Our Frugal Christmas

This year, my husband and I decided to challenge ourselves to a frugal Christmas. We exchanged homemade gifts with each other and with our friends and family. We saved money by investing extra effort and care.

And we loved it.

Not only were we able to save money, which always feels good, but we were able to give from the heart. Something all too often overlooked with the commercialism of the season. It’s so easy to give the gift of a gift card or a random Bath & Body Works item or a you-fill-in-the-blank. Not that you should feel bad if that’s how you chose to give. We just wanted to try something different. And we are so glad we did.

frugal Christmas gift ideas

To start off, I made each of our immediate family members an ornament.

laser cut wood christmas ornament

 

I got to make these for free in lieu of some training at my day job. It’s actually made out of balsa wood and cut out with a laser cut. I personalized each design with “Christmas 2015” and the couple’s names. I loved this gift the most!ย Cost $0

Next I got a little old school creative and made each of our siblings a mixtape. ๐Ÿ™‚

I used Microsoft Word to create a CD cover, which I inserted into cases I got 4 for $1 at Dollar Tree. Then burned a CD with a mix of music. The CDs were 4 for $1 as well. So total investment for 3 cds was under $2. It mostly just took time. My brother got Under The CD mix, which is a collection of Disney songs that are lesser known or were removed from movies. He works at Disney World, so I hope he loved it. My sister got Moses Parted The Red CD, which is a mix of Christian music from CMaddict. They have a huge selection of free downloads. So I went through and listened for the ones I thought fit her taste. Then the One Hit Winter Wonderland was for my sister in law. It’s filled with one hit wonders from the 90s and some other boy bands for good measure. Her and her husband have been jamming to it already!ย Cost $2

For my sister and her husband and for my sister in law and her husband, I made a special Winter Date Jar. I’ll share the free download with you all soon ๐Ÿ˜‰

Untitled design (5)

 

Each jar was $1 at Dollar Tree and the paper was already on hand. So total investment for this was $2. It took me awhile to find a bunch of winter themed dates and then to cut them out and fold them. But it was worth it. I hope it brings them some joy!ย Cost $2

Then it was onto some goodies. Everyone got one of these!

Untitled design (6)

 

It’s homemade hot cocoa mix! I’ll HAVE to share the recipe with you all soon! Each jar was from the Dollar Tree for $1 each. I made my own label with instructions on the back and then tied them on with some twine, which was also $1. The ingredients were a bit pricey though. That set me about $20. But I was able to make 5 big jars of the stuff. And it’s way more servings than what would come in a dinky Swiss Miss box.ย Cost $20

I spent an evening baking away. I wish I had more photos to prove what I pulled off… but I do have at least these ones…

I made CANDY IN THE MICROWAVE! Yeah. No candy thermometer. It can be made in the microwave. I’ll be sharing the recipe for that too, lol. But this is peanut brittle ($4 in ingredients) and walnut fudge ($3 in ingredients). I also made Rollo sugar cookies ($2), chocolate chip cookies ($1), and potato candy ($2). Then put each item in a nice little Christmasy bag ($1 for 30ct) and then into a nice Christmas themed tin ($1 each). My sister made my heart swell when she said, “this is tradition worthy, Jenn.” I think so too!ย Cost $18

Everyone on my side of the family has a dog (except my brother, for now). So I also wanted to include the family pets.

dog treat gift idea

These cute little treat tubs were from the Dollar Tree for $1 and then I handmade dog biscuits to fill them with. I just used a simple peanut butter recipe and added an egg wash. Sherlock was my devoted taste tester. He excitedly approved. I already had all of the ingredients on hand from previous grocery and coupon trips, so I’m not going to factor in cost on this one.ย Cost $2

Each hodge podge of gifts was tucked away into gift bags I found at Dollar Tree, 2 for $1. Can you tell I love the Dollar Tree?ย Cost $3

dollar tree gift bags

Oh, and let us not forget the gifts I got for my husband!

Untitled design (8)

 

If you don’t know yet… my husband and I enjoy Doctor Who. And by enjoy, I mean I bought all the sonic screwdrivers for him, he gets a Doctor Who ornament every year, and he can usually be found wearing some form of Doctor gear at all times. After much searching, I found this amazing printable on DeviantArt. For free! It never occurred to me that it would even be possible to print something gift worthy. But these turned out absolutely lovely! I printed them on cardstock that I already had on hand and ran them through my laminator. This cost me nothing, as I already had everything.

