I have a long shopping list of people to buy for at Christmas. Four kids and their three significant others, 15 extended family members, husband–and I buy several church giving tree gifts. I’m also a tightwad mama, by necessity and choice. Here are penny pincher shopping tips to save money, keep costs low and buy meaningful gifts for everyone.
* Budget. Set a per-person amount and don’t deviate.
* Do Christmas-lite. Don’t spend more than $100-$150 per child and $20 for anyone else. Gifts should be token remembrances not an ostentatious bequest. Most of us don’t need gifts at all. Spending too much sets up expectations in kids and adults.
* Give practical or frivolous as needed. Got a self-indulgent relative who’s always short on cash? Give sensible gifts. Got a hard-working, generous spouse who skimps on himself, like mine? He needs the indulgent gifts.
* Consider couples’ gifts. If you do buy separate, divide the amount budgeted per couple. When one relative got divorced, she expected the same spent on her as the married relatives. Wrong on two counts–gifts aren’t entitlements, and if she’s single, she gets the single rate!
* Buy quality not quantity. Skip cheap junk. Focus on fewer well-made gifts, not more imported detritus.
* Encourage everyone on your list to cut back. Suggest drawing names, setting low spending limits, giving homemade. Make donations to charities in lieu of exchanges. Even if you can afford more, you’ll be doing everyone a favor by simplifying.
* Free or secondhand. Are. Good. Regift. Salvage items from trash and refurbish. I find gift treasure troves at garage sales-gently used toys, tools, small appliances, furniture, decor–for cents on the dollar.
* Use reward points. Now’s the time to cash in those Swagbucks gift cards. Or credit card rewards points you’ve been saving. Those expire. I lost about 1,000 when I failed to use them in time!
* Ship direct. I hate paying shipping and handling fees and I really despise paying them twice. If you order gifts for folks you won’t see at Christmas, have them sent directly to the person’s home.
* Factor all costs. If you host the holiday meal, have to pay shipping add those expenses to gift budget. Likewise with cards. One relative feels she has to receive a card, so it comes out of what we budget for her gift.
Use these common sense tips for a frugal, festive holiday.