Frugal Gift Ideas

I love giving gifts!

But Christmas, Valentine's day, Birthdays and Anniversaries come around so fast each year.... ends up leaving me out of pocket and miserable)

The list below is by no means complete. As I stumble upon new frugal gift ideas, I'll add to it.

[so keep coming back to it when you run out of ideas ;-)]


    If you have received one too many candles, moisturising lotions, foam baths or photo frames, then put it away.

    Someone will need it more than you do and when their birthday comes along then you can happily give it to them - careful to not give your gift to the person who originally gave it to you.....

    I also sometimes stock up on gifts when I stumble upon a really good deal at a clearance sale and With that I mean a really good deal.

    I'm not very good at remembering birthdays - in fact my memory is shocking - I don't know what I'll be like when I'm older.... so having a present available at the last minute, has saved me a few embarrassing moments!


    Ooh this brings back sweet memories [excuse the pun ;-)]

    Keep your glass jam or coffee jars and fill them with your favourite sweets.


    A quick and easy, but personalised gift.

    You can even add a home made label and pretty ribbon, wrapped around the lid for a more personal touch.

    I loved my mum's fudge

    - she was a very adventurous cook and used to add all sorts of delicious ingredients such as cherries, nuts, chocolate, marshmallows etc.....

    - let your imagination go...

    This was the basic recipe she used:

    1 x 397g tin of condensed milk

    125g margarine

    500g icing sugar

    5ml vanilla essence

    Mix all the ingredients together in a large microwavable dish, microwave it on high for 2 minutes and stir it well.

    Microwave it for a further 12 minutes, stirring at regular intervals, the fudge should now be golden in colour.

    Beat the mixture for one minute with a wooden spoon and pour it into a well greased, square dish.

    Cool it until nearly stiff and cut the fudge into blocks.

  3. BAKE IT

    Bake a cake, biscotti or biscuits, place it in a clear plastic bag and tie the bag together with a pretty ribbon.

    You could even print the recipe on pretty paper adding it to your gift.

    Here are some recipe suggestions:


    250ml castor sugar

    2 eggs

    450ml self-raising flour or 450ml cake flour and 10ml baking powder

    10ml grated orange rind

    1/2 a cup desiccated coconut

    2 Cups whole blanched almonds

    1ml salt

    Preheat the oven to 180 deg Celsius (200 degrees if using a thermo fan oven). Beat together the sugar, eggs and orange zest.

    Combine the flour, salt, coconut and almonds and add it to the egg mixture. Stir to combine and then divide the dough in two. Put a fair amount of flour on your hands, or the dough will stick to them.

    Shape the dough into 2 log shapes approximately 250mm long and 40mm thick. Place them on a baking tray, leaving enough space for spreading and bake them for 25 - 30 minutes (if using a thermo fan oven, reduce the heat to 180 deg Celsius) until firm and lightly browned (do not turn the oven off but reduce the heat if using a conventional oven to 100deg Celsius).

    Now cut each roll into 15mm wide slices and dry them in the oven, at 100deg Celsius (with the door slightly open) for 30 minutes.(If using a thermo fan oven then you won't need to open the oven door). Turn the oven off and let it cool in the oven.

    Enjoy with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate - yum!


    I love these, as they are not only easy to make but also delicious.

    1 Cup castor sugar

    Flowers from six lavender stems

    1/2 a cup of butter

    1 egg

    2 Cups of flour

    5ml baking powder

    2 Tbsp of milk

    Place the sugar and flowers in a food processor and process until evenly spread. Cream the sugar mixture and the butter together. Whisk the egg and add it together with the flour and baking powder. Add the milk until the dough is smooth.

    Place it in the fridge for a few hours before rolling it out. Use a cookie cutter to punch out shapes and bake the cookies for about 15 minutes at 180deg Celsius.

    They will harden once cooled.


    This could be as expensive or as cheap as you want to make it.

    You can give a friend 4 - 6 new stainless steel teaspoons dipped into melted chocolate (placed on wax paper to cool) or you can dip plastic teaspoons in the melted chocolate.

    Then tie them together with a pretty ribbon and wrap it in cellophane...

    ...delicious dipped into hot coffee....


    Make your favourite meal or dessert, wrap it in cellophane and give it along with the recipe as a gift.

    I especially love giving this as a housewarming gift or to a friend who has just had a baby.


    Buy a small toolbox from your nearest DIY store and fill it with all sorts of sewing equipment. For example fill it with buttons, sewing needles and thread and sewing scissors.


    This is my personal favourite.

    You can do this as a couple or as a family. Each person gets his/her own jar and 12 slips of paper.

    On each piece of paper write down something "fairly" inexpensive that you would like to receive or do with your loved one - anything, from a massage to going to the movies, to having your favourite cooked meal.

    Then once a month each person must choose one slip of paper from the other person's jar....without the other knowing what they chose.

    They must now give/do what was requested on the slip of paper before that specific month ends.

    I love it - it's exciting being on both the giving and receiving end and it certainly added a spark to my marriage!


    Make your own homemade salad dressing, meat marinade, flavoured sugar or lemon curd, bottle it and give it as a gift to a friend

    - complete with a handmade label made from your very own homemade recycled paper.
    If you don't know how to make marinade, salad dressing or how to flavour sugar then use my recipes....


    250ml Worcester Sauce

    250ml Tomato Sauce

    1 Tbsp barbeque spice

    1 Tbsp crushed garlic

    65ml oil

    125ml cola syrup or chutney

    1 Tbsp brown sugar


    45ml Olive oil

    15ml Vinegar

    5ml Whole grain mustard

    7ml garlic salt

    10ml sugar

    5ml dried parsley


    2 Vanilla pods

    1kg of sugar

    Slice the pods lengthways, scrape out the seeds and rub them into the sugar with your fingers. Cut the empty pods in half, place them into the jars and pour the flavoured sugar on top.


