Grill Gifts for Dad

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Father’s Day happens to perfectly coincide with grilling season.  What dad doesn’t love grilled meat? If you’re still looking for a Father’s Day gift (or aren’t sure what to make for dinner!), mix up some of these grill rubs.  For dads, just package it up, maybe add a gourmet sauce or some new grill tools and you have a gift he’s sure to love.

“Hugh’s Dry Rub Recipe” (from here):

  • 1 Tbsp & 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp and 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp. and 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp and 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme

BBQ Spice Rub (from here):

  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • < 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Italian Rub Recipe:

  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dry basil
  • 3 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. salt (sea salt or kosher salt are best)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
For best results, apply each rub to meat 20 minutes before cooking.
For more ideas, you can also check out my list of great gifts for dads on a bare-bones budget.

Gifts for Everyone Else

frugal gifts

In addition to bigger gifts, there are also all those little gifts for coworkers, neighbors, pastors, hostesses, and teachers. While I love to give these gifts, if I’m not careful, my overall spending on smaller gifts can really add up! With that in mind, here are my ideas for giving all those little gifts on a bare-bones budget:

DIY disguises – I’m thinking of making this fun kit from Life Your Way for a few gifts this year. It seems like a gift that someone with kids or a goofy sense of humor could have a lot of fun with.

DIY gifts

Homemade sugar scrub -You probably even have all the ingredients on hand already!

Coffee/Ice cream gift card – A little goes a long way at an ice cream shop or coffee shop.

Mug – Anthropologie’s monogrammed mugs are super cute (simple ones for $6 or floral ones for $8), but you can often find nice ones elsewhere too. My friend Hannah who works at anthropologie told me people often buy these as teacher gifts and they’re hardly ever returned.

Stationery – Make your own (you can check out my cards board on Pinterest for inspiration!) or check out a discount store like TJ Maxx.

Jarred mixes – You could give cocoa mix in a jar or cookie mix in a jar.

Magazine subscription – I posted about quite a few magazine subscriptions on my lists of frugal gifts for moms and dads, but some are budget-friendly enough to fall under this “little” gifts category – Better Homes and Gardens ($6) and Popular Science (only $5 now through Christmas!).

S’mores Kit – This idea came to me last night as we roasted marshmallows over a fire pit at our local Christmas lights festival. Package up a chocolate bar, marshmallows, and some graham crackers to give your recipients (& their families) a fun night.

Bouquet of flowers or a plant

Candles – Any candles would be nice, but these stamped ones are a fun way to transform plain (aka cheap) candles into something unique. I’ve had this pinned for almost a year, but just realized it’s a dead link :(. The picture does a good job telling how to do it, though!

diy gifts

Magnetic board – I made this DIY magnetic message board for $1.

Gourmet food – This year, we got my girls’ preschool teachers assorted Christmas snacks from Trader Joe’s. They ranged from $2-$5 each – my favorites included dark chocolate covered candy cane Joe-Joe’s (which are TJ’s version of Oreos) and dark chocolate shortbread stars.

Popcorn and a movie – Older movies are often available for just a few dollars in bargain bins at places like TJ Maxx or even at Target. You could package up a classic with a bag of popcorn for a fun movie night.

freeset global

Bracelets that set women free – I just read (on Oh Amanda) about Freeset — an awesome business with the goal to set women free from human trafficking. Freeset sells fair trade bracelets, bags, and t-shirts, all made by women in Kolkata, India who have been set free from human trafficking. If you purchase a set of 3 bracelets (made from recycled saris) for $12, you’ll also be helping support this awesome cause. (While you’re there, they have cute bags too!)

Paper plates – This is probably a better hostess gift than for a coworker and my husband thinks I’m crazy for including it, but seriously – Who can’t use more of these, especially during this busy month? If you give me paper plates, I’ll be cool with it (but Beach Dad might not be…)

Homemade goodies – This is my favorite gift to give friends. I seriously love baking and enjoy making a few different types of cookies to give to friends and neighbors. Actually, this will be fun – I’m going to make mine over the next week or so, so I’m going to declare next week “Dessert Week.” Unfortunately, I can’t share my treats with most of y’all in person, but I’ll post a bunch of dessert recipes next week in case you want to bake too. I’ll start with the most make-ahead friendly recipes (some can even be frozen!), so if you want to bake along, by the end of the week, you’ll also have a fun dessert plate ready to hand out. My plan is to make:

  • double chocolate magic bars
  • unbaked chocolate-oatmeal cookies
  • peanut butter fudge
  • mint brownies
  • sugar cookies (or maybe bars, we’ll see how things are going…)

Yum. If you have any favorite holiday treat recipes, I’d love for you to link them up here!

What other gifts for “everyone else” have you given/received? Would you like getting paper plates?

Please check out my other ideas for Giving Great Gifts on A Bare-Bones Budget and subscribe to stay up to date on my latest posts.

[This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through them, you’ll be helping to support Thanks!]

I’m linking to: Life as MomFive Days Five WaysShabby Nest, Fingerprints on the Fridge, and At the Picket Fence.

Give Great Gifts to Dads

frugal gifts, christmas gifts

If there’s one demographic that’s harder to shop for than moms or teenage/20-something guys, I think it’s dads. Seriously. I adore Beach Dad and want to get him an awesome gift, but most things on his wish lists cost hundreds of dollars (like the surround sound speakers he wishes would be under our Christmas tree). And, even if it doesn’t cost a lot of money, dads often buy themselves the gift before we have the chance to!

