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Holiday giving on a budget

Gift ideas that won’t break the bank.

“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”

                               —Mother Teresa

Excitement, stress, joy, panic – no matter how you slice it, holiday gift shopping can stir up a range of emotions, especially if your shopping list outweighs your spending budget. If money is an issue, you may be concerned about having to set limits on generosity. But you might be pleasantly surprised to learn just how far your budget can stretch with the right gift ideas. Here are a few suggestions for treating friends and family this season.

Picture perfect

Posters. Remember the good old days when your bedroom walls were plastered in posters of your favourite bands and celebrities? Posters can make great gifts and the artwork is relatively inexpensive – you can even upgrade it with a frame. Choices are endless, from whimsical to sporty to retro. 

Photos. In this digital age, we rarely print photos, yet a collection of glossy prints is still cherished by many. Why not surprise your special someone by creating an album of memories? Buy an album and fill it with photos for just a few cents a print, or create a scrapbook-style album online and order copies. Photo book companies offer a variety of unique layouts and customizations. 

Creating a fun collage of a favourite trip, concert or some other important shared memory is another way to show you care without shelling out big bucks. Buy a frame and create a memento to hang on the wall, or enlist the help of an online service to create collage magic quickly and easily. 

Foodie delights

The ideas are endless when a person on your gift list loves to cook, but take your cue from their preferred cooking styles or interests. Is this foodie mostly cranking out barbecued good eats, or are delicate pastries more their jam? What they love to create will give you an idea of the type of gadget that will thrill and delight. Here are some ideas:


  • Spatulas and tongs
  • Apron with pockets to hold utensils and more
  • Stainless-steel skewers for meat and veggie kebobs
  • Wooden grill scraper – wire brushes are no longer recommended due to health concerns[1]
  • Meat thermometer


  • Rolling pin
  • Spatulas
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Countertop tool caddy
  • Tea towels
  • Baking pans

Flavour station

Sometimes the best gift for a foodie is a basket stuffed with flavourful ingredients. There are literally dozens of different oils and vinegars to choose from, and spices to suit every palate. Here are a few ideas to guide your shopping:

  • Barbecue sauces and rubs
  • Oil infusions – colourful bottles of olive oil enhanced by herbs, garlic, chilis and more
  • Balsamic vinegar – available in a range of qualities to meet every budget
  • Seasoned salt – infused with a range of flavours
  • Good-quality vanilla and other flavour extracts used to enhance cakes and cookies

Do it yourself

Nothing says “I care” quite like homemade, so creating a gift scores high on the thoughtfulness scale. Here are some ideas, depending on your skill set and time availability:

Baking. Whipping up a batch of treats from a favourite family recipe is a sure-fire way to please. Imagine the delight when someone opens a beautiful gift box filled with mouth-watering shortbread, gingersnaps or other sweet delights. As an added touch, include a handwritten copy of the recipe with a brief explanation of why the recipe is meaningful to you. 

Woodworking. With charcuterie all the rage, put your woodworking skills to the test by turning a slab of cedar, maple or walnut into a gorgeous serving board that can be cherished for years to come. You can find pre-cut rough slabs ready for finishing, or walk out to the woodpile and invest a little sweat equity in the project by hand-sawing the perfect piece. Sanding smooth and then rubbing with a food-safe finish such as beeswax completes the project. 

Get crafty. DIY doesn’t have to be complicated, and offers many possibilities. Depending on your abilities, you can create festive centrepieces, unique hostess gifts or even one-of-a-kind table linens. Sites like Pinterest or Juxtapost are great sources of inspiration. Dollar stores are handy for craft supplies. Browse the sale aisle at fabric outlets for deals. Mother Nature also has an abundance of evergreens and pinecones at the ready – just make sure there are no restrictions in the area where you gather your supplies.

Giving from the heart doesn’t have to cost a lot, and often results in deeply personal gifts that you can’t put a price tag on. A gift of beautifully wrapped homemade cookies beats a package of tube socks any day! 


© 2020 Manulife. The persons and situations depicted are fictional and their resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental. This media is for information purposes only and is not intended to provide specific financial, tax, legal, accounting or other advice and should not be relied upon in that regard. Many of the issues discussed will vary by province. Individuals should seek the advice of professionals to ensure that any action taken with respect to this information is appropriate to their specific situation. www.manulife.ca/accessibility 


[1] www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/a32733/wire-grill-brush-dangers

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