College Christmas on a Budget

Christmas is all about love and family, but it’s also about presents. I’ve taken the time to go onto Etsy and find the best of the best handmade or customized gifts for a few people on your list for under $20 each.

There are plenty of people to give gifts to during the Christmas season, but how many are we actually willing to splurge on? For me personally, I think the only person I’d go wild for Christmas for is myself, but, realistically, can I do that on my current budget? Probably not. I went on Etsy and Pinterest to find some handmade and DIY gifts from the heart for our closest people for under $20 each (without tax and shipping). 

For me, I have a circle of people I have to buy for, but considering I don’t have any brothers or a boyfriend, I’m going to be asking some friends for inspiration, but, nevertheless, here are some gifts for the mandatory recipients for under $20. 

1. Mom

For moms everywhere, the number one thing they want is usually just peace and quiet, but since my family has nine dogs, that’s not happening for mine. A few things I found are from Etsy, but feel free to shop anywhere.

  • Christmas ornaments are always a great option for mom, but if your mom is like mine, no bulk-made ornament is going to cut it. So, on Etsy, I found— for $12.00— a handmade gnome ornament. Tell me that’s not adorable and that your mom won’t love it. You can even choose the beard color! The company that makes these cuties is landofnisse based in Minnesota and can be found through Etsy with a bunch of gnome-inspired decor. I’m eighteen and gnome decor just speaks to me… is that bad?


  • Do you know what my favorite thing to buy is? Anything I can sleep on. And you know who I got that from? Mom. Why not get her a pillow? It’s hand-embroidered by HillaryMasonDesigns in Indiana through Etsy and it’s your own message in your own handwriting! Now, the pillowcase with the design is $20.00 but it does go above $20 when you add a pillow and increase the size. For $20, you can get a 12 x 12 pillowcase in one of a variety of colors and font colors. Catch me on Etsy waiting for a sale, so I can get like twenty of them.


2. Dad

If your dad is anything like mine, golf and crossword puzzles are the holy grail, but sometimes I want to give something a little more special to my old man, plus I’m not twenty-one so I can’t exactly buy him a keg or something. 

  • I think there’s a stereotype that all dads love to grill… and I think it’s correct. Etsy found me a customizable grill set with three grill/meat tools (I don’t know what they’re called). Usually the personalized set is $21.25 but (as of the day I write this) they are on sale for $17.00, meeting my under $20 requirement. The set is sold by YourWeddingPlace on Etsy is currently a best seller. I don’t know how long the sale will last but if you want to splurge over budget by $1.25, I think dad is worth it. 

  • Let’s talk golf. My dad is an AVID golfer and he happens to always need the little golf tees that he keeps breaking in half with his driving club. So, why not give the gift that he can use for the things he breaks without feeling guilty? I found a personalized gold tee holder with an embroidered word--most likely a name. It is $12.00 and made by SewCrazyFun from the USA.

3. Sister

My sister is hard to shop for. I don’t know if it’s specifically my sister or all sisters but she’s a tough one to really impress. Of course she gives a smile and a “thank you” even if the gift is horrendous, but I strive to make her cry—in a good way—over her gift from me. So far, the only gift that’s made her cry tears of joy is a customized keychain I got her of her dog. But we have to top that this year. We just have to. 

  • I know I keep bringing up my sister, but that’s because she’s my only point of reference for a sibling and she is, indeed, difficult to shop for. But anyways, my sister gets embarrassed when I make a scene, so she’s not a fan of the iconic sibling items like matching tees or sweatshirts, but if something is sister-oriented and not supposed to be worn in public, she might just like it. ElegantQuotes from London, UK has an adorable cosmetic bag that literally says “best sister ever” underneath the sister’s name. You can pick out the color of the bag and the font color and of course the name. (They don’t only say “Michelle” like in the model photo). If your sister is a makeup lover--or even just a makeup liker--she’ll enjoy a nice bag to keep her lovely items in.

