Fun & Frugal Gift Guide

Fun & Frugal Boys Gift Giving Guide from Serving Joyfully

{This post contains affiliate links. Graphics from My Cute Graphics. }

Since we’re coming up on the Christmas-shopping season, I thought I would share some tips for fun & frugal children’s gifts :) These tips are really for everyone, I just happen to be an all-boy mom :)

First of all, our overall take on Christmas is to strive for simplicity, and keeping the focus on Jesus. But, when it comes to gift-giving all year round, here are some basic principles I follow:

1. Skip the packaging

Seriously! Many times, for the price of the gift-bag/wrapping, you could get an extra gift. And then it just gets thrown away. What a waste.  As a general rule, I don’t spend money on wrapping paper or gift bags. Instead, I get creative!  Use a box, newspaper, comics, etc. I also save every gift bag and tissue paper that we receive gifts in, so that I can reuse them for future gifts. It takes practically no effort and saves money and waste–it’s a no brainer for me!  The exception is that after Christmas, when wrapping paper is on clearance for 75-90% off, I will stock up on some since it’s such a great deal. And, I have no qualms about using Christmas wrapping paper all year round.

2. Frugal isn’t cheap

It’s important to remember the old saying, “You get what you pay for.” Sometimes buying “cheap” items isn’t frugal at all–it’s wasting the money spent to purchase them! Try to focus on value if possible, and aim for quality, not quantity. And quality doesn’t have to be expensive. It might just mean buying a single $5 item instead of a few $1 items.  Sometimes, it means focusing on gifts that will be most useful, or that are timeless, and will bring enjoyment for years to come.

3. Activities

We love activities and projects. They are fun for our children, and many require mom or dad participation, so they lead to quality family time. Our favorite such service is Kiwi Crate. You can purchase an individual kit, or subscribe for 3 months, 6 months, or recurring by the month. These kits are fabulous and include materials for great projects, and there are add-on kits available for multiple children. For around $20 (less w/ subscription!), you get ALL materials to complete at least 2 projects and a couple afternoons of fun.


This isn’t an activity box, but it is a nice craft activity w/ little-to-no prep–foam mosaics. These are great (time-consuming) activities to keep little hands busy. The pieces are small, so they are also helpful for building those fine motor skills.

Serving Joyfully Gift Guide

4. Board Games

Note 11/2015: Amazon is currently having a great sale on board games! You can get lots of them for 25-65% off! Go here to see the games on sale.

We love anything that encourages family time, and board games are one of the best ways to spend time together as a family.  Bonus: Most board games are educational, whether kids realize it or not!  They learn problem solving, strategics, letters, numbers, counting, adding–all while spending quality time with the family. Here is a list of some of our favorite board games right now.

Games aren’t necessarily “cheap,” but they are frugal because of the amount of joy they bring a family. A man from church just gave us some great games that he played with his children 20-25 years ago, and now we are enjoying them, and will likely pass them on when we’re finished as well.

10 games to use for fun and learning, at Serving Joyfully

5. Family-Friendly Movies

Yes, I’ll open up the great TV debate. We definitely believe in moderation (and I’d give up my TV entirely in a heartbeat), but we do have family movie nights where we eat calzones or pizza in the living room, then we all snuggle up on the couch to watch a movie together. It’s a fun time, and we’re creating great family memories.

Furthermore, movies are a great investment. Even with the ever-changing and growing technology. We still watch videos on VHS that my parents purchased 25 years ago. I’d say that’s a good gift!

I am not a fan of veggie-tales, but my boys love the Hermie videos from Tommy Nelson. And, we love lots of Disney/Pixar movies! On our wishlist right now is the new Monsters University.

