How to Afford Christmas

When you’re short on funds, but your friends, family, and especially kids, still need Christmas gifts, you have to get creative. This is Part 1 of a 3 Part Series on how to afford Christmas when you can’t really afford Christmas.

We all know that Christmas isn’t just about gifts, but it seems that the number one question I’m asked from August through December is “Will you adopt my family for Christmas?”. I have to budget to afford Christmas for our girls. I’ve never received child support (yay, deadbeats!), and our income is probably below the “poverty” guidelines. We work really hard to pay our bills and save money for holidays, though, and somehow every year it does come together.

Affording Christmas when you can’t really afford Christmas is about planning. Yes, it’s October… that means it’s time to start. Don’t wait until the last minute or you’ll end up frantic.

Obviously, the easiest way to afford Christmas is to make more money. If you’ve got a few weeks – or better yet, a few months – sign up for my Virtual Assistant Training program to earn plenty of money in the meantime.

How to Afford Christmas

Themed Basket Ideas

The basket ideas listed below were submitted by Slap Dash Minions (thank you!), and most can be put together for $20 or less. If you’re really strapped for cash, get a basket from the Dollar Tree. Fill it with shredded up newspaper, and then add things that you can find either at Dollar Tree or another dollar store, or make your own. Dollar Tree also has the cellophane basket wraps for $1 but you can use colored Saran Wrap (even the cheap brand) and tie off with some ribbon to save even more cash.

The links in the lists take you to DIY posts or to Amazon so you can see the products if they are not DIY. They will open in a new window.

Movie Basket

$5 movies
— popcorn
— toppings for popcorn like white cheddar etc
— candy
— soda

BBQ Basket

— apron
homemade BBQ sauce
recipe book (make your own with recipes from Pinterest!)
— tongs

DIY Spa Basket

— body spray (Bath & Body Works has sales!)
— body scrub (make your own)
— candles
— soap (make your own)
— aloe socks ($3 at Walmart)
whipped body butter

Baker’s Basket

(Put stuff in a Pyrex dish or a cake pan)
— measuring cups
— pot holders
— cook book (make one!)
— cake mix
— cupcake liners

Cooking Basket

— Pot Holders
— Cooking Spoons
— Towels
— Measuring Cups
— Cook book (make one!)

Art Basket

— crayons, markers, and/or colored pencils
— sketch book or coloring books
— construction paper and scissors
— clay or play-dough (make your own)

Crochet or Knitting Basket

— Patterns (free printable ones online – make a binder full of them!)
— Yarn
— Crochet hook or knitting needles

Sewing Basket

— Needle & thread
— pins
— buttons, snaps, etc
— cross stitch hoop
— embroidery floss

Date Night Basket

— movies
— wine
— candles
— lotion

Date Night Basket 2

— Big pot for spaghetti
— pasta noodles
— cheese
— jar of gourmet pasta sauce
— potholders
— bottle of wine
— romantic movie

Girls Night In Basket

— wine
— wine glasses
— chick flick DVD
— game (like Boggle, Trivial Pursuit, etc)
— chocolate

New Baby Basket

— wash cloths
— baby shampoo
— baby lotion
— detergent (Dreft)
— baby book

Crafter’s Basket

— Glue gun & glue sticks
— Felt, yarn, or other craft supplies
— Beads, wire, etc
— Tulle, ribbon
— crafting book (or make a binder with printable ideas from Pinterest!)

Teen Girls Basket 1

— iTunes gift card
— band posters
— journal and fancy pens

Teen Girls Basket 2

— their favorite shampoo/conditioner
— razors, shaving gel, deodorant
— hair accessories (hair tyes, brush, etc)
— makeup
— lotion, perfume

Teen Boys Basket

— DVDs
— iTunes gift card
— head phones
— books
— cologne

New Years Party Basket

— hats
— sunglasses
— poppers
— noise makers
— wine or sparkling grape juice

Sundae Basket

— sundae toppings: chocolate, caramel, strawberry, etc
— sprinkles
— ice cream scoop
— cute bowls

Snuggle Up With a Book Basket

— books or gift card to Barnes & Noble
— relaxing tea
— mug
— soft blanket
— reading light

Bath & Body Basket

— shower gel
— loofah
— candles
— fancy soaps

House & Home Basket

— Small laundry basket
— laundry detergent (make your own laundry detergent)
— dryer sheets
— paper towels or wash cloths
— dish soap, cleaning supplies

