The holidays are fast approaching, and with holidays come gift exchanges. In these trying economic times, it can be a challenge to get through all this gift giving without ending up in the poor house by January. We’ve got an easier way. By following just these few simple tips, you can save money on your upcoming holiday gift exchanges, and also make the holiday season more memorable and meaningful.

1. Set a spending limit.

Especially for large groups, you need to decide what will be the monetary limit for each member of that group. Overall, $25/person is not a bad limit to place on all group members. Remember also that this is the upper limit, not how much you must spend.

2. Create wish lists.

Why stress about what someone really wants this year? My buddies and I each create wish lists where we provide gift ideas for the rest of the group. This makes it easier for everyone to get started with their shopping – and still allows for the possibility of receiving a surprise gift or two.

3. Combine gifts.

If you find the perfect gift for someone on your list but the gift’s price exceeds your spending limit, consider splitting the cost with someone else in your gift exchange group. This will simplify gift-giving for the both of you.

4. Consider homemade/home-baked goods.

The holidays are a big time for cooking, baking and crafting. If you are making something “from scratch”, consider doubling your baking or crafting materials so that a part of your work goes into making a gift. For example, if you are baking a batch of cookies, set aside a dozen or so for a holiday gift. Alternately, make some extra flower baskets or other items for your friends.

5. Donate to a cause or charity.

If someone in your group volunteers for a certain cause or charity, consider making a small contribution in his/her name and letting the recipient know about your donation in a card or other notice. This is a wonderful way for both you and your gift recipient to be generous during the holidays.

6. Give the gift of service.

Some people could care less about accumulating more things and more about having some free time or help in their lives. In that respect, a handwritten certificate offering free babysitting services, gutter cleaning or some other chore would be much appreciated by your gift recipient. Just don’t forget to follow-through on your promise later on in the year.

7. Give at least one secondhand find.

Secondhand and thrift stores offer frugal and great gift ideas such as books, vases, toys, baskets and clothes. Many of these items may still be completely new! Incorporating secondhand and thrift store shopping into your gift exchange saves you money and helps you come up with some rather unique and unexpected gifts.

8. Buy gift cards for less.

Gift card exchanges like Cardpool and CouponTrade allow you to trade in your unwanted gift cards for other gift cards. Credit cards like Discover and websites like MyPoints allow members to redeem their purchase points for free gift cards. In essence, you needn’t pay full price for gift cards.

The bottom line here is that gift exchanges needn’t drain you of all your money during the holidays. Likewise, most people will agree that when it comes to gifts, the thoughtfulness behind the gift always trumps its monetary value.