Holiday Gift Guide - on a Budget!

The holiday season is my favorite. While I don't love the winter, I allow Christmas to start in September for me. It drives both Ricky & my sister crazy but the idea of gift giving sends me so many positive/happy vibes. I just truly love it. I begin creating a list of ideas for everyone on my shopping list in August/September. Over the years, I've begun dwindling my shopping list down as I realize that you don't need to give EVERYONE you know a gift. 

So here is your first step: Create a list of people you need to buy for (mom, dad, siblings, boyfriend/girlfriend & their immediate family, a close friend who is like a sibling, etc.). I send everyone who is not on my list a Christmas Card that I've created. I like to spread the holiday cheer with everyone that I care about. Make a list of people that you send cards to also so you can use it again the next year and adjust accordingly. I keep my Gift/Card list in a Microsoft Document on my computer, so nobody else has access to it! (One year I was supposed to send my sister a Photoshop activity coupon that we created for our godchildren and I sent her the list instead. She saw everything she was getting for Christmas that year and I was devastated. I'm super careful with my list now!). 

Another list tip: I color coordinate everything on my list. All of my ideas are listed in a black writing. Once I've purchased the gift, I change the writing color to green so I know that item is complete. If I've decided to not follow through with an idea but want to keep that idea on the list for next year or an upcoming birthday, I change the writing color to red. 

Budget Tip: Link up with your siblings or significant other for parent gifts and other sibling gifts. This way you can get them something they may really enjoy but was a little out of your budget and you can split it with the others! 

Alright, enough of my list organization! Here is our Holiday Gift Guide! 

1. My parents have all of their childhood photos in boxes so one year, we put all of my mother's photos into photo albums. This is thoughtful and it gives you a chance to relive some of your parent's memories with them. Listen to stories and enjoy your time with your parents!
2. Do your parents have an attic, cellar, or office space that needs organizing? Help them out with it! One year we got my parents a bunch of bins and shelving and helped them organize the attic.
3. Kayak, canoe, bike, or something they could enjoy outside. Ricky, my sister, and I got my parents a kayak one year. We searched all the sales and when we found a tandem kayak at the right price, we purchased it and stored it at a friend's place until Christmas.
4. Concert Tickets
5. Weekend Getaway (Gift card to a hotel chain or a B&B in an area that you know they'll like)
6. Wine from their favorite winery (some deliver!) Or a subscription to their favorite winery's Wine Club! Our favorite place, Adirondack Winery, has a wine club and they send a couple bottles each month for a fixed price.
7. Day Trip or Activity that they can do with you - they WANT to spend time with you! Spa Day, Beach Day, Hiking Trip, Mall Trip, Ski Trip, day trip to NYC or your nearest city, etc.! 

1. Take a trip together. My sister and I traveled the coast of California after I graduated college, from San Diego to San Francisco and it was the most memorable trips I've ever taken.
2. Books (or a gift card for their Kindle)
3. Clothing
4. If your sibling has a pet, they'll appreciate a $20 gift card to the closest pet store
5. Luggage: BJ's & TJ Maxx both carry luggage at decent prices. If your sibling likes to travel but doesn't have luggage, get them a carry on size piece of luggage and spice it up by adding a personalized luggage tag made from Etsy!
6. If your sibling is artsy, take one of their photos that would match a room in their house and have it printed on a canvas or print it and put it in a frame. Shutterfly, ClarkColor, and Snapfish do this for decent prices and they're always having sales! (For my sister's birthday in August I chose three photos from our trips this year - Iceland, Costa Rica, Colorado - and had them printed on canvases for $10 each with Snapfish!)
7. Ancestry Test - If you're both curious what exactly your background is, give each other this gift! It's $80 but if you're at the age where you tell each other before Christmas what you'll be giving or try to plan something together, it can be something you each go in on and one person takes the test. You each spend $40 (or less if there are more than 2 siblings), and you find out more about where you're from!

