Shows Grandpa enjoying a personalized book with grandchildren

5 Unique, Personal, Low-Cost Gifts Your Parents Will Love

Looking for unique holiday gifts for your parents, aunts and uncles, or other special older people in your life?

We all know that experiences make people happier than things. So you can take your favorite elder out for a fancy dinner or to the theater or a sporting event. 

But those gifts cost a lot of money. And you’re on a budget, right?

So here are five ideas for meaningful, low-cost gifts your parents (or grandparents) will love – gifts that bring families closer together and let the people you love know how much they mean to you.


1. “We Love You” Book

Who wouldn’t love a book full of tributes from family members and friends?

Ask your relatives to send you an email with a few sentences about how much Dad or Grandma means to them. If it’s easier, just call them and write down what they say. Also ask for a photo of themselves with the person being honored, if you don’t already have one. 

Then go to Canva. It’s free and super easy to use. Here’s a beginner tutorial. Just upload your photo, add the text, put in a background or border, and viola, you’re ready to download and print – one page with a photo and some text for each person honoring the recipient.

If Canva seems too intimidating, make each page the old-school way. Print out the notes each family member sent you. Use a glue stick to paste them to a piece of paper – a different page for each person. Print out the photos and attach each one to the appropriate page.

For any young children who want to contribute, have them draw a picture and dictate words to you.

Whether you use Canva or make the pages by hand, put each one in a plastic page protector and add them all to a three-ring binder. 

For your front cover, print out a picture of the person being honored and add words like “We Love You, Grandma!” 

I guarantee the recipient of this gift will treasure it.

picture of "we love you" binder

A “We Love You” book will set you back no more than the cost of a three-ring binder, a package of sheet protectors, and a few pieces of paper.

If you want to get fancier, you can go to a site like Snapfish or Kodak Moments, upload your photos and text, and create an actual bound book. 

2. The Board Game Challenge

What your parent wants more than anything is to spend time with you and/or the grandkids. So create an opportunity for a fun afternoon together.

Make a flyer to print, then roll it up and tie it with a ribbon. The flyer can say something like: I hereby challenge Grandpa to a Backgammon tournament. Lunch provided.

Canva (see above) provides an easy way to create a great-looking flyer. They have many templates – just click on one and change the text and/or pictures.

I put this one together in about five minutes. I’m sure that with a little time and creativity, you can do a much better job:

 Here are the steps I took:

  •  I opened Canva, clicked on “file” then “create new design.”
  • Then I scrolled down to where it said “flyer,” and clicked on that.
  • A whole bunch of great templates popped up; I scrolled down until I found one I liked, and clicked on it.
  • When I clicked, the template showed up in the work space on the right. I clicked on the text and changed it to what I wanted to say.
  • Then I clicked on “photos,” and searched for “backgammon.” I clicked on the picture I liked and it showed up on my flyer. I adjusted the edges until the picture filled the page, then I clicked on “remove watermarks” and paid $1.00 to use the picture.
  • Finally, I downloaded the flyer and saved it on my computer, where it’s ready for printing.

Viola! Easy.

Or, again, you can do it old-school if you prefer. Just draw a picture and write out the words.

Either way, make sure that once Grandpa opens the flyer, you make a specific date so the tournament actually happens!

This will cost you no more than the lunch and/or snacks you’ll provide, and the time you spend over Scrabble, Chess, or whatever game your family member enjoys. 

Since first publishing this post, I’ve received some requests for custom-made flyers. If you don’t have time to learn Canva but would like to give one as a gift, I will be happy to make one for you for just $8.99.

Send me your details (what you would like your flyer to say), and I’ll send you instructions for submitting payment, then I’ll make your flyer and send it to you for downloading and printing. 

3. Window Photo Collage

The one “thing” your parents or other older people in your life  will love is a photo collage of family, and a cool way to do this is to make it on a reclaimed window.

Picture of wood four-pane window with a photo in each pane
This window picture frame sells at Target for $36.99. If you can find an old window, you can make one for free.

Collect pictures from your childhood and ask siblings to contribute theirs. Or gather current pics of all the grandkids. Or put together a collection of different moments from your parents’ marriage. You get the idea – use your imagination for the perfect theme for your collage.

Then google “building reclamation near me.” Call them up and ask if they have any old wood windows, especially the kind with true divided lights (separate panes of glass within the window, separated by pieces of wood).

Once you have your window, clean it up, paint the trim if you want (but sometimes it looks best in a rustic, “rough” state), then attach the pictures to the back of the glass using double-sided invisible tape.

What a great gift!


4. Cookbook of Family Recipes

Give the gift of appreciation, legacy, and time spent together.

Make a flyer (Canva again!) that tells Grandma or Grandpa how much you love and cherish their cooking. Offer to spend some time with them to write down all their recipes and put them together in a book for children, grandchildren, and future generations.

Then make a specific time to sit down with them and go over the recipes. Even better, maybe you can visit once a week for several weeks, and you can cook together.

Great gift for grandma - a certificate saying she's the best cook ever and offering to put all her recipes in a book for family members

Perhaps there’s a story that goes with each recipe, about how Grandma’s mother taught her to make chopped liver or how she burnt the lasagna the first time she hosted dinner for her in-laws. Write those down, too.

Snap a few pictures and put them together with the recipes and the stories. Put each page in a sheet protector in a three-ring binder, or send them out for printing in a real bound book.

Either way, she’ll love it, and so will the rest of your family.


5. Video Slide Show

This one takes a little more leg work, technical skill (or willingness to learn), and time – but it will be time well spent.

Your family member will surely love being the featured subject of a video.

You can include random photos of family members with Mom, or put your slide show together around a theme – perhaps photos of Christmases throughout the years, showing Mom with the kids and then the grandkids. Or pictures from family trips, or Dad with all the pets he’s had during the last 35 years.

If you use Apple products, you can put the slideshow together right in the Photos application. Put all the pictures you want to use together in an album, then select them all, go to “File” and click “create slideshow.” Or if you want more functionality, you can use iMovie, to control how each photo “moves” in the video. 

Other free options, whether you use a Mac or not, include Adobe Spark, which allows you to easily add text and music, or Animoto, another super-simple, drag-and-drop slideshow maker. 

You can Google just about any question you have about how to use any of those applications. 

How great is that – learning a new skill while creating a gift the recipient will surely treasure?

Your whole family will have fun on the holiday watching the slideshow, and once you leave, you can bet Mom will watch it over and over.

Have fun with these. Let me know if you make one of these gifts, and how your loved one reacted to it. What other ideas do you have for personal, unique, low-cost gifts? Post your ideas in the comments!

2 thoughts on “5 Unique, Personal, Low-Cost Gifts Your Parents Will Love”

  1. Wow these are all LOVELY ideas! Canva is such a great tool. I think my fave is the board game challenge. I have been wanting to get together around boardgames more regularly and this is a really thoughtful way to get our loved ones in on the fun. Great post Deb!

    1. Thanks, Amelia! I love Canva – so easy to use. Let me know if you give the board game challenge as a gift, and if so, how it goes!

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