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5 Frugal Holiday Gift-Giving Traditions

When the holiday season rolls around, it seems like there’s a never-ending list of people to buy gifts for. As the dollar amounts add up quickly, you can end the season feeling a bit grumpy rather than filled with holiday cheer. Rather than ending up in debt, start some new gift-giving traditions that will shave hundreds of dollars off your annual holiday spending. Here are some ideas that you can use with specific groups of people in your life to cut back on holiday gift spending.


With Coworkers: Secret Santa

You spend 40 hours of every week together, so it’s not unusual to want to get your closest coworkers something special for the holiday. But even spending just $5 or $10 on each person adds up quickly. Instead, create a secret Santa gift exchange in your office and set a strict spending limit. You’ll each be assigned one coworker and get to choose something special for them without blowing your budget. The best part about this setup (besides saving a lot of money) is that no one gets left out and you still get to enjoy a fun holiday gift exchange tradition at the office.

With Service Workers: Homemade Treats

Between teachers, postal workers, babysitters, petsitters, hair dressers and all the other people who make our lives run smoothly, there are a lot of people who provide “services” to buy gifts for during the holidays. This can become a huge expense even if you spend small amounts on each person. Fortunately, a little time in the kitchen can make it easy to treat all these wonderful people to something special while spending a fraction of the cash.

Find an affordable baked good or candy that you can make in bulk and put together a nice little package of treats for them. Remember, it’s just for one individual, so you don’t need a whole plate of cookies per person. Just a small goodie bag with a few treats and a heartfelt note is sufficient.

With Friends: Abundance Swap

This unique idea is a great option for groups of friends who would otherwise overspend on gifts for one another. Host a casual get-together where everyone brings in several items from home that they no longer want. Have each attendee pick out an item they’d like to keep from another’s contribution, then donate the leftovers to the charity of your choice. It’s a great way to give back, yet you still each get to keep something special from a friend. This option is totally free, too, making it the best money-saver of the bunch.

With Extended Family: White Elephant Gift Exchange

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews … it seems the list goes on and on when it comes to buying holiday gifts for family. This year, shake up your usual gift-giving tradition by hosting a white elephant gift exchange with your relatives. Everyone brings one wrapped item (usually something odd or humorous under a low spending limit) and adds it to an anonymous pile. Draw numbers and have everyone take turns picking from the pile or using their turn to steal an already-opened gift from someone else. It’s a truly fun tradition to enjoy with the whole family, and many people are able to find funny items to contribute without spending a dime. Forget about opening the same basic sweater from Grandma every year and start this great money-saving tradition instead.

With Immediate Family: DIY Gifts

Many of us tend to spend the most money buying gifts for our immediate family. Between partners and kids, you can easily dole out hundreds of dollars to get those perfect gifts for your closest loved ones. But what if you change the way you do holiday gifts in your family? One idea is to switch to DIY gifts. Even if you only make some of the gifts you give to your immediate family low-cost items that are made by hand, you can save a bundle. Whether it’s a fun puzzle you make for the kids or a sweet macaroni necklace from one of your little ones, these are precious items that make your Christmas morning just as exciting. Plus, it teaches kids that material goods aren’t as important as the thought that goes into them. Try a new challenge for this year and see how crafty you all can be in coming up with thoughtful gift ideas for one another.

The holidays are about giving, but they don’t have to be about spending, too. You can still be generous with the people in your life even if you’re trying to stick to a budget. Try these alternative gift-giving traditions to cut back on holiday spending while still creating lasting memories with your loved ones. You’ll find that the dollar amount you spend has a lot less to do with holiday cheer than you may have thought.


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