I don’t know about you, but graduations, wedding showers, bachelorette parties, weddings, baby showers, and baptisms throw a giant wrench into my very tight budget. I love celebrating my friends and family. I love congratulating those I love on the milestones they are experiencing. Yet I also love not to eating Ramen noodles. I tried it once in college, thought it was gross and salty, and vowed never to be so broke that I couldn’t eat decent food.
Plus, I’m just going to come out and say it: some registry items are just WEIRD. One of my college friends put a toilet bowl scrubber on her wedding registry. Really!? Do you want to think of me every time you’re scrubbing the toilet!? Another put a purse. A PURSE!? How is your husband going to use that!?
Thus, I tend to go off registry when it comes to gifts. It allows me to be low budget, creative, and get my friends and family things they actually want but don’t think to ask for.
Warning: Contains affiliate links to Amazon. I’ll earn a small percentage if you buy on Amazon. However, it’s worth noting since putting Amazon links in 2 years ago, I’ve earned…$0.63. I’m really not expecting to make money here. If anything, you should buy from my friend Kelsey at Midwest Baby Creations. She’s a sweetheart and makes incredible stuff!
My brother snarkily did not enjoy the $15 giftcard I got him for his college graduation. And I snarkily told him I didn’t appreciate getting air for my college graduation gift. But I have found my cousins and friends have appreciated the books I got them.
I have two standard books I get for graduation gifts:
- The Big Picture: A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life by Dr. Christine Whelan – it’s essentially a workbook in figuring out your passion and purpose. It’s the book I wish I had at high school graduation.
- The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay – it’s a primer on your twenties and how to make good decisions. It’s the book I’m so thankful I found shortly after college graduation and bought over 15 copies for my friends.
I’m also a very big fan of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. It’s also great for a college graduate who needs to develop some habits in their life.
With these three books, I either buy them on Amazon whenever I need more items to get free shipping (because I have not caved and bought Prime). I also browse the book section at Goodwill whenever I’m there which is at least bi-weekly. Paperbacks at $0.99 there! Somehow, people do donate these books (the heathens!). I found a copy of The Big Picture at Goodwill and almost screamed in utter joy. That’s a savings of over $12!
Ok, I miiiiiiiiiiight be a little too thrifty, but whatever. I tithe on a tight budget somehow. Too, grad school and life don’t pay for themselves! Which brings me to:
Wedding Shower Gifts
Wedding showers are an excellent way to get to know the bride’s family and family-to-be in a lower key setting than a wedding. It’s also an excellent place to blow your budget. (This is why I am never insulted if I am not invited to one of these.)
This is a place where I will cross my fingers and hope a bride is registered at Bed, Bath and Beyond, Target, or Amazon.
- Bed, Bath and Beyond always has a 20% coupon flying around somewhere in my email trash box or has a sign-up here. I try to spend $25 or so at showers, so with 20% off coupons, I’ll look for a $30 gift.
- Target has 5% off with their RedCard (which I have but force myself to rarely use) or the app Cartwheel that allows for you to add an additional 5-30% off. Watching Cartwheel can lead to some great savings.
- Amazon has great prices in general, but there’s also this Google Chrome Extension made to save you money called Honey. It looks for the best deal on purchases, and has saved me $50 since I added it in several months ago. It’s listed as one of Time Magazine’s Top 10 Extensions, and I’ve been very impressed with it so far. It also works at Target.
Personally, I love it when a family member has a wedding shower because my dad’s side of the family (we’re huge) loves to give a tower of towels (which looks something like this) and asks that I can give what I can, which is about $25 dollars. Which brings me to:
Bachelorette Party Gifts
Call me a bad friend, but I refuse to buy my friends lingerie for bachelorette party gifts. I have a very vivid imagination, so the idea of trying to buy my friends something their almost spouse will like is too much for my active brain to handle. Plus, I mean, if the point of lingerie is for your significant other to take it off, I plan to ask for Bears pajama bottoms with a Vikings T-shirt if he’s a Packers fan like me. Or, maybe one of those Lisa Frank pajamas at Target.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m the friend that gives funny gifts or really nice pajamas/underwear. I tend to shop TJ Maxx, Nordstorm Rack, or the discount rack at Meijer when I grocery shop. (For you non-Midwesterners, Meijer is like Walmart but with higher quality items and more groceries).
