Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tips For Frugal Gift Giving

Note:  I'm not  hater, but I'm not much of a gift-giver.  Thankfully, my friend Melissa is!  I called upon her to lend some frugal advice about the upcoming holiday season.

The holiday season is approaching, and it’s that time of year to get ready for get-togethers and gift giving. Even if you’re trying to be frugal, that doesn’t mean gift giving has to be a drag, nor do you have to be “cheap” (after all, there is a difference!). As a lover of all things Christmas, and especially gift giving, here are some tips I find handy to avoid going broke during the holidays.

1.  Handmade gifts: There are endless tutorials on blogs and other websites that have thousands of ideas for gifts that can be handmade and thoughtful. One favorite of mine is this tutorial on making bookmarks out of paint chips. This is especially great for young children to give to parents. One handmade gift that I made this year is something for my mom and sister. My grandfather was musician and I found some old brass tuning slides in a box that I took while cleaning out the home he lived in with my grandmother. I almost pitched the slides, but it dawned on me that these would make great necklaces. All I had to do was purchase chain and bails to match, and I made one for myself as well. He passed away last year, and I know these necklaces will be loved.

2.  Make a list: Having a list of people that you give gifts to, which should include all friends, family, and service people (the mailman, dog sitter, and so on), will help to eliminate unnecessary spending. Another good idea is to set a price point for each person, and to not stray from it. A physical list with set price points eliminates the urge to go broke on a last minute gadget or commercial “must have” item.

3.  Shop after the season and in advance: This is one of my favorite ways to Christmas shop, because it makes everything affordable. Everything in stores is priced and set out according to seasons. Most people won’t be wearing shorts in February, so that’s why shorts end up $5 on the clearance rack at the end of August. This works especially well if you are shopping for people with specific hobbies. My husband loves to golf, and this year he expressed interest in building his golf wardrobe. At the end of the season, I bought him a nice pair of golf khakis that were originally $30, but paid only $7, because it was the end of the season.

4.  Make donations: Making donations to a cause that the gift-recipient supports is not only thoughtful, it also helps with staying on a budget. For example, if a sibling if really passionate about helping the homeless, donating $25 in their name, or even donating needed edibles to a food bank, is a wonderful gift that is not only thoughtful, but helps out other people as well.

5.  Give services: This is a great idea for loved ones, especially children. Most parents would love to receive the gift of a house cleaned top to bottom, or the give of having their garden weeded for a month. Services can be gifted creatively by making a book of services for the recipient to use, or even producing a framed image of the service. Last year, “the kids” pitched in for my in-laws to have their carpet cleaned, and they loved it.

6.  Be creative with free samples: Many companies rely on getting their products purchased by handing out free samples. While the immediate thought might be, “Free samples? How tacky!”, consider their usefulness. Last year, I made a creative gift for my husband by collecting samples of colognes, shaving gels, bath gels, and other manly cosmetics, and putting them inside of a gift basket. He used the samples at home and during short weekend or overnight trips, and liked trying out the new products!

When it comes down to it, gift giving should be fun, not stressful! If gifts just aren’t in the budget, don’t be afraid to say so if there is someone in the family seriously wondering why all of your gifts are handmade, or even free. After all, it really is the thought that counts when it comes to giving a gift that is meaningful.

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