Untitled design (9)

Then I used some leftover twine from the hot cocoa mix and made cute little hangers.ย Cost $0

 

Then continuing in the spirit of pop culture and Doctor Who geekdom…

Untitled design (10)

 

This is like one of those “Admit One” ticket stub boxes that are all over Pinterest. I created the image in Microsoft Word using a Tardis with a transparent background and a chevron pattern. Then put the text over the image and printed on cardstock. I cut a slit in the upper right corner of the cardboard and card stock for the ticket slot. And that’s it. The picture frame was found at Dollar Tree for $1 and it’s even the kind with a shadow box like recess. He’s already got one ticket in the box, Star Wars The Force Awakens. We are such geeks!ย Cost $1

This was the original graphic I was going to use. I found it on Google, but decided to make my own.

Untitled design (11)

 

I think my Tardis one looks better and suits his style better. I also includedย some chocolate covered oreos ($5 from Sarris), which I totally could’ve made myself cheaper, but I wanted to support a coworkers daughter. No matter how cheap I am, I do want to help in tiny ways… Then he also got in his baggie ย The Adventure Log. Which is a super neat set of booklets for documenting our travels.ย Cost $5

Total cost = $53

That’s an average of $5.30 per person, granted most gifts were shared amongst two people, but still. That’s great! Adding it up now, I feel even better about our decision to go homemade. My favorite gift to give was the laser cut ornament, but I loved giving edible things that actually tasted good. My husband said they were the best cookies I’ve ever made and begged me to make more fudge. If that’s not a confidence booster, I don’t know what is!

What was your favorite gift to give this season? Let me know in the comments!

 

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  • K. Lee Banks
    January 13, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Congratulations on your “handmade” frugal Christmas! I always love giving handmade gifts as often as possible. This past year I was blessed to have some extra finances, so I enjoyed selecting some special gifts for family members, in addition to handmade gifts.

    My favorite handmade gift was the quilt I finally finished (after starting it over 2 years ago as a wedding gift) and gave to me my middle daughter and son-in-law.

  • Gill {from jamjargill.com}
    January 7, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    OK, so you my dear are a complete inspiration! I love that you made so many homemade gifts which were so funky and modern too. Good for you ๐Ÿ™‚ I have pinned this post on my gift ideas board for future reference. The only problem with homemade is the time, when you are already feeling the pressure of the holiday season. So I did a lot of shopping on Amazon this year just for ease. I did get my sister in law and her boyfriend a bread bin and cookie jar from a vintage store and then put fresh bread and cookies in it, but I don’t think they actually got the chance to eat it before it went off due to traveling round the country visiting family – however I still love gifts for the home as they last ๐Ÿ™‚ Maybe I’ll get more into the homemade when I’m working part time with family. (rose-tinted glasses firmly on)

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      Oh, a nice vintage tin sounds lovely! I’ve seen neat looking cookie jars at the thrift store but never had a use for them. Now you’ve got me thinking ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Janet aka Middle Aged Mama
    January 6, 2016 at 2:14 am

    Great ideas! My family did a “Quirky Kris Kringle” this year which was a Secret Santa, but gifts had to be home made, preloved, recycled, etc. It was a lot of fun, and very frugal, so I did a blog post about it!

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      Oh wow! That sounds like so much fun. I’ll check out your post ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ana Cristina Mariรฑo
    January 5, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    This is such a great initiative! The world has become so materialistic that just appreciating gifts that come to the heart may be very humbling!

    My favorite gift to give this season, was giving my niece her frozen fever goodies! She is obsessed with Frozen like millions of other kids haha and it was amazing looking at her happiness and how much she enjoyed her toys

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      “Frozen fever?” Ha ha ha… I’m 31 and I really like it too ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Marts
    January 5, 2016 at 8:24 am

    It’s great to strike big savings on the most commercialized season of the year ๐Ÿ™‚ As early as now I’ll try to save for Christmas presents little by little so I can save more next Christmas.

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:47 pm

      No time like the present!

  • Rosey
    January 5, 2016 at 6:15 am

    My son’s gf had a print made for me of my kids together. she framed it. It couldn’t have cost much. it was one of my two favorite gifts, the other one being inexpensive too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:48 pm

      Oh that sounds so nice! My parents love family photo gifts too.

