How to holiday gift without breaking your budget (or looking cheap)

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Nothing breaks a budget quite like the holidays. There are expenses for days: travel, decor, the roast beast. But there's also pressure to buy "good" gifts, often for people you could probably leave off your list. It's hard to eschew presents entirely (though if you're interested, we have tips on how to here). But it's possible to ace gift-giving without spending all the money in your bank account (and then some). Here's how.

1. Remember, it's the thought that counts

Corny, we know, but here's the thing: People won't think too much about a present's price if it's clear some thought went into it. To keep that from becoming a project ...

2. Suggest a Secret Santa

Especially if your extended family has doubled in size recently. Chances are, they rather buy and receive one nice gift than a bunch of generic ones, too. If not ...

3. Find a meaningful (yet frugal!) gift with mass appeal

A hack I've decided to put to good use this year by buying almost everyone on my list a one-line-a-day diary for about $10 to $15. So, yeah, choosing something inexpensive you think will resonate with your family and friends saves money ... and time.

4. Consider do-it-yourself gifts

Homemade gifts are thoughtful by nature, and thanks to Pinterest plus mason jars (around 70-cents a pop), they're easier and more affordable to pull off than ever before. Add a personal touch to stock DIY gifts by incorporating household recipes, pictures or favorite sayings.

5. Go with gift baskets

Spend less with more by filling reusable baskets with stocking stuffer-esque items like chocolate, ornaments, candles and/or wine — many of which you can buy in bulk.

6. Gift-wrap like a boss.

Dress up inexpensive gifts by spending a little extra on thick wrapping paper, handmade tags that can double as ornaments and cloth ribbons (or burlap strings and pine cones, if you're feeling rustic).

7. Buy books for everyone

Or, say, paperweights. Because according to research from the University of Oxford, people tend to perceive heavier items as more expensive.

8. Shop with last year's unused gift cards

Drive down the net cost of more expensive gifts by finally putting the gift cards hanging out in your sock drawer to good use.

9. Cash in credit card rewards

Consider this another way to control costs if you feel obligated to go big. Apply points, miles or cash back as a statement credit or shop with them directly through your issuer's rewards portal.

10. Skip shipping charges

Here's where Amazon Prime comes in handy, though plenty of retailers will ship for free if you spend a certain amount of money. Plus ...

11. Free Shipping Day is Dec. 15

So, if you don't want to bust your budget meeting free shipping minimums, place your orders then. You can find a list of participating retailers on (P.S. You can also just head to the mall to avoid shipping fees. Many retailers let you pick out the items you want online and then pick up in-store, as well.)

12. Don't check out without searching for a coupon code

Websites like RetailMeNot track them down for you, while browser plug-ins like Honey apply them directly at checkout.

Want more holiday shopping tips? We've got a crib sheet to get you through the season right here.

Image: Paul Bradbury