Girl’s Guide to a Budget-Friendly Holiday Gift Exchange

gifting ideas for a budget friendly holiday

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the holiday season because your finances are minimal, but your heart is set on giving? Holiday sales are ramping up but so is your anxiety. Maybe you’re stressed out because you want to be generous but you still have to celebrate on a budget? Let’s face it, the guilt of gift-giving is at an all-time high. People like to feel special around the holidays and the pressure to find the perfect gift can cause financial sabotage. We’re here to help you with some unique holiday gift exchange ideas for every budget!

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Host a White Elephant Gift Exchange

White Elephant Gift exchanges can be a lot of fun. The rules are as follows: participants bring a single gift, and then pull a random number. The person who pulled the number on goes first and picks a gift to open. The person with the next number can either open another gift or steal a gift that has already been unwrapped. It may be a good idea to offer a limit on how many times one can take a present from others BUT it is a fun way to find something for everybody.

Some White Elephant Gift Exchange rules can include:

– Set a dollar limit for gifts (perfect for budget-friendly giving).
– Creating homemade gifts vs. buying.
– Get thrifty and exchange ONLY items found in your homes.
– Supply a gift theme such as cookware, a book you love, or your favorite spice for cooking.

Christmas Cookie exchange party

This is an awesome opportunity to share cookies and recipes with family or friends – at a very minimal expense. Simply invite your friends and family over for wine and enjoy a variety of cookies while exchanging recipes. To keep it fun and exciting, you could also have a cookie contest to showcase the best or most unique cookie recipes. Be sure to capture the moments by taking lots of pictures.

Plan a Closet Swap Party Gift Exchange

This strategy is ideal for the fashionistas who love to shop for clothes, shoes, and designer handbags. We all know the cost of an expansive wardrobe can be expensive. Therefore, the closet swap is an easy guilt-free method to soothe the urge to splurge. Simply go through your closet and take your gently used or new designer clothing, shoes, and handbags to a closet swap “party.” This party can be a simple swap exchange, or you can price your items below retail and walk away with some pocket change.

Organize a Potluck

We can’t forget about the food. Potlucks are a great way to cut back on food costs. There are so many options when it comes to potlucks, create a theme or simply make a list of the necessary items and allow friends/family to choose which items to bring for holiday dinner. Don’t forget to add Karaoke or a dance-off to make it a fun and festive event.

Gift baskets for budget friendly holiday gifts

Create DIY Gift Baskets


The winter months are the best time for a hot beverage. Loaded with antioxidants, tea is one of the best low-calorie choices for hydration during the winter months.  Pack your tea time tote with the following items to create a drinking experience fit for a queen or at least your best friend.


Holiday cocktails are a festive way to enjoy the season of celebrating. Consider showing your friends how to make  ‘lighter’ versions of their favorites with ingredients and recipes for ‘skinny’ cocktails.


Savory snacks and appetizers are such a nice break from all the holiday sweets. Creating a Mediterranean-style snack basket also ensures you are giving family and friends better-for-you fats versus baked goods that are often full of saturated fats

Check out all of our favorite gift basket ideas!

Research Thrift-Store Holiday Gifting

Even with gift ideas in mind, it doesn’t mean you are stuck with just one thing that they enjoy. Turn the concept into something bigger like a basket of goodies or even creating an entire outfit that you found. The creativity comes from both the finding of the gifts but also the presentation and explanation of WHY you bought this gift.

Putting together a basket for your Great Aunt and stating “I love how you make us delicious chocolate chip cookies when we visit, so we decided to give you this cookware and also these cute oven mitts and apron to bring the entire look together,” is a creative and thoughtful way to thrift and give gifts.

Between the gifts themselves and the packaging they are in, you are creating some budget-conscious and also creative and sustainable ways on how to do a holiday gift exchange on a budget and give gifts to those you love without the stress of finances when it comes to gift-giving.

Don’t be afraid to suggest ways for cost-saving gift exchanges, you might just create a new holiday tradition!

Sarah Degeorge
Sarah DeGeorge

Sarah is a digital marketing specialist who works in paid and organic marketing, public relations, and social media marketing and management to help small businesses find their authentic voice for their audience. When Sarah is not working on a digital marketing strategy, you will find her on a walk at a local park, reading, or working in animal rescue and rehabilitation.

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