5 Budget-Friendly Gift Ideas

Kids' gift ideas that won't break the bank.
Kids' gift ideas that won't break the bank.

By Ingrid Simone, Common Sense Media editor

If you're like a lot of people shopping for kids this holiday, you want to give kids stuff they'll love without breaking the bank. Using digital media in your shopping can actually save you money on gift giving. Check out these ideas:

  • Go for board games -- digital and old-school. If you have a tablet such as an iPad, adding classic board game apps -- Scrabble, Monopoly, The Game of Life, and more -- can be less expensive than buying the real thing. But the old-school versions of these same titles are lots of fun -- and generally inexpensive, too. Whatever format you choose, family game night can be a budget-friendly entertainment experience.

  • Make your own gifts. Creative websites and apps let kids make cool projects as they learn new technology. With apps like Animoto and Magisto, kids can create videos for free and send links to relatives for the holidays. Kids can design their own scrapbooks, comic books, and more with apps like Book Creator for iPad and Strip Designer; some allow you to add audio, video, or animation. The creations can often be shared online or printed as PDFs to share at little to no cost. Budding authors can give their very own literary creations thanks to websites like Story Jumper, We Make Stories, and Tikatok. Kids can also use pictures they've taken to create low-price gifts like calendars, photo books, or cool posters at sites like Snapfish, MyPublisher, and Shutterfly.

  • Check out the deal of the day. You can save on goods, services, and more with deal-of-the-day services like Groupon, LivingSocial, and Google Offers. You can't really plan ahead with these services, but if you keep an eye out you may find an offer for only the gift you were looking for, from a tablet to high-end headphones to video games. Just be sure to comparison-shop to make sure the deal is really a deal.

  • Get games cheap. Take a tip from serious gamers: Never pay retail! Stores like GameStop allow gamers to purchase and sell used titles for all the major consoles. On Glyde, you can snag some great deals on preowned games (it's also a great site for selling your own unwanted titles). New gamers aren't always looking for the hottest, newest games -- what's old to one gamer is new to the kid who just got a gaming console for the first time. Gamefly also offers video game rentals and can be a good alternative to buying new games; if you have a major gamer on your list, consider getting him or her a monthly subscription to an online game-rental service like this.

  • Give them downloads! Music, games, apps, ebooks -- most are less expensive than their shrink-wrapped counterparts. Most digital-media stores offer gift cards you can email, and they come in a range of denominations; even $5 can buy a few downloads. It's like a digital stocking stuffer!

Need some more holiday help? Common Sense Media's holiday gift guide has 100+ ideas for every kid on your list, and a new and improved kids' media app will make your shopping stress-free.