Give Frugal but Fantastic Holiday Gifts

Nov 27, 2017

MoneyLife100Has overspending during the holidays become a tradition in your household? Is opening your credit card bills when they arrive in January among the year’s most unpleasant surprises? There are many ways you can give meaningful gifts without breaking the bank, according to the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA). Here’s a look at some great ways to show you care—even on a budget.

Agree on Limits

Holiday spending can go into overdrive when everyone is trying to find a better or bigger present than last year. Hit the brakes on that impulse. Get friends or family to agree to set maximum spending limits for each gift. Another option is to assign everyone in a family or group of friends only one person to buy for each year, that way you can give something special without draining your bank account. In a very big family, consider giving presents to kids only. Adults will save a lot, and can still share the children’s joy when they receive their gifts.

Be Sale Savvy

Looking for sales and making the most of coupons can help you get great gifts for lower prices. If you want to avoid crowds at the mall, comparison shop online to find the best prices. Even if you choose to check out the merchandise in the stores, you’ll know in advance which retailers have the best prices. Also keep an eye out for stores that match their competitors’ prices, and take advantage of the offer if it applies. Finally, for the future, consider planning far in advance of the holiday season. Often the best sales happen at other times of the year, and doing a portion of the shopping in the summer or spring could save both money and stress.

Make the Thought Count

It’s easy to be thoughtful without spending a lot. Does your favorite niece love kittens? A notebook, set of pencils, or mug with kitten decorations—or a basket of kitten-themed items—will be as welcome as an expensive toy. If you’re a great cook, friends or family will probably be delighted to receive a dozen homemade cookies. You can also collect photos or keepsakes in an album for a loved one. Another idea: if you are close to someone who’s crazy about fishing, knitting, movies, or some other hobby, give a subscription to a magazine that covers that topic.  

Give the Gift of Time

Sometimes a friend or family member may not need more stuff; he or she may just benefit from some or your time. That could involve offering to babysit for new parents or caring for pets when someone goes on vacation. Perhaps an older relative or someone facing a big home improvement project could use a couple of hours of help. Or just spend some quality time with a friend or relative you haven’t seen in a while. Give some thought to the gesture that would please them the most, then write down the offer of your time on an attractive card and see how welcome your thoughtfulness will be.  

Give Back on a Budget

The holidays bring out the best in people, which means many try to add charitable giving into their budgets. Even if money is tight, there are ways you can make a difference. If you have friends or family who seem to have everything already, consider contributing whatever you can afford in their name to their favorite charity. You support a cause they care about and show that their passions are also important to you. Also consider donating either your time or valuable items you no longer use. Many charities welcome clothing, furniture, or kids’ toys in good condition.  

Your CPA Can Help

What’s your financial objective? Whether you’re trying to cut spending, save for an important goal, or address any other financial issue, turn to your local CPA for expert advice. To find a CPA in your area or for more financial tips, visit


The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) is a premiere statewide association of more than 22,000 members working in public accounting, industry, government, and education. Founded in 1897, the PICPA is the second-oldest state CPA organization in the United States.

Money & Life Tips are a joint effort of the AICPA and the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), as part of the profession’s nationwide 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program.