Friday, December 5, 2008

Saving Money on Christmas Presents Without Regifting!

Most of us have done this or had it done to us at one time or another, regifting. You give something to someone else that someone else gave you because you didn't like it. Well, guess what? They probably won't like it either and people can usually tell too. So donate what you don't want to The Goodwill and pick out something special for the person you're giving to. It doesn't have to be expensive because it's true that it's the thought that counts! Here are some tips that have helped me save money year after year.

1. Evaluate and put some limits on who you're giving to. Remember that everyone you give a gift to feels obligated to give one to you. So though you may feel you're being generous, you may actually be putting more stress onto someone. The same result may happen if you give a gift that is too extravagant.  I have learned these lessons the hard way and I have to keep reminding myself that just because I love to play Santa, it doesn't mean everyone else does. So, with my extended family I give to my sisters, not their husbands and not to my brother because he doesn't want to reciprocate, and I have limited the nieces and nephews to those under 21 because I don't want them to feel they have to get us anything. I do send them all cards with well wishes and invitations to come and visit cool Portland. ( Which has the youngest average populations and most microbreweries in the country.) Limiting your list is a guaranteed way to save money.

2. Now that you have your list to the essential recipients, really think about each one. If you can't think of anything to give them, you should probably  just send them a card. For the kids on your list, call and ask their parents what they're into. Knowing what they'll like gives you time to find a deal on that toy and you'll know they'll want it. I called my sister for example to find out what her three year old was into and she said Thomas the Train so I found a book in the series (cheaper to mail than a toy) and I know he'll love it!

3. Here are some great gift ideas that will save you money. A thoughtfully chosen book is a great gift. To get them for free, pair down your own book collection and take the ones in good condition that you can live without into a used book store and exchange them for store credit. I did this last weekend and got a couple of kids books and Why we Suck by Dennis Leary in hardback for my son, ( it won't be mailed.) Money spent: Zero.

4. Anytime you can make a gift, it will usually save you money. I make and sell jewelry so I give a lot of it as gifts. I also make cards from my artwork as well. (More on that later.) There are many ideas out there to choose from. One year I made a spicy BBQ rub in quantity. My mistake was sending it in spice jars. If I had packaged it in metal spice containers, it would have been much cheaper to mail them. I know better now!

5. Older people can be really hard to buy for and they often don't want you to buy anything anyway. My inlaws always say "Don't waste your money on us." But we want to give them a gift so a food is one option. I'm going to make something special for my peeps this year because they don't always feel up to cooking. 

I recently spent a day at a seniors craft fair selling jewelry and I was surrounded by knitters. The senior ladies were buying up hats, scarves, baby sweaters, and the like like crazy!  My mother in law explained to me that many of them can no longer knit due to arthritis, but they really appreciate all of the craftsmanship and work that go into knitted items. So that's another great gift for older folks especially if you can knit!

6. Inexpensive gifts for those who have everything: cigars, wine, chocolate, nice beer like Guinness, soaps and body lotions, fishing lures, basically things that are consumable. I'm not a fan of gift certificates because they determine a price and obligate the receiver to reciprocate at that same price.

I hope these tips are helpful. Tomorrow:  Making Christmas cards special.

Merry Christmas from the Minimalist

Since I am an artist of sorts, I paint, scan, and print my own Christmas cards. If you're not an artist you can still use a special photo or message to make your cards unique. I also gave a set to my mother for her to send to her friends. Here are the two I made this year. If you like them you have my permission to reproduce them and send them to your loved ones. Leave me a comment if you do, just for fun. Merry Christmas!

Save Money on Christmas This Year

I have challenged myself to spend as little on Christmas as possible and here are a few of my tricks. Here's How I saved a huge amount of money on mailing:

1. reusing padded envelopes that I saved from when I bought various mail order items during the year. I just put blank name tag stickers over the old addresses and stuff and wrote over them. So they look funky? My family all know that I am an Oregon dwelling, recycling, composting, unapologetic, tree hugger!

2. I didn't send anything heavy like hard back books or anything glass.

3. The biggest savings on mailing was to mail early so I could use the good old US Postal service regular mail. I sent my last envelope yesterday, so no worries about it getting there on time and it cost way less than rushed delivery or UPS or Fed  Ex.

Getting my mailed gifts out of the way first saved me money and has really lowered my stress level already. It make sense to get this out of the way first because I can shop for the immediate family anytime watching for sales as I go. If you haven't mailed your gifts yet, put it on the top of your to do list and you will feel the stress lift!

Tomorrow: Saving money buying gifts.