A few times growing up, we bought my dad a Christmas present only to return it a few days later when we discovered he’d bought it for himself the week before Christmas. And, his birthday is the week after Christmas, so it’s doubly hard to shop for him!

If you’re struggling to find an affordable gift Dad will love, here are some of my ideas:

Hot sauces – If he likes spicy foods, you could get him an assortment of hot sauces to try at home. Or, Buffalo Wild Wings sells their sauces so he can easily make wings or other spicy recipes at home (We have a buffalo wing dip we love!).

Restaurant/bar gift card – Speaking of Buffalo Wild Wings, a gift card to a guy-friendly place like Buffalo Wild Wings makes a great gift, especially if he doesn’t have the chance to eat there often. You could either turn it into a date night focused on things he loves to do or you could send him out with the guys to watch the game and eat wings.

Grill tools or seasonings – This Maverick RediFork Thermometer ($22.80) is a digital grill thermometer/grill fork that includes an easy-to-read display and flashlight for if he’s grilling at night. As far as seasonings, we’ve made homemade dry rubs and bought gourmet seasonings at Williams-Sonoma. Our favorite is this Ultimate Burger Starter. You could also get him some nice cuts of meat from Omaha Steaks (or just visit the local butcher counter and get nicer steaks than you’d normally buy).

Knife Sharpener – This makes a great stocking stuffer. We have this one that is only $4.69 on Amazon. It’s not the fanciest knife sharpener available, but it has served us well the past few years and I’d certainly buy it again, especially for that price!

Griddler – I got an older version of this Cuisinart griddler for Beach Dad’s first-ever Father’s Day and it’s awesome. I bought it because we had just moved to an apartment that didn’t allow a grill and we’ve used it to “grill out” and to make delicious paninis. For grilling, it’s not quite like the real thing, but it’s a good substitute and the grilled sandwiches are awesome. This version also has flat griddler plates so you can make pancakes or eggs too. I also recently found out you can get griddler waffle plates for this, which is awesome and just might be making it onto my list soon.  (My favorite thing about this specific griddler is that the grill plates are removable and dishwasher safe!)

Poker set – Even better, offer to host a poker night at your house. You supply the appetizers and beer; he takes the night off to relax with friends.

Bow tie – This is a fun twist on the stereotypical gift of a tie for dads.

homemade gifts for dad

Lazy day on the couch – Beach Dad rarely gets the chance to veg out on the couch and watch an entire game. So, one year, Beach Girl “gave” him an afternoon of watching football with her (which lasted about 5 minutes) and then I gave him plates of food and the chance to watch the game in quiet.

Beer or Liquor Sampler Pack – A lot of stores sell individual bottles of beer so you can make a variety pack of different beers for Dad to try. This Christmas tree out of beer bottles is a fun way to present the gift.  You could also get him a few small bottles of unique liquors for him to try or a larger bottle of one of his favorites.

Decanter set – Speaking of liquor, my husband got a monogrammed Pottery Barn decanter and glass set similar to this one as a groomsmen gift and loves it. It’s classy and affordable ($29).

Electronics case – If he’s like my husband, the dad on your list would probably love to get a Kindle Fire or iPad Mini, but if those aren’t in your budget, you could get him a case for the electronics he does have. You can either sew your own (I have a tutorial here) or you can browse kindle cases on Amazon.

Headphones – Beach Dad loves listening to music while he is working or exercising, so good headphones make a great gift for him. My friend Hannah raves about these Sony In-Ear Headphones and says they’re comparable to the more expensive Brookstone ones, but only cost $10.56 on Amazon.

Music – This is, hands down, the safest gift to give my husband. He literally cannot get enough music. His favorites this year include:

(Oh my goodness… I told you he can’t get enough! Guess I know where all his flex spending goes now!)

Concert tickets – Honestly, concerts aren’t exactly my idea of a good time. They don’t seem that different to me than listening to a CD. But Beach Dad absolutely loves concerts and a gift of concert tickets (and the chance to either go with me or a friend) is one of his very favorite things. And, they can make a pretty frugal gift, especially if you get tickets to a smaller venue or a less popular more unique band.

Beer making kit – We have a few friends who brew their own beer and it seems like a fun hobby! Amazon has the Mr. Beer Home Microbrewery System starter kit for $38.29 and each year, you could get him different kits to try an assortment of home-brewed beers like this St. Patricks Irish Stout Brew Pack.

Magazine subscription – Another gift you can keep giving year after year is magazine subscriptions. I got Beach Dad a Wired ($19.99) subscription for his birthday the first year we were married and it works out well to renew the subscription as the Gift That Keeps On Giving every year! Other magazines Dad might like would be: Popular Science (only $5 now through Christmas!), Family Handyman ($10), Popular Mechanics ($12), and Car & Driver ($10). [Prices are for a one-year subscription.]

Keychain – Beach Dad has asked for a new keychain the past few Christmases, but I haven’t been able to find a nice, inexpensive leather one that is simple enough. If you do find one, though, it should only be about $20.

homemade gifts for dad

Breakfast in bed – I’d like to get this gift! (Like my awesome drawing skills?)

Gift certificate for an experience – You could give gift certificates for him to play mini golf or frisbee golf or to a driving range or shooting range.

