Last Minute Frugal Gifts Under $20

Posted by Madison on December 21, 2015

Our holiday gift guide series continues! This week we are highlighting last minute frugal gift ideas from readers! They were submitted years ago, but are still some of the best last minute gift ideas.

Time is ticking on your holiday shopping! In case you don’t have time to order from the 10 Amazing Frugal Gift Ideas Under $20 or hand make something from the 37 Homemade Frugal Gift Ideas Under $20, here’s your chance to gift a great, yet frugal gift.

These special tips for the procrastinators out there! I’m generally a procrastinator too, so it’s important not only to find the perfect gift, but to be able to do so without spending a fortune.

Last Minute Gift Ideas

  1. Lottery Tickets. I always find people love getting lottery scratch-offs. It’s perfect because people usually don’t buy it for themselves but always appreciate a chance to win something. It works for both sexes and can be manipulated to fit any spending limit. – Howard
  2. Board Games. We’ve always been a fan of board games, both learning and just fun type games to share with our kids and adult friends. This year, we’ve made lists of board games we own and exchanged them with other families: we’ll make sure every family in the exchange gets a new or new-to-them game this year, be it store bought or sourced elsewhere. – aunt mommy
  3. Magazine Subscription. I picked up a magazine from a bookstore, wrapped it in a flat gift bag and purchased the subscription (which was only $10), for my dad who is terribly hard to buy for. A gift for each month! – Dee
  4. Donation. A $20 donation to a worthwhile non-profit! Organizations are struggling these days with the economy so now’s a good time to give. – Will
  5. Gas. I have given out gas cards before. It’s a good stocking stuffer and is greatly appreciated. So many love the fact that a tank of gas (or portion of) is paid for by me (especially the younger cousins and friends) who are not that financially independent. A $20 card these days goes a long way. – Aman
  6. Movie Tickets. Can’t beat the pair of movie tickets at Costco. Add their favorite candy to get to $20. – Diane
  7. Cash. Well I know this sounds too simple, I give everyone a $20 bill. Gift cards, too many restrictions. Cards, too much, I hand write notes and slip a $20 bill for them. People appreciate hand written notes more. – Bobby
  8. Plants. Every year, I like to give the girls at work a living gift. For instance, last year, I happened upon evergreen shrubs clearance priced right before our Christmas gift exchange. This year, I’ve already found the nicest poinsettias, and they are even grown locally! – Sara
  9. Entertainment book. I purchased a $20 entertainment coupon book for my frugal mother-in-law! Hundreds of dollars in savings in this one book and it supports my children’s elementary school as a fundraiser! – Kristine
  10. Flannel sheets. So we can turn the thermostat down a little bit! – Julie
  11. Trees. I have been donating money to the Arbor Day Foundation for years now. With your donation ($10 minimum), they send you cards that you can send to two people letting them know that a tree has been planted in their name. They make great (and frugal) gifts for the environmentalists on your list, or the people who don’t really want anything or who would rather you give the money to charities. It’s a great gift for individuals and the planet. – Stephanie
  12. Shoes. I bought my dad a pair of shoes from Kohl’s on clearance for $15, originally $50. So that should be nice. – Chris
  13. Craft project. I was also at a party, and instead of lots of items for the children, I brought a ton of stickers (from a factory outlet) and some blank cards and we made Christmas cards. -Valerie
  14. Bingo. This year my family has decided to play bingo for prizes instead of exchange gifts. Each person will bring one of their favorite items that cost between $5-$10. The item has to be something that will be consumed. So people will bring their favorite soap, favorite drink, favorite candy, etc. All the items will be set out on a table and the winner of each round of bingo will get to select their prize from all the items. A very fun experience that is inexpensive and doesn’t add more clutter to our house. – Jamie G.
  15. Stocks. I am thinking to gift a single stock of $15. – Phoenix2life
  16. Dinner. Buy a certificate from and dine out with a friend. -Wealthy Immigrant

More Holiday Gift Ideas

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Comments to Last Minute Frugal Gifts Under $20

  1. Several of these items would work great for stocking stuffers too!


  2. I’m sorry, but some of these are the worst gifts you can think of. It’s one thing to be frugal, its another to be cheap and lazy.

    Lottery tickets? The lottery is a tax on people who can’t do simple math and is a very lazy and unthoughtful gift, even for a co-worker.

    Magazine subscriptions? If the person likes that magazine, then they are probably subscribed to it already and these days most magazines are 90% ads, so all your giving is the gift of junk mail for the next year.

    Donation? While I love charities and believe everyone should give, forcing someone to give in lieu of a gift is very arrogant. What message does this gift say ” I would rather give to this cause than to think of you ” very nice.

    Cash? while I agree its better than a gift card for whatever store you happened to be at that day, its very impersonal and doesn’t really give a “happy holiday’s” type of message.

    Flannel Sheets? Unless they specifically ask for sheets, giving them something for their bed is really not somewhere you should go.

