Meaningful & Affordable Holiday Gifts: What to Get and Where to Look

As Andy Williams sings, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” The holiday spirit is in the air and as the year draws to an end, this is a time to be thankful, a time to get together with family and friends and a time to eat some really delicious food!

But sometimes, with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays and craziness of Black Friday shopping, we lose sight of what the holidays are truly about. We live in a society where we are sometimes consumed with material items. As us millennials call it- having “stuff.” And when the holidays hit, it’s all about how much “stuff” we can buy and give. We also tend to focus more on the amount we spend on gifts and not always the meaning of the gift. When thinking about this, I’ve composed a list of meaningful gifts you can offer to your entire family (and friends!) to help bring you together for fun and great memories, and gifts that won’t break the bank (especially before tax season).

1) Family Games
Whether you are looking for a gift to give, or for something fun to do for the whole family, games are a great way to bring people together and enjoy each other’s company, while also creating some laughter!

Christmas Bingo– Print these cute boards (FREE) and play with Green & Red M&M’s. Click here.

Christmas Charades Jar– Create yourself, or you can purchase handmade & customizable ones on Etsy ($7.96). Click here.

Christmas Photo Booth Props– What kids (and adults) wouldn’t love a Christmas photo booth? ($10.39- Amazon) Perfect for all your technology lover, Instagram and social media savvy friends and family and a perfect gift to help get into the festive spirit! (Note: You can get photo booth props for all occasions and of all types- Harry Potter Fans, Super Hero Themed, Super Mario, Disney Princess etc. You name it, they’ve got it). Click here,

Board Games: The list goes on and on for family fun board games, but a few of my favorites growing up included, Candy Land, Sorry, Jenga, Yahtzee, & Uno (all between $6- $21.49 at select stores).

Some I’ve played more recently:
Telestrations -This is like the game of Telephone but sketched out. I played this with my boyfriends family last Thanksgiving and we had a great time (25.99- Amazon).

Crowd Pleasers for Kids:

(1) Pie Face- I’m sure many of you have watched and laughed at the viral videos of this game on social media and how could you not ($9.99- $16.97 at select stores).

(2) Watch Ya’ Mouth- Another histerical game (also seen on social media) where players wear cheek retractors and speak out phrases while teammates guess what they are trying to say ($12.79- $22.49 at select stores)

Note: If you have a child, friend, family member who are obsessed with say all things Moana, or Minions etc. many of these board games come as Special Editions with certain characters or movies, usually for only a few dollars extra.

Games for your older kids/adult friends:

(1) The Jackbox Party Pack- I recently played these games at a house warming party I attended with friends my age and it was so cool because the games are played through the TV (like an app), but everyone taps in to play through their phones.You go to the website on your phone and enter a room code and up to 12 players can play. Lots of drawing and funny guessing/ trivia based games (like Fibbage) that will really make you die laughing. ($24.99 for 5 party games-

2). Movies (to watch together): Growing up, I remember sitting together on the couch with the dog, a warm fire and all snuggled together with our blankets and hot coco, watching the classic Christmas and holiday movies and this is a tradition that we still have in my parents’ house to this day.

Movies are also a great gift because you can usually get them for affordable prices (when they are not brand new) and you can usually find good deals at Walmart ($5 movie bin) and even at thrift stores (just make sure you open the case to make sure they are in good condition).

Some holiday favorites:

  • A Christmas Story
  • The Grinch
  • Elf
  • Home Alone
  • The Santa Clause
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Holiday
  • It’s a Wonderful Life

Note: A fun idea for a kid would be to pair a themed stuffed animal with a movie as a gift. While at Walgreens the other day I saw an adorable, plush, medium sized Unicorn ($9.99), which would pair great with the Movie- Despicable Me, as the little girl in the movie is obsessed with the Unicorn she wins at the amusement park.

3) Family Photo Calendar /Digital Picture Frame/ Canvas Printed Photo

This is a great gift for the holidays and great for family members that may live far away from you. These are also great gifts say for a family member that helps give you money to travel, go on trips, or maybe helped with your tuition for school. A fun idea would be to put together pictures from your trip (which may not have been possible without them), or milestones from a year at college. These gifts are also easy to make- you choose your favorite photos and you can make them at numerous websites like,, or You can also do mugs, blankets, magnets, pillows and many other neat things to choose from.