Stock car racing – I got a Groupon for Beach Dad to go stock car racing for Father’s Day a couple years ago. It seemed super fun and I felt like a cool wife giving it, but when we showed up to the track, it was Sketch. Thankfully, the car had broken down and Beach Dad told me later that he hadn’t really wanted to go anyway because the track was craptastic. But, if you can find a good track, that’d be really fun!

Movie passes and extra money for concessions – If you’re like us, seeing movies at the theater is a rare (but coveted) occasion. The chance to see an action movie in the theater while enjoying popcorn and Coke would top Beach Dad’s list of preferred “experience” gifts.

Date Night Jar – This is a fun idea that I found on Pinterest. Make a jar filled with popsicle sticks that each have a date idea on them and are color-coded for how much time/money they involve. When it’s time for a date night, y’all can just pull out a popsicle stick (say, a red one for an at-home, free date or a white one for a “fancy” night out) and the decision of what to do is made for you!

Pocket knife or multi-tool – Help Dad be prepared for anything with either a pocket knife or multi-tool. Our favorite brands are Leatherman ($25.99 for a multitool) and Victorinox ($14.95 for a Swiss Army knife).

Books – In a shameless plug for my favorite high school history teacher (who is now a full-time author), I’d recommend books by Tony Williams including The Jamestown Experiment: The Remarkable Story of the Enterprising Colony and the Unexpected Results That Shaped America ($6.40) and America’s Beginnings: The Dramatic Events that Shaped a Nation’s Character ($14.99).

Money clip – Beach Dad got this monogrammed money clip from Levenger a couple years ago and it’s still in perfect condition. ($45)

homemade gifts for dad

“Dessert of the Month” club – Enroll Dad in a “dessert of the month” club as you promise to make him any dessert of his choosing for the next 6 months. I packaged up a couple dessert cookbooks for Beach Dad to choose his desserts ahead of time in hopes that it would actually happen… all he wanted were chocolate chip cookies each month haha!

Geek Dad – This book is filled with fun, geeky projects that dads can do with their kids. ($11.56)

Wi-Fi SD Card – This SD card lets you wirelessly and automatically transfer pictures from your camera to your computer. (This is actually an awesome gift for the whole family and we love ours!) ($34.99 for a 4 GB card)

Something from my list of gift ideas for teenage/20-something guys.

[I’ve included prices for some of these gifts, but they’re subject to change. This post includes affiliate links and if you purchase through them, you’ll be helping to support Thanks!]

I hope these ideas are helpful as you try to spoil Dad (on a budget) this Christmas.  Please make sure to check out other posts from my Give Great Gifts on A Bare-Bones Budget series and subscribe to stay up to date.

And, if you have any other ideas, please leave them in the comments. Beach Dad has received nearly all of these gifts in the past and I’m stuck for his gift this year!

I’m linking to: Life as MomFive Days Five WaysShabby Nest, Fingerprints on the Fridge, and At the Picket Fence.

Give Great Gifts to Couples

budget gifts, christmas giftsIt can be easy for me and Beach Dad to neglect our most important relationship – our marriage – as we meet the needs of the little people around us. Some of our favorite gifts have been gifts that have encouraged us to enjoy shared experiences and to take time for each other. We also love to give these gifts to the couples we know and hope these gifts will encourage and bless their marriages. You might consider these gifts for married siblings, grandparents, friends, or pastors.

Some of our favorite budget-friendly gifts for couples include:

Tips to Romance Your Husband or Tips to Romance Your Husband – We got these little books ($5.99 each) at a Weekend to Remember marriage conference a few years ago and they’re each filled with creative ways to show love to your spouse. A set of both could be a fun gift.

Coffee Dates for Couples – This book (also $5.99) is also from the Weekend to Remember and has ideas for conversation starters and date ideas. We’ve given it with a gift card to a coffee shop and our friends loved it!

The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller – I just started this book and it’s awesome. I’ve heard many people say it’s the best book on marriage ever and, so far, I’d agree. It’s $16.34 for the hardcover version or $12.99 for the Kindle.

Gift card for meal/treat place – Whether it’s a fancy dinner out or just a trip to an ice cream shop, the chance to go on a date on someone else’s dime is always a special treat! Before we had our own kids, we gave our friends who usually paid me to babysit a free night of babysitting along with their gift card.

Marriage on the Rock – This book is awesome. It’s not well-known, but I read it over four years ago and absolutely loved it. I’ve reread it many times since and our marriage has been really blessed by it. After outlining God’s vision for marriage based off of Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5, author Jimmy Evans walks you through the most potentially difficult parts of marriage – finances, sex, communication, in-law relations, and parenting – with practical tips for honoring God and your spouse in each of those areas. You can get the Kindle edition for $10 or a hard copy used from Amazon for less.

Board game – Beach Dad and I love to play board games. They’re our most popular choice for an at-home date night and some of our best friendships have formed while playing board games around the dining room table. These are a bit more than my $20 budget (usually $25-40), but we get them for 2 people and, for us, the “cost per use” price is really low. We love Settlers of Catan but it’s not as good for 2 players. Ticket To RideSmall World, and Carcassonne are similar to Settlers but work great with only 2 players (or more, if you have company).