  • Every pair of siblings has a special handshake or gesture. In “Friends,” Monica and Ross had two fists hit on the sides in a rude gesture akin to the middle finger in their language. That’s not quite what my sister and I do, but to each her own. My sister and I pinky swear to set any promises in stone, so why not get matching keychains with hands doing a pinky promise? The bronze keychains without initials or custom inscriptions are, together, $7.95, and they are precious. They are made in Utah by JewelryEveryday and, once again, you can find them on Etsy.

4. Brother

I don’t have a brother but from what I’ve heard, I’m not really missing out. I hear the horror stories of the younger sister getting all kinds of scary treatment from the boys. But as we mature and grow up, sometimes your brother can become a great friend to you, so you may or may not want to give him a gift.

  • Something I found on Etsy may not be the most thoughtful gift, but, hey, it’s funny. I’m just going to cut right to the chase. It’s a frog instrument. It’s five inches of red percussion for children, and it CRACKS me up. It’s $1.50, so you can spend more on everyone else who was actually nice to you in your childhood, and if you’re feeling generous, get your brother six of them. For six frogs, it’s only $5.99. This amazing product comes from Illinois by TreasureTroveStoreUS. I absolutely adore this item, and even though I don’t have a brother… I’m thinking of getting one for me, myself, and I.

  • However old your brother is, if he’s sophisticated, he’s going to need a bow tie. By MyManGifts on Etsy out of location unknown, we have a city skyline bow tie that can come in twelve different colors. As I write this, the adult size without a gift box is on sale for $14.99 from $19.99. 25% off! This gift just speaks to me, and if I had a brother or boyfriend, you better believe he’s getting a different color bow tie every year.

4. Boyfriend

Just like how I don’t have a brother, I also do not have a boyfriend. So with that sad tidbit said, here’s a few gifts for a boyfriend if you have one. 

  • From my favorite website--once again--Etsy, we have an engraved ornament with a picture of the happy couple. This one comes from a long way too. It comes from WoodenHouseArt in Belarus. The wood is birch and it is handcrafted in Belarus then mailed internationally from there. Only $15.00! Ninety-eight people have given this product a five star rating already, and it way only posted in September of 2019!

  • I was talking to my friend Abbey--whom actually has a boyfriend--and she told me that a keychain would be super cute. So… tada! By MemorableKeeps in Washington, we have a dog tag-like keychain with an engraved picture on it. It could be a picture of you and your boyfriend together or just a cute selfie of yourself. This keychain is $15.97 and it has five star reviews written all over its Etsy page. I got my mom one from a different shop a while back because I saw it on Instagram like a sucker. It was, I think, double the price of this one and took about two months to come to my house because it was from China… SO! If you’re looking for something like that, please, please, please don’t do what I did and trust a random website.

5. Best Girlfriend

My favorite gifts to give are to girls my age because, well, I know what my age wants. All girls generally want is either food or something from the heart. College-age especially wants food though. So, while the Etsy gifts are cute, if you truly can’t find something for your bff… food.

  • By Narintorn based in Maryland, we have an adorable little message in a bottle. For $18.95, it’s a custom photo and comes in a miniature mailbox. It is one of the most precious things I’ve ever seen, and I go on Etsy and Pinterest almost every day. I think it’s an amazing gift for anyone you’re close to because it’s simple while also being fabulously adorable.

  • Here’s the final gift! By BeUniqueGiftShop, we have an 11 ounce white mug with two people side by side in a hug. Customizable for only $14.42! You can also include your own message on the other side and your names under the drawn photo. It’s a BESTSELLER with a five star rating by over 500 people! I don’t know of a more reliably consistent gift. 



There you go! A couple gifts for the mandatory gift receivers for under 20 bucks! But what you always want to remember is this: Christmas gifts are all fun and loving, but never forget that no matter what is given and gotten, the people you’re with are all that really matters.