Jul 17

How to get cheap gifts that look expensive

Reading Time: 6 mins

There are so many more times when you have to give presents now that we’re all looking for ways to get cheap gifts that look expensive.

From anniversaries, to Mother’s Day, to office birthdays (often people you barely know) to Valentine’s Day and the misery of Christmas, there are far too many occasions now where we feel obliged to give at least a card if not a full-blown, impressive-looking present.

So how do you look generous without having to go overdrawn or take out a huge loan to cover it?


Too many people to give presents to? You’re not alone

Santa lying on back covered in presents

According to a survey by we are feeling burdened by the number of occasions we feel we need to buy presents for. They found that 68% of us feel more societal pressure to buy presents for more calendar events like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

We spent £21 billion on Christmas festivities last year, we send 300 million birthday cards each year and over a third of us spend more on gifts than we can really afford.

So, what can we do about it? Here are some ideas.


How to get cheap gifts that look expensive for women

 Man giving woman a surprise gift

If you have a bit of time on your hands and some creativity, a great way to give a gift that looks more expensive than it is is to make a hamper for them.

See our article here about how to make hamper to give or sell. As you can see, you can put all sorts of things in them from homemade cakes to smellies from the pound shop and markets, to just plain sweets. It’s all about the presentation – the cellophane, the ribbon, the flowers. You can make something for a few pounds that looks like £50.

Use cashback sites where you get money back for purchases. We love TopCashback. With these you sometimes get so much cashback that your gift ends up costing nothing.

If they’re a bit of a culture-vulture you could give them an annual membership of something like the National Trust.

Keep an eye on local charity shops through the year. Not only do they often have well-priced new things but they have secondhand items that look new. Buy them when you see them and keep them in your presents box (see below for more details of that) so that you can give them later when birthdays and Christmas come up.


How to get cheap gifts that look expensive for men

Woman giving shocked man a present

If you have the time and will make the effort, it’s worth hanging around outside a football stadium or rugby club to get your male friend’s idol to sign a t-shirt, ball, cap or whatever you can afford to buy. It might involve some extra time hanging around but it would make an ordinary present suddenly very valuable…at least to him.

Again, use cashback sites where you get money back for purchases. We love Quidco. With these you sometimes get so much cashback that your gift ends up costing nothing.

Experience presents like those offered by Red Letter Days are often good for men and these companies regularly have special offers so check to see if they’re having a sale now.

Watch the sales through the year. Buy Christmas presents in the summer sales and birthday presents in the January sales. Keep them in your presents box for later when these birthdays and anniversaries come round.


Free presents that look impressive

Use your points

Boots advantage card banner

Do you have a Boots Advantage card, Avios, Nectar points or similar?

Many of us never get round to using them but you could save them through the year and use them to buy Christmas or birthday presents.

give the gift of your time

Gifts and stopwatch

If you’re struggling to afford anything right now, give the gift of your time. This is often much more acceptable to older people or those who have enough worldly goods already.

Do a nice card for them and offer them some free hours of babysitting, or a day out to the shops, or a days-worth of ironing. Think of what you’re good at and what they really need and offer that. Who wouldn’t want someone else to do their ironing for them??

Use freebie sites

FREE Aldi Mamia

There are amazing free gifts offered through the year on freebie sites – like MoneyMagpie Freebie newsletters which you can sign up to for free here. Make sure you check these regularly to see what’s on offer. Even if it isn’t something you personally want, you could add some of the things to your presents box for giving to others later on.

Christmas presents and cards – how to do that on the cheap

Christmas Presents

We have a great article here on how to have a free Christmas. There are loads of ideas there for presents and cards to give for nothing.

Christmas is a ridiculously expensive time for most of us, so take a multi-lateral approach – get your friends and family together and suggest that you do a ‘secret santa’ in groups so that you just buy one good present for someone and not lots of silly little ones that people won’t want.

Or, suggest to your friends that instead of buying each other presents, you just all go out for a dinner or to a show that you all want to see. You all buy your own and that’s your present to and from each other. That way you have the fun of a night out together but you don’t overspend. in fact, make it cheaper by waiting until January to do it. There will be lots of offers in restaurants and theatres unlike December and New Year where they all add a naught to the price!

Greetings cards can cost a crazy amount at Christmas so get round that – and save the planet – by buying an annual subscription to where you can send as many cards as you like all year round.


how to save for christmas and birthdays

Piggy banks in gift box

It might sound obvious but if you save a small amount regularly, over time you will have enough – or nearly enough – to buy presents and fun stuff for special occasions when they come around.

There are various ways you can do it:

  • Save a specific coin every time you have it in your purse: it might be that you put all your £2 coins into a jar through the year and then use those to pay for Christmas, or even every 50p coin. It doesn’t matter which one you choose but if you do it through the year, by December you will have a decent amount of cash saved.
  • Set up a standing order at the beginning of the month: just come up with an amount you can afford – maybe £5 a month – and set up a standing order from your bank account to go into a special savings account (just pick one of the ones here that you like) and don’t touch it until Christmas or a special anniversary that you’re saving for. Actually, you could set up several different savings accounts and put £5 or £10 into each every month so that you have enough saved for 1) your annual holiday, 2) repairs of household appliances when they need it, 3) birthdays and anniversaries. You might have other things you want to save up for like car repairs or a new kitchen. Set up as many savings accounts as you like, do a standing order each month and after a few months you’ll be surprised at just how much you have.
  • Keep a ‘presents box’ into which you put things you’ve bought in the sales, in markets and at charity shops through the year. When a birthday or Christmas comes up you can dip into the box for a relevant present. You can also put ‘re-gifting’ presents here, i.e. put in gifts other people give you that you don’t want. Just make sure you don’t give the present back to them!


Sign Up – Newsletter
Make money My Survey


Leave a Reply

Notify of

Related Articles


Make Money and Save Money

ideas for everyone

Send this to a friend