted. Thinking about these little things during the holiday season might generate some gift giving ideas that will mean more to the recipient than any item you could buy in the stores.


Linda in Indiana November 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Won’t lie…been shopping but some of my gifts will be homemade. Making homemade pancake mixes, pumpkin butter with pumpkin we raised and processed and froze, dried herb dip mixes, and different dried herbs individually packaged. Also plan to bake zucchini bread…grated lots and bagged it and froze in the middle of the summer. I like to receive homemade goodies and am hoping the people that receive these will enjoy them also. Also plan to make up a packet of my scrapbooking supplies that I am not using and give to a special young lady in the family. Another one is showing an interest in sewing but is only 8, so a packet of fabric odds and ends, thread, ric-rac and other notions will be what she receives….perhaps will fuel her interests.


Phyllis November 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Some of my favorite gifts have been: 1. a recipe book (or box) containing handwritten recipe cards in my mother’s, grandmother’s and aunt’s handwriting. 2. a family genealogy 3. calendar by granddaughter with handdrawn pictures 4. a ‘memory jar’ made by my mother with dozens of little slips of paper reminding me of times from my childhood, favorite books, trips, etc. (this could also be done for a friend – with encouraging words, Bible verses, etc.) I was supposed to read one a day, but have to admit I read more than that! I cherish it!


Lois Field November 26, 2012 at 5:14 pm

When my grandmother passed away I inherited her recipe collection. I don’t bake much but my children miss her baking. I’ve made a few things from time to time, and passed on a few of the recipes. But this year thanks to Create Space, I have compiled all of them into a beautiful book with memories of time spent in her kitchen to give my family members. It wasn’t totally free, each book will cost me just under $3. plus my time, but it will be something I know they will cherish.


Jessica Wolk-Stanley November 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Great stuff! I’m trying to make gifts from materials I already have on hand.


AFS November 26, 2012 at 9:02 pm

This past summer I made a lot of preserves. Carrot Cake jam & plum-nutty Conserve to just name a couple.
I have given jam samplers as gifts for all kinds of occasions; hostess gifts, birthdays, thank yous, I even added a couple of jars to a bridal shower gift.


Alison Wiley November 27, 2012 at 6:26 am

Yes! I love giving items I already own, such as a colorful scarf; also, getting a clipping from my lovely mauve begonia to grow roots in a jar of water, and then, like you, potting and gifting it.

I wanted to let you and your readers know I’m doing a giveaway of a $50 Amazon gift card. Come on over for details, if you like.


Karen @ Abundance on a Dime November 27, 2012 at 8:20 am

A friend of mine stopped by yesterday to drop off about 4 dozen books she was done with. Many of them are hardcovers in perfect condition and miraculously there seems to be something to suit just about everyone on my gift list. Our budget is really tight this year so I’m very thankful! I will also be giving homemade preserves (I do that every year and people have come to expect it and be disappointed if they don’t get some) and other home baked treats as well as my homemade granola and a homemade tea blend I’m trying out for the first time. I almost always enjoy the homemade gifts I receive more than the store bought stuff – mind you I have pretty cool, creative friends who come up with some neat stuff 🙂


Megg November 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm

We give pictures of ourselves to the grandparents almost every year, even without kids! This year my husband and I got professional pictures taken by a friend so I’m using that as our grandparent Christmas gift.
However I will say that sometimes grandparents don’t want or need another frame, so you might want to check with them about that. Since I’ve given so many frames, this year I’m giving a card with the picture in it, so they can replace the picture from the previous year. One of my grandparents even specifically requested that I not give them a frame this year because they have so many.


tna November 28, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I quit doing political and religious holidays and birthdays years ago so people have had plenty of time to decide if they don’t want anything to do with me because of this. I do give people things on occasion and they know they can love it or toss it in the trash and I probably won’t say anything either way. I have been trying to figure out how to make a good non toxic reusable tea bag and once I get it just right some people might be receiving one from me depending how much material I have to buy. Not everyone will be thrilled with such a thing, so they can put pennies in it if they like or give it to their cat….a cat would probably like to play with one especially if you loaded it with catnip.


HS October 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm

You need a length of muslin, and sew tea into it. That’s nontoxic, and for reusable, just take your seam ripper and rip out the seams. Then put in more tea and repeat.


Ellie November 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I’ll be honest and say that I don’t generally want any more things, not even handmade things. And I’ve already inherited or been given almost all the heirlooms I can use. My house is full!

My preferred gifts are “things to do, eat, drink, or burn.”

Doesn’t matter if it’s a budget loaf of homemade bread, a jar of preserves, a bottle of wine, a promise to clean my car, theatre tickets, a restaurant gift certificate, a museum membership, or all of your re-gifted candles.

It’s all good – just so long as I can eat it, drink it, do it, or burn it, and DON’T have to find a permanent space for it in my house!!


Coral Clarke December 10, 2023 at 11:52 pm

Me too! I’ve recently downsized, and in the 6 weeks since I’ve moved I have rehomed at least one item a day, and will continue to do that for a while to come! IT help, handyman help, take me to the shop and bring me home with something I can’t carry, a gift of service, with a suggested date on it, will always make me happy.


Karen November 30, 2012 at 8:56 am

I have a seasonal homebaking business where I sell Christmas baking made by me. This year I wante to get one of my daughters a private art lesson and my other daughter a mom-daughter yoga experience so I offered free baking to a friend who is an artist and another who is a yoga teacher. They were thrilled and all it costs me is baking. We all win. Never underestimate the barter market!


Madeline December 1, 2012 at 11:48 am

For years my best friend and I agreed to exchange ONLY a home baked item.Leslie usually made me her fantastic sour cream coffee cake or a peanut butter pie. I made pumpkin rolls or a Jewish Apple Cake.The highlight of my season was the day that home baked good arrived!

Now, I love making cards/rubber stamping, so, in addition to sending home made cards to friends and relatives, I make up bundles of 6 home made cards and give them as gifts, wrapped in tissue in a gift bag which I also have decorated by hand.I buy my supplies during the year with coupons, etc.

This combines my HOBBY with beautiful home made gifts.


Leafar Aicrag December 2, 2012 at 9:47 am

Another good present , specially for people who live with geeks is “Whatsapp Addicted” app . This app helps people to control themselves in the use of mobile or whatsapp, showing messages on the mobile screen when configured time passes. You can find the app here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=rag.android.avisadorWA&hl=en


Elizabeth Williams December 5, 2012 at 8:54 am

I found a funny (and free!) one for a friend that’s lost her keys TWICE this year: http://www.popalock.com/key_return_program.php


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