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The Best Inexpensive Christmas Gifts People Will Actually Want to Receive

We asked our readers for the best inexpensive Christmas present ideas that they would actually want. The results are in! Get some ideas for your loved ones this year from fellow Money Under 30 readers.

The Best Inexpensive Christmas Gifts People Will Actually Want to Receive

What was the best inexpensive holiday gift you’ve ever received? Let’s forget the iPhones and diamonds for a second. Was there a gift that didn’t cost a lot but made you unbearably happy, not only when you opened it, but for months after that?

Now think about how much that gift probably cost.

Chances are, many inexpensive gifts were among the best you’ve ever received. Maybe they weren’t expensive, but they were probably extremely thoughtful or handmade. I’ve received my fair share of jewelry, purses, clothing and electronics over the years, but the gifts that always stick out are the ones that the giver put a great deal of thought into; the amount of money you spend doesn’t make a gift more enjoyable or worthwhile.

And because the thought of spending hundreds of dollars on Christmas gifts can be daunting to many of us, I created a list of inexpensive gift ideas. Gifts that aren’t just easy on your bank account, but that the recipient will actually enjoy and treasure.

First I wanted to poll our Twitter followers and Facebook fans since they’re one smart bunch and usually have some great insights to share.

The consensus of what our followers and fans had to say seemed to fall into four categories:

  1. Thoughtful gifts
  2. Handmade gifts
  3. Experiences
  4. Love or friendship

Here are our Facebook fans’ thoughts:

Best Gifts Received Facebook

And some ideas from our Twitter followers:

Now, since we have four categories of inexpensive, yet enjoyable, gifts, let’s talk about some ideas for each of those categories:


Thoughtful gifts are tailored to the receiver and can be things that you think the receiver needs or will make their life easier or better.

Our Twitter followers mentioned items involving photos, which are an easy and simple gift.  Printing photos is cheap and easy these days (online or at in-store kiosks). And you can find an assortment of cheap frames online or at the dollar store.

Other thoughtful gifts are ones that are specific to the receiver’s interests or hobbies. Try these simple and often inexpensive examples, all available on Amazon*:

One thing I’ve started doing is taking mental notes (or jotting things down in the notepad on my phone) whenever one of my friends or family members mentions that they’d really like something or if something would make their life a lot easier. Usually these things are simple and small, but will really make their day when received as a present.


If you’re the crafty type, chances are, you’re already making your friends and loved ones beautiful homemade gifts. But you don’t have to be crafty yourself to give inexpensive homemade gifts! Etsy is an online marketplace where artists and craftspeople can sell their creations online so you can find truly one-of-a-kind gifts in all kinds of price ranges.

You can also check Pinterest for a bountiful ideas for crafty, do-it-yourself gifts that practically anyone can create. You can find countless tutorials on how to make wall hangings, wreaths, desserts, decorations and more on Pinterest.


Of course, presents don’t always have to be tangible objects. Often the best gifts are ones you experience with someone. And there are plenty of options to choose from that don’t have to cost much – if anything at all.

  • a night of babysitting for the parents in your life
  • a tour of your work if you work somewhere exciting (like the zoo, a brewery, historical building, baseball stadium, etc.)
  • cooking a special dinner for someone
  • spending the day together – doing anything!
  • signing up for a race together
  • going to gym classes together (you could even purchase a set for your friend)


As cheesy as this is, I got plenty of responses for this “cheap” gift!

Some of my friends and I have decided to forgo getting gifts for each other in favor of just having lunch or dinner together; this way you can spend time with your loved ones during the busy holiday season and share your “gift” of friendship without having to go out and buy a gift for them.

What about you? What are your ideas for the best inexpensive gifts to give and receive?


Published or updated on November 22, 2011

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About Amber Gilstrap

Amber is a twenty-something CPA from Kansas City, Missouri who loves writing, working out, and---of course---finding fresh ideas for saving money. Follow her on twitter @amberinks.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. Slinky says:

    I don’t think it matters how much a gift cost or anything else as long as it’s a thoughtful gift. Getting something random that I don’t need and/or isn’t my style or I don’t like or use are ALWAYS the worst gifts. Anything I’ve really wanted or needed or hobby related or personalized is always appreciated the most.

    People just need to stop and think about the gifts they give. Make cookies for everyone, but do a batch or two of sugar free for the diabetic and you’re the most thoughtful person ever. Make gift baskets with cute mugs and tasty drinks, but take the time to find what people like to drink (coffee, tea, hot cocoa, apple cider) instead of just doing all coffee and pick unique mugs based on each person rather than going with a one size fits all approach. Buy a nice ornament for each person, but know if someone does a color coordinated tree or if they decorate with snowmen, or whatever and pick accordingly.

    And if you’re at a loss for your one really weird relative’s gift, ask someone closer to them for input. You might not get their style enough to pick out a nice sweater for them, but you might find out that they love to cook and would enjoy new spices or different BBQ sauces, or whatever.

  2. Jessica says:

    I absolutely LOVE the idea about giving a financial gift from…you get a paper “share” in a frame, with an optional engraved placard…this is AMAZING. A few years ago, a friend of mine and I were reminiscing about what our HS graduation “major” gifts had been…my grandparents wrote me a check for $500, while hers had given her 1 share of Baby Berkshire…at the time these were given, they were “worth” approximately the same dollar value. I spent mine on a computer for college, but that money was just gone after I spent it. My friend, to this day, has her stock that continues to earn value for her–and the bonus for Baby Berk when they split it a few years ago, and the ADDED bonus of getting her Shareholder’s Invites to Mr. Buffett’s annual convention (complete with all the cool sales displays and discount product offerings).

    After I read about this recommendation, I’ve purchased 1 share of John Deere stock for my dad…it’s a REALLY unique, REALLY personal, memorable gift for him…and it will be worth so much more than my original investment for this year’s holiday season.

  3. Tommy says:

    Excellent! I just did a blog with my Etsy gift guide for this year. The most expensive thing is $31, but it’s pretty substantial. Cool stuff can be had for around $5-$10.

  4. Camille says:

    I’m totally loving this post. Thanks for all the great gift ideas!

  5. Great Ideas David – I love the feedback from the MU30 viewership! My wife and I were actually trying to figure out a way to give great gifts without blowing hundreds of dollars some of these suggestions are a great place for us to start.

  6. I’m a big photography fanatic. So I love making collages, and photo books for people as gifts. I’ve used the site CanvasOnDemand to create custom photos into canvas art. It’s awesome and makes a great/personal gift.

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