7 Thoughtful, Cheap Birthday Gifts to Surprise Family and Friends

Birthdays have a tricky way of popping up and busting the budget without warning. It's tempting to think that birthdays only happen once a year, but as you know, there can be one every month or more. After all, you have a celebration for each kid, every parent, all siblings and of course, your partner. And that's just your immediate family. Branch out to honor best friends, business colleagues or teachers and you have yourself a regular line item.

Like most things though, a little creativity can go a long way. Cheap birthday gifts used to mean low-quality, but with these 7 ideas, you can celebrate the people closest to you while saving loads.

  1. Hidden treasures. At first glance, the gaudy costume jewelry in the case at most resale shops isn't birthday gift material. But if you use your creativity, you can transform a few otherwise ugly pieces into the perfect charm bracelet. All you need is a scrap of fabric and a few inexpensive charms from under the glass display. To start, simply cut your fabric into strips and begin braiding it. Work the charms into your braided cord, spacing them apart evenly. Finish by tying the ends together and voila! A personalized bracelet. An easy and inexpensive birthday gift your friend will love.
  2. A collection of "Remember When"s. What you don't spend in cash on this one, you'll make up for in mental energy. Throughout the year, keep a small notebook with a running list of heartwarming or funny times you enjoyed with your loved one. When their birthday arrives, you've already done the legwork. Now, simply wrap it, tie a ribbon around it, and present your treasure.
  3. Frame a profound quote. Have you ever noticed resale shops are full of beautiful picture frames? Make the most of one for a great birthday gift. Here's how: Find a relevant quote that applies to your loved one, celebrating life or about the passage of time. Use your word processor to fancy it up with clip art, colors and formatting. Then, simply frame it in a thrift store picture frame or window box.
  4. Give 'em a show. Using a free app like PhotoSnack, arrange a handful of photos into a slide show, add some music from the genre they love, and send it off. For ideas of images, go beyond pictures of you and them; include the person's favorite sports hero, a picture of their "happy place," and a shot that represents a beloved hobby. Add text (that celebrates them) to a few of the images, like, "Can you believe it's been a year?" and "Happy Happy Birthday!"
  5. Personalize his or her morning cuppa. Encourage your buddy to replace his or her morning coffee shop latte with home brew to benefit both his or her waistline and wallet. First, buy a plain white ceramic coffee mug for a buck or two. Use a permanent marker to scribble unique-to-them sentiments, well wishes or a cheeky coffee cliche. To make your artwork permanent, bake the mug in your oven for 12 minutes at 350. Whether they are tea or coffee person, they'll love their new personalized message-on-a-mug. And so will your pocketbook.
  6. The gift of time. Kids especially crave quality time, but many adults also enjoy a downshift with friends. Send the message "I have time for you" by making a simple game of tic-tac-toe. All you need is a permanent marker and ten flat stones, each about the size of a quarter. On five of the stones, draw an "X." On the other five, an "O." Draw a simple hashtag grid on the outside of an odd sock to upcycle it into a customized tic-tac-toe game -- one that holds all its pieces inside!
  7. Give bogus cohesion. The toy section of a resale store is especially befuddling since there's not a "complete set" of... well, anything. Put this quirk to use for you by grabbing a few mismatched plastic action figures, cars, and animals. Then, get a $2 can of spray paint in your child's favorite color. Following the instructions (and safety precautions) on the back of the can, completely paint each toy the same color. Then, hot glue them to individual wooden blocks to establish a "set," and present them to your birthday girl or boy.

As personal development guru, Brian Tracy, once said, "...the greatest gift you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance." Not expensive lavishness. Not elaborate shows of material generosity. And certainly not gifts that overextend you financially. Approach each birthday with plenty of time to get creative, and you'll find cheap birthday gifts can be the best, most thoughtful ones of all.

Image Source: Flickr

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