Four Ways to Save on Holiday Gifts
By Deborah Nayrocker
Finding the right Christmas gift isn’t always easy. Making the task even more daunting is that many families are finding they are on limited budgets this year.
The economic downturn is causing consumers to look for ways to make their holidays meaningful yet affordable. They are cutting back on discretionary spending, anxious about a softening job market and shrinking savings.
When I asked Sue, a waitress, if her holiday spending would change this year, she didn’t hesitate to answer. “I’m not buying as many gifts for my children. I’m seeing fewer restaurant customers,” she said, “and this affects my income.”
Laura says that every year as it gets close to Christmas, she stresses about not having enough money for gifts. “It can be a big headache in my life and take away the joy of the season,” she said. “How can I better plan during the year to avoid this problem?”
She can begin by setting up a holiday savings account at her credit union or bank. Laura can decide on a dollar amount to set aside on a regular basis. In one year, saving $50 a month will add up to more than $600.
The thought of buying presents for every family member can be overwhelming. Buying presents for all the nieces, nephews, or grandchildren can easily break a budget.
This is a great opportunity to discuss with extended family members what they truly want to do for the holidays. With growing numbers of families wanting to be more frugal, this could be a favorable step for everyone. Some may decide that it’s more important spending time together than having everyone buy and exchange tons of gifts.
- Instead of giving something to everyone in your giving circle, decide to draw names. Set a spending limit. Ask those in the giving circle what they want to receive and make appropriate gift choices from the list.
- When it comes to buying gifts for children, get fewer but more meaningful ones.
Kathy, a mother of three, said that she’s limiting the number of gifts for her children to three items. She chooses items at the top of their wish list. Kathy will purchase one special gift for her husband.
- Bestow gifts of your creativity. Consider something handmade, baked, sewn, or composed (music or poetry).
You can make small, personalized scrapbooks of favorite photographs or fill picture frames with treasured photos. Children’s drawings can be framed as gifts for grandparents.
Create tasty holiday memories by baking scrumptious loaves of bread, such as pumpkin bread. Or bake cookies, brownies, or a favorite dessert for friends or family. Gift-wrap the homemade food with festive colors, adding ribbon and bows to the package.
Vicki likes to personalize many of her gifts. With her ultra-modern sewing machine, she embroiders the recipient’s name on items such as towels and sweatshirts. She embellishes the items with their first or last name or initials.
Create CDs of favorite music for the music lover. For the person who likes poetry, write a poem about that person or about the times you’ve shared together.
- To save even more, give of your time by presenting the recipient with a coupon for future services, such as lawn care, a special meal, or childcare. Look for practical ways to help. Then follow through in a timely manner.
Some individuals have depended on gift cards as a simpler solution to holiday shopping. But if you think purchasing a gift card is always the perfect answer, think again. Due to the economic slump, some retailers are going into bankruptcy and others are closing unprofitable stores throughout the United States.
Investigate the status of individual stores before buying their gift cards. You don’t want the recipient to hold a gift card of no value due to the store going bankrupt.
To avoid gift card scams, buy from a reputable retailer. Don’t get cards sold through online auction sites, where your chances for fraud can be high.
Finally, be at ease with the fact that you can’t buy gifts for all. To send a holiday message for those you know, consider sending personalized greeting cards. Keep them updated on what’s happening in your life and wish them a Merry Christmas!
Deborah Nayrocker writes on personal money management topics, showing others how to take control of their financial future. Deborah is the award-winning author of The Art of Debt-Free Living--Living Large on Less Than You Earn. She is also the author of Living a Balanced Financial Life, a popular Bible study focusing on money management.
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