6. Books!

This should probably be #1, because I am such a hoarder lover of books! I believe so much in the importance of reading, and we love spending that time with our boys :) We just got the Little House series to read aloud during homeschool time and I couldn’t be more excited about it! We also love fun books, serious books, learning books, character teaching books, and basically all good, clean books :)  I especially love the new faith-centered Berenstain Bears books. Oh, and we can’t forget Dr. Seuss, of course! Okay, I’m stopping now. But, seriously, books are also a great investment.

You can get some great kids books here.

usborne facebook cover

7. Needed Items

Call me boring, but we always throw in some “needed” items as gifts and stocking stuffers. And, my boys love it. Seriously almost amusing how excited these kids get over a new toothbrush and toothpaste :)  The same goes for things like socks, underwear, clothing, and PJ’s. I think that’s part of the beauty of a simpler lifestyle–they are more appreciative of the simple things.

We’re not big on brand-names at all, but I do think that sometimes better quality clothing tends to fit better if you have a child with one of those harder-to-fit body types (like my tall and lean oldest!). In those cases, we shop yardsales, and clearance sales. If you’re patient, and start looking now, you can get some great deals on needed items.


8. Toys-Go for Classic & Timeless

One of our favorite classic, timeless toys –Legos! My oldest son is such a problem-solver and always has been. For his 6th birthday, he got a Legos set for ages 7-12. He worked at it until he figured it out and now both my boys LOVE Legos.

If you’re not sure of interests, a big box like this is always a good start:


or a general kit like this:

Boy GIft Guide from Serving Joyfully


My boys are loving Ninjago Legos lately, especially the Ninjago airjitzu ones, which is great because they are a great value at just around $10 each.

Another favorite here, as you might imagine, is cars! We have a ton of Hot wheels cars. Usually on Black Friday sales, you can get hot wheels for around $.25-$.50 each, so I stock up at that time.  We also have a ton of the Cars movie cars, which both of my boys just love. Not as frugal, but still a good investment for us based on the hours and hours (and HOURS!) of enjoyment that they have gotten from them.

Serving Joyfully Gift Guide


Wooden train sets are another great timeless classic. My friend Laura got this simple set from Ikea for my oldest son, when my younger son was born over 4 years ago. It’s still one of their favorite things to play with today! Not a bad investment for $20!

Serving Joyfully Gift Guide

9. Educational Toys & Games

When I think about purchasing gifts, I like things that can be multi-purpose, useful, but still fun. As a homeschooling mom, especially, that usually includes educational toys and games.

My boys love things like this 6-in-1 solar set that is on sale for only $6.95 right now!

serving joyfully gift guide


We don’t have any snap circuits yet, but I believe my oldest would love them, so we will probably be getting some soon.

serving joyfully gift guide

10. Puzzles

My boys (especially the youngest), LOVE puzzles! When they were 3 and 5, they could work up to a 500 piece puzzle by themselves! Craziness!  But, also awesome, because puzzles are really good for giving your brain a workout.

They love this series of Charlie Brown puzzles. I found this one on clearance a while back for $3.49 and grabbed it up for Christmas.

serving joyfully gift guide

My older son really loved these Discovery toys items when he was younger. They go together with nuts and bolts with a battery-powered “drill” or a hand operated one. Again, excellent problem-solving, and nice for them to be able to “build” something. My boys have a system. My youngest takes them all apart and my oldest puts them all back together. I got our set at drugstores, during 50% off toy sales around Christmas time, so they were only around $10 per set of 2 toys. Well worth the money, since I got them 3 years ago, and they are still a favorite.

serving joyfully gift guide


Finally, I should add that my boys love to play outside, so sometimes their favorite toys are a stick and some dirt…and those are free :)

Related Resources & Articles

What would you add to the list?


  1. says

    We have a million Legos (or so it seems when I walk across my sons’ bedroom in the dark!) and I picked up that exact circuits kit at the local used curriculum sale this summer! I would add experience gifts to the list — memberships to local zoos, aquariums, museums; tickets to a really cool performance such as Mythbusters Live; or a special class at a museum, zoo, or business. Toys are way down at the bottom of my list for this year!

