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Thread: How to Buy Gifts on a Budget?

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    Senior Member Array mrina's Avatar
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    How to Buy Gifts on a Budget?

    How to Buy Gifts on a Budget?

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    Senior Member Array mrina's Avatar
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    If the holiday season conjures up images of overcrowded malls and a fat credit card bill, it's time to rethink the holiday. Giving gifts can be an emotionally satisfying way of expressing your love for someone. It does not, however, have to bankrupt you. With a little creativity and some careful planning, you can give thoughtful gifts to all of your loved ones without breaking the bank.
    Step 1: Create a Budget
    * American consumers spent an average of $907 on Christmas gifts last year. You can spend a fraction of that amount through careful planning and budgeting.

    1. Save Up Now: It's never too late to earmark money for a Christmas or holiday-spending fund. Remember that how you spend during the holidays affects your household's budget as a whole.
    2. Settle on a Figure: Decide how much you want to spend overall. You can break down this amount by person, family or gift when you create your gift-giving list. For now, give yourself a ballpark figure.
    3. Include Gift-Related Costs: Include gift wrapping, cards and shipping in your budget. Shipping, in particular, can get expensive. It's best to anticipate the cost.
    4. Budget Time: Time is as important as money when it comes to gift-giving on a budget. You need time to plan, time to save, time to shop and time to make all those thoughtful gifts that will save you loads of cash.
    Step 2: Make a List
    * Every holiday shopper would be better off following Santa's lead - making a list and checking it twice. You don't need to eliminate anyone based on their naughty or nice quotient, but there are a few techniques you can use to whittle that list down to the essentials.

    1. Cut the List in Half: Once you've listed everyone and their brother on your holiday shopping list, cut it in half. Who do you want to give gifts to versus who you feel obliged to give gifts to? When you give a gift, you should be giving it from the heart not out of a sense of social or professional obligation. If you must give gifts to co-workers or relatives you don't care for, limit the amount you spend on them.
    2. Consider a Gift Exchange: If your family or circle of friends is open to it, consider a gift exchange with a set spending limit.
    3. Buy a Family Gift: You don't have to buy mom, dad and all the kids individual presents. Buy a gift they can use together - a zoo membership, tickets to a family-friendly show or a restaurant gift certificate.
    Step 3: Brainstorm Gift Ideas

    * Before you spend a dime, consider what you'd like to give to everyone on your list. If you go in with a game plan, it's far less likely that you will overspend. You may also find that the most thoughtful gifts are the ones you make, not the ones you buy.

    1. Consider the Person: The best gifts are the most thoughtful gifts. Consider the person on your list. What does he or she like? What will make that person feel like he or she is loved and appreciated and not just a holiday chore to cross off a list?
    2. Visit Gift Idea Websites: Several websites exist just to generate gift ideas according to a person's interests or relationship to you. Check out,,'s Gift Central or Mahalo's own Guide to Gifts for ideas.
    3. Create a Package Gift: A package gift is a collection of related items. For instance, a bottle of wine, a fancy corkscrew and a pair of goblets. A package gift doesn't have to be expensive, but it shows that you put some consideration into assembling the gift.
    4. Buy Novel Gifts from Unexpected Places: There are lots of great websites that sell unique, inexpensive gifts that you can't find anywhere else. Who doesn't need a tub of mini ninjas or a Transfarmers t-shirt? Check out Threadless for hip, well-designed t-shirts; Etsy for handmade crafts; Archie McPhee and Fred Flare for fun, novelty items and, of course, eBay for everything else.
    4. Assign a Price Limit per Person: Break down your overall budget by person. In the end, you may find that you spend more time than money on the people you care about most.
    * 5. Make Your Gift: Nothing shows your love more than baking it into a homemade pie. There are dozens of great gifts that require more time than money. Why not whip up a mix CD, write a heartfelt letter or dream up a holiday scavenger hunt for your friends?
    * 6. Regift: Don't fear regifting. It's economical, and no one needs to know. Throw in some holiday cookies, a sweet card and some homemade wrapping paper to make the gift feel new.
    * 7. Give the Gift of Experience: Who needs more stuff? Consider giving theater tickets, singing lessons, restaurant gift certificates or an action sports outing as gifts.
    * 8. Do Cool Things with Photos: Has your friend ever done anything with those 1,000s of photos in his or her Flickr account? Print and frame the best shots. Make a cross stitch pattern from them. Create an online scrapbook or comic book. Check out all the cool things you can do with photos at websites like Photojojo and Moo Cards.
    * 9. Buy Artwork: You can purchase one-of-a-kind artwork for very little. Check out the Perry Bible Fellowship for signed prints of surreal comics, pop culture-inspired prints from Brandon Bird and The Poster List or original $20 prints from 20x200.
    * 10. Get Geeky: If you're technically inclined, check out MAKE Blog's Open Source Gift Guide and retrofit an old gadget for new gimmickry. Or, try downloading a program which records streaming audio, and put radio shows like This American Life, the SModcast or NPR's live concert recordings on CDs for friends.
    Step 4: Go Shopping
    * If you have to hit the stores for the holidays, keep your budget in mind and your list in hand. Don't forget to do some comparison shopping and take advantage of deals when you can.

    1. Carry Cash: If you're shopping in stores instead of online, carry the amount you've allocated to holiday spending in cash. Once the cash is gone, you're done.
    2. Use a Credit Card When Shopping Online: A credit card offers more protection than a debit card. The misuse of your debit card may end up draining your bank account. The most you're liable for if your credit card is stolen online is $50.
    3. Avoid Untested Sellers on eBay: Only buy items from eBay sellers with a substantial amount of positive feedback. Plenty of scammers turn up on eBay around the holiday season.
    4. Be Wary of Gift Cards: If you purchase a gift card, be sure that it does not include service fees and will retain its value over time.
    5. Avoid Malls: Malls are designed to keep you shopping longer and spending more. Save yourself the stress and the chance of running over budget by avoiding the mall altogether.
    Step 5: Wrap Your Gifts
    * Why spend money on decorative paper that's going to be thrown out? A less expensive wrapping paper alternative doesn't lessen the value of your gift. Go the DIY route, and try one these gift wrap stand-ins:

    1. Comic Books: Snatch up a stack of old comics at the comic shop, or excise the Sunday funnies from your paper.
    2. Aluminum Foil: All the shiny of wrapping paper at half the cost.
    3. Foroshiki: Traditional Japanese cloth wrapping. Available through
    4. MS Word Wrapping Paper: Plain white paper. Snazzy computer graphics. Printer. Done.
    5. Paper Gift Box: A little origami and some decorative stickers go a long way to making your gift special.

    Step 6: Ship Your Gifts
    * Shipping can cost as much and sometimes more than the gifts you're shipping. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you head to the post office:

    1. Ship Early: No matter what holiday you're celebrating, you want your presents to get where they're going on time. You also don't want to face steep overnight shipping fees. Consult the shipping schedules of various retailers via Dealhack's list of holiday ordering deadlines. Keep in mind that normal UPS and USPS shipping schedules may be slowed by the holiday rush.
    2. Ship Carefully: Protect your gift items with bubble wrap and crumpled newspaper. Seal the package with a strong adhesive, and address your package correctly.

    * Gift-giving shouldn't be stressful. Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa aren't about fighting crowds at the mall or lavishing children with toys they'll lose interest in. As cliché as it may sound, it really is the thought that counts. So, put down your credit card and start thinking creatively. Spread the love, not the consumer goods, this holiday season.

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