Brian Regan hilarity – Brian Regan is my favorite comedian and I’ve gotten my entire family hooked on him. If you haven’t heard him before, you have to find some of his stuff on YouTube. He’s hilarious and clean. A few years ago, Beach Dad and I had the chance to see Brian Regan perform live, which was awesome, but his CDs and DVDs are almost as good (and much less expensive!). Our favorites include his Brian Regan Live CD or MP3 ($16.78/$8.99) and Standing Up (DVD) ($11.44). By the way, his The Epitome of Hyperbole video is free over Amazon instant video if you have Amazon Prime.

Passes to An “Experience” – You could gift them with passes to go rock climbing, mini-golfing, or bowling together. Beach Dad and I went bowling a few weeks ago and we had so much fun being goofy and reconnecting as we got gutter-ball after gutter-ball!

Something for A Common Interest – The chance to pursue a hobby together is an invaluable gift for a couple. If the couple on your list loves to camp or hike, you could get them a tent or whatever else it is people who camp like. (I’m obviously not a camper.)  But Beach Dad and I just got a very generous gift card to Lowe’s from my brother- and sister-in-law and we’re psyched. Building furniture and other DIY projects are some of our favorite shared hobbies, so we can’t wait to shop Lowe’s once we move into our new house.

Night away at a hotel – This is obviously more expensive, but an extra-fun gift for parents!  I often see good deals on Living Social or Groupon.

Christmas Memories Book – We received this as a wedding gift and it’s a fun way to remember Christmases year after year. It includes space to write about Christmas visits/visitors, special gifts, meals, “what we want to remember,” and – my favorite – a family Christmas photo. The book has room for 20 years of Christmases and it’s already fun to look back and see how our family has grown and how each Christmas celebration has been unique and special. I made a homemade version as a gift and the homemade touch was fun but, honestly, after all the supplies and hours it took me to make the gift, next time I’d just buy the same book we have. (Ha! If you buy directly from Amazon, the book is $500, but if you buy a like-new version through one of their third-party sellers, it’s only $19.99… I’d go that route.)

Anniversary Memories Book – Similar to the Christmas Memories book, this would be a fun way to keep records. Our anniversary is right near Christmas, so we write about our anniversary celebration in the Christmas book and I can’t recommend a specific book for anniversaries, but if you know of a good one, feel free to leave it in the comments!

Date Night at Home Gift Basket – This could be a movie pack with popcorn; a bottle of nice wine and chocolates; or a game night pack with a board game and some beer & fun snacks for while playing a board game.

Fondue Dates A fondue pot costs more than my normal gift-giving budget, but fondue date night is one of our favorite at-home date night ideas. The pot costs about as much as one dinner at the Melting Pot restaurant would, so this makes a great gift if your budget is a bit bigger than mine. You could also include my recipes for cheese fondue and meat fondue or this Fondue and Hot Dips cookbook ($8.95).

frugal gifts“I Love You Because…” Frame – We made this picture frame at MOPS a few weeks ago and I’ve loved writing (and reading) sweet messages to/from Beach Dad. Simply design (or find) something that says “I love you because…”, print it out and cut it to size. Stick it in a 5×7 picture frame and use velcro to attach a dry erase marker on top. (I’m sorry I don’t have a link for our cute design. They already had it printed out for us at MOPS and I can’t find it anywhere. I’m not sure if my MOPS craft  coordinator designed it herself or found it online. I know there are a lot of frames like this all over Pinterest, though.)

[I’ve included prices for some of these items, but they’re subject to change. If you purchase through my Amazon affiliate links, you’ll be helping to support Thanks!]

Have you ever received a gift that truly blessed your marriage? Any other ideas for gifts couples would love? Please share in the comments!

Please be sure to check out other posts in my Give Great Gifts on a Bare-Bones Budget series (including gifts for moms, teenage/twenty-something guys, and active kids), or subscribe to stay up to date.

I’ve linked to: Life as MomFive Days Five WaysShabby NestNaptime CraftersAt the Picket Fence, I Heart Naptime, and Homemade Ginger.

Give Great Gifts to a Mom

frugal gifts, christmas gifts

When I was 8 years old, my dad and I went Christmas shopping to get gifts for my mom.  We walked around Williamsburg’s outlet mall and I headed into an antique shop to find the perfect present for her.  I made my selection and proudly showed it to my dad. I was so excited and knew she was going to love the gift I chose.  My dad (apparently) didn’t want to burst my bubble, so let me bring the gift home, wrap it, and give it to my mom.

Christmas morning, she opened her gift.  You’ll never guess what it was.  She wouldn’t have either.

It was a washboard.  As in, do all your laundry by hand, one piece of clothing at a time by rubbing it along a washboard and then hang it on the line to dry. No, she didn’t need a new way to wash her clothes.  It was 1994 and we had a washing machine of our own. But, for some reason, I thought this – of all the presents in the world – was the present my mom needed most.

We still laugh about that gift and, amazingly, my mom has made great use of it.  I think she still has it! She swears she loves it and it’s one of her favorite gifts ever.  She hung it in the laundry room with one of her own baby outfits draped over it.  She says it helps encourage her to be thankful for the way she gets to do laundry.  As she sees the washboard hanging on the wall, she says the chore of doing laundry doesn’t seem so bad.  It reminds her to be grateful for her washer and dryer.  And, it reminds her of her sweet 8-year-old daughter who innocently chose the most random gift ever, sure her mommy would love it.

All that to say, buying gifts for moms is hard.  Not everyone has the talent for buying gifts as amazing as a washboard that revolutionizes the way her mom does laundry…

Now that I’m a mom myself, I must confess – shopping for me isn’t any easier than it was shopping for my own mom was when I was growing up. I don’t especially want gifts that are tied to the fact that I’m a mom, but most of my days are spent being mom, so it’s hard for me to think of gifts I’d like that aren’t related to that job title.

