Buying Christmas gifts on a budget during tough financial periods is never easy; everyone wants the holidays to be a time of joy and we've all been programmed that a large part of that joy comes from the gift of giving. None of that joy has to be sacrificed if you just take a little time to remember that the holidays is a time for people to grow closer, and a gift on its own, won't do that.
If you give someone a great gift and turn out to be a terrible host, then odds are that person will have a terrible time and won't care about the gift at all. After reading the suggestions below I hope you will realize that Christmas presents won't make your get together great, it's the companionship that will do that. Also keep in mind that although the ideas below are in the context of Christmas, most can be used in any gift giving situation.
• Buying Gifts For Others: During bad times be careful how much you spend to buy a gift. Whoever receives your gift will try to match whatever it costs no matter how much you tell them to do otherwise. And if they do end up buying you something that was a lot less in price than what you gave them, all you've done is hurt their feelings. Sometimes it's better to buy no gift at all, especially if someone asks you not to.
• Drawing Names: This is a great way to get and give Christmas presents if you have a large family dinner or some type of business party. Simply write everyone's name down on strips of paper and put them in a container. If they want to put a few hints down about what they like or clothing sizes they may help whoever chose their name to pick a better gift. Have each person draw a name; whoever they get, that's who they buy a present for.
• Setting Price Limits: This really works well when used with drawing names. If you want to make things a little interesting, try setting an extremely low price limit (say $5). Require that everyone provides a receipt for proof. People will actually have to use their imaginations a little bit and everyone will probably have a lot of laughs about what is given.
• Buying Ahead Of Time: This takes a little forethought, budgeting and planning, but if you are willing to buy things throughout the year when they are on sale and put them up, you can save quite a bit of money. Try buying some of next year's gifts by shopping on the day after Thanksgiving or Christmas.
• Buy From Thrift Shops Or Flea Markets: You can find all kinds of great stuff at these places and many times the item will get far more use than anything you buy in a shiny new box.
• Giving Things You Already Own: Take a look around your house, odds are that you will find a few things that you have never used or very rarely use. Just because you can't use an item doesn't mean someone else won't find it useful. You can easily use these as Christmas gifts, but I advise against giving the same gift back to those who gave it to you in the first place. Better yet, host a White Elephant Gift Exchange and create memories worth sharing.
• Don't Go Into Debt: What I should say is don't go into debt if you know you'll have a hard time getting out of the debt. This is really hard to do, and I've even done it myself a few times. We want Christmas to be so perfect and many times we are tricked into believing that expensive gifts are the answer when they're not. Joy doesn't come from things, it comes from sharing life with other people.
• Making Special Cards: There was a year or two in which I sat down and actually made custom Christmas cards for my family. I drew the artwork, I put down special memories, and I came up with words that expressed how I felt towards them. This is not as easy as it may sound and can take a lot longer than going shopping for a gift.
• Work Coupons: Try making a coupon in which someone can turn in for your time. It could be for any special skills that you offer or even for manual labor. If you wanted to make it specific you could write down things such as babysitting services for a day, one lawn mowing session, house cleaning services, taxi service, massage, repair, etc.
• Special Accounts: Immediately after the holidays start setting aside a certain amount each paycheck for next Christmas. The key here is to have all of next year's Christmas money before the shopping season begins.
• Ideas On Paper: Keep ideas on what to buy for whom written down in a notebook. You may hear someone talking about an old toy from their childhood they would like to have again that you could probably buy at a flea market. If you hear them say this in July, you better have a good memory, or… write it down. I guarantee if you get them that gift it will make them happier than anything you buy brand new.
• Have Fun With Wrapping: This works really well with small children as they often enjoy the act of unwrapping the birthday or Christmas gift as much as the gift itself. Sometimes I like to use several different sized boxes and put one within another with the gift being in the smallest one. I've also wadded up ten $1 bills so they look like trash and give them to kids (just make sure they don't mistake it for trash).
• Never Buy Wrapping Paper: You can always find something to wrap your gift in whether it's newspaper, aluminum foil, an old handkerchief, or regular notebook paper. Besides, it will make your gift stand out among all the shiny, new wrapping paper.
• Prioritize: Decide what people you want to buy for first. Those further down the list you can spend very little on or send a card. It really helps to have a budget, too.
When you buy Christmas gifts (or any gift) on a budget, don't feel bad about it. Try to make sure the gift fits the person who you're giving it to and it should be well received. Feel free to list other strategies in the comment section.
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