Paycheck Chronicles

Christmas Already? Ways To Save (Installment 2)


Today I'm focusing on gift giving.  I know that I spend way too much on presents each Christmas, and the ones that really get me are the last minute, impulse buys.  That's where the plan can really help.  Once you've figured out who you are buying for and how much you want to spend, here are some suggestions for stretching that money to get more gift for your dollar.  Add your suggestions in the comments, please!

  1. Get crafty:  knit a scarf, paint an ornament, make a dried herb wreath from your garden.
  2. Burn a CD of songs that you think they would really like.  Make a snazzy insert for the cover.
  3. Get baking.  Banana, apple or pumpkin bread makes a wonderful present for the people on the outskirts of your list:  cousins, neighbors, and friends.
  4. Or, don't bake.  Make pretty layered "cookie mixes" in glass jars.  Attach cooking instructions.
  5. Think about your favorite household tool, and share it with your loved ones.  Whether it is your snazzy ergonomic can opener or your super-cool LED flashlight, if you love it, chances are they'll love it, too.  Most people would much rather have a fantastic $5 gift than a useless $50 present.
  6. Consider the regift.  If you know that your sister would love the book you got for your birthday, and it is in good shape, then wrap it up and pass it on.  Thoughtful doesn't have to mean new.
  7. Give photos:  Do you have a fantastic picture of your neighbor's child on the first day of school?  Your brother's wedding?  Crop it, blow it up, and put it in a pretty frame (try the thrift store for picture frames.)  I'm sure they'll love it!
  8. Make a calendar with photos in it.  This is particularly popular with grandparents.  For the cost of 12 reprints, and the calendar body (which I've gotten at Target or the Dollar Tree for $1,) you've got a thoughtful and meaningful gift.
  9. Are you into scrapbooking?  Put together a mini-album designed just for the recipient.  Include little anecdotes about your memories and picture that would be meaningful for them.
  10. Think about a charitable donation.  This is a good gift for socially-conscious friends.  I like DonorsChoose and Heifer International.  The best part is, the donations can be quite small, and you don't have to disclose how much you've given.
  11. Check out alternative buying sources such as for books.  Often their goods are brand new, but the prices sure aren't bookstore prices.
  12. If you live in a warm climate, and you know the person well enough to pull this off, consider planting some plants for them.  One of the best gifts I ever gave was a flat of impatients planted in my grandmother's front garden while she was out one day...she hadn't gotten around to planting yet.
  13. Contact other parents who share the same teachers, scout leaders, and sports coaches.  See if they'd like to pitch in on a more significant gift.  Five or ten dollars per family can really add up!
  14. Also for teachers, consider gifts that they will always use:  pretty hand soap or antibacterial gel, a gift bag full of thank you cards, a box of sticky notes.
  15. Save excess packing paper for gift wrap.  My movers always seem to lay a couple of sheets at the bottom of the box before they even start packing, and they are often in good shape when we're done.  Let your children paint, color or stamp holiday designs.
  16. Or save the Sunday comics to wrap presents.  They are so fun and colorful.
  17. You can also use the abundance of art that preschoolers bring home.  These projects make particularly great paper for grandparents.
  18. Don't buy gift tags.  Use old Christmas cards, plain pieces of paper folded and cut with snazzy scissors, or just write on the gift with red or green markers.
  19. Ribbon and bows can get expensive, plus they don't mail well.  Think creatively - I like to buy super thin craft ribbon when it is on sale four rolls for a dollar.  One year I splurged and bought those shiny metallic elastic bands with bows on the end and we've been reusing them ever since.
  20. Plan for traveling or mailing- don't buy things that weigh a ton, take up a lot of space, or break easily.
  21. If you are ordering gifts online or through a catalog, have them shipped straight to the recipient, or to a central location if you are traveling.  You can sort and wrap when you get there!
  22. Consider shopping once you've reached your destination.  It might be a little stressful, but it beats paying for each suitcase or tons of postage.  Plus, you won't have to worry about breakage, or your things being lost en route.
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