25 Thoughtful and Frugal Personalized Gift Ideas


Personalized gifts are a great way to show others that you took the time and effort to find or make a thoughtful gift just for them. Such tokens of affection are even better when they can be done on a budget. Here are some customized gift ideas that will please both giver and receiver. (See also: 25 Gifts You Can Make Today)

1. Home Movie DVD

This is a great gift for distant relatives or friends who you may not see regularly. Put together a DVD of home movies using any of the easy to use, and often free, DVD creation software packages available. You can also decorate the cover of the blank DVD with photos or art of your choice for a nice touch.

2. Locket

For less than $10, you can make someone a necklace with a locket, including a picture that gives this gift extra special meaning. Search for cheap chains and small lockets at craft stores, jewelry supply stores, or dollar stores. Or, repurpose an old chain you have in your jewelry box. You can score cheap lockets by searching online at Etsy and discount sites, in addition to browsing flea markets, vintage stores, and thrift shops.

3. Hand-Designed Napkins

With just a small container of fabric paint, a fabric stamp or stencil, and some basic cloth napkins found on sale at any home store or discount store, you can create an affordable, personalized gift. Use your stamp or stencil to monogram each napkin, or find a stamp design that has meaning to your recipient, like tennis racquets for the tennis lover or nautical designs for the sailor in your life. This gift can easily be tackled for under $15 with smart shopping.

4. DIY Massage Coupons

This is good for those who don't want to spend anything but time on a gift. Make massage coupons by writing or printing your own handmade massage certificates redeemable by your loved one. Try doing a few certificates that are good for one 20-minute back rub each.

5. Inscribed Golf Balls

Golfballs.com has all kinds of options for monograms and personalized messages that can be inscribed on a pack of golf balls. They carry all the popular brands, including affordable options under $15 for a pack of one dozen.

6. Recipe Book

Purchase a cheap three-ring binder, and collect your recipient's favorite recipes. Print out recipe ideas from any website or insert recipes from magazines or elsewhere into plastic covers. Think of any themes or details that would be useful to your recipient, like 10-minute dinners for busy moms and dads, unique desserts for the baker, low-carb recipes for diabetics, or fun party drinks for the bachelor, for example. Make a personalized front page with a special message, and you've got a great and affordable gift.

7. Flowers in an Upcycled Vase

Repurpose a cool-looking empty wine bottle or large jar, like those for tomato sauce or pickles. Upcycle your bottle or jar into a nice vase by cleaning it and removing the label. Add a little ribbon (raffia looks great and is easy to work with) to hide expiration dates or scratches, and fill with some economical grocery store flowers. If you have your own garden, use your own stems. Tie a nice tag to your ribbon with your recipient's name and the name of the flower for a very thoughtful and pretty gift.

8. Monogrammed Journal

This is an easy one to tackle, as pretty journals can be found anywhere from pharmacies to discount home stores to stationery stores. Invest in an affordable journal and some alphabet stickers, a letter stamp, or a monogram stencil, and you can easily imprint the journal's cover with the recipient's initials. Or if you just want to click and buy, check out CafePress, which offers a variety of monogrammed journals for under $15.

9. Photo Puzzle

The photo puzzles from sites like Shutterfly are nice gifts to give to families, kids, or grandparents who like doing jigsaw puzzles and would appreciate piecing together a sentimental photo of your choice. Puzzles can be purchased for under $25, but you can get bigger savings during sales and free shipping promotions, which happen often.

10. Customized T-Shirt

Don't worry if you can't sew. If you have an iron, this gift is an easy one to make. Purchase a cheap solid color T-shirt with your recipient in mind. Then visit a craft store for great iron-on labels of your choice. I made a pink Hello Kitty tee for my daughter and put her name on it, which cost about $7 in total and was all the rage with the preschool crowd.