  • Yona Williams
    January 4, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    OMGoodnessโ€ฆyour Christmas ornament is so pretty. I would be so happy if I received something like that from a family member. I was just thinking about making my own hot cocoa mix โ€“ I’d like to know what recipe you used. Very creative and special gift ideas!

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:48 pm

      Isn’t it so cool!? I was thrilled to see it forming in the laser cutter. Couldn’t believe how nice it turned out!

  • nicole
    January 4, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    I love the doggie treats, we love our pets too.

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      My pup especially loved the doggie treats. Ha ha… he could smell them baking!

  • Claudia Krusch
    January 4, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    I love your ideas and felt so guilty for giving my son over $ 400.00 in gifts and feeling guilty for not giving him enough….you taught me to next year be more frugal, I will definitely work on it!

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      Don’t feel guilty! Kudos to you for loving your son so much you wanted to give more. I know that feeling! And good luck next year if you decide to be more frugal ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s challenging, but fun.

  • Jamela Porter
    January 4, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    These are all amazing ideas. I may have to steal this thought for next Christmas.

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      Thank you for stopping by, Jamela ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jessica Cassidy
    January 4, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    You did an amazing job with being a frugal.

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      Thank you so much, Jessica!

  • Natalie
    January 4, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    This is pretty awesome! I thought my $150 for 20 people was good. Still think it is, however I love these frame gifts!

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      You did great! $150 for 20 people??? Please tell me you have a post on it?

  • Heather
    January 4, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    That is impressive! I love handmade gifts, and often try to do that for my family. I haven’t been able to as much the past two years due to having a newborn, and then a 1 year old (along with the older two) ๐Ÿ™‚ One of my ideas this year is to knit two things a month and put them away for next Christmas. It may sound silly, but I think it would be much more manageable come Christmastime!

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      Knitting a little bit each month would be a great idea!

  • Angie
    January 4, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    That was great! You did a good job keeping it frugal but still meaningful.

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      Thank you, Angie!

  • Blythe A.
    January 4, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Such great ideas. It reminds me of when I was a kid and didn’t have money or means of transportation, so my siblings and i would make everyone gifts. I know my mom still has some of the things we made her. I think homemade gifts are so thoughtful.

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      My mom still has a pinecone I covered in glitter when I was 3 ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jessica Harlow
    January 4, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    I think the idea of a frugal Christmas and giving homemade gifts is great! It makes the giver come up with some pretty unique and creative gifts!

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      I completely agree! It was challenging but so much fun ๐Ÿ™‚

  • jill conyers
    January 4, 2016 at 4:26 am

    It’s true! You can have a wonderfully merry and meaningful Christmas without needing to take out a loan to pay for it. I enjoyed year 3 of stress free holidays and part of that was to reign in spending.

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      Sounds like you also had a very joy filled less stressful Christmas ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Pam
    January 4, 2016 at 1:43 am

    I love these ideas! I definitely want to make more gifts next year for people – homemade gifts seem to be more personal!

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      I think they are definitely more personal!

  • Elizabeth O.
    January 4, 2016 at 1:34 am

    Seriously! That’s a lot of savings. You definitely went all out despite being able to save, so that’s the best part. Good job!

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      Thank you, Elizabeth. It was a challenge, but it was fun ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kaylene
    January 4, 2016 at 12:34 am

    I love the idea of doing a fully homemade Christmas! The hot cocoa mix and ornaments are just adorable!

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks Kaylene!

  • Natalia
    January 3, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    I love your creativity! Not only you saved money BUT it’s so refreshing to do this instead!

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      Thank you, Natalia. It was loads of fun too!

  • Eileen
    January 3, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    These are very thoughtful and personal gifts. I love this idea. it has become so commercial and it should be about spending family quality time

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      So true! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Jonathan Key
    January 3, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Wow such great ideas here! We did some of these this year too. Happy new year and best wishes in 2016! Keep up the great content on your blog!

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      Thanks so much, Jonathan! You too!

  • michelle
    January 3, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    there are some great ideas on this list! my parents had asked for me not to buy them a gift so I decided to write a song for them which I recorded on my computer and put on a cd that i already had. i thought about that went i read about you making the mix tapes for the siblings.

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 1:10 pm

      Oh wow, Michelle! That sounds like such a lovely gift!

  • Tami
    January 3, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    I would love to received any of these as gifts! Christmas stresses me out so much and totally takes away from Christ’s birth and gift to us.

