Last-Minute, Inexpensive Gifts For Your Mom and Dad

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Man and woman smiling, wearing ugly Christmas sweaters.

Your parents probably don’t need another “festive” sweater.

The sprint between Thanksgiving and Christmas is quick. And for those college students who celebrated Thanksgivukkah, the gap between holidays this year was, well, no gap at all. This makes holiday gift buying a challenge.

If you still have gifts left to buy, you may feel challenged as to how to give creatively on a limited budget. The best gift to give your mom and dad this season is really just some of your time and conversation. But if you’ve bonded enough this year, here are a few other ideas.


Free Instructions On Using iPhone, iTunes, and Facebook

This may seem ridiculous, but for those of us born before the Internet age, technology can be, well, confusing.  That Nano it took you a nanosecond to learn? It would take us more mature folks a month to absorb.

This year, my kids have given me a couple invaluable mini-lessons on technology. It was a personal breakthrough to learn that I could “speak” a text message or ask Siri just about anything. Imagine how much more you know that your parents would like to know. (Just remember to include “patience” with this gift.)

Offer To Cook Dinner

If you are 20 years old, you have eaten roughly 7,300 dinners in your life. If you guess how many of those meals your mom or dad cooked, you can quickly see why they would be thrilled to have you become the next Julia Child in the family. (OK, maybe not the Dan Aykroyd version.)

So, maybe you perfected cooking something at college beyond heating up ramen or making popcorn. If so, share your culinary talents at home. Mom and dad might even foot the bill for the groceries (and just may offer to clean up too).

Babysit Your Siblings

It’s scandalous what babysitting costs these days. If you’ve ever babysat for another family (which is a great way to make money for college), you know exactly what I mean.

Offering to babysit your younger siblings would be a welcome gift. It will allow your parents to catch dinner and a movie after all the holiday stress, without a hefty babysitting fee. They’ll enjoy that the family is home bonding (having a massive Nerf gun war with a 7 year old is bonding), and have time to relax and talk to each other—probably all about their wonderful kids.

Keep It Under $25

If you simply have to have something for your mom and dad to unwrap, keep it under $25 and consider getting them something useful or simply fun.

“Useful” could be something boring, like nice hand cream for mom (she’ll actually like and use it all winter) or a gift card for coffee your dad normally won’t buy for himself. He’ll think of you with every tall latte with a double shot.

“Fun” could be something stupid, like an extendable fork for the parent who always asks for the last bite on your plate (in my house, that would be the other parent …). Or, if desperate, you could always go to a thrift shop and buy your parents a set of matching ugly holiday sweaters. You could video them in their new outfits, discuss whether they think the gifts were a joke or not, and then teach them how to post the clip to their Facebook timelines (see gift number 1 above).

Do you have some great holiday gifts ideas for your parents that cost little or nothing at all? Share them in the comments. 


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