1. Ricky and I give each other a destination every year and I love this. Rather than purchasing gifts for each other, we give each other an envelope with the name of our next travel spot inside. Last year I gave Ricky Colorado and he gave me Texas. Then we figure out when the best time to go is and plan the trip together. We don't pay for each other's portion of the trip; we split it like we normally would. The gift is the destination. We love to travel and we're going to travel throughout the year so it's a fun surprise on Christmas morning to find out what two of our destinations will be during the next year.
2. Ricky & I also do a stocking for each other in addition to our destination. This is just filled with the basics: socks, favorite candy, wallet, sunglasses, card game, etc. If you're on a budget, the stocking alone is a gift and could be what you and your significant other choose to exchange.
3. Hat from Etsy with your favorite quote or phrase embroidered on the inside. It's something they'll wear every day and you'll be the only two that know it is personalized for you two.
4. If he likes hiking, get him ice cleats (crampons). My parents got Ricky & me these last year and they're the best thing ever! We were able to hike all winter long with these!
5. If he loves to cook, get a cooking class lesson that you two can take together! (Groupon has tons of offers like this)
6. Dancing lessons that you can do together (Groupon has tons of offers like this).
7. Date Night Cards: Put together 12 envelopes and include a free date night idea on each card. When you're both free for a date night or you've had a long week and need a night out with no thought, grab a card and enjoy the date you planned! You can include dinner Groupon or activities in these or dinner night at home. 

Children - I do one of two things for kids:
1. Two books and one toy (purchased from TJ Maxx or Marshalls)
2. An activity that we can do together (it can be something that you do in a couple of months that they can look forward to)
   -Science or interactive museum
   -College or Minor League sporting event
   -Day at the beach
   -Day biking the local rail trail & a picnic
   -Movie night with mani/pedis and baking at home
   -Day of sledding
   -Day of hiking or walking a nature path
   -Day at the park
   -Day in the city if you live near one
   -If they play a sport, spend an hour or so practicing their sport and then go out for ice cream
   -A trip to the mall (sometimes a girl just wants to walk around the mall with an older girl that she thinks is cool!)
   -Maybe they love to read and would love to spend the day exploring a library in your neighborhood or one of the many libraries in NYC! Then you can head to a local bookstore or Barnes & Noble, get them a treat and let them pick out one book.
*The goal here is to spend time with the children in your life and have that time be enjoyable. Try not to go somewhere that there is a lot of merchandise that will distract them or a lot of activity that will cost an excessive amount of money unless you're ready to spend it! County fairs, festivals, boardwalks, and such activities are fun but there is one thing after another that children want in these locations - cotton candy, popcorn, every ride and every game, etc. Focus on the time that you're spending with them; that is your gift to them. We used to take my godchildren to the beach in the winter and we would just run around, find shells, take funny pictures, and goof off. Those are the best memories I have with them and the greatest pictures that I've got with them. You leave them wishing you had more time in the day and excited for another day trip adventure with them. 

I like to make things special for my friends. Some of my favorite gifts that I've done are below:
1. Coasters with our Instagram pictures transferred onto them. (If you can't do this on your own, there are a number of great Etsy vendors that can do it for not too much money.
2. Beer mugs, wine glasses, or whiskey glasses with their initials engraved on them. (Again, Etsy is a great vendor for this).
3. If your friend just moved into a new apartment or house, a basket with essentials (from the Christmas Tree Shop) is a great gift. Grab some spatulas, dish towels, an apron, a cookie sheet, pyrex, and a few other items to fill your basket. You'll end up spending $20 or less and it's something useful for them!
4. If they're techy, get them a USB charging station where they can organize all of their electronics in one place.
5. Beauty/Fashion Lover? Get them a one-time purchase to FabFitFun and they can try out a whole bunch of new products! (Or one of the many other subscription boxes out there!)
6. Magazine Subscription. I've received a Vegetarian Magazine Subscription before and loved it. If your friends are interested in a certain thing (sports, fitness, cooking, fashion, etc.), find a subscription that is informative and interesting to gift them.
7. If your friends are into working out & you know their size, head to TJ Maxx or the Reebok outlet and get them a $10 workout top. You can pair it with some weights, jump rope, or another simple essential workout item. TJ Maxx has a great workout section.
8. I love a good basket gift. If your friend & their significant other or roommate spend a lot of nights in, put together a movie night basket with pasta & sauce, snacks and some of their favorite movies. If they like sangria, fill a glass pitcher (from the Christmas Tree Shop) with the ingredients to make sangria! If they like margaritas, do a tequila & tacos basket. Throw in a candle or two if you need to fill space.
9. Frame a photo of you guys from when you first met. I had a friend frame a photo of us from when we were young and they put it in a wooden frame. They decorated the frame with quotes and memories from our years of friendship. Super thoughtful.
10. Gift Cards. Some people think this is insincere but I love when I get gift cards. Think of a store your friend likes or if you know your friend is on a budget, go with a grocery store or gas gift card; it will be appreciated. You could also do a restaurant if you know of a place your friend has been dying to try. Listen to what they like and purchase a gift card that is something they would use.