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 1:11 pm

      It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the stress of the season instead of the reason for the season!

  • Nikki
    January 3, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    That’s very cheap and friendly budget, I can’t believe that the total of all of these was $53, I really love this.

    • Jenn
      January 9, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Nikki!

  • Toughcookiemommy
    January 3, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    I love being able to save some money, especially around the holidays. These are some great ways of doing so.

  • Jaime Nicole
    January 3, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    What awesome ideas! I’m sure your family really appreciated the wonderful gifts that you gave them.

  • Ana De- Jesus
    January 3, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    That is incredible how much your costs came too. Mine was just under 300 and my bank balance suffered massively!

  • Deb- It's me, debcb!
    January 3, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    What an awesome idea. I think that Christmas has become too commercial. Glad you gave from the heart and loved it.

  • Life as a Convert
    January 3, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    This is great. I am definitely planning ahead for this next Christmas and wanting to make some handmade items.

  • angie
    January 3, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    love the laser ornament and it is so very pretty and what a great way to welcome in new members of the family

  • Pam
    January 3, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Homemade gifts are the best. Every year my father in law asks me if I will make him my special Christmas candy and I always do. I love those ornaments. I try to find a collectible one for our tree each year.

  • Sarah (lifewithwaldo.com)
    January 3, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Such clever ideas! I really like the baking idea the most. It’s yummy and what’s more personal then spending all day baking up a storm? Lovely post!

  • nazma
    January 3, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    what a great idea wow.i thin its a great way to save money.and than i personally feel that the gifts u made by your own are more nice.you include your love in making them and thats what make them special

  • Miranda (Myrabev)
    January 3, 2016 at 11:10 am

    I think this is such an amazing christmas idea and giving homemade gift is more personal than buying them. Lovely gift ideas you’ve shared.

  • Terri Beavers
    January 3, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Oh wow, what a wonderful idea and I love your creativeness. I gave gift cards/ cash this year but with a whole year in front of me to get inventive, I’d love to add some hand made gifts next Christmas.

  • Crystal
    January 3, 2016 at 7:58 am

    Those are great gifts. I love the ornaments you made. My favorite gift to give was something a friend was wanting at a store and couldn’t afford.

  • melandria romero
    January 3, 2016 at 7:57 am

    ooh, that’s indeed very frugal and memorable to the one who will receive it.

  • Rose Sahetapy
    January 3, 2016 at 7:18 am

    Those are such a lovely and creative gifts. I love the idea to give somethings that come from homemade creativity.

  • Eileen
    January 3, 2016 at 3:26 am

    These gifts ideas are awesome! Its true we don’t have to break the bank when we shop for gifts. A little creativity is enough to make personalized gifts!

  • Ana Rosa
    January 3, 2016 at 3:12 am

    This is so creative and fun! I love it! I think this would be such a great thing to do for any occasion. I will be showing my roommates!

    Happy new year!
    Ana (dearanaaa.com)

  • Danielle
    January 3, 2016 at 12:03 am

    Lots of creative options!

  • Jannine
    January 2, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    Those are some fantastic ideas! I especially like the date night jars. What a fun personalized present for friends and family. Great job on your frugal Christmas, it sets a great example for everyone in how to be creative and thoughtful while saving money at the same time ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Paula
    January 2, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    The laser cut ornament is adorable, and I’m sure your family will cherish them. I love the idea of microwave candy and can’t wait to get those recipes ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy New Year.

  • Mardene Carr
    January 2, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    I have never gone overboard for any holiday. I honestly don’t see the point and we need to also teach that to our children. Great post

  • Chelley @ A is For Adelaide
    January 2, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    This is such a great idea! My favorite gift to give this year was actually toys from Toy Story. My oldest is in love, and watching her imagination unfold is the coolest! Though not frugal, certainly paying off!

  • Annemarie LeBlanc
    January 2, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    These ideas are so creative and budget friendly! I will keep these in mind when an occasion calls for some gifts. I love the homemade hot cocoa!

  • Vera Sweeney
    January 2, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Love these ideas for a frugal Christmas! It is crazy how fast you can overspend and blow your budget at Christmas time!

  • Liz
    January 2, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    I LOVE the idea of a mixtape!! I’m totally stealing that for the next birthday that comes up. ๐Ÿ™‚

    When I read the headline, I was a little pessimistic. But, these are all such great ideas and I’m sure they were appreciated more than anything that was store-bought.