Thankfully, I have some great gift givers in my life who have found fabulous gifts to give me year after year.  And, I’ve had some fun researching things that I might like to receive myself.  I hope it helps you as you make your own wish list or buy gifts for that special mom in your life:

christmas gifts, frugal gifts

Books – I think we can all agree books about discipline and potty training don’t make a great gift for moms, but a book she’ll find fun, interesting, or encouraging could be. I cannot recommend Loving the Little Years ($9.60) highly enough. If there’s a mom of little ones in your life who hasn’t read this book yet, it would make an awesome gift. I found it to be a great encouragement and full of practical tips…mostly concerning my heart as a parent. I also loved reading The Help ($12.99 for the Kindle).

Gift certificate for a pedicure – Time away in a quiet spa and pretty toes to boot!

At-home Spa Kit – Almost as good as a pedicure at the spa is a kit that includes all the stuff she’d need for a pedicure at home.  You could get her some bubble bath, a loofah, homemade sugar scrub, nail polish (I like OPI nail polish the best), and candles. Package it up in a cute basket and she’s all set for an evening of relaxing and pampering herself.

Gift certificate to a coffee shop – Whether it’s Starbucks or a local coffee shop, mom will love the chance for a quick midday pick-me-up, or the chance to read alone or chat with a friend in a coffee shop. Bonus points if you can help her get a couple hours there too.

Foodie/Chef gift – I posted my ideas of gifts for chefs/foodies a few weeks ago and a lot of these would make great gifts for a mom. I’m especially thinking of an apron, cake decorating kit, or cookie decorating kit.

Fancy Chocolate – Just for her. Neuhaus (which is Belgian) is my favorite… like this Neuhaus Le Carré Origin Dark Chocolate Squares for $24. Yum. It’s one of those things that’s expensive enough that I’d never buy it for myself, but inexpensive enough to make it a fairly frugal gift.

Crafty gift – Check out my list of gift ideas for a crafty lady for all sorts of gift ideas for a craft-loving mom.

Fun stationary – Stores like TJ Maxx always have cute stationary at a good price, or you could consider making your own.  You can check out my cards board on Pinterest for some simple homemade card ideas.

Headphones – Headphones make an awesome gift for a mom who might like to get some quiet time. As I type this, I’m listening to music through headphones while my amazing husband gets breakfast together for the girls and gives me some alone time… all while I sit in the same room as everyone else. (Yes, I’m very spoiled!)  My friend Hannah raves about these Sony In-Ear Headphones, saying they “changed her life… The key is in the silicone part – it’s comfy and cancels out noise.” Isn’t that pink fun?! And, they’re only $12.50 on Amazon, but she says they’re similar to the more expensive Brookstone ones.

Monogram mug – Hannah also recommended adorable monogram mugs from anthropologie. She works there and said they’re a very popular gift and almost never get returned. They have two types, both of which I think are adorable – this one for $6 and this one for $8.

Jewelry – My favorite place to buy cute but inexpensive jewelry is Forever 21. You can get a great necklace for less than $8!

Vera Bradley keychain – Really, anything Vera Bradley is fun, but most of her stuff is not suitable for the “… on a bare-bones budget” part of this series. Something like this Vera Bradley Clip Zip ID wallet or a more basic keychain would be a fun gift, but the shipping fees from buying online make this a better gift to buy at Hallmark or another brick-and-mortar store.

Gloves– I love my  Isotoner gloves. My dad got me these for Christmas over ten years ago (yikes!) and they are comfortable, warm, and still in perfect condition even though they’re the only ones I’ll wear. Amazon has them for $17 as part of their pre-winter sale.

Electronics Case – You could either find a fun case for an iPad, iPhone, or Kindle on etsy or make your own. I posted my tutorial here.

Magazine Subscriptions – I love reading magazines. They feel much easier for me to get through than a full book.  And, this is a gift that keeps on giving all year! My top magazine recommendations for moms are:

(Each of those prices is for an annual subscription.)

Circa Notebooks from Levenger – This notebook is fully customizable. The book functions like a spiral-bound notebook, but the pages can be removed or rearranged and Levenger sells all sorts of pages for the Circa – to do list pages, calendar pages, blank pages, grid-lined pages, and more. I’d recommend starting with the Circa Starter Kit that’s $16 for an 8 1/2″  x 11″ notebook kit.

frugal gifts, christmas gifts

Scout-brand Bag – My mother-in-law got me this Scout bag for Mother’s Day and I use it as a beach bag. It’s awesome – it’s durable, just the right size, and wipes clean easily. It’s $43.37, but Amazon has tons of cute, quality Scout bags including this El Deano Tote for $22.50 and this Scout Daytripper Everyday Tote for $14.99.

[Note: I included prices for some of these items, but they’re subject to change. If you purchase through my amazon affiliate links, you’ll be helping to support Thanks!]

I hope these gift ideas help you find the perfect gift for your own wish list or for the moms you love.  Check out the other lists I’ve made for “Give Great Gifts on a Bare-Bones Budget” and subscribe to stay up to date!

Do you have any other ideas for gifts that moms would love? Ever given a gift as random as a washboard? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Linked up to: five days five ways, At the Picket Fence, Life as Mom, I Heart Naptime, & Shabby Nest.

