Gift giving when you’re broke

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Gift giving when you’re broke

Having no money can make it really hard if you want to give Christmas gifts. This page includes some ideas for how to give gifts when you’re broke.

Of course, the whole concept of being expected to give gifts is something we can question, too. Social expectations are always worth questioning when they discriminate and exclude. It may be that you prefer to respond to expectations about gift-giving with a political response.


Avoid gifts altogether

Many people find it helpful to simply tell their friends and/or family that they prefer to not exchange gifts at this time of year. This is one way to cancel out any expectations and take off the pressure.

You can choose to give a reason why, but you don’t have to. Many people choose to not give gifts at Christmas, often as a statement about the increasing materialism of Christmas. You could choose to just mention this casually, or you could even create cards or letters that explain why you choose to not give gifts. Maybe, in this way, your real gift is consciousness-raising about the social impacts of materialism and gifts at Christmas.


Make your own gifts

You don’t have to be creative or artsy to make your own gifts. Although if you do have some creative skills, this is a great time of year to use them.
Something small and crafty. There are some great ideas on the internet about small, crafty hand-made gifts. Here are a few ideas, but there are thousands more on Google:

Easy Christmas crafts, by Wiki-how
101 Make your own Christmas gift ideas, by Mooky Chick
A DIY budget Christmas: 99 great gifts to start right now, by Get Rich Slowly

Some of the ideas on these sites include:

  • Beaded jewellery
  • A box of handmade gift cards
  • Small handmade stuffed toys
  • Knit a scarf or beanie
  • Bake biscuits, cakes, gingerbread, jams or chutneys
  • Decorate a picture frame
  • Make Christmas crackers
  • Potpourri or lavender sachets
  • CD compilations
  • Handmade magnets

xmas_cookiesSomething delicious to eat… Cooking your Christmas gifts isn’t always cheap, but it can be. And, of course, you are also gifting your time and skill as well as something delicious. Many people really appreciate such a personal touch.

There are loads of popular food gifts to make at Christmas: jams, chutneys, cookies, gingerbread, sweets, cakes and much more.

Christmas food gifts for under $3, by My Recipes
Simple Christmas food gifts, by Better Homes and Gardens
Homemade Christmas food gifts, by All Recipes Australia

Giving green. Handmade gifts are not just economical, but can also be much better for the environment. Check out these sites:

50 handmade green gift ideas, by Totally Green Crafts
20 DIY green gift ideas, by Little Green Dot
Green handmade gift tutorials, by Everything Etsy

Don’t forget about literally giving green… if you have a garden, why not take some cuttings from plants and literally grow your gifts? Small pot plants can be a beautiful gift of life, as can a basket of home-grown fruits and vegetables.


How’s this for a beautiful gift idea? The memory jar.

The most wonderful gift I’ve ever given (it’s still talked about years later) cost me almost nothing. I spent a few months contacting friends and family members and asked them to send me memories and old pictures of my grandfather. Then I wrote one memory (or printed one picture) on each of 365 business card sized pieces of card stock. I folded each in half and secured it with a bit of tape, then placed them all in a big jar I decorated. Every morning for the next year, my grandfather would take out a paper, open it, and see what other people cherished in him. He loved it.”


Gifting your time or skills

In this busy, fast-paced world, the gift of time is something very special. If you can spare time more than you can spare money, why not give that instead?

Make up a voucher for your time or services in an area that you know people might value. For example:

  • Two Car Washes by Me
  • One Baby-Sit At The Time of Your Choosing
  • An Afternoon of Ironing Done with Love By Me

Perhaps you have a skill or some knowledge that others might value? For example, you could offer to teach someone how to use the internet, or how to knit, or many other things.

Perhaps you have more physical mobility than someone you care about? Then you could offer to help with carrying groceries, walking their dog or bending in the garden. It costs nothing but may be more appreciated than anything else.



Re-gifting means giving away a gift that someone has given you in the past. Many people do this, especially with past gifts that they don’t really like or need. Re-gifting is also a green way to avoid waste.

Christmas gift shopping when you’re broke

If you do go shopping for your gifts, here are some tips to keep costs down:

  • Check out second hand shops and factory outlets for bargains
  • Compare shops to find the best deals
  • Set a budget and try to stick to it, avoid using credit cards
  • Ask someone to jointly buy gifts together
  • Avoid buying cards and wrapping paper: they are increasingly expensive. Try make your own cards, and reusing wrapping paper. Using newspaper and string as wrapping can give a cool vintage look and almost no cost. Or try cheap brown recycled paper. If you’re crafty, you can try decorating the paper yourself with stamps.

A socially conscious gift idea.
Many people these days prefer to make a donation to a worthy cause rather than give a gift. Many charities now provide gift cards so that you can let people know about the donation you have made in their name. I’ve even heard of some people who like to donate blood at Christmas, and give a card to others that says they did this in the person’s name as a ‘gift of life’.

Charitable options for children’s gifts

There are services around most cities that provide free toys for parents, and sometimes for grandparents, to give as gifts. These are usually donated by the general public to charities, who then distribute these gifts.

To find a charity for children’s Christmas gifts, contact local charities in your area who provide emergency relief and/or support for families and children, or check out any services that have registered below.

Register your charity in the comments field below
Are you a charity that offers Christmas gift services for parents and/or grandparents? Please share your details for readers of this site, including:

  • The name of your organisation
  • The country & city
  • What you provide
  • Who is eligible
  • How to contact you
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