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Yay for the used curriculum score :) Yes, experience gifts are great as well. I didn’t mention them because (1) we live in a very rural area where there aren’t a lot of options in that respect, and (2) the ones that are available are usually pretty expensive, and it’s hard for me to justify the expense on something that lasts a few hours verses many years. I think it comes from being on a tight budget for too long…lol. If we had closer/more affordable options though, that would definitely be on my list as well, we do try to fit those things in as finances allows :)

    • Crystal Brothers says

      I feel like you have to look really hard to get to the point. And the ones portraying Bible Stories, I feel like they are confusing for little ones (maybe it’s worse for mine since he has ASD), I tell them all the time that cartoons aren’t real, so I think it’s confusing for them to go from “cartoons aren’t real” to “these talking vegetable cartoons are actually portraying a real, true story from the Bible.” It’s just a personal thing :)

  2. says

    Thanks for the great Christmas ideas. We only give our son 3 inexpensive gifts for Christmas so they have to classic and require imagination. I found you on the Time Warp Wife Link up. Happy Blogging

  3. JenB says

    We got our boys those LED headlamps last year, and they are the most used item we gave them! Some rechargeable batteries might be good to go with them, but they are very efficient if they remember to turn them off. Also, I bought some fabric lengths, and different clips and suction cups and made them a fort making kit. Another huge hit!

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Oooooh, LED headlamps! That’s a great idea, I know my boys would love those as well–they love any kind of flashlights. They are always getting into my husband’s. I told him we need to just get them their own :) Love the fort-making kit as well. What a great idea!

  4. says

    This is a great list! We also try to give gifts that have a practical side, as well as being fun. A couple of the most used and played with gifts from last year were rain boots, and a small CD player/boombox that my 5 year old and 3 year old can work themselves.

    The CD player has especially been great! Our library has many books on CD–everything from the picture books (“turn the page when you hear this sound…”), to longer stories like Winnie the Pooh and Magic Tree House. They love it and will sit and listen to stories for a couple of hours sometimes. Also, when Grandma finds kids’ CD’s at garage sales she sends them our way. I think the CD player cost $25 on sale, and it has more than proven its worth with the hours and hours of wholesome entertainment it has provided!

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Wow, that’s a great idea, Linnae! Also, my boys would definitely appreciate the rain boots as well :) They both love boots. Of course, they don’t always wear them at the most appropriate times, they just wear them every day…lol

  5. says

    Good ideas! When my son was 5, he was OBSESSED with his Snap Circuit kit. He is 7 now and does not play with it much, but he has already put together the 100 circuit activities several times.

  6. says

    What a great list! I’m definitely sharing this with family members who are always asking. I love what you say about “cheap is not always frugal”, so true!
    I just discovered your blog, it’s so pretty and full of great resources.
    ~ Erika Mari

  7. says

    As a mom of boys when I saw your link at Crystal’s Tiny Treasures, I had to come look. You chose great items as gift ideas! Gotta say, I’m a fellow book hoarder, er lover, too.

    Snap circuits look fun, we don’t have any yet..maybe a bday gift in the summer for my oldest.

    I would add scooters or skateboards to your list. :) My oldest loooves his and it gets him outside and active!

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Thanks so much! Yes, definitely outside stuff as well :) My boys LOVE their bikes, and I know they’d love scooters as well. We spend lots of time outside.

  8. Leisel says

    Found you through Titus Tuesdays, just to add, those memberships to zoos, My inlaws gave us our first membership when we went to the zoo (we have one local) with them and it was only $10 more than individual tickets. The next year they renewed our membership and gave DD a cute warthog stuffed animal. This year they also renewed, but we’ve also been able to go to other zoos and aquariums for free due to the zoo’s plan. The gift is more than just for our local zoo!! It’s been fabulous, and so much better than one more noisy plastic toy in the house!

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