7 Cheap Christmas Presents That Won’t Make You Seem Cheap

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As frugal-minded folks, we all want to give nice gifts this season, but would love to keep them affordable. I remember years ago tallying up my Christmas expenses at over $1,000 – and we didn’t even have kids! Since then I’ve kept a running list of cheap Christmas presents that don’t seem  as cheap as they are.

P.S. – I’m not a crafty person and, therefore, have left off all homemade and handmade items. I know some of you make delicious treats, knit scarves and do all sorts of inexpensive crafty things, but I don’t. As a result, I’ve needed to figure out what I can buy ready-made that won’t break the bank.

Here are some of my favorite picks, but I’d love to hear from you. What do you give when you have a tight budget, but don’t want to come across as cheap?


These top the list of nice, but don’t-have-to-be-expensive gifts because there is a magazine to fit the interests of everyone under the sun. The recipient will have no idea whether you paid the full cover price or got the subscription for 80% off.

We track magazine prices for dozens of popular titles and let you know when we see really great deals. One of my favorites right now is Real Simple magazine for $1/issue via Magazines.com. O, The Oprah magazine is also $1/issue when ordered on auto-renew via Amazon. (You can log in to your Amazon account and cancel the auto-renewal at any time.)

The always popular All You magazine, which is chock full of coupons, is a great choice for a couponing friend or family member.


If you love coupons, you might have friends and family that love them as well. Giving coupons as a gift is a win-win since you can get deals on them, plus the recipient saves money on things they’d likely buy or do anyway.


Restaurant.com is my favorite for restaurant coupons. Gift cards to Restaurant.com’s website sell for half their face value. Spend $25 and give someone $50 in credit to use at Restaurant.com which they can then swap out for dining coupons to various restaurants nationwide. Know that the coupons your recipient will buy do require a minimum purchase at the restaurant, but even with that, I’ve found them to offer a great value.


There are two ways you can pass on the Groupon, or daily deal site, love. You can buy discounted products, services and dinners out from Groupon or other daily deal sites and give the item as a gift. You often save half of the retail price and can usually specify “buy as a gift” at checkout. When it’s noted to be a gift, then the printed certificate won’t list how much you paid.

You can also give a gift card to Groupon for any friends or family that are big coupon users.

Entertainment Book

I’d happily receive an Entertainment coupon book as a gift. In my area they retail for $35, but this time of year they offer promotion after promotion making them half-priced or better. We keep tabs on all the Entertainment Book sale prices including the current offer for $19.99 each, plus free shipping. A second copy of the book is an additional $15. You’ll spend $35 for two books, which is how much ONE book normally costs.


Some of you may have friends or family that want a product; magazine subscriptions and coupons might not quite cut it. To get products at deep discounts, I either shop clearance sections all year long and stack those deals with store or website coupons (which doesn’t exactly help you when we’re weeks from Christmas) or I pick up free-after-rebate or super-cheap-after-rebate items.

Around here we believe a great deal is 75% off or better. The one caveat is that certain products never go on sale that deeply, so we’ll inform you if we see a rock bottom price.

Store Rebates

Menards and office supply stores like Office Max, Staples and Office Depot frequently offer rebates in the form of a store credit on high-quality merchandise. You have to be willing to front the cash now, then wait for the store credit (which can take up to a few months to get back, in some cases) and then be able to use that store credit on a future purchase.

A few current examples include:

Briefcases and Bags
This week at OfficeMax you’ll earn 100% back in MaxPerks Rewards (similar to a store credit, but it’s issued quarterly) when you buy a qualifying bag or briefcase.

Toys and Kid Accessories
Through 12/11 at Menards you can get the following deals:

45 Piece Grafix Puzzle (Ages 3+) $1.50 (Limit 4)
Final price: Free after rebate

Kids Waste Cans (makes sound effects, includes batteries) $14.99 (Limit 3)
Final price: $4.99 after rebate

Kids Lamp With Night Light (monkey or bear) $19.99 (Limit 2)
Final price: $4.99 after rebate

Electric Toothbrush
Right now Amazon has this Oral-B Professional Care 1000 Electric Rechargeable Power Toothbrush for $39.99, plus free shipping. Then submit for the $20 Oral-B mail-in rebate which will give you $20 cash back. That’s 73% off the $74.99 retail price.

It may be less than three weeks away from Christmas, but with a little ingenuity and resourcefulness, you can still find ways to give inexpensive gifts that don’t seem cheap.

Your turn: What other inexpensive gift ideas do you have? Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts with other readers who may be in need of some fresh ideas.


  1. Chrissy says

    Couldn't you also buy the deals on gift cards and then turn around and use them at the place along with any other coupons you may have. You could save a bunch of money that way!

      • Tarah Huston says

        I think what she's saying is that if you score gift cards at a great price (such as on a deal like Cub Foods offered), instead of giving the gift card, turn around and shop at the store combining the discount you got on the gift card with other offers.

        • Chrissy says

          Yes, that is what I mean… Say you buy gift cards for JCPenny (example) at Cub or Rainbow when they have a deal and then you use JCPenny's coupons for your items. You will get an even bigger savings and still get some great gifts for people on your list. Sorry it was confusing.

          I did that with the Target gift card deal. I just rolled it, used coupon items to get to my $50, threw in some gifts to help towards the $50 and ended up saving over $60 on gifts at Target last weekend. We always stuff stockings with stuff like fun toothbrushes, fun bandaids, and other things that the kids can use. They love it and we can use coupons on it.

