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How to save money on Christmas gifts by making homemade gifts and utilizing secret santa with friends and family.

As much as I LOOOOOVE Christmas (I love the Christmas tree lights, I love the smell of Christmas, I love Christmas music, and I even love the Christmas burning fireplace channel).  But to be honest, I usually dread the potential massive credit card bills of this holiday season and usually begin ruminating about how much this tradition is going to cost me.  I usually think about how much I need to spend for each person.  I usually make a list and check it twice. 😉

I have a few girl friends who I travel with and who I love hanging out with, but there are about 5-6 of them.  If I spent $25 to $30 each on a present (which is pretty much what I’ve done in the past), that could easily add up to $200 spent on Christmas presents.  And this DOES NOT include presents for my family and BF’s family!

So I suggested to my friends that we start a tradition of homemade gifts for each other (but absolutely refuse to call it: Recession or starving student budget presents haha).  There are a few good reasons for making your own gifts:

PROS of Homemade Gifts:

  • Cheap!  Buy a bunch of supplies or ingredients and make a batch of presents
  • You can show off your creative side
  • Unique and unforgettable- isn’t it the thought that counts?
  • Everyone gets the same thing so friends don’t feel alienated or left out if their present isn’t as good as others’

CONS of Homemade Gifts:

  • It takes time
  • It is easy to go overboard and want to make/create the best homemade gift
  • It might not be useful
  • Sometimes the supplies and cost of purchasing new ingredients can add up too

Some ideas that are practical and useful and people may look forward to receiving them.  I think I would much rather receive something practical that I can use rather than something that would just sit there to collect dust.

Some Practical Homemade Gift Ideas (the “How To” can easily be Googled)

  • Homemade Baileys (this is what I’m doing- and no, it’s not an excuse to buy a 750mL bottle of Irish Whiskey for myself haha).  I’m planning to buy cute mason jars and decorate them with a candy cane.
  • Homemade spice rubs (for example, taco seasoning, meat rub etc.)
  • A Hollow Book (I personally LOVE this idea but I’m worried my friends might think its tacky- you carve a hole in an old book so you can hide your expensive stuff in it in case of a break and enter!)
  • Homemade magnets
  • Homemade bath salts
  • Homemade soap
  • Chocolate Syrup or any cookies, baking, etc. etc.

Initiate a Secret Santa Gift Exchange

Another way to save money (which thankfully BF’s family suggested and not me) is to do a Secret Santa gift exchange.  So instead of buying presents for my BF’s brother in law, and two sisters, I just need to buy a gift for one person now.  You can make your own rules with the gift exchange (e.g. spend no more than $50, the amount of presents doesn’t matter as long as it is under $50 in cost).

BF found this website called Boogspace, which claims to be the ultimate Secret Santa Gift Exchange website.  It’s free to sign up and you input the people in the gift exchange, and it randomly generates your secret santa for you.  You can even post up your wishlist (which I personally find tacky, because then what’s the point of secret santa?) and you can then invite your family and friends to view the name of the person they need to buy a gift for.

Other Secret Santa Generators are:

Most Importantly…

Try and stick to your budget.  Make your list and add the costs of each gift up.

It can be really easy to get carried away, especially since, according to Statscan and the Canadian census, the average Canadian spent $800+ on Christmas gifts in 2005 (can you imagine what is is in 2011??)   Apparently Albertans are even more generous, and spent over $1000+ on Christmas gifts in the same year.

Readers, how much are you budgeting to spend this year for your Christmas gifts?  Do you usually stick to your budget or do you find you go under or go over?

Article comments

Anonymous says:

They also make a great edible Christmas gifts since I have yet met someone who turns down a homemade hot cocoa mix.

young says:

@Anonymous- I certainly wouldn’t decline homemade hot cocoa mix.

My wife makes cool homemade gifts. I love them all. Maybe she should blog about it?

young says:

@Alexander Collins- Yeahh! I’d read it. 🙂

I made some laundry detergents, body creams, and some meals in a jar.

young says:

@Miss T- Ooh! Sounds like a great idea for next year 🙂

I did some homemade gifts last year and everyone was so impressed. They loved that they were unique. Plus I had fun letting my creative side get into action. Great post.

young says:

@Miss T- Those were exactly the same reasons why I was excited to forgo the gift buying and do gift making instead 🙂 What did you make last year?