11. Wedding Party Gifts Beyond the Wedding

A great place to find affordable personalized gifts is on wedding sites. Whether you are using your gift for a wedding or not, many of the personalized items are great gifts for any occasion. Check out the bridesmaid and groomsmen gifts on a budget, as there are always good options. I found a cute makeup bag on sale at David's Bridal for $5, with free monogramming, which would make a wonderful gift for many occasions.

12. DIY Planters

I am a big fan of decorating my own planters; all you need is a small sized terra cotta planter, some outdoor acrylic paint, and your imagination. Terra cotta pots cost anywhere from $1 to $5 for sizes eight inches and below, and a small tube of acrylic paint can be purchased for a couple of dollars. Paint your pot in any fashion you see fit, whether freehand, with stencils, or embellishments — you name it. Add a personal touch like a monogram or symbolic design for your recipient to make it special.

13. Framed Black and White Photo

A framed photo is a no-brainer in terms of personal gifts, but try sprucing up this simple idea into a very chic and economical gift option. Find a special scenery shot of a place your recipient loves, like a special beach from a trip, a landscape from where they grew up, or any significant scene. For a few dollars on any online photo site, you can enlarge this image and turn it into a black and white photo. Find a cheap frame at a dollar or discount store, and you have just made some personalized, classy wall decor or a nice tabletop accent.

14. DIY Bookends

A simple and lovely gift, bookends can be made easily for just a few dollars. You can find the supplies at any craft or hardware store. All you need is some wood glue and two rectangular wood pieces, which can be glued together in the shape of an "L" for each bookend. Paint your bookends and include custom details such as monograms.

15. Custom Cookie Plate

Everyone loves cookies, so why not bake your recipient's favorites or your own go-to favorite. You can hit a dollar store to buy a ceramic plate to put your homemade treats on. This works great especially around the holidays. Cover your treats in colorful cellophane wrap with a bow, and add a nice tag with a special message and the recipe.

16. Monogrammed Smartphone Case

There are plenty of custom smartphone cases that cost upwards of $50. With a little creativity you can make one of your own. Check out discount stores or electronic stores to score a cheap smartphone case. Invest in some decorative alphabet stickers at a stationery store or craft store, and apply to the case.

17. Personal Gift Basket

You don't need to buy an over the top gift basket to show someone you care. Find a basket and fill with the treats your recipient loves most. Some ideas include candies, assorted teas, or jams. Or, try one similar to what I made for my dad, which included his favorite snacks, such as chips, olives, nuts, and dips. If you concentrate on small food items, you can easily put together something nice from your local supermarket for $10 to $15 that will speak directly to your recipient.

18. Jewelry With Meaning

If you have a vintage piece of jewelry or something handed down from a relative, pass it on to someone in the family. I recently took apart two drop-earrings I had from my grandmother and transformed them into two necklaces for my sister and me to have. I simply removed the earring backing and used the charm as the pendant for my necklace. My mother-in-law also gave me a beautiful ring several years ago, which she had always worn as a young girl and had been saving for her first daughter-in-law. It meant a lot to both of us when she gave it to me.

19. A Tree

A tree sapling can be a very thoughtful gift in place of flowers. Baby trees can be planted to commemorate a child's birthday, moving into a new home, a graduation, or any big milestone. You can find tree saplings for under $5 at the Arbor Day Foundation. Or, with a $10 donation to the organization, you can get a variety of 10 tree saplings. A tree gift is a big win for you, the recipient, and the environment. Attach a personal message to your sapling for your recipient, who, in the years to come, will always remember your gift as the tree grows.

20. DIY Pillow Cases

You can find cheap pillowcases of all sizes at discount home stores and online for under $10. Purchase an iron-on monogram for a quick-to-make option. If you don't mind sewing, consider the pillow kits that are often sold at craft stores. These kits often cost under $15 and contain two pillowcases and a full embroidery design that can be easily followed with the option to customize initials or names.