Give Great Gifts to Kids

frugal gifts, christmas giftsSince I became a parent, I’ve found it interesting to see which toys are still around from when I was a kid. While many of the so-called “must have” toys from Christmases past are nowhere to be found (Furbys, anyone?), my children love playing with some of the same toys I enjoyed. As I think about which toys have withstood the test of time, they usually have a few things in common – they are entertaining to more than one age of child, they are durable, and they are open-ended. These toys allow children to shape the way the toy is used rather than the toy doing all the work for the child.

In a few weeks, I’ll post my ideas for timeless gifts for younger kids, but for this week’s installment of “Give Great Gifts on A Bare-Bones Budget,” I have some ideas for frugal gifts (and a few splurges) that get kids moving:

Parachute – Whenever my gym teacher brought out the parachute for gym class, we were all super excited! Beach Girl and I pretend her towel is a parachute now. We put balls on it and make them “pop” like popcorn, play ring-around-the-rosy with it, and more. So, I’m getting her a parachute for Christmas this year. I found this parachute on Amazon that is only 6′ in diameter and has 6 handles for only $15.  It wouldn’t work well for a very large group of kids, but I think she’ll love playing with it outside with me and a couple friends!

Wiffle ball set – This Little Tikes T-Ball Set ($20) is great for ages 18 months and up or this Wiffle ball and bat combo ($8) is fun for older kids… just like I had when I was little!

Bases – This set of 5 throw-down bases ($21) would make a kickball or softball game even more fun.

Soccer ball and goal – This is a fun way to introduce your toddler to soccer or to give your older children a chance to practice their skills. We have this pop-up junior goal (It folds up flat! – $31) and this soccer ball ($15) and I look forward to when our soccer games become a bit more competitive.  Embarrassing fact: When I was in 7th grade, my AIM screen name was sokerluvr (yes, that is pronounced “Soccer Lover”).

Frisbee – For older kids, a gift certificate to a local disc golf course would also be fun!

Cones – I had a set of cones growing up and we used them for an endless number of games. They allowed us to set up soccer drills and obstacle courses and marked the goals/boundaries for soccer, football, ultimate frisbee, and capture the flag games. When we were younger, my mom used them at the end of the driveway to mark how far we were allowed to go up the driveway. Amazon has this set of 8 cones from Melissa and Doug for $12.

Gymnastics mat – This is probably the least frugal item on my list, but I had to include it because I got one for my 10th birthday and it’s one of my favorite toys ever. In fact, I held onto my old gymnastics mat (which is still in perfect condition) and even moved it 8 times (why do we move so much?!) and finally, my kids are old enough to use it. We love tumbling on it and it makes my at-home workouts much more comfortable as I struggle through sit-ups and push-ups. This Everlast 2’x6′ folding mat seems like a good value for $50 with great reviews on Amazon.

Hula hoop – I think you’ll find the best value for this in a brick-and-mortar store. You can use these for regular hula hooping or as part of an obstacle course.

Tunnel – This Melissa & Doug tunnel welcomes imagination – you could explore a cave, work on a space-station, dive in a submarine, or include the tunnel in an obstacle course. Best of all, it collapses to be flat (and isn’t that the feature moms really care about?). $21.

Bean bags – Children can use them to play bean bag toss or catch or can practice gross motor skills like walking while balancing a bean bag on the back of your hand or on top of your head. This set of 6 bean bags is $10 or you could easily sew your own if you’re handy like that. I’m planning to sew my own for Operation Christmas Child; I’ll let you know how it goes!

Unicycle – My parents got me a unicycle for Christmas one year and my neighbors and I had so much fun figuring out how to ride it. And, you’ll win the prize for most unique gift ever!

christmas giftsRody Inflatable Hopping Horse – My sister and her family got my girls this “hopping donkey” for Christmas last year and we all love it. It’s incredibly durable and sturdy enough to support adults riding it too… and, um, it’s really super fun. We also have this base that turns it into a rocking horse so the toy is fun for babies through adults.

Flashlight – This might seem like a funny inclusion on a gift of “active” toys, but my neighbors and I loved playing flashlight tag and hide-and-go-seek in the dark.

Bike/scooter accessories – Obviously, a bike or scooter would be a fun gift, but if your recipient already has those, you could consider accessories like handlebar streamers, bike spoke beads that look colorful and make a fun sound, a horn, or a bike lock (u-shaped ones are the most secure).

Classic Outdoor Games – This booklet has rules for games including Sardines, Statues, and 4 varieties of Tag. I got it when I was in elementary school and my neighborhood friends and I enjoyed many games based off the ideas in this little booklet. I’ve also used it for ideas when I’ve led summer camps, youth group activities, and even my own little ones. The ideas in the booklet are for children aged 3 and up and for 2 people or large groups.

Play silks – Play silks are really fun for pretend play – they can work as dress-up clothes, dancing accessories, gift wrap, a fort and more. But, at $10 a silk from Amazon, we’ve never gotten them, so I was excited to see this tutorial for DIY dyed playsilks from Life Your Way.

