Week #2 of All Done By December One – Make a Gift Plan

Opening a gag gift

Photo: VoxEfx

Have you ever felt like the gift-giving part of Christmas was out of balance with how you really wanted to celebrate? Is it possible to have a fun holiday without breaking the bank? In the next week we’ll focus on the gift aspect of the holidays and see if we can get creative while reigning things in a bit. If you’re participating in “All Done By December One,” you may wish to:

  1. Make a master gift list. Write down every single person for whom you want to present a gift. Check your list twice, whittle away what you can, and keep it reasonable.
  2. Set a spending limit for each person, and a total amount you will pay for gifts this year – without taking on even a penny of debt.
  3. Purchase, make or creatively obtain at least one gift for someone on the list this week. Be sure to share what you do in the comments section below!
  4. Find a creative way to wrap or package it using materials you already have on hand. You can view a bunch of fun, frugal wrapping ideas on my Happy Simple Holidays Pinterest board.


Recycled wrapping paper

Recycle bags and paper to wrap gifts – photo by Christine Wisnieski


If you’re planning to give some holiday gifts this year, one step that might help is to take some of the mystery out of the process. Since 2002, our family has been using Christmas Wish List, a site where we each post a short list of things we truly want or need. Using the site felt a little piggy at first, but we have all benefited from much easier gifting and shopping, and we’ve also enjoyed receiving things we can use. We no longer have to guess about gifts, and our wish lists often contain homemade and used items. Your Christmas List and Smart Christmas List are other online gift list sites you may wish to explore.

This year, our family has set a $25 limit on gifts. So…what can you buy or make for $25 or less?

  • Used books in good condition
  • Copies of old family photos
  • A Mason jar filled with crunchy homemade granola
  • A nice bottle of wine or sparkling cider
  • Fancy soap
  • A favorite movie DVD and a bag of organic popcorn
  • A potted amaryllis bulb
  • A pound of really good coffee
  • Warm gloves
  • A CD with a live performance by a favorite artist
  • A donation to charity: water in honor of your loved one, to fund a clean water project

Let’s be real, though. These ideas are all fine and well for adults, but how can we be thrifty when it comes to older kids and teens who might ask for non-frugal gifts like name-brand clothes and shoes, cosmetics, electronics and gift cards?

Swagbucks gift cards

Photo: bfishadow

One solution I’ve found is to use Swagbucks as my search engine. It returns results from Google and its sponsors, and you win points while you’re searching that can be exchanged for free gift cards and other goodies. Swagbucks has gift cards and codes from many major retailers teens like – iTunes, Old Navy, Target, Amazon, Best Buy, etc. You can also redeem the points for gift codes to buy fave teen presents like Nike shoes, American Eagle clothing and ULTA cosmetics.

It’s free to sign up, and the nice people at Swagbucks have set up a special referral code for Happy Simple Living readers that you can use to get 70 free Swagbucks in addition to the 30 you normally get for signing up. (NOTE: This special code is only valid through this Sunday, October 27.)

Sign up using this link: Swagbucks, click the text that reads “I have a sign up code,” and enter:


While we’re on the subject, many of you report that you’re cutting back on holiday gift giving in favor of enjoyable experiences. Most of my friends and I have stopped exchanging Christmas presents, and instead we do something fun together – like go to a play, or have a Simple Christmas Cookie Exchange. If you talk with your friends, chances are they’ll happily agree to forgo the presents. Or you could try a White Elephant exchange, or give gag gifts.

See if you can make some progress around the concept of gifts this week. You may wish to check in with the “All Done By December One” group on Lift whenever you successfully spend ten minutes on a holiday task. Be sure to give each other props (thumbs up) while you’re there! Also, we’d all love to hear some of your gift-giving ideas and thoughts in the comments section below.

Connecting with you is an ongoing gift for me, my friends.

Hugs and good luck with your efforts this week,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

4 comments to Week #2 of All Done By December One – Make a Gift Plan

  • Corporate Gifts

    Yes, you can make a plan for giving gifts to your friends and family members on any special occasion so that you can purchase gifts for them before the eve without forgetting any person.If you plan for the gifts before then you have a plenty of time for packing and wrapping them nicely and marking the gifts by name tag to whom you want to gift it.There are various occasions when you can plan for something like this e.g Christmas,Diwali,Birthdays, Wedding anniversary etc.

  • All done! I have a note app on my phone when I see something I think would make a great gift or someone I buy for mentions something they would like I jot it down. Then as it gets closer to the holidays I go over the list and narrow it down.

  • I love the box idea so much, Lyn! I could totally see our family getting into this and reusing the same box for years. Thank you for sharing!

  • Lyn

    Eliza – Thank you so much for setting up the Lift group. I was not sure, at first, if I would like it, but the Props (thumbs up) are incredibly motivating. I am also having fun chipping away at holiday planning without feeling stressed. I love the challenge of seeing how much one can give with so little.

    Oh, and during your January Money Diet last January, I took a bunch of old wrapping paper from the holidays and collaged it onto some boxes – they are not elegant, but they are functional and fun. I think that I will add a ‘registry’ on the inside of these boxes, where we can record the year and what gift came in it. That way, when someone uses these boxes in the future, there will be a story associated with the box as well as the gift. Thank you again for your inspiration. Cheers, Lyn

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>