Pizza Basket

— recipe cards for dough and sauce (or a cook book – make your own!)
— pizza stone or cookie sheet
— pizza cutter
— pot holder
— pizza shaped plates

Popcorn Basket

popcorn popper basket
— coconut oil
— kernels
— popcorn salt, seasonings, etc
— chocolate to drizzle on top

Mani/Pedi Basket

— foot soak (make your own!)
— nail clippers
— aloe socks ($3 at Walmart)
— nail polish ($1 at Dollar Tree or use coupons to get for less)
— lotion

Scrapbooking Basket

— scrapbooking paper
— photographs
— sticker letters
— stickers to match scrapbook paper
— mini album

Fitness Basket 1

— workout DVDs (walk away the pounds are my fav for beginners)
— 2 pound dumb bells (Try a store like Five Below for these)
— sweat towel
— protein bars
— fitness/health magazine subscription

Fitness Basket 2

— yoga DVDs (as low as $5 each at Walmart)
yoga mat
— socks with grips on the bottom
— sweat towel
— yoga block

Leave Me Alone Basket

— wine
— chocolate
— ear plugs
bubble bath

Music Basket

— head phones
— iTunes gift card
— magazine
— sheet music scrapbook paper
— some type of music book (depends on instrument)

Healing Basket

— honey
— soothing tea
— mug
— rice pack (make your own!)
— epsom salts

Memory Basket

— photographs
— frames
— mini photo album
— trinkets that have sentimental value
— hand-written journal/notes

Cartoon Character Basket

— blanket, pillow, shirt, or something with cartoon character on it
— DVD of cartoons

How to Afford Christmas

Lego Basket

— Lego crayons (make your own Lego crayons)
— Legos (just buy a small set and build them into buildings or characters)
— Lego mat
printables with ideas on building Lego buildings, characters, etc
— Lego book (depending on budget)

Gardening Basket

(Put in a hand-painted flower pot)
— mini gardening tools
— seeds
— gloves
printed info on growing certain plants/flowers/vegetables

Coloring Basket

— use old crayons to make new ones
coloring books (Dollar Tree)
— plastic container so crayons don’t get lost
— printed connect-the-dots or other fun print-outs to color

Pet Basket

— brush
— lint roller
— pet shampoo

Duct Tape Basket

— rolls of duct tape (tons of patterns available!)
— folders
— pens
— print outs of duct tape craft ideas (See my duct tape crafts)

Do you have any other basket ideas? Leave them in the comments so we can help everyone figure out how to afford Christmas this year!

handmade christmas gifts


  1. These are some great ideas. i see a few that I can do for the kids. Can’t wait to see the ideas you have for the next two series.
    Nicoyle recently posted..50 Ideas to Add to Your Fall Bucket ListMy Profile

  2. Love this! Just a heads up that yes, the dollar store has the cello gift bags for $1, but if you go to Michaels you can spend only a couple bucks more and get 5-12, depending on your size. This is helpful if you’re giving a few baskets, not just one.
    Alicia recently posted..Baking TherapyMy Profile

  3. Cassie at Reply

    Great ideas. I’d also add that for baking/ cooking tjemed baskets, you can use bowles as a basket. For my sister’s bridal shower, I got a silver mixing bowl, tied a really cute clearance double ribbon ruffle trim around the rim,.and then filled it with measuring cups/spoons, a cookbook I got on ebay (sentimental value as it was the same one my mom got at her wedding), whisks, wooden spoons, and viola…a very thoughtful gift for under $20. Best part is everything is usable…no garbage or cheap baskets.

  4. Raye W at Reply

    chocolate lover basket: home made fudge, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, cocoa…….check pinterest for recipes, last year the rocky road fudge I made was a huge hit.
    Spy kit basket: My grandie was totally ‘into’ spy stuff…….I used an old briefcase, made a fingerprint kit with paper and an ink pad, made ‘top secret’ folders with paper to write clues, invisible ink (lemon juice), a magnifying glass, dollar tree handcuffs, a cleaned out chapstick tube with rolled up paper inside to pass secret messages, dollar tree mustaches and glasses for disguises, along with thrift store hats. He loved it!
    Beverage basket….sample sizes of coffee, tea, cocoa, and flavored creamers, marshmallows for the cocoa, chocolate coated spoons, a nice mug, and a mug cozy. DH loves the single size tea, punch, kool aid packets, so you could add those and bottled water as well. Chocolate and strawberry syrups if they like flavored milk.

