Budget Friendly Gifts for Kids

December 12, 2011

Hello, Friends! I’m working with T-Mobile on a series of budget conscious posts (find post #1 here, #2 here). Today’s topic: Budget Friendly Gifts for Kids. It’s not even mid-December yet, but if you’re like me, the designated holiday funds are getting used-up real quick. So I’ve got 3 tips that will help you stay in the black and still get smiles on Christmas morning.

1) Do It Yourself.
When budget counts, DIY is my secret weapon. There are a million ideas online, but to get you started, three of the most budget-friendly projects we’d tried are bean bags, ribbon flowers and hot cocoa mugs. The ribbon flowers can be turned into hair clips or belts or pins. And the technique for the mugs could be applied to cereal bowls or after-school-snack plates or whatever you can find at Goodwill.

2) Refresh.
Consider “refreshing” a big ticket item your child already owns. Gave them an iPod last year? Then give them an Extreme iPod Makeover this year. Pick out a new cover, download some podcasts or shows they’ll love, add a new playlist, switch out their screen saver with something cool, and throw in an  iTunes giftcard. Sync it all while they’re sleeping and have it wrapped and ready under the tree the next morning. It will feel like an awesome new toy at a fraction of the cost of the original iPod.

You could do the same thing with a bike. Clean it, tune it up, add new hand grips and a new bell. Maybe even a basket! Tie on a big red bow and you’re set.

3) High Impact, Low Cost
If you’re just wishing there was more under the tree so the kids will feel spoiled come Christmas morning, think: High Impact, Low Cost. For example, any sort of play structure, like pop ups tents, tee pees, or cardboard playhouses. They’re available at all price ranges and there are a ton of make-your-own options out there. Best part: they make a BIG impact under the tree — or nearby the tree. : )

If a play structure won’t work for your kids, think of other items that take up visual space. Add oversize beach balls or balloons from the party supply store to create excitement. If you’re giving a new toy bin for blocks, you could make a trail of blocks-they-already-own leading to the gift. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to feel magical.

What about you, Dear Readers? When you think budget-friendly gifts for kids, what tips, ideas or items come to mind?


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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nancy Barnes December 12, 2011 at 8:29 am

One of the most fun and magical things I’ve done for my kids is a “treasure hunt”. I’ll wrap a clue to a gift that lead to another clue and so on until they finally find the actual gift. My son is 13 this year and he knows Christmas is going to be skimpy with his dad out of work and he asked me for a treasure hunt this year. It really is fun for all ages!


2 Design Mom December 12, 2011 at 10:01 am

I love that idea, Nancy! Brilliant.


3 Jadah {Family Sponge} December 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm

This is one of my favorite childhood Christmas memories. We stayed in a cabin and my parents hid all of our presents. There was even a present in the oven. :-)


4 Adria December 12, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Santa left a treasure hunt last year and my boys loved it. They are expecting it again this year, though I may add some fun by starting the treasure hunt at home an continuing it at the in-laws since we’ll be visiting them later in the day.


5 CMN December 12, 2011 at 9:08 am

When we were younger, our parents always gave us a fresh set of colored markers/pens (each!) and a new calendar to color… we spent HOURS and hours on Christmas afternoon with that one project.


6 Design Mom December 12, 2011 at 10:02 am

What a fun Christmas Day tradition. I’ll bet it made the best memories!


7 Elizabeth Best December 12, 2011 at 9:16 am

Last Christmas I bought my son a £10 watch. He couldn’t tell the time but it had the face of his favourite television character on, because of this he didnt take it off – and as I was hoping – he learnt to tell the time, which was great! Therefore I consider this a budget friendly gift for kids.


8 Design Mom December 12, 2011 at 10:03 am

Great suggestion, Elizabeth. I bet he loved that watch!


9 Jade Coleman December 12, 2011 at 9:19 am

I made my niece a fairy costume from some old net curtains dyed pink, sequins, and ribbon! She loved it! I even made some little ballet pumps to go with it. She still wears it today and luckily for me it hasnt fallen apart! ha


10 Design Mom December 12, 2011 at 10:03 am

I think you win Aunt of the Year, Jade!


11 greta December 12, 2011 at 10:46 am

One of my favortie gifts from childhood was the year my dad gave my bike a makeover.
He had a very bad year and we were very strapped for cash.
We knew it would be a slim year for gifts, so imagine my joy when I came down the stairs on Christmas morning to see my bike, washed clean with shiny tires, and a new basket, bell and streamers hanging from my handlebars.
It was such a great surprise.
We’re actually doing the same thing for my second son this year.
He gets his big brother’s old bike, but we’re making it over to make it special for him.
We have 4 kids and have to be frugal, but we don’t let that stop us from making Christmas meaningful.
If anything, it pushes us creativly.
Love your blog!
Love from,


12 heather at wordplayhouse® December 12, 2011 at 11:17 am

Make-it-yourself is often a less expensive (and more special) way to go. I made a GLAM little playhouse for our little girl…and you would never guess that I used such things as a pocket lining from an old pair of pants, an old ironing board cover…


Much less expensive than if it had been bought. More fun to make. And more special. I love the simple and inexpensive ideas you shared here. Great gift ideas!


13 Jadah {Family Sponge} December 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm

My friend makes dolls. She’s very crafty. I think my daughter would love a handmade doll. I may have to add that to her wish list.


14 kristi December 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Hey Design Mom!

Inspiring ideas, as always! Is there a way to find the how to for the ribbon flowers? When I click through, I get a 404 page.


15 Geevz December 12, 2011 at 7:02 pm

I appreciate the ideas to add impact to the tree. Magic, not the amount of presents, that really makes the morning. Thanks for the reminder!


16 Min December 12, 2011 at 9:26 pm

All great ideas–and a reassuring post too! Spiffing up an old bike reminds me of the stories I heard about my mom’s childhood. There were 10 kids (aka not a lot to go around) in her family and around Thanksgiving every year they noticed their toys disappearing. Grandpa reassured them that Santa’s elves were just at work, and sure enough, their toys reappeared Christmas morning, all fixed up, repainted, dolls with new clothes, etc. Who says new is better anyway?


17 Abby D December 13, 2011 at 8:01 am

I love the ribbon flower but when I try to use the links to get back to your original post, they appear to be broken. ??


18 Design Mom December 13, 2011 at 8:51 am

Mysterious. It seems to be working for me. Here it is again: http://www.designmom.com/2009/12/ribbon-flowers/


19 Kate December 14, 2011 at 7:38 am

I love a handmade holiday gift that lets your child’s imagination run wild. I sewed together felt finger puppets and then tied together a tutu. Ready for Christmas!



20 Jen Reutzel March 2, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I know this is an old post, so please forgive me for asking. I can’t seem to find the tutorial for how to make these beautiful ribbon flowers and I”d love to try them with my daughters over Spring Break. The link takes me to another page with a different flower tutorial. Could you lead me to the correct page? Thanks!


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