If the invite specifically states lingerie, I still don’t listen and will buy a cute but comfortable pair of underwear with a bralette. Bralettes are amazingly comfortable and still rather cute. What my friend does with them is her thing.
Lingerie barely gets worn. That’s why I buy comfort. 😀
Which brings me to:
Ah, wedding gifts. The only standard thing I have for wedding gifts is that I prepare myself and pray for the couple with this St. Josemaría Escriva novena for the Family regardless of the couple’s faith and give a book on creating a successful marriage. These books include:
- The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
- The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman
- The Relationship Cure by John Gottman (his research on relationships is amazing, and thus two of his books are my go-to)
- The Cana Rosary by
- I also found a book on saints for family life, but I cannot find it anywhere else. So, there’s always the option of perusing the local Christian/Catholic book store.
Like wedding showers, I will cross my fingers and hope the couple is registered at Bed, Bath and Beyond, Target, or Amazon. That way, I can use the Bed, Bath, and Beyond 20% coupon (here), Target’s app Cartwheel, or the Google extension Honey at Target or Amazon.
From there, it depends on the couple. One of my favorite and most crafty gifts I gave over the summer to my friend Cece and her now husband who I talk about here. Cece and I loved to drink wine in college and whine about boys, so I really wanted to get her the stemless wine glasses on her registry.
Being the wine snob I am, I personally don’t like stemless because you get the wine warmer faster, but that’s me and my snobbery. I wanted to get her what she wanted.
That being said, sometimes when you’re a snob about something, you should tell your friends. Like I’m a snob about little squares on waffle irons like on this model compared to Belgian waffle makers like this one. Smaller boxes means less soggy waffles. My family has a thing about waffles, and we have found smaller boxes are far superior. My friend put a waffle maker on her registry, so I asked her if she had a preference. She said no, I told her to take it off and I’d get her a better one, and lo and behold, she likes it better. Sometimes, your snobbery will pay off. (And I literally went through my Amazon buying history to find the small box waffle maker. You’re welcome for less soggy waffles, world!)
I digress. Cece was registered at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, so I used my 20% coupon to get her stemless wine glasses and then as an off registry special touch (in addition to the book), I got coasters with Bible verses about drinking:
Thanks to Canva.com, a leftover money from a Groupon for Canvas on Demand (not my favorite photo printing site. I like Shutterfly better plus I get 5% cash back with my Discover card), and some creativity, I made these bad boys in about an hour.
At the bottom of the post are the original JPEGs for you to use as printables in whatever capacity you’d like! (Just please, if you share, be kind and link back.) I also have a printable for a set of coffee mugs, but none of my friends appear to be at the level of coffee snobbery necessary for them yet.
Something else I have been doing lately is framing wedding invitations as below:
Two of my friends say one of their favorite off-registry gift is their framed wedding invitation. Conveniently, my friends invitation matched this frame I had already found. Also conveniently, my friends who are getting married had this adorable phrase and picture on the back of theirs.
I peruse the frame section of Goodwill for nice frames when I’m there bi-weekly looking at books, and the bottom one was about $4. Total time and effort putting this together was 30 minutes and $4. But it looks and feels like at least a $20 gift! For the top one, the frame was $0.99! Doesn’t look quite as nice but still feels like a more expensive gift.
In conclusion, I use wedding registries for ideas and use them for part of the gift, but I love incorporating a personal touch. Obviously, with the wine glasses I included the custom coasters. With that waffle maker, I included a hand written family favorite recipe for waffles and if I knew of them at the time, I would have included one of these amazing silicone non-stick utensils. With cooking items, I pick a favorite and try to include recipes.