21. In-Home Fine Dining

A nice way to celebrate any special occasion, like an anniversary or milestone birthday, is to make your home into an elegant restaurant dining room. We do this each year for my parents' anniversary, since my husband is a great cook, and my parents love his food. Transform your dining table with fancy napkins, silverware, candles, background music, and a special menu listing what's in the evening's meal. You then act as cook and wait staff to serve a delicious and special dinner. If you really want to save some cash, try less expensive themes, like a tapas sampling or just dessert, instead of a multiple course meal.

22. Gardener's Gift Set

Collect a few basic garden supplies, such as a small hand shovel, spade, garden gloves, or garden scissors. Most of these items can be found for just a few dollars in discount home stores, dollar stores, craft stores, or hardware stores. You can add other nice items you find, like handmade, colorful garden markers and labels at Etsy or seed packets from a garden center for just a few dollars as well. Use a pail, green beach bucket (also a dollar store find), or other economical container to hold your goods. Complete the gift with a name label on the outside of your container.

23. Personalized Water Bottle

While a personalized water bottle may not seem very exciting, a durable water bottle is always a useful gift. Check out Oriental Trading's version of this classic customizable gift. With up to two lines of engraving, and at a price of just over $10, it's one of the cheapest custom aluminum bottles available.

24. Keepsake Box

Here's another craft store project that can be easily made for under $5. Buy a small wooden box with a lid from a craft store. Decorate your box and personalize with the recipient's name or initials. Give it to a special guy as a place to keep his watch or cufflinks or for a gal to store her jewelry. Little kids also love such boxes to guard their trinkets and hard won coins.

25. Talking Cards and Picture Collages

Another nice personal gift is the talking card. You can go a step further and make your own picture collage to include with your card. Find a small piece of poster board and start picking out pictures your recipient will love. For grandparents living far away, such gifts are a great way to see and hear their loved ones. When my daughter was just starting to speak, a recorded birthday card with some of her first words was very much appreciated by her great-grandmother, who adored this gift.

What are your favorite, frugal, personal gifts?

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Guest's picture

Nice list but I dont know anyone I could give a tree to. They would think I am pulling a prank on them. Maybe if they just had a kid I an I could come up with a great story. My wifey loves giving photos. People really enjoy vacation photos or those of a baby growing up.

Guest's picture

I love the tree idea. This might make a great gift especially for younger kids that can enjoy the tree growing as they age.

Guest's picture

I also really like the tree idea. In most cases for anniversaries and birthdays it is a great sort of time resistant gift. Well, that's of course if the one I am giving it to has more of a green thumb than me ;)

Guest's picture

Trees are a great idea for the right person. Please keep in mind the amount of work that a person will have to do once they receive the tree (planting, watering, shading, feeding, pruning, etc) and whether or not they have the time and the room for a tree. A tree might not be the best choice for your elderly grandparent or a child who moved to a loft apartment, for example. Some additional ideas include making a donation to a charity that the person enjoys, such as an animal rescue or research for a cure. Often, the charity will send a thank you gift to the person, like a water bottle or soft-sided cooler. I still have a picture of a whale that was saved in my name by a relative in the 80s. You might also take the person on a picnic to a meaningful nearby spot or make some phone calls to put together a party. Often the most treasured gifts are gifts that involve your time and sincerity rather than your money.

Guest's picture
I wanted a tree

I asked for a fruit tree when I was six. When my parents realized I was serious, I received a tree the next year for my birthday. We moved the year after that. The happy ending to the story is that a Bing maps search shows a large healthy tree where we had planted mine years ago.

Guest's picture
Sarah Jay

I made my parents personal slideshows this year - it's really great idea for a cheap (actually it costs you nothing but some time and creativity) and heart-warming gift for everyone you love. I made mine with this app http://slideshow-maker.com - it's super easy and failsafe way to make someone happy)

Guest's picture

Wow, so incredible list. It gave me many insights for future gifts for my friends. Ideas with tree is exciting, especially with regard to small children. I also always try to make gifts personalized and thoughtful.