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Christmas Shopping on a Budget: Merry & Meaningful

Look, the holidays are creeping up on us and after the last few years we’ve had, I think it’s time we talk about holiday gifts realistically. Yep, Christmas shopping on a budget.

So, I’m just going to say it: dude, it’s okay to take a break. And it’s okay to say dude. After the last two years, we’re going to send it—frugal gifts, stress-free giving, outdated slang. All of it.  

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but where I’m from, which is 2021 America, we’ve kind of built up this expectation of over-the-top gift giving. It feels like there’s this weird, unspoken pressure to get everyone a super unique-to-them gift for the holidays. And then to find something even more thoughtful and more unique than last year’s gift.

Sheesh. That’s a lot of pressure. And often a lot of money. And, frankly, unsustainable.

So this year, I’m giving you permission to let yourself off the hook a little bit. Yes, you’re welcome, the girl from the internet you’ve never met before is giving you permission. Someone had to.

So, let me just list five TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE gifts to give to your family and friends this year. None of them will break the bank, all will be enjoyed, and the holidays will indeed go on.

Christmas Shopping on a Budget

Whether you’re trying to bring a more personal touch to your holiday season or simply trying to stick to your budget while holiday shopping, you can enjoy the Christmas season without creating more stress or credit card debt. Put the following gifts on your to-do list:

#1. Baked Goods

Simple. Baked. Goods. Everyone loves food. Everyone. If someone walked into this room right now and brought me a latte or a cookie I might just cry.

It’s thoughtful. It’s traditional. Yet can you even remember the last time someone brought you a plate of freshly baked cookies? It’s kind of like a magical holiday ritual that we all traded in for luxury soaps and gift cards. Kind of a weird trade-off if you ask me.

Also when you give someone a dozen home baked cookies, you’re not just giving them one gift…YOU’RE GIVING THEM TWELVE. Like the twelve days of Christmas, but with less lords a-leaping because who wants that more than cookies? No one. I think you just won Christmas, my friend.

#2. Your Favorite Book

Listen, your favorite book is your favorite book for a reason, and you know who your favorite books should be shared with? Your favorite people. But you know what would be even cooler? If you personalized your favorite book for your favorite person with annotations or decoration.

What makes this gift so unique and so special is that you’re leaving your mark on it in a way literally no one else could. Leave notes in the margins, underline your favorite lines, maybe even doodle on or lightly color some pages to add your own flare. Leave them a reason to giggle, a thought to be inspired by, circle the spots where your tears stained the pages. Fun, affordable, maybe even free.

#3. A Pre-Planned (and Paid) Date

The promise of spending time together is a special gift…especially for those in your life you haven’t been able to spend enough time with lately. In your best calligraphy (or cursive or chicken scratch), work up a card inviting them to a coffee date or lunch date with a pre-chosen time, day, and place. You can always reschedule later if the time and date don’t work for them, but part of the gift is that they don’t have to think about it or plan it at all—you made all the decisions for them, you’re paying their ticket, and all they have to do is show up. Luxury.

#4. A Portable, Wireless, Nitro-Speed Optical Gold-Encrusted Phone Charger

HA! I’m just kidding—A PLANT. What better gift than the gift of purified air?! Fact: Studies have proven that houseplants improve concentration and productivity, reduce stress levels, and boost your mood. I don’t know by what percentage, but studies have shown! You are giving them the gift of LIFE! For probably like $7.99. Or free if you regift one of your own or pot some rooted cuttings (shhh, I won’t tell).

Also, I will testify to the fact that I never understood plants until I was given one. I didn’t even know if I was watering it too much or too little, but one day a new leaf popped and I felt like a new parent. I was so freaking proud. Gosh. Really brings me back. So now I have 32 plants. Ha. Anyway.

#5. A Bottle of Something

Clearly, you’re going to have to figure the “something” part of this one out. A bottle of mouthwash? I don’t know. Probably not. But a bottle of wine, a bottle of fancy coffee syrup, a bottle of gourmet olive oil, a bottle of homemade vanilla extract, a bottle of luxurious bubble bath? Yes. Any of that.

And bonus, if it’s not the best gift fit, it’s a totally easy and socially acceptable gift for the recipient to regift. And now you just gave them the gift of giving them a gift to give to someone else as a gift. I don’t know the science behind what I just said, but wow…two birds with one scone, man. Two birds.

Yes, I did say scone, which happens to be a call back to the first gift idea listed. And a super clever play on words.

Oh, and a little bonus gift idea for the kiddos: give them their own box of their favorite treat that they have your special permission to not share with anyone else. Don’t worry, parents can still oversee it, but my nephews melt when they get their own bag of goldfish or box of that ice cube gum kids are obsessed with, because you’re giving them the gift of ownership in addition to a treat. It’s a big deal to have something that’s all yours as a kid, especially if that kid has a lot of siblings they constantly have to share with. Ask me how I know this.

So, there you have it! Your perfectly affordable, and maybe even free, Christmas! No shipping, no back ordering—just a simple gift to say “I love you, and I want you to know that.”

If the holidays always catch you off guard financially, there’s no better time than now to take a whack at a free 34-day trial with You Need a Budget. Save money for Christmas all year long with the YNAB app and avoid the urge to splurge that always hits around the holidays.

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Christmas Shopping on a Budget: Merry & Meaningful