How to Save on Gifts and Make Christmas Affordable
There's a reason why churches frequently arrange to have me present the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar in the late fall. It's to encourage their people not to go crazy with the credit cards at Christmas.
The most miserable walk in the world is the one many of use make in late January carrying the mail back to the house from the mailbox looking at all those bills. What makes it even worse: A lot of those gifts were for people we only halfway know, and who have either already returned the gifts we bought, or have given them to someone else! But there you are stuck having to make payments for the next year! Bad plan!
Many people spend more on gift buying than they can afford. There are probably several reasons for this: First, some folks, who don't have written monthly budgets, simply don't realize how much they're spending for gifts. Second, there are lots of people who would rather spend themselves into the poor house than to let their "friends" know they have financial limits. Third, there are a lot of people who really don't know how to give gifts without spending money.
It's this third group that I want to direct some ideas to in this section. First, understand that we give gifts to people whom we love-and, who love us back. By definition, these people care more about the giver than the gift. They don't care what you spend. They care about you. For people like this, it really is the thought that counts.
Maybe you'll find some good ideas below:
o Give gifts that you make yourself. If you have a garden why not give fruits, vegetables, or flowers? If you cook or bake -- why not give something from your kitchen? Personalize your homemade wonders by dressing them up with pretty ribbons and bows. Make a homemade label and hang it from a string. Attach a poem. Give "designer jars" of cinnamon sugar mix, pasta samplers, or homemade candies. Make it special.
o Give your time. Even if you don't make a product or craft, time is one thing you can give to others. The most valuable commodity any of us have is our time. Each one of us has 86,400 seconds in our day. The question is, "Who will we share our time with?" One of the best gifts we can give is a gift that represents our time. Why not give a certificate to a young family that can be redeemed for an evening of babysitting?
o Save money on gift-wrapping. One of the costliest parts of giving a gift can be the wrapping. Why not use the Sunday newspaper comic pages? It's a colorful, fun, whimsical way to wrap a present.
o Give personal gifts to family members. In our family, it's not unusual to get a certificate entitling the recipient to a 30-minute back massage. You could give "chore certificates" where the giver promises to wash dishes, make beds, mow grass, etc., for the recipient.
o Give "talent" gifts. My son Joshua is a fabulous artist. In the past, he has given his drawings as gifts. If you write poetry, why not a special verse for a friend? If you sing -- why not present a special song for the guest of honor at the birthday party?
o Romantic gifts for husbands and wives. The great thing about being married is that you can give your lover special gifts that are both personal and romantic. Why not candle light, beautiful music, and a review of your wedding album -- just before bed? Have you ever surprised your spouse (isn't that a wretched sounding word for someone you love?) with breakfast in bed? If eating out is too costly -- why not a late night cup of coffee in a quiet restaurant? You get the point. Be imaginative.
A Serious Plan For Holiday Savings
Now, I'm going to suggest something that not many of you will be willing to do. But, for that minority of you who try this -- the savings may surprise you.
Why not celebrate holidays like Christmas and Valentine's Day a few days late? Think about it. When do the really incredible Christmas sales usually begin? December 26, right? So, why not agree to have your family Christmas celebration on New Year's Day? That way you could do your shopping and decorating starting the day after Christmas. The Christmas tree lot would probably give you a tree just to avoid having to throw it away. The decorations will be reduced. And gifts in the stores will be on sale. What a deal!!! Of course, if you can't bear the thought of not celebrating Christmas on December 25th, you might consider giving gift certificates that can be redeemed on merchandise after it's on sale.
Now, if all of that seems a little too extreme for your taste, maybe you wouldn't mind to celebrate a holiday like Valentines Day a day or two late. (Have you ever noticed how much a heart-shaped box of chocolates goes down in price right after Cupid leaves town?)
Here's An Old Trick
Always buy a year ahead. Buy seasonal merchandise like gift wrapping, decorations, and ornaments immediately after a holiday is over. Frequently stores offer huge discounts simply to avoid having to warehouse their stock for another year.
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