Welcome to yet another Frugal Friday. Given that is mid-way through December, also known as ‘shop until you drop’ month, there’s probably plenty of help you could use in getting just the right gift for everyone on your list. Although, if I know my talented, thoughtful readers, you were probably finished with all your shopping before Black Friday, just because you’re that good.
But for those of us who still have more shopping to do, either because we just got a late start, or because our potential recipients haven’t given us much in the way of gift ideas (my mother is horrible about that, although, as I am becoming the same way, I probably shouldn’t complain). There are still opportunities to save (some of which I’ve briefly touched on already) while still being sure to give gifts your recipients will appreciate, as long as you know where to look:
1. Avoid Poor Gift Ideas: I know, I know, with barely two weeks before the big day, you’re likely getting more and more desperate to come up with an idea, any idea, as long as it results in a gift for those on your Christmas shopping list; I’m in the same boat with a few of the names on my list, as well. But the only thing worse than no gift is a really, really bad gift, the sort that make the recipient start to look for a receipt to take it back before they even finish unwrapping it. Save yourself some trouble (and them some time) by knowing the bad holiday gift ideas and avoiding them.
2. Consider Homemade Gifts (Carefully): Homemade gifts are a bit of a two-edged sword. On one hand, they can be thoughtful and creative, to say nothing of less expensive than buying something from the store. On the other hand, they require time, talent, and supplies, all of which might be in short supply during holiday time. My advice: unless the recipient has expressed genuine (not merely polite) interest in past home-made items of yours (or better yet, asked you to make them something), just try to buy them something.
3. Set a Limit (and Stick to It): It’s tempting to go all-out when buying gifts for your friends, family, and everyone else you care about, but it’s a sure way to end up spending too much. Instead, discuss with your friends and your family and set a limit as to what each gift should cost; it doesn’t have to be the same limit for each group (you might be willing to spend much more on your family than on your coworkers, for example), but have a maximum for gift costs for each gift you need to buy. Make sure to resist the urge to go over the limit, because you find ‘just the perfect gift’ or for any other reason. You’ll just ensure that other people in your gift-giving circle don’t bother to stick to the limit next year, not a good thing if you are trying to use this method to limit your spending. On a related note:
4. Work Up a ‘Secret Santa’ Arrangement Among Your Circle(s): Even with a limit, it can cost a pretty penny to buy gifts for a dozen coworkers, fifteen cousins, and twenty closest friends. Rather than trying to find that many good gifts, consider talking with your acquaintances, and making an arrangement where each of you only buys gifts for one person, chosen at random. You can do this ‘Secret Santa’ with your friends, family, and coworkers, respectively, allowing you to buy three presents rather than 47. There’ll also be the added suspense of wondering who will be giving you a present when Christmas comes around.
5. Wait Until After Christmas: I recommend this one with a sense of trepidation; there are more than a few people, from small children to eager lovers, who would be profoundly disappointed, at best, to wake up with no presents (or too few presents) under the Christmas tree. But, for many, you can probably come to an agreement to shop in the days after Christmas and exchange gifts later (perhaps you can wait to exchange gifts on Twelfth Night, January 5th, by which time the mall rush should definitely have passed). Between after-Christmas sales, cheap purchases of returns, and using gift cards you’ve received, there’s a fair chance you’ll be able to buy most of your gifts for a fraction of the cost. (Again, assuming you can get some or all of your recipients to agree to the altered schedule.)
There you have it, some last minute suggestions to help you save some money and time while still being charitable and festive during this Christmas season. Merry Christmas (and Happy Holidays, in general), Everyone!