Wheelie bugs – Beach Baby got this Little Tikes Pillow Racer for her birthday from her aunt and uncle. Unfortunately, I’m too tall to ride it myself (trust me, I’ve tried!) but both my girls love going for rides. Beach Baby can’t reach the ground with her feet yet, but that hasn’t stopped her from squealing with delight as we send her soaring across the carpet and there’s plenty of room for Beach Girl to grow and still be able to use it. I love this as a way to get energy out while inside! $35.

frugal gifts

Kidoozie Foam Pogo Jumper – This is another of my favorite ways to get energy out while we’re inside. We got it for Beach Girl for her birthday and it has provided us with hours of fun. This works like a pogo stick, but has a thicker base that makes it much easier for younger kids to use and it has a bungee-like cord that stretches to be tall enough for adults. And, as you jump, it squeaks… which could get annoying over time, but I see it as a good way to keep them jumping! Beach Dad and I have fun doing it too! $13.

[Note: I included prices for some of these items, but they’re subject to change. If you purchase through my amazon affiliate links, you’ll be helping to support Thanks!]

I hope these gift ideas help you find the perfect gift for the kids on your list.  Check out the other lists I’m making for “Give Great Gifts on a Barebones Budget” and subscribe to stay up to date!

Do you have any other ideas for gifts that kids would love? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Linked up to: Life as Mom, Feature Yourself Friday, At the Picket Fence, Sundae ScoopShabby Nest, & 5 Days 5 Ways.

Give Great Gifts to Children’s Charities

frugal gifts christmas gifts

In college, I had a friend who grew up as a missionary in Haiti. I loved hearing her stories about life as a missionary kid and she had great examples of how people really showed love to her family and to the people of Haiti who they were serving. But, she also had stories of people trying to care for them, but doing so in a way that was entirely unhelpful… and sometimes even offensive. For example, one church sent her family used teabags. I guess they thought that my friend’s family could use the little bit of flavor that was left to make tea. Used teabags would be better than no teabags, right? My friend was very gracious as she talked about things like this, but I would have been seriously offended.

I’d be thinking: You can’t even bother to send me new teabags? Quite frankly, I’d rather you send me nothing at all than your trash.

Thinking about used teabags taught me a valuable lesson about giving. If I’m not interested in something for myself or my own family, I shouldn’t attempt to give it to someone else. (By the way, I’m not talking about regifting. That can be a wonderful way to give a great gift if you know your recipient will like it! haha)

I think the main time we can see this happening is with gifts we give to charity. It can be so tempting for me to grab some old kid’s meal toys and then go to the dollar store and find anything that is pink and safe for a 2-4 year old, throw it in a shoebox, and send it off to Operation Christmas Child to give to a 2-4 year old girl across the world. Sometimes, I even justify it with the good intention that “This way I can afford to fill more shoeboxes to care for more children.”

But, as we fill shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child or stockings for Salvation Army or whatever other wonderful program, we need to remember that we are trying to care for real children, not just get our good deed done for the Christmas season. My 3 year old would be absolutely devastated if she opened a really fun-looking toy and it broke within the first hour of playing with it. So, I try to pay a little bit extra and give her quality toys that will last. As we fill shoeboxes/stockings for other people’s children to open, I think we should try to do the same thing.

I still shop at the Dollar Tree, the dollar spot at Target, and clearance sales. Shopped wisely, those can be the best sources for gifts to fill a shoebox! But, I think it’s important that we think beyond the price tag as we try to give great gifts to children’s charities… which might seem contrary to my “Give Great Gifts on a Bare-bones Budget” series that’s all about minimizing spending, but really, I’m just trying to make the gifts I give people who I want to love through charities more similar to the gifts I give people I want to love face-to-face.

If I’d feel weird giving a gift to someone in person, I don’t want to give it to them anonymously either.

My favorite places to find gifts for children’s charities are:

  • Target – especially the dollar spot, but also in the general part of the store. They often have packages you can split up among several gifts
  • World Market – their small toy section is filled with fun and unique toys, almost all of which fit in a shoebox or stocking
  • Amazon – it’s a bit harder to find ideas for small gifts here than browsing a store, but there are great deals to be had and it’s especially good for those things you can split up between gifts
  • Dollar Tree – perhaps the most obvious place to shop for gifts like this, I especially love their craft supplies and beauty products

With smart shopping, it’s definitely possible to fill an awesome stocking/shoebox for under $20. (I’ve done under $10 before, but that’s when I’ve been on the ball enough to shop sales all year long… Not gonna happen this year!)

Here’s my list of gift ideas for children’s charities:

  1. Toy cars
  2. Playmobil – Playmobil tends to be expensive, but they’ll last forever and some of the smaller sets are a good price like this Playmobil child and donkey for $5.14.
  3. Yoyo
  4. Slinky
  5. Silly putty
  6. Playdoh – I’m going to split this Play-Doh 24 pack that’s $18 between a few boxes and save a few for my own kids’ stockings.

