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Many people now feel that the materialism associated with Christmas has gotten out of hand. Personally, all that pressure to “buy buy buy!” leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Some years ago, I attended a Christmas morning gift unwrapping session at a cousin’s home. With mainly gift cards exchanged, I wondered, “Why don’t they just throw a big pile of money in the middle of the living room and dig in?” But I digress…
With more economic pressures on folks than ever, I wanted to offer some more examples of low-cost holiday gifts that can be made at home for very little money.
All of these gifts are delicious treats that I have made in past years that people absolutely loved. In fact, you may have the ingredients for many of these gifts already in your pantry. Where certain ingredients are most likely going to need to be purchased (light corn syrup, whipping cream), I draw attention to shared ingredients across the ideas below. Even if you aren’t a great cook or don’t have a lot of experience in the kitchen, there is time to practice them, eat the results of your trials (yum yum!), and perfect your skills for your gift batches.
Skill level: Beginner
These truffles are so rich that you could give someone a dozen as a nice gift or mix up a half dozen with one of the other ideas below. As such, they make fantastic low-cost holiday gifts. If you can chop an 8-ounce bar of pure baking chocolate into little tiny pieces and warm some cream on the stove or in the microwave, you can make these truffles. No other baking or cooking is required! Warm cream is used to melt the chocolate.
This recipe has two other ingredients that are optional and offers a video and tips on every step of the process. I made these last year for my aunt, who is a total chocoholic, and she raved about them for weeks.
The cost: around $5 per dozen
Skill Level: Intermediate
A beginner could try these, but it would be best to have a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature of the candy mixture as you heat it on the stove. Once these candies are heated to the proper temperature, they are simply scooped onto parchment paper to cool. No further baking required! I made some for Christmas gifts years ago and was successful on my first try. Sweet and delicious! The pecans add a nice dimension to the fudge-like texture.
This recipe is classic and offers some good tips for beginners. With only seven ingredients (brown sugar, salt, butter, pecans, vanilla extract, whipping cream, and light corn syrup), you may have many of these already in your pantry.
Mind you, nuts are more expensive these days, so buying in bulk or already in pieces would help save on those. Invest in the corn syrup for a few dollars and use the rest as an ice cream topping! The truffles also require whipping cream, so buy in bulk to save there. One batch with pecan pieces might cost around $7 or $8, but it makes 36 pralines, so if you give a dozen as a gift, that is quite an affordable price per gift!
Skill Level: Beginner
One year, I had fun making gingerbread at home. Instead of making gingerbread men, however, I did something completely different. I rolled out the gingerbread and cut it with a knife into rectangular slabs. Then, I had fun making the gingerbread into a “Christmas card” by writing the recipient’s name and my (brief!) holiday wishes on the gingerbread “card.”
Even though I would not really call myself an artist, I was able to pipe out a basic icing onto the gingerbread without a lot of difficulties. As my mother is quite a baker, I borrowed her icing piper and bag. You can buy a basic piping bag quite inexpensively at a local discount store or be a real Frugalite and borrow one from a friend.
I used red and green food dye to make three colors and went to town. If my friends had a cat, I made an icing cat. If they liked skiing, I drew some skis. To box my creations, I bought plain white boxes that I tied with inexpensive colored ribbon. These were gratefully received (and eaten!).
You may have many of these items already in your pantry (flour, butter, milk, eggs, molasses, brown sugar, baking soda). While there are more ingredients in these “cookies” (12 in total), 5 of them are simply spices. This recipe also has a lovely icing recipe included with only four ingredients, which is another way to use some of that bottle of light corn syrup you’re now planning on buying!
While this recipe makes 24 gingerbread men, I would say you can likely make at least six of the gingerbread Christmas cards I’m describing. I think the cost per “card” might be something like a dollar or two at most.
Thrifty gifts from the heart…for the stomach!
Spending some time in the kitchen can save you a lot of cash. Could you see yourself whipping up any of the low-cost holiday gifts shared here? Do you have one you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments below.
Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. She has just launched her website, Half Acre Homestead. Colette invites you to stop by and visit this work in progress! Coming soon in 2022 is her exciting new online program. Interested in Resiliency, Preventative Health, and Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Housing (to name a few!)? Stay tuned for more details!
11 thoughts on “(More) Low-Cost Holiday Gifts You Can Start Making Now”
I love the gingerbread “card” idea! I suppose one might do this with sugar cookie dough too, but I think the spice would contrast with the frosting better. How clever!
Hi Alice, Thanks so much for your feedback. You know, I had never thought of it, but, yes, at least with the white icing there is a very nice contrast. I tended to use the red and green as accents. That is something neat that you picked up on. Thanks for mentioning that, as it could help others if they are planning their cards. Wishing you a wonderful gift-making time!
As with Alice, I loved the idea of the gingerbread card!