    Make your own linen spray and place it in a spritzer bottle by mixing 10 drops of rose oil to 100ml distilled water. OR make your own by filling a saucepan with strong scented rose petals, cover with water and bring to a boil with the pot's lid on. Turn the stove off and leave the pot, still with the lid on, to cool down completely and strain.


    25g rolled oats

    25g dry lavender

    25g dry lemon leaves

    15g dry lemon peel

    15g dry orange peel

    2 dry bay leaves

    15g dry rosemary

    Mix the oats, lavender and lemon leaves together. Place the lemon and orange peel, rosemary and bay leaves in a mortar and pestle and crush it lightly.

    Add it to the oats mixture.

    Fill 8 (8 x 6 inches) muslin bags and fasten each securely with string. Place them in a pretty box with directions on how to use them:

    "Hang the bath bag from the hot water tap, while running a bath. Continue to use the bag until it completely loses its fragrance".


    Make your own hand and nail cream by simmering 1 cup of echinacea petals, leaves, chopped stem and root with 1 cup of aqueous cream, in a double boiler for 20 minutes.

    Strain the mixture and add 2 teaspoons Vitamin E oil, 10 drops lavender essential oil, 10 drops lemon oil and 10 drops tea tree oil. Pour it into a pretty jar and seal it well.

    You can even make your own pretty label for this very special gift.

    This cream is also an excellent treatment for rashes and insect bites.


    Fill a baby milk powder container with useful office accessories like paperclips and elastics.


    Create your very own herb tray by placing pots of herbs into a gardening basket / tray. I think this makes a very handy and attractive gift.

    One of my Christmas presents was a succulent, planted in an attractive pot.

    The plant came from my friend's garden and although it was a fairly inexpensive gift - I really appreciated it, knowing that she made it up especially for me....

    It now has a special place on my kitchen windowsill.


    Make a unique, personalised card out of your very own recycled paper.

    I love scrapbooking, when I have the time, and I use my scrapbooking bits as well as the pictures from leftover wrapping paper and even old greeting cards to make birthday and Christmas greeting cards.

    You could even buy a packet of pretty envelopes, to match your homemade paper and give this to a friend with 10 sheets of your recycled paper, rolled up and tied together with a pretty ribbon


    Make your own paper dolls. Search on the Internet for "paper dolls" and print them out. If they also need to be coloured in, then add a box of crayons.

    Another gift idea is to go through your cupboard, looking for any old but "interesting" outfits. Children love to play dress-up - place these items in a box and next time your niece and nephew come to visit -

    let them play to their hearts' content!


    500ml flour

    200ml salt

    30ml Cream of Tartar

    5ml oil

    500ml water

    Bring all ingredients to a boil in a pot, stirring continuously. After approximately 4 minutes, remove the pot from the stove top and let it cool. Divide the dough and add food colouring.


    Go to your nearest stationery shop and ask them for a small empty cardboard box. Buy some pretty wrapping paper and glue stick.

    Carefully glue the wrapping paper on to the box. Now you have an inexpensive memory box.

    You can give this to newly weds, to keep all their wedding memorabilia in or to new parents for baby's first year.

    Here's an idea. I did this for my sister-in-law as a wedding gift.

    I bought a whole lot of little things and then wrote a "how to have a happy marriage" note.

    I worked all the "ingredients" in the box into the note. For example I bought 2 cans of lemonade and pretty paper serviettes with a lemon design and said "if life gives you lemons...make lemonade".

    I also bought a box of matches and pretty scented candles and said "keep your love flame burning - have lots of candlelit dinners".... and so on.


    During the year - collect grasses, grass seeds, leaves and flowers and press it. Once dry use it to make these fabulous gifts:

    • A framed press flower picture

      Buy a new frame or recycle an old picture frame - buy white card board and cut it to fit the picture frame.

      Use pretty handmade paper cut slightly smaller than the white board and glue it on the centre of the board (the board should frame the handmade paper evenly).

      Arrange pressed grass seeds, grasses and/or flowers in a pretty pattern and carefully glue it on to your paper with tiny bit of glue. Place the glass over your picture and carefully complete the framing process.

    • Book covers

      Buy second-hand books from a car boot sale or thrift shop and cover them with these easy book covers before giving them to your friends as gifts.

      You can even buy a few cheap note books or diaries.

      Buy thick paper with an interesting texture or colour of your choice and cut a book cover (use the book as a guide)

      Again as per the framed pressed flower picture - arrange pressed seeds, grasses and/or flowers on the book covers and carefully glue it on.

    • Notes and envelope set and gift tags

      Buy blank gift tags (available at most news agencies or at you local Post Office) and blank plain post cards or make your own cards or postcards using card board (construction paper).

      Decorate your gift tags and cards with pressed flowers, grasses and/or leaves and give it to your friends in sets of 6 - include an envelope for each card or postcard.

      Idea: Glue strips of paper lace on your cards or use a paper doily before gluing your pressed flowers and leaves on top.


    Bake your very own Christmas cake in a Beer Box - cut it into smaller squares, place each cake on a side plate sized paper plate and decorate each square with Royal icing squiggles and silver balls.

    Wrap each cake with pretty cellophane tied with a ribbon and give it to your friends for Christmas.

Don't you agree that the whole idea behind gift giving, should be in the thought itself?

The idea that "I was thinking of only you when I chose this gift"?

I hope my ideas have inspired you to put more thought into your gift giving.

Need more gift ideas? Here are some Holiday (Christmas) gift ideas.

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