Another nifty item I stumbled upon was at Artifact They connect directly to your Instagram feed to make mini square book- All your favorite photos in a book for your favorite person! ($15). Click here.

4) Inspirational Books:

There are so many great reads out there.

5) Write a poem

Every year, I get at least one really sweet poem from my dad. Usually in a card for my birthday, Valentine’s Day, sometimes Christmas, but it is something I will keep for forever. A poem is extremely thoughtful and it could be something you can print to have framed and hung to be displayed, or as décor. Or if your artistic, incorporate into an art piece. Cost is FREE (besides the frame which you could find at Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc. for under $10 and they always have great sales).

6) Think Outside the Mall

If you’re looking for something unique and affordable, you can shop at:

– Local flea markets, or craft fairs- There are usually A LOT of vendors with many different items available. From handmade ornaments, soaps, pillows, blankets, dish towels, various artwork, jewelry, home-made jams, pickles, wine etc. Something for everyone!

– Local antique stores- I sometimes forget how many neat Antique stores are around in Vermont and some can have some really neat items and deals. Just recently I went to the Antique Mall in Quechee, VT. My dad loves trains and my mom loves to make arts and crafts and has been especially into making pillows lately. At the store, I was able to find my dad a framed, hand drawn picture of a train ($12) and was also able to find my mom some really unique fabric which she can use make a pillows ($5).

– Thrift stores- There are about 5 of them in the Rutland Area and are another place that I always visit FIRST! Sometimes a hit, or miss if you’re looking for a specific item, but if you’re going in unsure of what you want to get, these store are the perfect place to start your search. I particularly enjoy putting together themed baskets as gifts, with a lot of the items I buy that go into the basket being second hand. For example- If you want to make a Christmas Basket, there are usually lots of Christmas decorations, candles, x-mas mugs, movies, picture frames, figurines and then any food items I want to incorporate I get those from the grocery store (i.e.: hot chocolate, and candy).

– On this website you can find millions of one-of-a-kind items made by independent vendors. Most items are handmade & some vendors sell vintage or antique items. Types of gifts can range from weddings gifts, jewelry, home & living, craft supplies, accessories, entertainment, kids & baby, clothes and vintage.

7) Star Maps! (

This is a really neat gift that I found online. It’s a more moderate price (around $60), but is very unique. This site creates star maps, 18″ x 24″ in size, printed on art matte paper. Say you have a certain date you hold close to your heart like you anniversary, your child’s birthday, or the first date you had with your significant other- on this website you select that date and it prints a map of what the starts looked like that very night! Not only a great Holiday gift, but good for an anniversary too.

8) Handmade Drawing or Painting

This is something I am doing this year for my significant others parents. If you’re crafty, put your talent and skill to good use! Since I paint often I have paints on hand, and I can pick up canvas at Michaels for $5-$10.The options of what you can create are endless. Paint your family a picture of the house you grew up in, the house they grew up in, or the family dog/ pets. They are sure to love anything handmade.

9) Handmade Ornament/ Cards

I use the website often when I’m looking for ideas on how to take items I have and how to create them into something new! The possibilities are endless when it comes to ornaments and cards. You can use old corks, buttons, fabric etc. so many ideas to choose from!

10) Show me How Book

Need a gift for your kid who’s spent their first semester on their own at college, or is getting ready to go off on their own? This book would be perfect for them! It includes a series of 500 nearly wordless, highly informative step-by-step procedures, to do hundreds of useful, fascinating and important (sometimes bizarre) tasks, including: Perform CPR, dance the tango, pack a suitcase, win a bar bet, play the blues, make authentic sushi rolls, fight a shark . . . and 493 more. (Average Price New- $16.99 at select retailers- Target, Amazon etc.)

Need more fresh ideas? Stay tuned for my next post!

By Kathleen Thompson. Kathleen is an Associate Accountant at Davis & Hodgdon Associates CPAs.

Davis & Hodgdon Associates CPAs has been assisting Vermont individuals and business owners with tax consulting and retirement planning for more than 25 years. Call our office in Williston 802.878.1963 or Rutland 802. 775-7132 to schedule a tax planning strategy session today.


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