32 Thoughtful Gift Ideas to Make or Buy under $30

The upcoming holidays can add a strain to anyone’s budget.  Planning ahead is the best way to overcome the last minute rush and anxiety.  To help get you started, here are 32 gift ideas you can make or buy for Christmas and the holidays that don’t break the bank.

clever gift ideas for cheap

I asked my Instagram community what some of the best gifts they’ve made or bought for someone is.  These gift ideas are under $30 and some require effort for your loved one. 

Here is the ultimate make and/or buy list! 


  1. Their favorite dish and invite them over
  2. Sew an apron, pillows, or tote bag
  3. Frame a picture of a loved one no longer living
  4. An “I survived 2020” t-shirt
  5. Coupon book of activities to do together
  6. Look up unclaimed.org to see if they are owed money
  7. Candles
  8. Hand painted greeting cards
  9. A thoughtful long letter, framed picture, coffee date
  10. Ornament
  11. Homemade vanilla extract (vanilla bean + vodka)
  12. Jar with Motivational Bible quotes
  13. Baked goods (cookies, scones, brownies) & nicely wrapped
  14. Homemade coconut oil sugar body scrubs
  15. Movie night gift basket (popcorn, dvd, and candy)
  16. Propogated potted plants


  1. Paint Night (paint, canvas, wine!)
  2. Christmas dinner staples or vouchers to local grocery store
  3. Milk Frother (I use the Nespresso frother)
  4. Home decor under $30
  5. Season pass to attractions nearby
  6. Socks with their face on them (great for new parents)
  7. Book exchange with friends (my favorite books suggestions are here)
  8. Engraved wallet
  9. Toiletry bag + their favorite brands
  10. Coffee mug with variety of coffee
  11. Donate to a charity on their behalf
  12. School or State affiliated gifts (USC or UCLA?)
  13. Pay for a cleaning service for a friend
  14. Pay for window washing
  15. Cooking utensil they can use daily
  16. Picture collage
BONUS: if you or your friend want to grow your Instagram community, my Zero to Hero webinar is on sale for $25 as well! Use code: blackfriday at this link.  

The most recurring answer that doesn’t fit these buckets, can’t be Made or Bought..it is your TIME. Make sure you are giving the gift of your time generously with those you love. 

(if you made it this far, comment your college affiliation in the Instagram comments so I know ;))