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starting on the Christmas gifts

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I have awesome lists of Christmas gifts cribbed from magazines the magic of t’internet. There are 102 gift basket ideas, 102 stocking stuffers, 63 gifts under $10 and 50 inexpensive gifts. Not to mention my own personal list of 101 frugal gift ideas.

You’d think given this, and that I love to give gifts, that I’d have no problem picking out Christmas gifts for my family. Indeed, at work, I’m considered the gift shopper extraordinaire for leaving gifts, baby gifts, wedding gifts,…

The problem is that I’m very good at generic gifts. Leaving gifts are easy - think office-y but nice, so it tends to be coffee mugs, business card holders, pens, filofax, cufflinks, etc plus a gift card if there’s any remaining money. Baby gifts are also ridiculously easy - a nice complete outfit for the child (when I’m picking it invariably includes either jeans or a denim jacket, because I think it’s amusing), flowers/chocolates for the mother, and a giftcard for any remaining money. The default wedding gift is something from the registry, or if that doesn’t exist, a bottle of wine/champagne and a couple of glasses, or giftcard/cash, if that seems more appropriate.


I can think of a whole heap of reasonable generic gifts for women:

  • toiletries
  • jewellery
  • perfume
  • scarves
  • bags
  • picture frames
  • candles
  • chocolates

most of these would suit most women.


Men, I find harder to buy for, and but generically, it’s normally:

  • ties
  • cufflinks
  • aftershave
  • books
  • dvds
  • cds
  • wine/beer
  • chocolates

there’s usually something in there that would suit most men.

not generic, but personal!

As I said, generic gifts, fine. I can even pick out generic gifts for children and teenagers. But actual gifts for my family, not so much. Gift giving is important to me, and I’d like to get them something that they really like. The thing that I have to admit to myself, is that I just don’t know them all that well. And if I’m sticking to my modest budget, it gets even harder.

I know that my brothers and sisters would quite like giftcards to clothes shops, for example. But, I try and shop for bargains, so that it looks like I spent more than I actually did - giftcards would proclaim loud and clear that I only spend £20 per head. Probably less than everyone else (and I earn more), and not enough to get something really great.

I think everyone has this problem to some extent. Either you aren’t very good at picking up hints from your loved ones, or you don’t know them that well, or you struggle for ideas in general, or you don’t have enough money to find something good, or…

Never mind. Whilst I’m probably not going to give the worlds greatest gifts this Christmas, I can share some ideas that I’ve had over the years that might work for you, or and maybe, in doing so we I can think of some things that would suit my family ;) .

Look for some frugal Christmas gift ideas coming up over the next few weeks.

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27 comments for “starting on the Christmas gifts”

  1. I’ve been gathering make up, toiletries, and other misc. items that I can pick up for free or super cheap by playing the Drugstore Game. I’m also using all of the great sales combined with coupons for my baking needs. I bake cakes, cookies, breads, and make candies to give as gifts for Christmas and for Hannakuh. Gifts for the children were purchased at 90% off last year after Christmas. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get by with only the one major purchase we made (a Wii.)

    Posted by Momma | November 6, 2008, 2:00 pm
  2. Oooh, that 63 gifts under ten bucks is a good reference to hang on to for secret santa, emergency gifts, etc. I’m going to annoy everyone by doing WWF adoptions this year.

    Posted by guinness416 | November 6, 2008, 2:16 pm
  3. @Momma:
    Baking and homemade gifts are said to go down very well. I’ve never tried them myself, as I don’t seem to have suitable recipients. It’s a bit of a recurring problem for me.

    It’s great for that sort of thing, one of my favourite references.

    Posted by plonkee | November 6, 2008, 4:12 pm
  4. will be checking that out. i am making some cloth shopping bags out of pretty fabric I got at a yard sale, and putting braided handles on them. those will make nice gifts for my green-inclined friends! another idea a friend suggested is to get flip-flops and decorate them with beads as a gift for girlfriends. i like the idea of giving something handmade but as i am a bit sloppy and not very crafty i have to stick to items that i can make with my paws!

    Posted by neimanmarxist | November 6, 2008, 7:29 pm
  5. Finding “perfect” gifts for family is really hard. I find you have to think about it all year round. I have a little Moleskine notebook in my purse that I use to jot down various ideas, and when I think of a gift idea for someone I write it down there. I pay attention when people mention a frustration they have with a possession of theirs (I could buy them a quality version!) or when they admire something or when I happen to see something just right, and then I write it down for later.