    • SlapDashMom at Reply

      Great ideas! Thank you for sharing! YUM!

    • Toni Cosgrove at Reply

      Those are neat ideas

  5. Rebecca Orr at Reply

    My sister made my son a doctor bag. Pushed got a stethoscope, a used blood pressure cuff, some hair nets, band aids, a thermometer, and she emptied pill bottles and put candy in them for pretend meds (I do not advise this for younger children that are still learning that medicine is NOT candy. My son is a very responsible 6 year old that knows the difference and he respects medicine because we taught him early).
    My grandparents also made my sister a veterinarian bag when she was a child (hence the inspiration for the doctor bag). Pretty much the same items minus the blood pressure cuff and band aids. She added little beanie baby stuffed animals to be the “patients”.

    • SlapDashMom at Reply

      Super cute idea!!

  6. Rebecca Orr at Reply

    I did the movie themed basket for my mom last year. I picked out 5 DVDs she loves but never bough for herself. I grabbed a couple of the dollar boxes of her favorite movie theater candy at Walmart. And I added a box of popcorn. She loved it. (I know you already posted that idea, I just thought it would help for readers to hear from someone who has actually tried some of these ideas out)

    I am also going to continue to make apple pie jam and can them for loved ones. If anyone is good preserving food, a gift basket full of homemade canned goods is a great idea too.

  7. My mom sometimes puts together gift baskets with a clothes basket and she’ll put in items we use for around the house such as dish washing liquid, laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.
    Angie Bailey recently posted..Win a $25 Gift Code to Shop at the Newly Re-Branded Novica #HANDMADE4LIFEMy Profile

  8. I’m all about homemade gifts, especially food. Baskets are also an awesome idea. Especially for those people who… probably won’t even think about you!
    Ashley @ Eat Run Live Happy recently posted..Stop the Judging Tends and WIAWMy Profile

  9. Samantha C at Reply

    These are all wonderful! I save money by doing swag bucks and instant win games for gift cards. I have 12 more gifts to go and 13 gifts down and spent only $29.95.

  10. nickhole at Reply

    I would literally lose it if someone made me a baking basket. I love to bake.

  11. JenH at Reply

    So many great ideas!!! Thanks.

  12. Michelle Bowers at Reply

    Love all the basket ideas. I am going to do some of these for Christmas this year.

  13. Brandy at Reply

    I think gift baskets are a wonderful idea for christmas!!!

  14. These are great ideas I am a mom of two and even no me and my husband work we still struggle to make ends meat so these ideas are great

  15. Lisa at Reply

    Great ideas! I love gifting baskets!

  16. Toni Cosgrove at Reply

    With things` being tough for so many these ideas are awesome….there is something to fit everone and ides for even more…thank you so much

  17. Fantastic ideas!

  18. brandy olson at Reply

    thanks for everything!!!

  19. Stephanie at Reply

    Great ideas :)

    Maybe a college student basket: schedule book/agenda, thumb drive, mechanical pencil & refill lead/erasers, granola bars, caffeine tablets or energy shots (tablets are way cheaper), sticky notes, etc.

    • SlapDashMom at Reply

      Great idea!

  20. Jenn at Reply

    I did a work/play gift basket one year. On the work side I put a planner, a black polo, a pen and a gas card, and then on the play I got a huge mug, a six pack, and slippers. It was a little costly, but I’m sure someone could take the idea and make it cheaper!

  21. Jamie Herda at Reply

    Great article. My husband is going to be off work for 3 months and this is so timely.

  22. K at Reply

    I want the Leave Me Alone basket!!!!

  23. Great ideas! Thank you!!!

  24. Savannah miller at Reply

    I do a movie gift basket for my dad every year! The first year I didn’t have a lot of money so I bought him a used movie at our local auction and then added popcorn, soda and a few movie theater candies. It was a “cheap” gift, but now he asks for it every year lol He said the best part is that my kids and I come watch the movie with him :)

  25. Savannah miller at Reply

    Sorry double commenting I have had so many cheap Christmas’s I may even comment again if I think of something lol I have money this year for Christmas but I still love to save.
    I wish I saved the photo so I could give the original credit , but I found a cute idea for kids. You get a small metal container (Bucket shaped) they are only $1 at Target. Anyway you can buy dum dum pops and make a small cute stocking stuffer by putting them inside.