  • Marielle Altenor
    January 2, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    All those gifts are great. I think the best gifts are those that people give that has a meaning. They are the most memorable gifts! To me the best gift was buying a book for my daughter. She just started being more alert and you can see her face light up when she hears my voice. I’ve been reading to her and she loves it!

  • Sarah Koves
    January 2, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    This is such a great idea. I love cute printables in a frame for gifts. I did Wordle clouds for friends with all their family names in a fram.

  • andrea
    January 2, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Frugal looks great and easy to do! And probably those who get the gifts from you are SO inspired! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Angela from daysinbed
    January 2, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    You did really well. I managed to get most of our gifts through blogging so I didn’t have to pay for them. I love to save and do things on a budget. It’s something we have in common. Angela

  • Leslie
    January 2, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    That’s amazing! I think I’m going to do that next year. My family and friends already have whatever they want so they are all so hard to buy for. In don’t like eating my hard earned money for a gift card that’ll be thrown in a drawer.

  • Eve Redmond
    January 2, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Wow, what a lovely idea. Some lovely presents and I definitely want to try this next year! x

  • Lisa
    January 2, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Your low-cost gift ideas were truly creative and inspiring – much different than the typical gifts I see and very personal to each recipient, which I love. I have to agree that the ornaments are my very favorite, but it was hard to choose. Even your selections for your old-school mixed tape CDs were super customized. Your grand total was impressive, and I feel motivated to take on something like this in the future.

  • Heather
    January 2, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    I wish I was good at making things, but I love the idea behind this, just the keep it simple part. My husband’s love language is gift giving though and its elaborate and over the top…..and I feel the need to recipricate in kind, but you are right it can get out of control. One of the gifts I’ve loved the most though that someone made me was a blanket and pillow that matches and I have it on my couch and think its the pretties most thoughtful thing ever.

  • Lucy Valdez
    January 2, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Very cool! Love the Dr. Who graphic for the tickets! That’s a great idea!

    • Jenn
      January 2, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      Thanks! We are total whovians ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Michele
    January 2, 2016 at 11:58 am

    My friends and I stopped exchanging gifts years ago now–I still give cash to their son! As for my nieces and nephew I was in the hospital so they missed out unfortunately–I’ll get them next year!! And my Grand Niece will then be old enough to get a really NICE gift from me!! I do love the idea of homemade gifts–maybe for all the birthdays!!

    • Jenn
      January 2, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Oh, hope you are feeling better though!

  • R U S S
    January 2, 2016 at 11:58 am

    The Winter Date Jar is sweet! I’m excited to read about the ideas that you tossed in there.

  • angie
    January 2, 2016 at 11:55 am

    what great ideas, my favorite would be the date night idea. I think I may just use this idea to make up a family day idea that would be very cool

    • Jenn
      January 2, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      You could totally do that! So fun ๐Ÿ™‚

  • R U S S
    January 2, 2016 at 11:29 am

    I love everything that you did. I took down notes and will work on something similar next time I need to make & give presents. I adore the ornament that you did – it’s really lovely! Good job to you and your husband for frugal, yet still beautiful Christmas.

    • Jenn
      January 2, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      Thank you so much! It was so fun, honestly ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Laci
    January 2, 2016 at 11:20 am

    YAY !!!! You did awesome !!! My fav thing this year was i made essential oil necklaces and gave those with a tiny bottle of oil so perfect. Laci @ Sequinsinthesouth.com

    • Jenn
      January 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      Oh wow! Those sound so lovely!

  • Foodie. Wife. Life.
    January 2, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Wow, so we’ll be spending next Christmas with Mr. Foodie’s siblings and I totally will be nabbing a few of these ideas. So very clever, thrifty, and extremely cute! I may even take the date gift for myself. I LOVE that! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Jenn
      January 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      Thank you! I loved giving it and see them get so excited.

  • Heather Johnson
    January 2, 2016 at 11:12 am

    My family and I stuck to a budget this year too. We are continuing our frugal ways in the new year. My resolution is not to buy any toys or books for my kids. We have too many toys and can get any book we want from the library. Any money we do spend will be on experiences that can last a lifetime, not stuff.

    • Jenn
      January 2, 2016 at 12:01 pm

      The library is such a fantastic and underused resource. I am making a goal to stop in at least once a month.

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