    Trees? – See Donations

    Shoes? Again, unless asked for, or its for a spouse and you KNOW they’ll love them… just stay away.

    Stocks? really? You’re going to give a gift that may or may not fit in with a persons investment profile, that is a pain to get rid of and right now is likely to go down in value quickly.

    Don’t mean to be rude or anything, but when you post a list of frugal gifts to give… they should also be somewhat practical.


  3. I can top it. How about free seasons greetings to loved ones, friends and coworkers that you won’t be seeing over the holidays?I would like to suggest VOIKE for a free last minute gift. Voike allows you to send a recorded holiday message, pictures, links and text to love ones, friends and people who you might forget about around the world. Voike is a social networking site that really gives uses their own private PHONE COMPANY housed in a Social Site like Facebook, only much better. The service is new and so is offered completely for free. Don’t panic – get on and make this the most memorable season of giving ever by sending a heartfelt greeting in your own words.


  4. I have to disagree with Kris.

    While I’m greedy and would certainly love to get something, I’ve received enough bad gifts in my life that if someone isn’t sure what to get me, a charitable donation would be preferable.

    Magazine subscriptions: A lot of crafters would love to get (or extend) a magazine. Just a caution, though, check with another craft person who does the same type of work. Some of those mags are completely awful for anyone not into kitsch.

    also you could get them a gift card at (and if you go thru ebates you’ll get 26% back) so they can choose their own subscriptions.

    But if your family/friends are being frugal, chances are, they’ve cut a lot of their subscriptions. I love the tawdry gossip in Us, but won’t spend the money for it. If someone gave it to me, I’d be thrilled — plus I’d think of them whenever I got an issue.

    I’ve never been big on the idea of lottery tickets as anything more than a stocking stuffer (if you don’t win, phooey, if you do win, the giver would be pretty upset). But I think people would treat it with the whimsical intent it deserves.

    Shoes you do have to be careful with, but if you know what the person likes (and get a gift receipt) shoes are pretty universally needed.

    My hubby and I love getting movie GCs. We can’t afford the films normally.

    I think the entertainment book and board games are great! Board games can bring family or friends together for a cheap night of fun.


  5. Also, for last-minute frugal gifts (if you can find two other folks) you can buy someone a massage for $20 each.

    And for the Star Wars geek in your life (I know there are a few in mine) most toy stores have a bunch of kinds of light sabers for $20 or less: spring-loaded, light-up, etc.

    Finally, find a nice picture of you (for parents) or a great group shot and go to Joanns or Michaels to get a nice frame. Then get a copy of the picture from Sam’s Club or Walgreen’s for about $1. My hubby is giving my FIL a picture of us at our wedding with hubby’s grandmother (recently deceased) on one side and hubby’s grandfather (long deceased) from FIL’s wedding day on the other.


  6. Great ideas! Thanks for reminding me that I need to buy lotto tickets for the stockings. 🙂

    Happy Christmas!

    money funk

  7. I totally agree on the magazine subscription route: that’s a great present that can really keep on giving month after month. Just find something the person is really passionate about, do the research, and get a well-respected mag.

    And don’t give too many at once! I have my wife three magazine subscriptions at a time and she never has time to read them, it’s a little overwhelming!

    Writer’s Coin

  8. Kris,

    It’s very easy to criticize anything, especially gifts under $20.

    Name whatever you’d like, I can find the negative.


  9. These are all great ideas. Maybe Kris has some better ideas that she could share with us. But in the meantime thanks for the post, we all need last minute gift ideas aka stocking stuffers.


  10. @ Abigaile, I did make an assumption that if someone wanted a magazine subscription then they would just get it themsleves… I do realize that some people have chosen not to because of tight budgets and if you know someone really wants a specific magazine, then I would agree that it would be a great gift. I was only speaking from my experience of receiving a magazine subscription as a gift that I don’t ever read and am just not interested in. I also agree that lottery tickets do make great stocking stuffers, but I guess I took the topic too literal when I read “gifts” as I don’t consider stockings as “gifts”.

    @ Nate, be careful of making assumptions about the spelling of peoples names. Where I live, many guys spell Kris with a “K”.

    I am sorry my comments did come across as rude, but I don’t believe the things I listed in my previous post are practical gifts ( unless you draw names and got the name of someone you don’t like ). I mean, I can’t imagine giving my girlfriend, parents, sister or even my co-workers a card that says a tree has been planted in thier name… but then again as I think about it, I could imagine giving that to my brother-in-law.


  11. Before people argue about material goods, I think we should all agree that its not really about the gift or actual value but the THOUGHT of being considered by another for a gift.

    This is the time to share with loved one rather than dissect what is a “crap” present or what is valuable.

    I think we all have got our share of gifts we may not really have wanted or needed, but the fact that another person thought of us is a present enough.

    Happy Holidays.


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