Gift Guide

5 Low-Budget Gift Ideas


In this world of hustle and bustle, it’s easy to miss opportunities to celebrate our friends and loved ones. While birthdays don’t have any magical power other than to signify that we are older, why not take the opportunity to celebrate!

Hunting for the perfect gift can almost be too much pressure; it’s important to remember who the receiver is. What you may like (say, a surprise party), might be their worst possible scenario.

The majority of my friends and family have birthdays over the summer. While my budget is slim this year, I’m trying to think ahead so I can be more intentional with my gift giving. Honestly, sometimes the intentional gift is more meaningful than dropping a few hundred bucks.

Whether for a birthday, anniversary, mother’s/father’s day, baby or bridal shower, or a just because, here are 5 Low-Budget Gift Ideas for any occasion:

1. Be Available and Present

Birthday Out

Reach out to plan a time to hang out with just the two of you or a group gathering. Perhaps meet at your favorite restaurant or have them over to your house. Leave the phone in your purse or pocket and look them in the eye. Ask them how they are. With technology nagging for our attention, it’s rare to get the opportunity for undistracted conversation. Want them to feel seen and loved? Be present. Be available.

2. Act of Service

Washing Car

Did you ever give a “free coupon booklet” as a kid? As you flipped through you’d see free hug, free back rub, free carwash. Man, those were the days!

Something that you’re good at may not seem like a big deal to you, but a huge deal to your friend. For instance, my husband is really good at detailing cars so he’ll wash his friends’ cars for them for their birthday. A few other ideas: making them their favorite meal, babysitting their kids (slam dunk here, people!), gifting them your homegrown vegetables, mowing their lawn, or painting them a picture. If you live with the receiver – like your roommate, parent/kids, or spouse – the possibilities are endless! Get creative!

3. A Heartfelt Note


I was more intentional with this when I was dating Mike, but now our main written communication is through text message or actual conversation. How often do we take the opportunity to encourage our loved ones? What are some areas you have seen them grow in or that you admire in them? How do they make the people around them better? What are you best memories with them? How can you build them up? It doesn’t have to be a long note.

You can pick up a greeting card from the store, or grab a piece of card stock and make your own. I like finding a general bundle of blank cards (like these) so I can use them for any occasion.

4. Consumables


This category is all my dad asks for these days: a bottle of wine or good chocolate. It’s practical and personal, especially if you know their favorites. My go-to is their favorite beverage, like a bottle of wine or a 6-pack of their favorite beer. Let’s be honest: if you’re a pop drinker, a McDonald’s fountain drink is a sweet nectar and if you show up to my door with one, I will hug you. If you’re stumped, check out your local bakery, brewery, candy shop, or farmers market – or make it yourself!

5. Collaborate on a Gift

We do this a lot for weddings or baby shower gifts! If you know there’s something they really want, ask a few friends if they want to go in on a gift; strength in numbers!


A few friends and I planned a little surprise baby sprinkle for a dear friend of ours earlier this year. We really wanted to bless them, so everyone brought snacks to share and we went in on a gift card for them. Collaborating allowed us to go above and beyond what any of us could do on our own!

Bagel Bite


Sprinkle Bar

What are some of your go-to low-budget gift giving ideas?

4 thoughts on “5 Low-Budget Gift Ideas”

  1. Cards (especially handmade cards) have been my thing for a while. It’s a nice touch point for those relationships where I don’t see people very often, but I want them to know I’m thinking about them. I try to get out a good number of birthday cards and then do Christmas cards. It takes FOREVER to write a note to everyone in all of the Christmas cards, but it’s worth it to me.

    For those for whom I need to get gifts regularly (family birthdays or those for whom I buy Christmas gifts), I try to keep a list of things and note things they mention or that they might like… then I stalk those things on Amazon, Craigslist, etc. Sometimes this is successful, sometimes, not so much.

    I really like your suggestion of being present. This is something we say we’ll do (“Oh, I’d love to hang out sometime!”), but then a lot of us lack follow-through. When I have friends who say, “I want to visit with you, I’m free X, Y, Z dates/times!” it shows me that they aren’t just paying lip service to the friendship, they’re actively engaged. I love it.

    1. Hi Emily! I love this and your intentionality! I bet the people around you feel so cared for and loved. It seems like it’s becoming more and more of a lost form of communication, especially when we can communicate so quickly now. Scheming for ideas and listening to what people mention is such a good idea when thinking about gifts – again, so intentional. Yes, I’m totally guilty of lack of follow-through! That’s such a good thing for us to notice: people feeling loved in the specifics. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. I agree about the sweet nectar lol you are a great
    Writer with great ideas! Thanks for sharing girl! Id be more pumped about a friend detailing my car than receiving a store bought gift. That’s awesome!

    1. Thanks Chelsea! I’m all about those fountain drinks. 🙂 Yes, acts of service for the win! My car is perpetually messy and dirty, so the gift of a car detail would rock my world (and then probably go right back to messy and dirty hehe).

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