Creative Ways to Give Gifts on a Shoestring Budget

Recently, NBC news reported that although most people in the U.S. have jobs, inflation is higher than it has been in four decades and the majority of everyday citizens are feeling the punch.

Money is tight for a lot of us these days but that doesn’t mean you have to give up the joy of gift giving. Finding creative ways to give presents for little or funds can make your generous gesture even more meaningful without breaking the bank.

🎉 Occasions for Gift Giving

It seems there is always a reason to give a gift. Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, baby showers, wedding showers, and the list just goes on. Giving for no reason at all is a popular reason to give as well.

Rather than dodge the special occasion because it’s not in your budget, you may want to consider finding a creative way to give within your means – whether that is twenty or thirty dollars, a few bucks, or no cash at all.

Below you’ll find outside-the-box ideas for gifts within every range.

budget counting

🫰 Gifts that Don’t Cost a Dime

Some of the most meaningful gifts don’t have a monetary price tag at all. Instead, they come straight from the heart. According to an article in Psychology Today by Tina Seeling Ph.D. entitled “Time is More Valuable than Money”, giving of your time trumps buying a present because time is an asset you can’t get back.

Some gift ideas that won’t cost you anything but your investment of time include:


All parents need a break now and then and not just everyone can afford to pay a sitter.

To make it even more special, why not create a coupon? You can easily make one by hand.

It can even be in crayon and designed to look like a kid drew and wrote it. Or, you can put one together online and print it out. has some great free templates.

Pet Sitting or Dog Walking.

Boarding a pet can cost a dog-gone fortune. Some people with pets forgo an opportunity to get away for a night or a weekend because they can’t afford the extra expense. Giving a voucher that’s good for a round of free pet-sitting is a furbulous idea. If you’d rather not embark on that commitment, a dog walk (or two) makes an excellent gift too.

Caretaker Respite.

 According to, caregiving can be physically demanding and emotionally draining. Statistics show that 14.5% of all elderly adult caregivers experience 14 or more mentally unhealthy days within the course of a month and 17.6% report they have an average of14 or more physically unhealthy days per month. Over 36% say they don’t get enough sleep.

Do you have a friend or family member who is a caregiver for someone who is elderly or disabled? Offering to relieve them for a day (or even an hour or two) is a priceless gift.

House Cleaning.

If you have more time and energy than you have money, cleaning house makes a magnificent gift. You can opt to do a full clean or chose a specialty like washing windows, shampooing the carpet, or whatever else you prefer. Simply present the recipient with a card stating your offer or make out a coupon good for your service.

Car Wash.

Out of 2,000 Americans polled, a recent study published in People Magazine found that one-third of all car owners admit they have so much junk in their cars, there’s no room for passengers and 31% said they are completely overwhelmed with random stuff in their vehicles. If you don’t mind a little auto cleaning and detail, this gift will cost you nothing but is a guaranteed clean sweep.

Yard Work.

Taking an hour or two of your time to mow a yard, rake some leaves, or tend a flower or vegetable garden is a labor of love gift that is sure to please. You can give a voucher or coupon, print your offer inside a card, or you can just show up with yard tools in hand and really surprise your special someone.

A Visit.

Sometimes, just taking the time to visit with a friend or relative is worth the world to them – especially if they are elderly or can’t (or don’t) get out much. You can make it a special time by bringing a cup of coffee or tea, going through photo albums, or simply devoting conversation to whatever they want to talk about. Remember, it’s their time so treasure the moments.

Never underestimate your gift of time. It is one of the most treasured resources we have and we can never get it back so anyone you chose to give your time to can be sure they are loved.

💸 Gifts That Cost Very Little

It doesn’t cost much to put some thought into a gift that the recipient will appreciate. Gifts that cost very little are often the most beloved of all. Some suggestions of inexpensive gifts include:

A Picnic.

Whether it’s your best friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, or even a parent or child, going on a picnic is always an adventure.

Grab a blanket to toss on the ground, fill a basket with goodies (being sure to add some of their favorite food), and head out with your special someone to the park, lake, beach, or anywhere else you think they’ll find appealing.

You can make the time super significant by bringing along a bouquet of flowers, bottle of wine, something fun to do (like a frisbee to toss around), or whatever else you can find to show you took the time to plan the picnic with them in mind.

You can even put a romantic spin on it by serving wine with a loaf of bread and olive oil or spice it up with tacos and the trimmings.

The only money you’ll be out is for the food, drinks, and extras (like flowers or a frisbee). You can be as extravagant or as frugal as you need or want to be.

Road Trip.

One of the most memorable gifts you can give is an unexpected road trip. Since fuel isn’t exactly cheap these days, you can travel local and still have a blast.

Pick out a beautiful route or go visit a site you’ve never seen before or better yet, let the guest do the choosing. Bring along a picnic for next to nothing or consider going out for breakfast or brunch which is typically the cheapest meal to spring for.