    frugal gift ideas
  7. Playdoh Cookie Cutters – I found this cute set of Rose Art brand playdoh tools/cookie cutters at Target for $1.
  8. Stickers – This set of 144 zoo animal stickers (12 sheets of 12 stickers each) is super cute and would be great to split between gifts ($3.54).
  9. Legos – You could include small sets of Duplos for younger kids or of the smaller Legos for older ones (Target often sells small sets for about $8 for the older kids… Remember, though, not to get anything gun/war-related!)
  10. Craft supplies like glue, foam stickers, and glitter.
  11. Toy animals – this set of jungle animals includes 5 each of 12 different animals. It’s $17.61, but if you break the set up between 5 gifts, that’s only $3.50 per child for 12 animals.
  12. Small stuffed animals
  13. Picture books
  14. Mini Etch-a-Sketch – This seems like one of the best gifts to me because it’s endlessly reusable, but I’ve never been able to find a great deal on them. Amazonhas them for $7.65 each.
  15. Thomas the Train “drawing board” – Similar to the etch-a-sketch, this is one of our most-used toys. I bought it at Target a couple years ago, but Amazon has it for $10. We use it nearly every day and it’s indestructible. Another valuable, albeit slightly more expensive, gift option!
  16. Dominoes
    frugal gift ideas, stocking stuffers
  17. Sand toys – I got this set of 8 toys on clearance for under $2 at World Market. Michaels often has sand toys too, if we’re not too late in the season.
  18. Lacing cards – Right now, Target’s dollar section has a set of cute lacing cards for $3 that I was able to split up between a couple boxes.
  19. Travel-sized games
  20. Deck of cards – you can usually get a 2 pack at Target or the Dollar Tree for $1
  21. Uno – this is my favorite game to buy because the cards work no matter the language
  22. Puzzle – The Dollar Tree often has cute puzzles with around 30 pieces that would be good for 5-9 year olds
  23. 3-D puzzles – Puzzles like this 3-D Wooden Puzzle of Tyrannosaurus Rex would be fun for a 10-14 year old
  24. Pick up sticks – I loved this game! I found one random box of pick up sticks buried in the Target dollar section… hopefully your store has more than one!
  25. Finger paint
  26. Crayons
  27. Markers
  28. Coloring booksfrugal gift ideas
  29. Craft kit – I found a kit to make a cute elephant mask at World Market for under $2. Target also often has craft kits in their dollar section & this is one of my favorite things to get at the Dollar Tree.
  30. Watercolor paint set – This set of 8 Crayola watercolors & paintbrush is $2.64 at Amazon.
  31. Pad of blank drawing paper
  32. Notebook/journal
  33. Pencils & pencil sharpener
  34. Pens
  35. Musical instrument – check out my list of favorite musical instruments for kids for some ideas
  36. Tools – Target has a sturdy Durabuilt wrench for under $1.50 that would be great in a 10-14 year old boy’s box. Other ideas include a small hammer or measuring tape.
  37. Flashlight and batteries – Last year, I found inexpensive but nice little flashlights at Home Depot near the front of the store… the section is sort of like a stocking stuffers area with all sorts of small tools.
  38. Hackysack balls
  39. Bouncy balls
  40. Paddleball game – You can get a dozen of these “psychedelic” ones on Amazon for $6.32.
  41. Jump ropes
  42. Sidewalk chalk
    frugal gift ideas
  43. Kite – World Market has these fun miniature kites that are good quality and fit in a shoebox for $3.50
  44. Lotion/body wash – this is allowed for Salvation Army stockings, but forbidden in Operation Christmas Child boxes
  45. Perfume/cologne – not allowed for Operation Christmas Child, but is fine for Salvation Army
  46. Solid deodorant
  47. Toothbrush
  48. Toothpaste
  49. Hair brush/comb – Beach Girl has a collapsible Hello Kitty brush from Target ($1) and she loves it, so I grabbed some for our shoeboxes too
  50. Hair bows
  51. Jewelry
  52. Hats
  53. Gloves
  54. Scarf
  55. Wallet
  56. Purse
  57. Socks – Target had nice little girl socks on clearance for $.50/pair and Hanes socks that would fit teenage guys in larger packs that you could split up for about $1/pair
  58. Bowls
  59. Cups
  60. Sunglasses
  61. Hard candy – this is okay for Operation Christmas Child if you double bag it, but not for Salvation Army (at least not my local one)
  62.  A personal note from your family – This is one of the most valuable things you can include in your gift. Life Your Way has cute printable Christmas cards your kids can color or Operation Christmas Child has a printable coloring page you can have your kids fill out to include in your shoebox.

[I’ve included prices for some of these items to give you a general idea, but they’re subject to change. If you buy through any of my Amazon links, you’ll be helping to support Thanks!]

operation christmas child box

Now for a few logistics – If you’re hoping to give to Operation Christmas Child, their collection week is November 12-19. You can find a local drop off center here. They also ask that you include $7 (either a check or pay online) to help with shipping since the boxes go to all ends of the earth. If you pay online, you can follow your box and see what country it goes to. Pretty cool! Also, you can fill just a regular old shoebox (shoe stores have been happy to give their old ones to me). But this year, I heard that if you pack a plastic shoebox, the children often reuse the boxes to carry water. *sniff* Target has Sterilite ones for only $.97.

Salvation Army seems to be a bit less centralized in their approach, probably because they keep their stockings local and needs vary between locations. I’ve had trouble finding information online, but whenever I’ve called a local branch, they’ve been super helpful and grateful for anything we’ve done (find the location by plugging in your zip code here). Generally, their deadlines are before December 15th.

I think these are both great programs with their own strengths; we generally switch back and forth between the two. If you know of another charity that has a program like these, I’d love to hear about it.

Any other ideas for how to fill your gifts or great deals you’ve found? Please share them in the comments! Oh, and Happy Halloween! I’ll be taking a little ladybug and either a train conductor or a princess out tonight… depending on what she decides as she gets dressed haha.  Have fun!

I’m linking up to: Shabby Nest, Life as Mom, Feature Yourself Friday, At the Picket Fence, Sundae Scoop, and Five Days Five Ways.