Unique Christmas gift ideas that don’t cost a lot of money

A wrapped christmas present being held toward a christmas tree

Baking cookies, decorating Christmas trees, holiday music on the radio – Christmas is full of fun and good cheer.

But you know what isn’t very cheerful?

The amount of spending people can rack up when buying Christmas gifts for friends and family.

Sure. We’d all love to be able to afford diamond earrings for our mothers, new golf clubs for the golfers in our families, a 5-star getaway for the sibling who works too hard. But for the vast majority of us, that’s just not financially feasible. And more likely than not, your family doesn’t actually want you to break the bank on gifts for them. (Just as much as you probably don’t want to do that either.)

According to a study from the National Retail Federation US adults estimate that they will spend approximately $885 on gifts this year. (Ouch. That definitely does not apply to this US adult.) And only 3% of US adults plan to spend less than $100.

a person counting money
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

So as Christmas approaches I thought it might be a good idea to put together a list of Christmas gift ideas that don’t cost too much money.

Also, over the last week or so when I’ve been trying to look up some unique inexpensive Christmas gift ideas all I’ve found is lists of random knick-knacky items that people usually don’t actually want.

I don’t want to buy someone another candle, or weird figurine that will intrigue them for 30 seconds and then collect dust in the corner for the rest of the year.

What are some inexpensive gifts that people actually want and will use? Here’s a few ideas:

  • Individualized gift baskets

If you know someone’s favorite candy, drink, color, gum, etc. than you can put together a fairly inexpensive – but personalized – gift basket. And they’ll definitely use and appreciate it all. You know someone who loves snickers and Arizona iced tea? Arrange it with a few decorations in a little basket or box. Their favorite color is blue? Throw in a cute pair of blue fuzzy socks. You can get creative with it.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

(Personally I’d think this was really sweet! Especially since it can show how well someone knows you. And if their favorite drink *is Arizona iced tea – bonus! Because that’s only like.. 99 cents.)

  • DIY things – seriously go to Michaels
    • scarves
    • jewelry
    • blankets
    • paintings / drawings
    • Embroidery

I feel like people sometimes have a slight aversion toward creating DIY stuff for Christmas gifts. But some of (if not most of) the most appreciated gifts are things people made specifically for them.

Someone making holiday decorations
Photo by Michael Mroczek on Unsplash

If you’re a talented painter or drawer, if you can knit or crochet, make pottery, sew – you name it – people appreciate handmade gifts. Michael’s also has a lot of beautiful supplies to make your own jewelry instead of throwing down a significant chunk of change buying it at a store.

Certain types of blankets and scarves really aren’t too difficult to learn to make either. A lot of the time you can find simple tutorials on YouTube.

DIY gift ideas


If you’re looking to get crafty you can check out this awesome post on 55+ Handmade Gifts Family and Friends Will Want to Get by The Cottage Market.


  • Photo objects
    • Photo Memory Books
    • Mugs, Blankets, Photo Cubes
    • Custom Calendar

Photo objects are along the same lines as DIY gifts – but they don’t really require as much creative skill and time. But in saying that, photo objects can easily be some of the best gifts people receive.

You can create sentimental photo objects, funny or silly objects, create fun mementos and create reminders of favorite memories.

Shutterfly photo book

You can also get people objects with their dogs on them. Which is the real win here. Also, if you get someone a personalized calendar, the fun will last all year!

Shutterfly is a great place to do this but there are definitely other places you can look into. A lot of Etsy shops also offer these kind of products.

*Although blankets do tend to be a little pricier. But you can get a personalized mug for about $8-10. Desk Calendars are now just $10.

  • Time
    • In the form of IOU’s, coupons, specific set dates

If you are seriously in a bind when it comes to cash to spend, offering your time is a great alternative to a physical gift. You can offer to help clean (or fully clean) someone’s house. You can offer to babysit someone’s kids for free so that they can go on a date night with their significant other.

If someone doesn’t have a ton of free time on their hands, offer to cook them nice meals. Or if someone has a child who needs more help in a certain school subject you can offer to tutor them for free. (Trust me, tutoring can be expensive. So this would be a great gift.)

You could also offer to pet sit for free if someone is going out of town. There are a bunch of different things you could do!

a cartoon baby, paw print, and abc blocks

Come up with specific dates that you can commit to when you create a card or coupon or image to give to someone. This way it makes it more permanent of a gift.

  • Netflix, Hulu, Amazon prime gift cards 
  • or Spotify / Apple music gift cards

See now this is a great idea for the right person. Everyone either listens to music or watches TV or watches movies. And for $10 or less you can provide that to someone for a full month. Even if they already have an account, paying for a month or two for them is still really nice.

Know a huge movie buff? Buy them a Netflix gift card.


  • Little things that are specific to something they love – music artist, tv show.
    • stickers
    • patches
    • T-shirt
    • artwork

I know these things might fall into the category of ‘knick-knacks’ but when they are specific to something someone really loves it feels personal and well thought out.

Have a friend who loves Grey’s Anatomy? Get them a fun Grey’s T-shirt on Etsy. Know someone who is obsessed with Ryan Gosling? Get them some funny Ryan stickers. (Or maybe some earrings like the ones from Etsy below.) Your sister loves Hamilton? People make great art for pretty much any musical artist, TV show, movie, or broadway show you can think of.

Grey's Anatomy mug from Etsy
Grey’s Anatomy mug on Etsy
Ryan Gosling earrings from Etsy
Ryan Gosling earrings from Etsy








An example of this: my mom loves Patrick Swayze. So as a fun little part of her Christmas gift I got her some Patrick Swayze buttons (for about $6.00). 

The overall lesson of this list…

…is that as long as a gift is personalized, it doesn’t matter how much money it actually costs. People appreciate when thought is put into something more than they appreciate when money is put into something. (At least most people do. At least the people worth getting a Christmas gift for do. You know – the good people.)


Do you have any good unique gift ideas that don’t cost that much?

Ever received an awesome gift that wasn’t expensive?


Please share below!


-a twenty-something.

2 thoughts on “Unique Christmas gift ideas that don’t cost a lot of money

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s