Your Thrifty Gift Guide: Finding the Best Holiday Presents on a Budget

October 20, 2021

As year two of this global pandemic creeps into yet another holiday season, the impact of COVID-19 is seeping into the world of holiday gift-giving. A recent YouGov survey found that while 70 percent of American consumers will shop for holiday gifts this season, only 8 percent will increase the amount they’re able to spend.

If you’re in that same camp — where you want to purchase gifts for loved ones while still being mindful of the cost — don’t stress! After all, this time of year should be festive and enjoyable, not a drain on your finances, right? We know that funds for gifts can be tight for college students. So, here are a few practical ways to score presents on a budget for each family member or friend on your list. 

Make Sure to Plan Ahead, Especially This Year

According to a report in The Washington Post, supply chain shortages over the next couple of months are projected to cause “long waits, empty shelves and higher prices,” both in retail stores and online. Delivery carriers also forecast shipping delays due to the seasonal increase in packages and continuous strain on the postal service as a whole. Yikes!

For that reason, it’s crucial to be ahead of the curve with holiday shopping. Give yourself a head-start buffer to scout around for all the best deals (some retailers are announcing their Black Friday or Cyber Monday promotions now). Plan for the inevitable setbacks (shop early and mail out packages well in advance) to ensure your gifts still arrive on time. 

Think Outside the (Gift) Box 🎁

Sure, it’s exciting to watch a loved one open a gift you picked out just for them. But when shopping for presents on a budget, material items are not always the most feasible (especially if they’re out of stock). So be creative, resourceful or unconventional with gift ideas this year. Sometimes the most thoughtful presents don’t come from an Amazon delivery or a big box store.     

Let’s explore a few unconventional gift ideas:

  • Do you have a friend who’s passionate about social justice? Surprise this person with a donation in their name to a cause that’s close to their heart. 
  • Does your brother or sister love to explore in the great outdoors? Plan a sibling day trip at a local nature preserve or hiking trail. 
  • Could your parents use a date night? Cook and serve them dinner, complete with music and candles to set the mood. 

These types of gifts are memorable and inexpensive.      

Plan a Secret Santa Exchange with Friends or Family

If you prefer to hand someone a physical gift, but you can’t afford to shop for all your friends and family members, then coordinate a Secret Santa exchange. This is a fun way to maximize holiday spirit without overspending in the process. In other words, it’s the perfect solution if you love to shop but can only afford presents on a budget. Suggest an exchange with your immediate fam, roommates or one of your friend groups. 

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with a Secret Santa exchange, here’s how it works: 

  • Invite a group of friends or relatives to participate.
  • You’ll have each person draw someone else’s name at random without looking. (There are even digital ways to coordinate this, like Elfster). 
  • Whoever they choose will be the one recipient they’ll purchase a gift for this year.
  • Agree on a unanimous spending limit before you hit the stores so that no one feels uncomfortable with the price point. 
  • Then, you’ll host a reveal party to open the presents together and learn who everyone’s Secret Santa is. (This can be IRL or virtual). 

Treat Your Loved Ones to a Meaningful Experience

Raise your hand if you have that one friend who’s always the first to plan an adventure, score concert tix or even snag a table at the new local restaurant. For someone who constantly has their finger on the pulse of entertainment, only one kind of gift will suffice — a memorable experience.    

Whether it’s an afternoon of ax throwing, a tour of a distillery (for the 21+ crowd, of course), or a meal at their favorite brick-oven pizzeria, make your friend feel special with an experience curated just for them. As a bonus, you can use EPOCH Perks to offset some of the costs associated with this gift. It’s a fun surprise for them and savings for you.

Be a Thrifty Gifter this Holiday Season

When it comes to holiday shopping, pandemic shortages and financial constraints are no match for your savviness. So plan ahead for a successful (not to mention joyful) season with these tips for presents on a budget. Best of all, there’s no stress of long checkout lines, delays at the post office or high price markups. And there’s no time like the “present” to start! 😉