    It’s especially hard to buy gifts for family when you live far apart and don’t SEE what is going on in their lives and what the little gaps are that you could fill. Sometimes you don’t even hear about their new interests or hobbies.

    I find my father especially hard. I don’t know enough about his hobby to shop for something. One recent gift that went over well was an assortment of different varieties of granola (made by me!). I have also given an assortment of homemade jams.

    I don’t think books are necessarily generic, if you pick them with that person in mind. I try to give people the perfect book that they never even knew existed! I have also bought out of print books from Abebooks.com. Not necessarily rare but something they can’t get at the nearest bookstore.

    Sometimes when I make something for someone I get a request for one from someone else — makes it easy! When I made my sister a shoulder bag, my sister-in-law told me I could make her one too. Guess what, I did!

    Posted by Canadian | November 6, 2008, 7:54 pm
  6. I always stress about finding the perfect Christmas gift. I’ve already started shopping online. I am a J.Crew addict, but usually they are so expensive. Right now they are having an online sale where you take an additional 30 percent off of the sale price. I got some beautiful clothes for the children in my family at a lower price that what I could find at discount retail stores. The key is to watch for the good sales.

    Posted by Kristen | November 6, 2008, 8:36 pm
  7. We’ll be spending Christmas with my dad’s extended family, and this year they decided to draw names and each get one person a gift. I need to figure out what to get for my cousin’s wife, someone I’ve met perhaps four times. Since she’s family, I feel that I should do something more than a generic gift, but I have no idea what she wants or needs.

    Posted by E.C. | November 6, 2008, 8:52 pm
  8. I’m with Canadian- I keep a list in my email account of people’s birthday dates and ideas for gifts for b’days and Christmas. As I get ideas- from conversations during the year (eg my mum telling me she wished she’d bought the matching hand lotion to the fancy shower gel she got on holiday) I write them in and tick them off as they are purchased.
    It takes planning, but I don’t have to do it for all; my wonderful Aunt and brother update their Amazon wish lists every October!

    Posted by Looby | November 7, 2008, 5:46 am
  9. My wife does most of our xmas shoping i just supply the money. The only thing i asked for is Joomla for dummies. Its good to see you are already working on getting the presents and not leaving the shopping until the last minute, I think thats a mans trait.

    Posted by Mortgage Advisor | November 7, 2008, 2:20 pm
  10. I’m with you - I much rather give a gift than a gift card. I also try to shop for bargains, so that I can give really nice gifts, but, in actuality, they don’t cost that much.

    I love to shop at Macy’s for my husband and get really nice shirts and sweaters when they have a great sale going on.

    It’s important to me to give quality gifts. So, whether I spend a lot or not, it has to be of good quality.

    Posted by Laurie Neumann | November 7, 2008, 7:55 pm
  11. This isn’t really a frugal gift, but I’ve started giving magazine subscriptions a lot recently. People love them, and it works even better if it’s a magazine they’d love reading but can’t really justify buying (for me, that’d be almost any magazine!)

    The great thing is it keeps arriving every month - the gift that keeps on giving! You can sometimes get some decent subscription deals online, too.

    Merry Christmas everyone! ;)

    Posted by Monevator | November 9, 2008, 5:46 pm
  12. I love to give gifts and I like to think that I am pretty good at finding the perfect gifts for my friends and family (even though I’m pretty sure that I’m not on the ball as much as I think I am). I try to do my Christmas shopping all year long so that I’m not spending crazy amounts just during November and December. Plus you start to look at things differently … “oh this is neat, I wonder is [name] would like it” … that sort of thing. The only thing you really have to worry about is whether or not the person you’re buying for will pick up the same thing during the year.

    I also love getting homemade CDs from friends as gifts during the holidays. I like the fact that they took the time to sit and think about what I might like to listen to. Plus, if you already have the music on your computer, it won’t cost you anymore than what one recordable CD costs.

    I can’t wait for your list of gifts! It’s about time for me to kick my shopping into high gear!

    Posted by Maggie | November 11, 2008, 7:23 pm
  13. I have the same problems when it comes to finding gifts for Christmas. I actually have the opposite problem. I have a hard time finding gifts for women. Maybe it’s because I am a naive male… Thank you for the post.

    Posted by Jonathan | November 12, 2008, 7:19 pm
  14. Last year I was at a Wal Mart and picked up gas cards for 6 people and when I got to the checkout they were going to charge me $6.95 for each one. A $50 one would go to $56.95 etc. Are they kidding. The cashier was rather whacko at having to unring me up but - outrageous, they were going to be lucky to be sure of selling gas.

    Posted by AirJordans | November 21, 2008, 10:13 pm
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