There are few perks to living far away from any close family, but alas, it’s an occupational hazard of being a military family to always find the silver lining. Some of these perks might include the fact you are on the opposite side of the country from that one uncle who keeps 17 too many clown dolls. Or that you’re never running into your fertile cousin who is always looking for a babysitter for her nine children. And yet another is saving all that money on gifts for extended family every birthday and holiday throughout the year.
Unless that is, you’re aren’t saving money at all and still sending all those gifts for extended family, right along with the extra bonus costs of shipping and handling?
Let’s get it out in the open: we love our families. We do. But love doesn’t have to be expensive. Every family prioritizes celebrations differently so keep that in mind as you evaluate how much to spend on upcoming holidays. We’ve rounded up 25 unique, inexpensive (cheap!) gift ideas (one for each day of the Christmas countdown). So if you’re feeling like the wallet is a little too light, consider some of these ideas for gifts for extended family this year.
Table of Contents
25 Affordable & Creative Gifts for Extended Family
Write a handwritten letter
Words can go a long way, especially when they arrive in the delightful little box that sits outside your front door that just begs to hold something other than grocery coupons. Send some snail mail and let your heartfelt words outshine any toy or new piece of technology. Pack a punch to the heartstrings and add a personal photo to your handwritten letter!
Quality time coupons
Sometimes the best gifts can’t be found in a store. “Buy” a loved one some time by sending them handmade coupons that signify a special time together. This can be a home run for nieces and nephews who don’t get to spend a lot of time with you, so this allows them to get super excited for when you all are together again.
Surprise the book lover in your family with a new book in their mailbox each month! Gift them a trial period through one of the several different subscription boxes available online. We’re partial to Book of the Month club.
Movie night in a basket
Gather popcorn, a few DVDs from that giant bin of discounted movies at the store, a bottle of soda and give the gift of a trip to the theater sans the sticky floors and talkative teenagers in the back.
Bread in a Bottle
Share your best bread or cookie recipe without sharing your secret ingredients by making a mix and gifting it in a mason jar!
If you want to customize a gift of books yourself, detour around the book subscription and satisfy the book lover in your life by visiting a used book store and fill a bag with gently used (aka loved on) books! Bonus, she might even find a few notes in the margins.
The beauty of succulents is in how well they can survive any climate and any person’s level of gardening. Buy several varying, small succulents, arrange them in a simple pot with some rocks and surprise your family member with a mini garden.
Date night in a box
Double up and make a simple gift that covers two people! Find a gift card to the couple’s favorite restaurant and then include bonus date night accessories like back scratchers, a bag of coffee or perhaps a bottle of wine.
Being away from family most of the year makes both sides miss a lot of each other’s life. Bring them behind the scenes with a year-in-the-life photobook! Shutterfly offers seasonal deals on photobooks so snatch a coupon up when you can and just pay for shipping.
Photo coasters or magnets
If you don’t want to go through the labor of creating a book, find your favorite images and print them onto fun souvenirs like coasters or magnets for your families to enjoy.
Sticking with the digital world, this is another streaming service but targeted for that relative who is always belting out the Wicked soundtrack in the shower. Sign them up for a month of BroadwayHD, which offers a slew of musicals and plays to be played right at your fingertips.
These balls of glory are so easy to customize and make on your own without having to stick to the cliche scents seen in stores. Choose from various essential oil scents and buy some food coloring and you’re in business.
Get a loved one started with a few months of coverage with a gift card to the various streaming services that are now replacing your DVR.
DIY Coffee Mug
Make a plain white coffee mug your canvas and give the coffee lover in your life their new favorite mug. Use Sharpies, nail polish or acrylic paint to make your special mug shine in the cabinet. Go a step further and then fill the mug with hot chocolate mix, marshmallows, or a bag of their favorite coffee.
Fill a sphere ornament with hot cocoa mix or a Christmas cookie recipe, and add a tasty twist to your extended family’s tree this year.
Not an actual gift idea, but still a helpful suggestion if other family members are interested. Split up one big ticket item amongst multiple individuals so you all don’t have to spend the big bucks, but still light up a person’s Christmas with their dream gift.
Memorialize a favorite picture, facial expression or pet by uploading the image and stamping it on a pair of socks for eternity. Divvyup is making the gift of socks actually fun this Christmas.
DIY Farkle game
Spark family game night even when you can’t be there by creating the simple dice game known as Farkle. Round up some dice from old games you might already have and never play, or make your own dice from wooden blocks, paper or any other material you can think up. Add a cup and a short sheet of instructions and soon the family group chats of game night will be rolling through in no time.
Knit a chunky arm blanket
Even if you didn’t ace home economics in high school, anyone can be a crafty with the ingenious craft of arm knitting. There are plenty of tutorials online on the technique and while this is a cheaper option than buying a chunky blanket, it will take a bit of labor. Which makes it that much more special.
Lotto ticket tree
Get into the festive spirit but leave the edible fruit arrangement at home. Instead, make an assembled “tree” of lotto tickets for the family member who always talks about his lucky number.
Want to give money but don’t want to seem lacking in imagination? Fold cash into the shape of whatever your family member is saving up for. Check out Youtube for a tutorial on just about any object you could ever imagine.
Dollar store spa basket
Head over to your local dollar store and fill a basket with DIY manicure/pedicure materials. Find your loved one’s favorite color in nail polish and then be sure to include polish remover, cotton balls, foot scrub, nail file, foot scraper, and maybe even finish off with one of those multi-pronged head massagers for max comfort.
Slippers stuffed with lotions
Who doesn’t love fuzzy slippers? Go the extra mile and stuff them with bath bombs, lotion, and other sweet-smelling scents that will spark relaxation.
Bonsai tree seeds
Yes, these tiny trees of joy can be grown and not just bought from the local plant store. Easy to ship, these seeds are very inexpensive, and giving your loved one something that he or she can watch grow is such a unique and fun gift.
Giving a journal as a gift is no novel gift idea, however, filling it with random pages already written on with surprise notes is a fun twist. Let the person know ahead of time or just let them start using it and be surprised with notes of encouragement when they least expect it, but might just need it the most.
Another suggestion to think about is to do a gift exchange of sorts with extended family. Make a system with relatives where each person who wants to take part draws a name and then each person just buys a gift for that specific family member. That way each person receives one nice gift and doesn’t have to spend a lot more money as a whole on a bunch of smaller gifts for extended family members that they may not have. It’s completely up to you!
Photo Credit: Unsplash, Pixabay