Today I want to talk about gifts and how we can survive such a complicated, expensive, and all-out stressful component of the holidays.

I love gifts. Truly, I have so much fun getting gifts for friends and family. It’s such a joy to be able to hand something special over to the people you love and watch them light up with excitement and gratitude.

Unfortunately, the joy of gift giving can sometimes become tainted by the negativity surrounding consumerism, the stress of finances, and the greed of big corporations. It is discouraging to be strapped for cash and have to select a pre-assembled “gift set” that you know will most likely be unappreciated, and even worse, unused.

Here are a few tips for taking some of the stress out and putting the fun back in to gift giving.

1. Draw names

This is something my gigantic family sticks to and it really does alleviate a lot of pressure and stress. If I had to buy for every single person in my family we would not be able to eat during the month of December. We simply could not afford it. So, each year we draw names and all the siblings buy for just one other sibling. We kind of all try to buy something for my parents, but sometimes we go in on a gift and that is also a great way to purchase something nice without breaking the bank.

2. Thrift

Maybe you’ll think this is tacky, but I’m gonna just throw this out there and say that I am a thrift-store-a-holic. I love thrift stores. Something I did this year was start early and keep my eyes open for Christmas gifts each time I visited a thrift store. Guess what? I found some GREAT gifts for my nieces, nephew, and even my husband. Now, I’m not going to show you these gifts because I don’t want to spoil the surprise for my family, but I will share with you some ideas of what to look for at a thrift shop in terms of gifts.

  • Scout out books. Used books can be the best thing ever, especially if its one you know to be good, and is in nice quality. Used books are super cheap, and taking the time to find some great reads is always appreciated.


  • Look for unique mugs and glassware. I have a penchant for thrift store mugs. My cupboards are filled with them. You can find some really great, unique, quality mugs for under $1! Why not find a set of three different mugs and assemble them in a cute gift display? Trust me, vintage mugs are IN VOGUE. Just get on etsy and you will see that I am right!


  • Toys. People get rid of really nice toys all the time. You know how it goes. Kids get an abundance at a birthday party and sometimes brand new items are forgotten about and grown out of before being used. These suckers end up at thrift stores and you can snag them for practically nothing! The gift I got my niece is a never-been-used, still in packaging item that retails for around $50. I bought it for $4. So…yah.


  • Accessories. Purses, jewelry, and scarves are all great things to keep your eyes open for. You can clean them up and sometimes pass them off as brand new. Of course I always brag that I get things from the thrift store. It’s like having a super power.


  • Picture frames. Maybe all your grandparents want is a picture of your family in a frame. Don’t spend $12 at Target when you could get one just as nice for $1. I personally like to find more ornate, old-school frames and then just throw a coat of spray paint over them. A fun or funky color on a vintage frame is always a hit!


  • Antiques. Sometimes, you just never know what you’ll find. Provide your loved one with that statement piece that is the starter of every conversation in their home. Do it!

3. Handmake your gifts

Seriously, DIY is all over the place right now. There are so many fabulous ideas out there-you just have to spend about ten minutes on Pinterest to discover a handful of great gifts that you can make. Heck. Go check out my tutorial over at Shaken Together today. I’m gabbing about my handmade gift that was a huge hit for my dad. Go! Scurry!

4. Coupons

No, don’t give a coupon for “five hugs” and not ever really do it. But you know something? If a friend gave me a coupon for free babysitting or a dinner or landscaping…I’d just be over the moon.

You can provide someone with help that maybe they desperately need but cannot afford. For my husband and I, free babysitting is always as sweet as cake. Think outside the box and please, please, PLEASE follow through!

5. Make a book

There are so many great platforms out there for self-publishing and digital scrapbooking. Turn your Instagram photos into a photo album for family members. Document all of your favorite family recipes and memorialize them in a beautiful book for everyone. Write a kids story just for that special niece or nephew.

6. Give back

Fortunately, there are some fabulous options for gifts that give twice over! Buy a gift that benefits not only the recipient, but another person in need. My gal Natalia over at MaNouvelleMode just showcased a few great shops that offer products that give back. It just takes a bit of research, but you can jam-pack that gift with love and value that goes beyond the recipient.


Find more tips and goodies at TheHillJean!


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