  2. Tamarah says

    If you don't have much to spend and/or don't have any ideas you can give a charitible donation in their honor. For as little as $5, St. Judes will send you a nice card to give that says you donated in their honor (and it doesn't show the amount).

    I also love the quality photo books you can make online & you can always find deals on them.

  3. steve johnson says

    This is just MY opinion. I would not give a restaurant.com as a gift. It is because there are strings attached to the gift. They know have to spend more money to use it. When you give a gift card they can just use the amount on the gift card.

    • sally says

      Last year I gave the Resraurant.com certificates. I also bought a $10 gift card with it. That way it is a $35 gift for $12 they still pay only tax & tip. They loved it.

  4. Hilary says

    i dont think coupon giving makes you a great gift giver. everyone in my family knows i can be cheap and get the deals. i think a better idea is to buy the items and give things like tootbrushes, tampons, toothpaste, laundry soap, deodorant, and such. i have done this before and the person on the other end has been very pleased.

  5. Jen A. says

    I love to watch for the free 8×10 deals from Walgreens through the year, then get them and save them up and gift them as gifts. The Dollar Tree has decent 8×10 frames, so this gift is super affordable and if I get an 8×10 of a fun family event, or a nice or nephew and give that to the parents, then it's very personal too. Don't forget – you can use the free 8×10 collage as a regular 8×10 also – just choose one picture for the collage and it prints as a regular 8×10.

  6. Heather says

    Just a note on giving Groupons as gifts…they have recently changed their format and the Groupon DOES now show the price you paid! I just bought one as a gift a couple weeks ago and called customer service because it printed with the amount pd. listed and was told that they used to not show it, but they do now :(

  7. tag says

    Saw the talking trash cans at Menards yesterday. Too funny! The "monster" can says something close to: "Trash good. More garbage, please." Very Cookie Monster with manners! Nice size, good quality. Wrapped one up for the 5 yr. olds room.

  8. MN Michele says

    With all the deals we all get on travel size and bonus package smaller-sized products, I've found a good use for the extras is to donate them to our church to make gift buckets for the homeless. Those items would also be great in a nice toiletry bag for a college student or a loved one who travels often; also as a little gift basket for house guests during the holidays. Some of the nicer items make great teacher appreciation gifts for Christmas or toward the end of the school year.

    We couponers have lots of ideas to share our bounty as I see above! Besides, couponing gets us way more than just toiletries, think of clothing items, gift memberships or tickets to local events, meat/seasoning/grill accessory packs for the grill enthusiast, so much is to be had with the options we have available to us. I love the magazine subscription idea! ;)

  9. Jessica says

    I shop year round and anything that I find a great deal on, I put into a plastic bin. I currently have three 66quart plastic bins full of gifts for birthdays or christmas.

    After Christmas, everything will be discounted. I usually stock up for the next season on watches and jewerly sets and toys and etc.

    On Tuesdays, there is the color ticket sale at Goodwill. I buy baskets for 1.49 or less. Then I fill the basket with products that I've gotten free or cheap with coupons. A gift basket of beauty products. (Even within the category of beauty you could do one basket with make-up products; one basket with shave gel, razors, lotion; one basket with body wash, loofah, and shampoo; one basket with nail polish and manicure tools. I've even done male beauty products in a gift basket.) A gift basket that is full of snacks and drinks (think coffee samples, 16 ct box of tea, hot chocolate, etc) is another idea. The sky is the limit on these. If you were able to get great deals through the year at OfficeMax and the like you could do a gift basket that has printer paper and a flash drive and DVD-R's or CD-R's. I use my coupons to buy board games, or wait until I see a really good clearance price, and it makes a great gift. Going to second-hand stores, or Half-Price books, or just shopping clearance at your usual bookstore; you can find brand-new or like-new books that make a great gift too. I've been able to get free clothing from Target when they have coupons for apparel that I've found on the clearance rack. A gift basket of art supplies (picked up when there are the sales on back-to-school supplies) is a great idea for younger kids. And the list goes on and on…

    When you first start couponing, it takes awhile to get your system in place but eventually you find your groove. It’s like that when you want to save money on Xmas gifts too. Through the years you will find a system that works for you.

    (I could write even longer about ideas that are crafty but I left those out since Carrie said she's looking for non-crafty ideas.)

  10. Becca says

    For the kids, I always hit up Kmart's July sale. They clearance tons of toys and then have a week or two where it's 50% off the clearance prices. You can get a $30 toy for $6 or less. This summer I got a $90 My First Kenmore Wooden Sink Play Set to match the other pieces my daughter had, and I only paid $14.

    This sale makes the toys look big and expensive, but if you buy on the right weeks, you pay very little for them. It really helps me, since I have 2 kids and we have 12 other nieces/nephews/godchildren to buy for.

  11. Lynn says

    I have an idea that is *green* too: Buy books at thrift stores. I got several new-looking books for only $2 each to use stocking stuffers – garden books, sports trivia, children's joke books, sometimes there are brand new CDs too!

  12. Bethany says

    We do the same thing! A little work on my end to get the items cheaper with my coupons and they get a box full of stuff they can use that they would've ended up paying full price for!

  13. karmen says

    Target does this too in January and July I believe. They mark a huge selection of toys down gradually. I wait til they hit 75% off and buy toys for all the nieces and nephews for the whole year.

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