This is not necessary but I always like to do something for my employees to thank them and let them know I appreciate them. This comes from my personal budget so it has to be easy to do for 60+ employees and budget friendly!
1. Make candy and put it in individual holiday bags for them. One year I made dark chocolate "bark" and put mint swirls in it. I also did rolos inside a pretzel that were baked. You can bake cookies and put them in individual bags as well if you can't find a simple candy to make. (Pinterest has tons of candy making ideas).
2. Design a mug for them. Last year I bought cute plain white mugs at the Dollar Store and put a sharpie music note on them, baked them in the oven, and that was the gift! You can fill them with candy if you have the extra money but candy from the store is super expensive.
3. Make a caramel or chocolate dip and put it in a jar/mason jar from the Dollar Store or Christmas Tree Shop. Take an apple and place it on top of the jar and package it in a holiday wrap with a bow. You can include a cute phrase on the tag when you tie it all together. This is a nice semi-healthy snack during the holiday season.
4. Get a cookie mix or a baked good mix and tie a whisk or wooden spoon to it with some holiday ribbon. You could even put it all in an oven mitt. Put a cute holiday thank you note on it when you tie it together. (Christmas Tree Shop purchases!)
5. Get a small gardening pot and paint it green (or any color!) and fill it with rolos (or any candy with a gold covering). Then you can put a cute tag on it that says "Lucky to have you" and a holiday greeting.
6. Do a New Year's gift - a small bottle of sparkling cider and fun ribbon tied to it. Tie some 2018 glasses or a noisemaker to it!
7. If you're creative/talented in the art genre, you could cut circles from a wood branch and engrave or paint the employee's initials on each piece. Create an ornament out of this. These are all over Etsy but a bit out of the budget for employee gifts if you have a lot of employees. Looks like something you could learn to do for a fraction of the cost, though!
8. Make a small loaf of bread (banana nut, orange cranberry, pumpkin bread, gingerbread, blueberry, etc.) and wrap it in saran wrap or tinfoil. Label them and put a cute bow on it!
9. Purchase round glass ornaments and paint/engrave them. You can customize them for your employees.
10. Customize a beer opener or wine opener
Tip - I like to browse Etsy and Pinterest by searching "Wedding Guest Gifts"  or "Party Favors" for ideas. It can trigger something creative in my brain to do gifts in bulk for my employees!. 

If your company has money to spend on small employee gifts, you can do a ton of different things:
1. Bluetooth speaker with the company logo
2. Planner with the company logo
3. T-shirt, Hat, or some sort of apparel with the company logo
4. Starbucks giftcard, movie theater giftcard, local restaurant giftcard
5. Travel mug with company logo

*Last thing & one of my favorite gifts to give - Donate to a charity in your friend or family member's name. There are so many charities with incredible causes so find something that you would both be passionate about and make a small donation to the cause together.

What memorable gifts have you received in your life and what are your favorite gifts to give?

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