    This is not the one I first found, but this will give you an idea of what i mean
    My bucket is smaller and has no where near that many pops lol

    I used some plastic wrap and tape around the top. So I don’t have to worry about them dumping out.
    I think my kiddos will Love it.

    And I seen cute idea’s for mason jars where you layer dry ingredients for a cookie recipe and then attach the recipe on the outside. They look cute

  26. Jen at Reply

    I would seriously love to receive any one of these baskets, but I think my favorites are the art and teen girl baskets for the kids and the fitness baskets are such a great idea. Most people at Christmas are vowing to get in shape once the holidays are over – these basket ideas are great for motivation!

  27. Jana at Reply

    Those lego crayons are really cute! Yes, it’s always about planning, isn’t it?

  28. These were lots of great ideas! I have also created a gift baskets for family members and the folks in the nursing homes by using samples and throwing in a few full sized products to create a bath & body basket or other themed basket. Add some ribbon and maybe pretty paper and they turn out great! No need to spend fortunes!

  29. Somehow I never even thought about making baskets like this! Great idea! And awesome list!!!
    Katie recently posted..Cheap Activities To Do With KidsMy Profile

  30. These ideas are great! I saw a movie night type of basket at one of those fancy kitchen stores and it was really expensive. I’d love to make my own!

  31. Great gift ideas. I love the idea of themed baskets. I also like that they can be very inexpensive to put together.
    Diane @ Philzendia recently posted..25 Delicious Pumpkin Recipes For FallMy Profile

  32. What awesome ideas. People think you have to go above and beyond when it comes to Christmas gifts– and you don’t! These are great ideas!
    Tatanisha W recently posted..Healthy Eating: Zucchini Chips with Parmesan Garlic Greek Yogurt DipMy Profile

  33. Jill at Reply

    I’m in the process of creating a “Let it Snow” basket. I haven’t done it yet – but here are my ideas – pick the ones you like: Blankets, socks, gloves, hot chocolate, mugs, soup/stew/chili ingredients w/recipe), candles, movies, popcorn, blocks/signs/pictures that say “Let it Snow”, wine, wine glasses, deck of cards, snowman kit, snowball fight kit, lotions, lip balm. Basically stuff you need/do – to help you get thru the winter.

  34. Leslie Maxson at Reply

    Hi I am curious if you have posted part 2 or 3 series as I just found this and there are some great ideas. Please let me know and also let me know where I can find the additional series. Thank you so much! Happy Holidays!

  35. Kristine at Reply

    How about a cleaning basket. All cleaning supplies and rags and disposable gloves.

    • SlapDashMom at Reply

      Great idea!

  36. ashley at Reply

    Love all of these ideas!!!

    * few other ideas i have had
    ***HE IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON BASKET- A beautiful framed picture of Christ to hang in their home, a DIY nail ornament to hang on the tree and remember what he did for us, a printed poem of his love for us, candles, a book, small blanket, A spiritual movie, chocolate.

    *** HUNTER & OR FISHING BASKET – camo odds and ends, magazine, keychain, multi-tool lighter, outdoor mug, beanie or hat, sportmans warehouse DVDs.

    ***SPICY UP YOUR MARRIAGE BASKET- fun card or dice games, chocolate, whipped cream, blanket, oils, lotions, printed love poems, little sentiment printables about the things that remind them of their sparks they share or good memories.

  37. Carla at Reply

    A travel basket with travel magazine(s), tote, travel mug, repair/emergency kit. A basket of Christmas decorations (especially for people just setting up house.). A ” wrapping” basket-wrapping paper, scissors, greeting cards, ribbon. I made cheese balls one year and gave them on cheeseball plates, or a cake plate with cake. Or a “party in a box”-snacks, dips, cupcakes, streamers. One year I found a cool book at Ollie’s, a ballerina book, that had ballet slippers, and I found a leotard on clearance, or you could make one of those tutus from tulle.

    • SlapDashMom at Reply

      Those are great ideas!

  38. Ellen at Reply

    Does anyone have an idea for a christmas tree if you can’t afford one?

    Though about chopping a cedar down… but we don’t own any woods! LOL.

    • SlapDashMom at Reply

      Ellen: You could do a paper one on the wall? I know it’s not a real tree but it would be cute and fun for the kids to make. Or check Goodwill! Ours has half-off days, so the trees would literally be like $10. Pinterest has some fun, crafty ideas for paper/DIY trees.

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