I think most of us would agree there’s three types of holiday/birthday gift givers:
1) Those that plan ahead months in advance
2) Those that start shopping a couple of weeks to a month or so out
3) Those that wait until the 11th hour (aka the Christmas Eve shoppers, the men at the store after work on Valentine’s Day)
I fall into the first category when it comes to gift buying and giving. I have a select few I buy for (that only changes if I’m dating someone or not) which makes it fairly easy: my parents, my brother, my two best friends, one’s daughter, a few long-time penpals, and the boss. Sometimes a swap gift or two (work + blogging world). I also buy a small present for the five clerical workers & their supervisor at my job to show my appreciation. Add in that my brother’s birthday is a month out from Christmas, that’s a lot of presents. Then we have May: parents’ anniversary, close friend’s birthday, Mother’s Day, and my mom’s birthday all within a 14 day period. Probably a good thing the bro and I are both single and childless at the moment!
So how do I manage to give without going broke? Here’s my strategies …
1) Make a list of those that are on your gifting list each year (family, close friends, significant others, neighbors, coworkers/bosses you gift/swap with). Most of these you probably know well enough to be able to stick to a few themes of things they like …
For example: My mom loves angels, birdhouses, and Coca-Cola collectibles. My brother is into superheroes/comics, gaming, and five tv shows that he’s a long-time fan of. One best friend loves all things Paris and books, the other best friend is into photography, butterflies, angel wings, and The Office. My dad, on the other hand, is the tough one to buy for – I tend to stick to military items, photo prints of places I know he’d love to visit, gardening stuff & books, and his favorite snacks.
As for those that you’re iffy on giving to … other coworkers you’re not as close to, extended family, the non best friends, neighbors you don’t know well, the guy you just started dating: decide whether or not you want to give and can afford to. Perhaps organize a white elephant/gift swap with the extended family with a $20 limit, do a cookie/baked good swap with coworkers and the non best friends and neighbors you know the names of. As for the guy you just started dating, that’s a case by case thing in my book, do what you feel is right in that case!
2) Keep an eye out year-round for items that you know those on your gift list will like/love. I start looking just after Christmas for stuff — angel and Coca-Cola ornaments for my mom, military themed items for my dad, funny tees from RIPT for the bro. If I spot something on sale or clearanced that I know someone will love, I snag it. Splitting the cost up across the year makes it more affordable — plus, when it comes to my mom, I buy items that can be easily given for her birthday, mother’s day, and Christmas regardless of what point in the year I buy them.
3) For those unexpected one-time gifts, you know, baby showers and wedding presents, budget in each month an amount for those ‘pop up’ one-time gifts and roll over any unused amount (perhaps set up an ‘envelope system’!) . When possible, I go in with another person on one-time gifts; for coworkers, me and my best friend from work usually split presents; sometimes our unit will go in together on gift cards. With all the cousins I had getting married this year as well a few of them having babies too, I’ve split the cost of presents with my parents. We buy 1-2 gift cards (either where they are registered or to a ‘common’ store that would be easy to redeem for everyday items as well as a few items). For baby showers, we buy a few packages of diapers + some onesies; for cousin weddings this year, a nice photo frame + a set of towels. Splitting the cost makes it more affordable if you honestly don’t have it to spend on an expensive registry item on your own.
4) Sometimes I get inspired and make presents, especially when I have limited funds. I’ve slacked on this more recently … but if I see something I think will be easy to make, I’ll try to make it/a variation of it rather than buying something more expensive. I have a project I have been meaning to make for my dad but need to fix the bobbin holder on my sewing machine first. I’ve also spotted items at craft fairs and online that were just out of my price range but I was able to make a similar version for a fraction of the price.
Only have $10-20 and no craft skills? Throw together a gift basket with a theme: movie night, techie items, gardening items, bath products/pedicure/spa treatments, man cave snacks, and so on and so forth.
Making presents isn’t limited to crafty items or gift baskets … think food as well. Is there a treat you’re know for making that everyone loves? Or is there a treat you know a loved one loves but lacks the kitchen skills to make it themselves? Buying some baking ingredients in bulk is cheaper when making a large batch of something than buying them in smaller quantities …
5) Set a limit on price paid — not the actual value of the items. For Christmas and birthdays, I typically spend up to $20 on my best friends and the two penpals I swap with, $10 on my boss (Christmas only), and up to $50 apiece on my parents and my brother. However, because I rarely pay regular price for something and buy throughout the year, it appears I’m giving them a lot or something expensive, when its simply finding deals on things I know they’ll like.
6) Completely broke? Make up a ‘I gift you’ certificate (or book of certificates). Think of things you know your loved ones and friends could use but don’t have the money for either. Example: maybe your best friend or sister could use a babysitter for a few hours so they can have a date night or just time to run errands. Offer to help a friend with laundry if she has a new baby and is doing good to take a shower while the baby naps, forget laundry! Is there an activity your parents or significant other enjoy but you don’t so much? Gift them an afternoon of “I’ll join you to do ___ with no complaints”. Dog sitting/walking. The list goes on and on …
7) Online shopping? Look for discount codes! Retail Me Not is my favorite, but there are other sites out there that offer discounts … or cash back! Don’t forget credit card rewards either. Right now Discover Card’s 5% cashback quarterly deal is online shopping purchases up to $1,500.
8) Ultimately, remember, its the thought that counts … and its more blessed to give than to receive. I enjoy gift giving … even if my funds are limited, I will still try to find or make something meaningful for that person.
(PS … note to self: copy fonts from old laptop to new laptop before adding text to any more blog images … )