14 Thrifty Gift Giving Ideas for Friends and Family

Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, the Holiday Season, and other celebrations always require more than just simple recognition. Looking for some personalized gift giving ideas that won’t break the bank? Here are a few to get you started:

1. Make a Personalized Calendar or Photo Collage

Share your special memories with your loved ones. Choose 12 fun images and make a calendar with important dates such as anniversaries and birthdays already marked. If you don’t want to make a calendar, gather photos from a special event such as a wedding or birthday and place them in a collage photo frame.

2. Schedule a Friend Day

In today’s busy world, sometimes the best gift is simply your time. Plan to meet at a coffee shop for a quick visit or linger a little longer for lunch. For an adventure day, plan a beach trip, a spa day or a leisurely nature walk in the mountains. Or just check in on a friend you haven’t seen in a while.

3. Build a Custom Care Packet

Build a personalized care packet for your friends. Start with a mug with an inspirational, funny or relevant message and fill it with their favorite things such as a coffee shop gift card, candy truffles, flower seeds, photos, perfume or beauty products. The key here is to customize with things you know the recipient will enjoy. With a little imagination, you can create a thoughtful gift.

4. Give a Dress-up Bin to Families with Small Children

Explore your closets and attic for dress up clothes you can pass on to a friend with kids. You can find princess and pirate costumes, as well as accessories such as colored wigs, plastic swords, fun hats and costume jewelry on clearance after Halloween. To find additional items, you can also visit yard sales, consignment and thrift shops and dollar stores. Assemble all your treasures in a special box or treasure chest for a gift that will deliver hours of imaginary play to a child.

5. Cookie Jars

Have you seen the “Cookie in a Mason Jar” kits? If not, they are simple to make. Just gather all the dry ingredients to make a batch of cookies or other special treat. Then layer those ingredients into a large canning jar. For instance for chocolate chip cookies, you might have layers of baking flour, chocolate chips and brown sugar. Once you are done, cover the jar and attach baking instructions to finish the recipe. You can try this with other recipes too, like homemade bean soup. In the end, you will end up with an attractive gift and all your recipient needs to do is add the wet ingredients (like butter and eggs) to bake a warm treat.

6. Deliver a Homemade Treat

It is sad that sometimes it takes a somber occasion or special event for us to make the time to visit a friend we haven’t seen in a while. Instead of waiting, why not reach out today with a gesture of love and/or support? Bake cookies or a warm meal. What you make isn’t as important as the gesture of friendship and companionship.

7. Make a Homemade Card

Now that everyone is on Facebook and other social media sites, the norm is to send a quick note on a friend’s or family member’s timeline. It’s amazing how many people you haven’t spoken to in years are willing to wish you a happy birthday! To stand out from the crowd, take the time to make a homemade card. Even a meaningful store-bought one can be special as long as you take the time to write a sincere note in it. Send it in the mail for bonus points.

8. Frame a Set of Inspirational Quotes

I once planned a girls-day-out shopping trip. I invited my sister and other family members. To make the day more memorable, I printed some inspirational quotes and gave each person a framed gift to remember the day. It cost me next to nothing and they still mention that small gesture to this day. You can also frame old calendars for a bright, cheery pick-me-up.

9. Gather Family Recipes for an Instant Heirloom Gift

Do you have recipes that were passed down from you mother or grandmother? Or, are you known for that one thing that everyone asks you to bring to pot luck parties? Why not gather all the best recipes from your friends and family and put them into a recipe book to share with the group?

10. Scan Old Photographs and Share Them

My mother has several old photo books. Remember the ones that had plastic that clung to sticky pages? Not very archival! Gather up those old photos and scan them to share with the rest of the family. You can make an album online or just share the files. To make it more memorable ask your family and friends about the photos as you are gathering them. You might be surprised what beautiful memories are buried away in a dusty old box somewhere!

11. Take a Class Together

Why not learn something new and share some laughs? Most communities offer adult education classes. You might find an interesting dance or exercise class, or learn something new like painting or flower arranging. Check online for classes in your area and sign up with a friend.

12. Plant a Garden

Nothing beats home-grown produce! Grow some cucumbers and tomatoes and give the extras to a friend or colleague. Not only do you get the benefit of sunshine and the accomplishment of growing your own garden, but you also get to share with important people in your life!

13. Assemble a Basic Sewing Kit

If you know of someone just starting out, you could assemble a basic sewing kit with needles, safety pins, Velcro, buttons, thread and other simple necessities. Hint: You can find most of the supplies at the dollar store. Then find a nice box to store it in and you have an instant gift. For an added bonus, take the time to teach the recipient a new skill like knitting or quilting.

14. Beginner Baker’s Kit

Know a young baker or a couple getting started in their new home? Assemble a kitchen starter kit with mixing spoons, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a wire whisk, spatulas and other necessities. You can even include a cutting board or mixing bowls.


If you have more ideas and suggestions, please share in the comments below. Remember, it is not the gift they will remember, it is the time spent with loved ones. Taking the time to build lasting memories is what really counts!

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