Make the journey fun by turning up the stereo, chatting about random subjects, or doing whatever else comes to mind to make getting there just as awesome as the destination itself.

two person walking towards mountain covered with snow

Take a Hike.

If the person you are gifting likes to hike, plan a day of exploring nearby. You can find interesting places by conducting an online search or ask others who like to hike for places of recommendation. Bring some fun energy snacks and plenty of water.

🖍️ Homemade Gifts from the Heart

Love in a Jar.

The possibilities are endless to goodies you can put in a jar – like a brownie mix, candy, hot cocoa makings, and preserves. Arrange the contents creatively in a canning jar, tie a ribbon around it, and…all done. If you’re at a loss for ideas, check out these jar gift suggestions.

Anything Baked.

You can practically wrap up any baked item for delicious gifting. From bread to cookies and all yummy things in between, simply bake, wrap in foil, and add a ribbon or bow.

Knit or Crochet.

If you can knit or crochet, you’re in luck when it comes to gifting something inexpensive but special. A potholder, pair of slippers, or even a small couch pillow are perfect knitted or crocheted presents.

Bath Salts.

Make a jar or sachet of bath salts from Epsom salts, essential oil, and carrier oil. Get homemade bath salts instructions here.

Poem or Story.

Are you a good poet or writer? If so, you could write a poem or story about the person you’re giving a gift to. It can be recounting a memory – sentimental or funny – or it can be totally fiction. Type it on your computer and print it out or handwrite it for a unique touch.

Frame It.

If you’re like most people, you have a hundred or more pictures stored in your camera and/or on social media. There’s nothing more personal than a photograph and prints cost very little.

Why not buy an inexpensive frame and make a memory last forever? You can even jazz up an extra frame you have laying around if you’d rather.

With a little imagination, you can decorate a frame with Mod Podge using sea shells, buttons, glitter, or practically anything else you can think of.

Oh, and if you don’t have any photos of the recipient of your gift, you can flip over to their social media page and swipe a few.

Simply click on the picture you want and save it, then have it printed out.

Paint It.

There are a million gifts you can create from paint. If you’re artistic, you can paint a canvas but if you’re not, don’t let that stop you.

Paint pour is a popular craft that requires little to no real artistic ability.

You can paint pour on a canvas, on a wooden item, or on many other objects as well.

You can use a paint pour medium or even Elmer’s glue for your medium.

Check out some paint pour DIY instructions here.

Basket Gift.

The nice thing about giving a gift in a basket is the basket (or container) is part of the gift.

You can repurpose a basket you already have by spray painting it and lining it with gift tissue paper, a theme or color coordinating dish towel or hand towel, or anything else that works and looks good.

Add in whatever you wish such as baked goods, spa items like soaps, lotion, and a candle, or even an assortment of their favorite snack foods and a soda.

Assembling a basket allows you the freedom to stay within your budget – make a run to the Dollar Store or catch a BOGO sale at Bath and Body Works. It’s your call.

By the way, don’t forget to add a nice big bow to the handle.

Funny Coupons.

Whether it’s your bff or partner, giving coupons can be a fun and funny alternative to an expensive gift. “Win an argument,” “dinner’s on me,” “pick the movie,” and countless other coupons can be printed out and placed in an envelope, tin, or small decorative box. When the occasion arises, they’ll get to present you with a coupon you’ll be obligated to redeem so be careful what you put on them.

Make a Meal.

Sharing a meal together has been a tradition among friends and family since the beginning of time, practically. Invite your guest of honor over for a homemade meal or backyard cookout or deliver the meal to them. Be sure to include some of their favorite foods for a personal touch.

Photo Album.

Although everyone loves hard copy photos, getting around to printing them out from your phone or computer doesn’t always happen as planned.

Making a photo album for a gift is an incredible way to preserve memories.

You can pick up a small one (or even a full-size version) at a discount or dollar store for a few bucks.

Print some photos out, slip them in the pages, and boom! It’s fun to make a theme photo book like “friends through the ages,” “throw back photos,” or any other topic that fits.

You can even make a scrapbook type album by adding some captions or stickers in the mix.

They say it’s the thought that counts and…they are right. With a little planning and minimal or no money, you can give that special someone on your gift list a present that will be treasured forever.

Cheryl Jerabek
Cheryl Jerabek
Cheryl is a professional writer that has been writing ever since she could hold a crayon. She has authored over 200 fiction and non-fiction books for teens and adults (both credited and ghost-written) on a wide range of subjects. Cheryl also writes blogs and articles on various topics and themes. Residing in a small mountain community in Southwest Colorado, Cheryl draws her inspiration from the gorgeous scenery, her 2 adult children, and 3 grandchildren. She enjoys traveling, party and event planning, and hanging out with family and friends. “I write so you don’t have to,” is Cheryl’s motto.

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