14 Free or Cheap Gift Ideas

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A study from the National Retail Federation reports that U.S. shoppers are planning to spend an average of $875 on holiday-related items (gifts, decorations, food) this year. Overall spending is forecast to grow by at least 3-4% in 2023.

While the outlook screams “spend, spend, spend,” many of us probably aren’t planning to drop nearly $900 this holiday season.

Free or Cheap Gift Ideas

If you’re planning to spend less money this year on presents for family and friends, you might be looking for some gift ideas that are special but not spendy. We asked our newsletter, Instagram and Facebook followers for cheap (or free) gift alternatives and got these responses:

Send Holiday Cards

Joanna: Just buying gifts for immediate family. But working on Christmas cards to mail to everyone I can’t see this year! The cost of a card and a stamp is less than $1, but it says a lot.

Frame a Note or Recipe

Linda: Place a heartfelt short note, a long letter to a specific person or just a general memorable saying in a frame! Wrap it in a paper bag with a cloth ribbon made out of something worn that you were going to get rid of or repurpose. The cloth can be any material.

Margaret: I love the foods my son and daughter-in-law make and often ask for the recipe. Last year, they gave me handwritten copies of their favorite recipes. Priceless!

Find Extra Gift Cards

Elizabeth: I give a neighbor who’s on a tight fixed income my Publix gift cards from getting a flu shot. He loves them!

Print Photos

Susan: There are too many photos on our phones and computers. Time to print them for families to display! Frames don’t have to be expensive.

Purchase Books

Joanne: I bought my children a few books.

Carol: Check your local library for their used book sales. I just picked up several high-quality puzzles for my grandkids. Plus some activity books on drawing and painting. What a deal!


Shop at the Dollar Store

Vicki: When my kids were little, they would shop for Christmas at the dollar store. They would think carefully about each person and find something that person would like. They get really creative with the challenge. And they always found something for everyone on their lists.

Make a Themed Box

Suzanne: Breakfast in a box. Add in jams, syrup, biscuit and pancake mixes (could be homemade) coffee, tea — really anything to make a great breakfast.

Cook or Bake Something

Susan: I love to bake, so my go-to is always a special baked good like a tiny pie or plate of cookies for my friends and neighbors. This also allows me to treat them with a favorite item based on their individual likes.

Jim: I bake my extended family members a loaf of pumpkin chocolate chip bread and wrap it nicely with a bow on top.

Create a Coupon

Rosemarie: Homemade coupons to give to family and friends. Because the gift of time is most valuable. Here are some ideas: Date night, home-cooked meal, errand running, coffee date, babysitting, meal delivery in time of need, grocery pick up, girl’s night with a movie in pj’s at home, homemade cookies on demand, game night or home spa day!

Share Family Heirlooms

Emily: I am copying my late mother’s cookbook for my children.

Check Your Garden

Kate: I took clippings from my Great Aunt’s Hydrangea bush and rooted them. Everyone gets one this year! I only paid for the pot and soil!

Play a Meaningful Song

Denise: I re-learned how to play my flute during the pandemic (40 years after quitting). My sister chose a song with sentimental meaning. I practiced it and played it live on Zoom for her 50th birthday last month.

Help a Neighbor or Elderly Person

Mary Ann: Help an elderly person change light bulbs to fixtures they can’t reach. Take them to shop for groceries. Offer to dust and vacuum their rooms for them.

Joyce: Change batteries in smoke detectors for seniors.


Brenda: If you have elderly people in your family on a fixed income, get other family members together to chip in and pay their heating and electric bill for three months.

Suzanne: Once my child turned 13, I told him he was old enough to get me a Christmas present every year — and every year I want the same gift from him. He has all year to do something nice for a non-family member and write a one-page essay on what he did to show love to another. I save each year’s ‘essay’ in a binder I will keep forever and will hopefully pass on to his children someday.

Donate to Charity

Joanne: We’re all giving the rest of our money away to charities this year. It’s been a rough year for a lot of people.

Do you have any free or cheap gift ideas? Let us know in our Clark.com Community!