The holidays are coming, but they aren’t the only drain on your finances this time of year. Utility costs go up, too. Sometimes, it seems like the gifts people are buying are not ones that have a lot of thought put into them but simply allow another person to be checked off the list. It can be a real balancing act trying to buy gifts for everyone on your list while still making ends meet, but you can keep it meaningful and heartfelt without breaking the bank. Here are some frugal gift ideas that can help stretch your budget and give your loved ones gifts with meaning:

For Kids

  • Instead of buying another toy that will end up broken, give the gift of time. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, moms and dads can give the gift of special time doing something your child loves doing, from going to a movie to spending an afternoon bowling. Simply create a gift certificate the child can redeem.
  • Books or a magazine subscription. Not only is this the kind of gift that keeps giving, but you’re promoting brain power.

For Grandparents and other special relatives

  • If you have family members who seem to already have everything, give them something special like a family video, photo book, or photo calendar. You can make them using your home computer without needing a lot of technical skill.
  • Homemade Christmas ornaments that you and your children make together not only let you bond but provide gifts for family members that they’ll cherish for years to come.
  • If you have a couple with young children in your family, babysit! There’s no better gift.

Friends, Neighbors, Teachers

  • Rather than spend a lot of money trying to say thank you to everyone who touches your life, give them something more special: a tray of your famous fudge, or a book of your favorite family recipes.
  • Make homemade coupon books with coupons redeemable for free lawn raking or snow shoveling; offer to help grade papers for your child’s teacher. The gift of time is always precious.

The holidays aren’t about how much money you spend or how high you can get the limit on your credit card. It’s about taking that moment to let the people who touch our lives know how much we appreciate them. Let your gifts show them how you feel.