Lindy Mint says:

Yay! Thank you for posting the Bailey’s recipe, I’m excited to try it.

I started giving edible gifts in a jar last year to teachers, friends and extended family. I did hot cocoa mix, popcorn spice, and homemade candy. This year I’m trying my hand at making cinnamon roasted almonds.

young says:

@Linday Mint- It is so easy! Just 5 minutes to do. Once you make it you’ll be hooked. Although the 1 can of sweetened condensed milk is a little concerning, the taste is so similar to the real Baileys its great.

I love the idea of edible gifts- it comes from the heart and the jars can be reused! To me, that’s a win win. Hot cocoa mix sounds delish- that might be a good idea for next year- is it difficult to do?

604serf says:

The whole culture has gotten outta hand.

I say, with your friends, everyone go out for lunch and spend time together.

Instead of buying / making crap that ends up in a landfill. Everyone ponies up $20 and suggests a charitable cause. Then draw a name out of hat and the $ gets donated to that charity (and the person drawn gets the tax receipt)

$ goes to a good cause rather than towards random crap that people don’t need or even like.

young says:

@604serf- That’s a good idea 🙂 Sounds like a good plan for next Christmas. I’ll just have to convince my friends of this idea 🙂

Homemade Baileys sounds great! Does it come with a fresh cup of coffee or on the rocks? I take either, just so you know 🙂

Good post! Will tweet!

young says:

@My Own Advisor- LOL I love Baileys Irish Cream with both! Preferably on the rocks cus then I can still taste the whiskey 🙂 I’ll keep your preferences in mind 😉

jim syyap says:

Home-made gifts? No way. My children will KILL me.

young says:

@jim syyap- Yes- I suppose the homemade gift idea is workable for a certain population (e.g. girlfriends gifting girlfriends!) Children would likely NOT be fond of this idea, especially in this society of materialistic ideals like Apple products! 😉

Wow, homemade Baileys sounds yummmmyyy!
We are not buying too many things for Christmas this year, instead I’ll take Mrs. RB40 shopping after Christmas. 😉

young says:

@retirebyforty- That sounds like a good plan 🙂 It is “tradition” that my BF buys me a calender for 2012. This year he says he’ll wait until Jan 1 so we can get 50% off.

Those are great ideas for the holidays. One of my favourite parts about giving presents is wrapping them, But you gotta have the gift, if you know what I mean 😀

young says:

@Liquid Independence- I love wrapping too, but I’m not good at it (my corners and folds are never as crisp as they should be). This year, I’m extra thrifty and haven’t bought any gift wrap, and instead have re-used old wrapping paper and ribbons lol.

Great ideas! <3 secret santas and that website is way cool. One thing I point out to the BF all the time is that it's important to look at the VALUE of what you're spending on people, not what you actually spend. If you find a great sale and come in under budget, you shouldn't feel obligated to go out and spend the rest of your budget. No one has to know how much money you spent. Telling is tacky anyways.

young says:

@femmefrugality- AHhh YES! Of course! I LOVE getting great value and I totally agree with you. We had a $5 secret santa gift exchange one time, and I was able to find a BOARD game at Walmart for $5 (who knew they made board games for $5! Great value).

Aloysa says:

Loved this post. Every year we contemplate the idea of home made gifts. But somehow over time we phased out gift giving on Xmas. I think everyone recognizes now that it is very expensive. We just get together with friends for lunch or dinner and celebrate it that way. 🙂

young says:

@Aloysa- Phasing out gift giving is even better!! I should try that next time. Though this homemade gift thing is pretty fun so far. It didn’t set me back very much in terms of cost per person per gift.

young says:

@LIndy Mint 🙂 As per our lovely twitter conversation: Here’s the recipe for homemade Bailey’s Irish Cream:

1 cup whipping cream (unwhipped)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (uh huh, 1 can!)
1 2/3 cup irish whiskey
1 tsp instant coffee granules
2 tbsp chocolate syrup (I used Nesquik)
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Combine all in a blender, blend for 20-30 sec and store tightly sealed in a refrigerator and shake well before using.