Personal touches on wedding gifts are a nice surprise. Not one of my friends have complained about my custom gifts, which brings me to:
Baby Shower Gifts
Being the very involved aunt of two adorable nephews, I can be a bit of a know-it-all when it comes to baby registries. I have never used a baby registry since using one for my own sister. This is pretty much my standard gift:
- Boogie Wipes
- Butt Paste – either the inexpensive stuff I can buy at a discount at work or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste Diaper Rash Ointment
- Baby Tylenol – either the inexpensive stuff I can buy at a discount or the Little Remedies brand
- A board book – it’s a new trend to bring a board book instead of a card (which I am a fan of!). I have a bunch of favorite books listed in this post, but some quick favorites are Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton, The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, Toot by Leslie Patricelli, and Baby Beluga by Raffi.
- Clothes – I shop the discount rack for gender-neutral onesies whenever I pick up groceries at Meijer. I also shop Amazon for deals on packs.
- Spit bib from my friend Kelsey at Midwest Baby Creations (she does great work, and I love the excuse to text with her!)
- Teething rattle – I usually go with an animal from the Green Tones collection that run from $6-10 and qualifies for free Amazon shipping. Green Tones has a variety of animals, making it very easy to match my spit bib and clothes. (I am SO excited for the elephant I have for the friend that matches the safari animal bib above!) However, I did once find an incredible Groupon for Mary and Kate rattles, which is pictured below:
Yes, I’m the friend that gives my friends a mini-pharmacy. You never know you need baby tylenol until it’s 3am, the kid won’t stop crying, and you need baby tylenol. I usually go tylenol instead of ibuprofen because children can take tylenol before ibuprofen. Depending on how hippie said friend is, I go with the Little Remedies brand because it is gluten, paraben, and dye-free. Usually when the kid starts teething, parents figure out the magic of modern medicine and will buy their own ibuprofen. Which brings me to:
A note on spit bibs and teething rattles: I never realized how much babies drool until I babysat my nephews regularly. These kids are like Niagara Falls! It just does not stop coming! Spit bibs protect their clothes so you don’t need a constant change. Plus, they’re pretty cute and can tie into a theme of the gift. If you can’t tell, I love themed presents. Wood rattles are great toys in general but are also a nice relief for teething pain. Which brings me to:
A note on clothes: Yes, buying newborn clothes is adorable, but it’s not practical. Depending on the size of that bundle of joy, they might fit in those clothes for a week. That makes no sense. When I give onesies and clothes, I rarely give newborn or 3-month clothes. Depending on when the kid is due, I’ll give long-sleeve body suits in either 3-6 or 6-9-month size because those things are USEFUL. People will give plan T-shirts to babies, which I have found in my ample babysitting hours are horribly useless. However, these body suits can go under them and under short-sleeved onesies. This is great for the perpetual cold of a Wisconsin fall to spring. Too, they’re great when the kid is ALMOST the next size, but needs a little cushion to fit into the next size up. I’m all about the long-sleeve onesie packs.
However, I’m also all about gender neutral 3-6 and 6-9 month clothes. This is when kids are teething and need a change multiple times a day. Buttons are better than zippers because buttons allow you to change the diaper and re-clothe without getting the kid naked. (Again, thinking of Wisconsin’s perpetual cold!) And I’m all about gender neutral because most friends I know want multiple kids, and you never know what the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 15th is going to be, and it’s helpful to have clothes that can go on a baby girl and boy.
Not one friend has complained about my off-registry baby shower gift, and most thank me for being so thoughtful. This is why I go with my standard baby shower gift, and I haven’t deviated much more from. Which brings me to:
I have one standard baptism gift: Jesus and the Twelve Dudes Who Did. It’s a board book, educational about the Christian faith, fun for the kid, and will melt your heart when the kid asks for it by name. My older nephew Sweet Pea called it “Cheezus” until he could say “Jesus.” #adorable
I got my younger nephew Noah’s Crew Came 2 by 2 for his baptism, and it just doesn’t seem to have the same appeal as Jesus and his twelve dudes for the two of them. However, it’s still a board book, educational, and fun for the kid.
And then I usually give money because paying for college is real, and saving ought to start young. 😀
Which brings me to graduation gifts again, 17.5 years later after the baptism gift. Please see above! 😉
Now for those printables as promised:
Hope this gives you some great ideas for some fantastic gifts without blowing your budget!
Have more ideas? I’d love to hear them in the comment section!