Army dad in uniform with daughter

Appreciate Dad without Breaking the Bank: Five Thrifty Father's Day Gift Ideas

By Madalyn Pemberton, America Saves Intern

When you’ve procrastinated planning for Father’s Day, it’s tempting to shell out big bucks rather than brainstorm inexpensive gifts. Especially when free two-day shipping makes it super easy to get that electric razor on time, or reservation apps put nice restaurants at your fingertips. But blowing through your budget before the month is up on a single day, while well-intentioned, is likely to result in more stress and gray hairs than it is ultimately worth—especially if it results in asking for help from dad later in the month.

Fortune reported that a typical Father’s Day shopper is predicted to spend an average of $134.75 on gifts this year, $8.83 more than in 2016. And planned spending on excursions with dad exceeded spending on material gifts. This comes as no surprise, given that younger Americans value experiences over possessions.

There are plenty of flashy watches, spiffy ties, and riveting sporting events out there that dad is sure to enjoy. But a gift from the heart that’s made by the hands will certainly let him know just how much he is valued. These five budget friendly ideas for a variety of ages can be done with minimal time, resulting in maximum satisfaction for you, dad, and your wallet.  

1. Record a song performed by dad’s favorite musician

Rather than buying an album of your dad’s favorite (professional) musician, creating a personalized playlist for him, or gifting him a $25 music gift card, give him the gift of your musical expression. Not only are you showing him his return on investment from those six years of piano playing, but you’re also giving him something he can take practically anywhere. Download an audio recording app to optimize the quality of the sound and export it to a variety of platforms.

2. Create a colorful frame

Give dad a colorful reminder to display at his workspace. Repurpose stubby and broken crayons by arranging and supergluing them to a plain wooden frame.

Let your creativity expand even more with what to place in the frame: a poem, handprints with a sweet phrase (as shown), or a family portrait (drawn or captured with a camera).

3. Put a ribbon on the gift of time together

With a little reflection and a few small supplies from your local dollar store, you can create a gift that can be enjoyed over six months, a year, or perhaps even five years and beyond.


  • small glass jar
  • strip of burlap or other cloth
  • wooden letter tiles
  • ribbon
  • hot glue gun and glue
  • paper and marker

Select the wooden tiles accordingly depending on what you want to spell. Keep it short and sweet with “Dad,” or squeeze on a few more tiles to spell out “Father-Daughter To-Do,” or similar. Next, cut out slips of paper and write down some of your favorite activities that you’ve done already, as well as things you have yet to do. You could even take this as an opportunity to subtly suggest the next family vacation destination (“Eat a doenner in Berlin”).

4. Follow dad’s footsteps

This gift can be done either on a canvas to hang on a wall, or on a piece of poster board or paper to give as a card. Regardless of presentation, dad is sure to love this figurative expression of the admiration you hold for the examples he’s set.

All you need is some paint, a few paint brushes, and a pair of shoes that the paint can be easily washed off of. If you don’t feel confident enough in your ability to freehand painted letters neatly, you can outline them first with a pencil or simply write it out with a marker.

5. Create a DIY Sampler Box

As the saying goes, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Show dad how much you care about his physical and emotional well-being by assembling his favorite homemade treats and comfort foods into a sampler box. This also provides built-in bonding time for those prepping the gift by laboring in the kitchen together or running to the store. 

All you need, besides the food of course, are a few wooden boxes (your local craft store is sure to have a variety of sizes) and some printed labels explaining what everything is. It could be as simple as a box of fruit, or a variety of baked goodies from cheesecake to cookies to scones.

Looking for even more ideas? Check out our 2016 Father’s Day blog post for 10 more gift ideas that will warm dad’s heart and keep your budget happy.

Are you trying to save money? Let Military Saves help you reach your savings and debt reduction goals. It all starts when you make a commitment to yourself to save. Take the first step today and take the Military Saves pledge to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth over time. And it doesn’t stop there. Military Saves will keep you motivated with information, advice, tips, and reminders to help you reach your savings goal. Think of us as your own personal support system.

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 5 #fathersday gifts for when you’re short on time and tight on money: @MilitarySaves #savingstips

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