I love the idea of visiting. So I whip up a batch of fudge or another easy candy, pack some tea in a mug (thrifted, of course), and take them to a friend. If I know that the person is diabetic, I take grapes and cheese (grapes are on sale here, and I can get cheese reasonably), so I pack it all in a mug and take it to the person. Remember, this is a snack with tea, not a whole batch of something. I get to see the person, share a chat, and bring some smiles.
I enjoy knitting and find the basic prayer shawl pattern easy. I found lots of yarn and a pair of needles at a thrift shop, bought the whole lot for under ten dollars, and started in. Older people especially love to have them to throw around shoulders in the chilly weather. So far I’ve made five of them. And I do pray for the recipient.
Holidays should be about people, not how much money is spent or how much food is consumed.
Hi Marie, I love how your post is filled with ways to put people and relationships back in the center of our holiday traditions. I had never thought of using a mug to gift my treat, and I think this is a wonderful idea. Our local thrift shop even has some nice holiday ones available. What is great about this church-owned shop is that they slide the prices based on ability to pay. A high quality holiday mug would definitely be 5o cents to a dollar there.
I was just chatting last night with a diabetic friend who is in his 80s. He finds it hard to select the best snacks. I think that avoiding bringing sugar-filled items to diabetics is quite thoughtful. Personally, I don’t bring any candy into my own home because I know I will eat….all of it…in short order! I do not have your talents in knitting, but I have seen out local thrift shop has many balls of yarn and a whole container of needles waiting to be picked up. I have a little prayer shawl I bought at a fundraiser for our local school. I love it! Thanks for your thrifty suggestions and ideas to make a festive visit into a gift. Wishing you the best these holidays!
I make pralines in the microwave.
In a glass bowl mix
1 C dark brown sugar
1 C white sugar
1/2 C evaporated milk
Microwave for 7 minutes
Add 1 Tbsp butter, 1 Tbsp vanilla, 2 C chopped pecans
Drop by spoonfuls on tinfoil and cool
I have all of the ingredients ready before starting and usually wrap the pralines individually
I also do microwave brittle.
They make nice gifts.
Hi Dorothy, Wow! This seems to really simplify the process. Thanks so much for sharing your own recipe. I have such fond memories of those pralines I made. Not many of them made it to the gift packs, mind you, but mmmmm they were delicious! The members of the Frugalite community who prefer their microwaves or may not have a full range stove thank you! Wishing you very merry brittle and praline making this season.
I love giving Puppy Chow.
5 cups rice squares (Rice Chex or generic)
10 oz peppermint baking chips
1 cup powdered sugar
6 large, crushed candy canes
Melt the chips. Add the squares and coat. Put the powdered sugar and crushed peppermint in a zipper bag and shake. I put it in a recycled coffee can covered in wrapping paper.
Everything is in my stores so it’s pretty frugal.
Hi Dala, This is awesome! Thanks for posting the recipe for everyone to use. My grandmother used to have these mint “chocolates” in a beautiful crystal dish in their big country kitchen. I’m trying to remember what they were called?….(I actually had to scroll through maybe a hundred images before it came to me)..MISTY MINTS. Your recipe reminds me of Misty Mints. I haven’t seen them in years. Thank you for reminding me of this nice memory of my grandmother. I am sure that your friends look forward to some Puppy Chow each year. This is something that would be much appreciated and wouldn’t last long in my eco-cabin home. Wishing you the best these holidays!
Collette, great article! What I like to do is buy a pretty glass jar at the thrift store n fill it with 1/2 cocoa powder n 1/2 sugar n tie it with a plaid bow from Dollar Tree. You could even attach a little scoop if you like n a mug.
One more thought…I like to buy cashmere sweaters for $5 at the thrift store and make 3 pairs of cashmere socks from each sweater. I cut the sleeves right below the shoulders, which are already finished on one side, and sew an oval shape at the top for the toes. I cut panels from the front n back of the sweater and sew up the sides n top. If you bought cashmere socks at high end stores, you’d pay $65 a pair!
One kind of gift I’ve always loved getting, and giving, is the old school ‘care package.’ Shipping rates make them a bit expensive but those Priority mailers are still a pretty good deal. The contents don’t have to be incredibly expensive either. You can use a mix of holiday items and things you know the person likes. This time of year there are single serving cocoa packets available at good prices and a bunch of other things. You can even put home made soup mixes, cocoa mixes, or herbal teas in them and save even more money – while still having a very high sentimental value. Sort of like a stocking in a box. It’s another thing you can shop for when you find sales throughout the year and just set aside for later.
You could do themes too – like “hearty holiday breakfast” maybe with a muffin mix or some really coal oats with some dried fruit to go in it, or maybe an “afternoon tea” type theme with loose tea, a cheap tea strainer, and some home made cookies. Basically the idea is, anything you’d put in a gift basket, you could also mail to that distant relative. Or maybe the relative doesn’t have access to a certain store? Get them some shelf stable stuff from it since the Priority mailers have a good weight capacity. This probably isn’t a new idea for most but I thought I’d mention it because it’s such a favorite of mine.