When you're on a tight budget, holiday shopping can be very stressful; on one hand, you don't want to be cheap with the gifts, on the other, you don't want to be paying off holiday debt for the rest of the year. A little bit of planning ahead can help you give quality gifts without breaking the bank.
Have a holiday gift budget
Start off with a budget. Determine the total amount that you are going to be able to spend on gifts. Use a spreadsheet to determine how much you're going to spend on each individual person; you amy want to spend less on younger people and more on older people. (Typically, it takes less money to buy toys for young children as opposed to, say, a nice expensive watch or tie that you might wanna buy for your dad.)
Whatever you do, do not go over your budget for anyone. If you go over just a little bit for one person, you'll end up doing the same for everyone else and it'll add up to a lot of overspending. You may end up not wanting to buy any gifts at all the next year.
If you end up finding a gift that costs just a few dollars more than that person's budget, and you feel that you really have to buy it, deduct that money evenly from everyone else's budgets to keep the total spending the same.
Organize a group gift
Let's say you have a twenty-dollar gift budget for someone. Would you and your four other friends each buy him twenty-dollar gifts that he didn't really want, or would you rather all pitch in to buy him something expensive that you all know he wants? Put yourself in his shoes. Which would you prefer?
Group gifting comes with the obvious benefit of spending less at an individual level and still being able to give a great, expensive gift. But it also shows the recipient that a lot of thought and planning that went into the process and can seem meaningful in that respect as well.
eBay even has a group-gifts application where you can organize and send out group gift requests to your recipients closest friends via email or social media, making the process even easier.
Give gift cards or cash
Sometimes when you don't have a hundred-dollar budget for giving gifts, it's just better to give money or gift cards. Gift cards look better as gifts, but the problem is that you have to pay for the card itself when you could have just given that money to the person. Another problem with gift cards is that they're limited to being spent at just one place. So with that in mind, gift cards are a good option if the person you're gifting likes to shop a lot in a particular place and if you'd rather spend a few extra dollars on the card itself than giving it to the person.
The great thing about giving money is that you know anyone would find it useful regardless of the amount. Especially during these hard economic times, it is likey that your recipient will gratefully accept any amount that you give them. They can buy themselves what they need rather than what you think they want.
Again, put yourself in their position: would you prefer if everyone gave you more stuff that you didn't want, or if they all gave you the money that they spent on the gifts that they bought you?
The most important part of this article is the budget. You may find that because of budgeting and figuring out how much you can afford to spend, you end up not having enough money to spend on each person. This is why it's always a good idea to have a gift budget year-round; set aside some money that you can spend on buying gifts for other people. If you are financially prepared months beforehand to do holiday shopping, you wont have to worry about going over your budget or having to buy someone a gift that you feel isn't good enough.