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11 Ideas for Giving Gifts Without Breaking the Bank

Financial Journey (featured column)
by Karen Kuebler

“The only gift is a portion of thyself." - Emerson

After I finished examining my expenditures for last year and created my new budget, I found a few discretionary categories that needed trimming for this coming year. I especially found a great opportunity to save money in our “gift” category.

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First, I made the decision that my theme for this year would be gift giving from my heart. Last year as I had Christmas packages strewn around the living room and was trying to sort them for mailing, I found myself thinking like Scrooge. I decided that wasn’t really a very good way to enter into the Holiday Season!

This year I started in January to get presents ready early. At this point, I might just be done by June. This also includes about 25 birthday gifts that I need to give throughout the year. It’s not difficult to get into a bad mood when you are the one taking on the responsibility for buying, making, wrapping, and mailing so many gifts.

Trying to do this within a limited budget is all the more challenging. If money were no object, I could just buy 50 gift certificates for birthdays and Christmas and be done with it. But I feel my idea to give from my heart will accomplish more in the long run, because I will feel more caring about the gifts I am giving and hopefully the recipients will really enjoy them.

The following are ideas I have incorporated this year into my gift giving to help keep aligned with my theme and my smaller budget:

1. First, I created both a birthday list and a Christmas list with an estimated budget for each person.

2. I have always kept a gift cabinet, and I highly recommend that you start one if you haven’t done this before. I buy gifts throughout the year that I find that I think will fit for a particular person or might be a possibility for several people. I especially look for sales, check out after-holiday mark downs, and shop yard sales throughout the year. I have done this for years, so my gift cabinet is well stocked.

3. I spent an afternoon shopping in my own gift cabinet! I pulled out gifts that I had already selected with certain individuals in mind and marked those as purchased on my gift list. That really saved a lot of time and money! I was able to find many gifts for grandchildren this way since I’ve always picked up gifts in new or like new condition.

4. I found some items in the supply cabinet that I decided weren’t a good fit for anyone on my list. I sold these on Ebay and added that money to our household gift budget.

5. I keep an ongoing list of gift ideas that I can create and make myself. I glean many of these ideas from reading other frugal sites on the web. I love to create, and I enjoy certain hobbies such as beading, cross-stitching and crocheting. I selected several ideas from this list of gifts I can make this year. I am currently crocheting an afghan and completing a quilt that incorporates 12 different cross-stitched patterns I’ve been working on for the last year. I have completed a couple of other smaller projects, and have several to work on – but it’s only mid-March!

6. I am utilizing our computer this year to make some tailored gifts including personalized stationary and a family history book. By scanning photographs into our computer I will be able to create stationary with pictures of our grandchildren or family pets. The family history will include many historical photographs of people and places along with the written history. Next year I am going to work on making personalized calendars for gifts.

7. I have found many items that I can “regift” that will have special significance to the recipients. Some of these are family heirlooms, jewelry I no longer wear, or other items we have that carry a special meaning to one of our children or grandchildren.

8. I love giving gifts to younger children because they haven’t had a chance to build up expectations, or assign a monetary value to gifts! I give books with personalized cassette tapes. My husband and I read the books onto tape and add personal little stories and antidotes. I’ve made “cookie crayons” in muffin liners with scraps of crayons – these really are pretty with the mixture of colors. I look at museum gift shops at the different National Monuments in our state and select coloring books with themes from our state. The museum gift shops offer other great gifts for children that are personalized because they represent the place where we live and are quite cost effective.

9. I enjoy making basket gifts. This year we are making videos of special movies or programs that our children or grandchildren enjoy and adding popcorn, hot chocolate, and some candy to the baskets which are bought at thrift stores.

10. If I find a gift that I think will be a good fit for more than one of our children or grandchildren, then I might make several of those in one year. For example, this year I’ve made fleece scarves with appliqués, and a really neat book bag made from a pair of old jeans. The pockets from the jeans make a great addition on the outside of the book bag for pencils, erasers, markers, etc. These are ideas I can duplicate for other grandchildren – since we have twelve, it makes it easier not to have to reinvent the wheel every time.

11. I have already wrapped both birthday and Christmas gifts that are ready to give and have sorted them in bags or boxes by family. I save on postage by sending gifts in groups ahead of time – my children will put them away until the appropriate holiday. If we are planning to visit them during the year, I take the gifts with me on our trip and save even more on postage.

I wasn’t kidding when I said that I expect to be done by June! Even though this might sound like a lot of work to some who read this, I find it therapeutic to make gifts and to have them organized in advance. I work on many of my gifts while visiting, riding in the car, or watching a movie so I don’t feel like it is taking any extra time. I’ve always tended toward multi-tasking – I guess this just fits my personality. The other aspect that really fits my personality is reviewing expenditures at the end of the year and finding a much lower number in our “gifts” category.

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Return to Christmas on a Budget

Copyright © 2003 by Karen Kuebler. All rights reserved.

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