I feel like I already do pretty well in the gift giving department, finding nice gifts at decent prices, and try to avoid crap just to give a gift. In my quest though to reach a one earner lifestyle by January 1, 2024, every area of discretionary spending needs to be reviewed, and gift giving is one of them. I have four categories of gifts-Christmas, birthdays for family members, "days Holidays", and miscellaneous for things like weddings, showers, and new babies, as well as milestone b-days of friends. The miscellaneous bucket seems to be the hardest to plan for since these are gift giving events we have no control over, nor sometimes lead time to plan. Here's a few strategies to trim our spending.
Make a Gift Recipient List and Budget
I need to create list and a budget heading into the year, and stick to it. Whenever possible, I'll shop ahead of time, and if we truly do not have a good gift idea, just supplement with cash. I'm happy to stick in a favorite box of movie theater candy or a jar of homemade jam, or a fresh baked loaf of bread if just giving cash feels too impersonal. Gift cards towards specific activities might be a good gift instead of cash if I know it will be used. Cash and gift cards don't save me anything from my budget, but they keep me on budget and I'm not buying stuff that might just be wasted. The next ideas cross all categories.
Combine gift cards to restaurants with "freebies" in our entertainment budget.
For example, I just bought $50 in Applebee's and got $20. We can buy several gift cards for others, but use the $20 freebie, usually with a very short window, towards our own entertainment budget, shifting the funds to the gift category. The limitation to this is it probably will all be gift cards to chain and not local restaurants. Still, it can be a good gift that could be bought in advance if you know you have several milestone birthdays, or new parents that might love nothing better than either a night out, or a call and pick-up meal.
Shop with Discount/Freebie Gift Cards
I plan to put all my Target earnings from MS Rewards toward Christmas again this year. I also have a few from the "free" gift card promotions Target periodically does, so those will get applied as well. I'm leery of sites like Gift Card Granny, but I've heard or read there are places that sell or have sales on gift cards form time to time. Does Dollar General ring a bell? If you know or have good luck with any sites, let me know.
No frills practical gifts:
Interesting fact I learned at Trivial last night, 56% of people surveyed like getting socks for Christmas. I hit a great clearance sale at a high end outdoor clothing store last January. Guess what a lot of gifts will be this Christmas and for winter birthdays? Extra thick socks, wooly mittens, and hats are a necessity in my part of the states. Likewise, stocking up on summer items for those gift giving needs help defray paying full or even the on-sale price in the current season. Then there are seasonless gifts for some people on my list that I've targeted for collection. Think tank tops, leggings, and athletic shorts for the girls in my life who wear year round in layering or for working out, swimsuit cover ups (Summer and travel), and men's high end quality t-shirts. I hit a rock bottom sale on thick white cotton Ralph Lauren tee's over a decade ago. The one's DH has look better than basic Hanes he just got a year or two ago. I need to think beyond clothing though, and sporting and camping stores or departments in stores can yield some great buy ahead gifts, like Fire Starters I got for 1/3 price. Now that I have a virtually clear closet in the office, I can better organize my purchase ahead gifts.
Miscellaneous Gifts: Baby, Wedding Shower. and Wedding and Milestone Birthdays
I'll start the year thinking through the potential life events with my family and close friends. Once I do that, I'll pad my budget with 2 small (b-day) 2 mid (new baby/showers) and 1 large (wedding), then add all, decide my budget, and divide by 12 to build the cash reserve. These events can be tough as it seems more and more new mom's and couples have specific wants, or already have a lot of stuff, but have big ticket items only left on a registry. I try and combine any deals I can with the items on the list like rebates, applying coupons, or earning points/gift cards back. To tighten my belt, I might have to change what I do with those savings as historically, I've used the savings to put back more into the gift. Sometimes, or most often, times, cash in the range I budgeted for, or a gift card to a preferred store, in the amount budgeted for is where I'll end up. So while not really a savings strategy, it keeps me on budget.
This sounds terrible, but one gift recipient that seems to blow our budget regularly is DH's mom. Either DH or his sibling will identify a need type for her-at her house, or at the lake, and determine if we just give it as a gift, then we'll know it has been taken care of. It's not a bad plan, but everyone also still ends up giving individual gifts as well. And, the big gift, even split three ways, is not cheap. For example, we replaced all the door handles in her large townhouse with the type that are push down and pull, so she no longer has to turn the door knob. Excellent for her independence, but split three ways, we still spent $250 each for her birthday. Now, my MIL is not a penny watching pensioner living on SSI. She is quite comfortable, bordering on wealthy. She also though is very careful about money, and would not have gone out and replaced perfectly good door knobs on her own, even though she complains that on her bad days she can hardly turn the door to get into her bathroom.
What's my plan? Well, She tends to give DH and I cash for both our birthdays and at Christmas. We too do not need anything, and if want something, we tend to plan, budget, then save. My way to offset these extra expensive gifts is to put her gift money to us, towards these gift purchases for her. It wouldn't be a quid pro quo, but more of a "the cash is there" kind of process. To be honest, I think that is kind of what DH's sister does, based on a comment or two. Quite frankly, peace of mind that something has been done to make her life easier and safer is a gift to all of us!
I know my gift buying list probably seems excessive to many readers. It does to me as well. Until I trim the number of reasons for gifting and to whom, I'll use strategies to not blow my budget. Of course, a really great gift is time, so if you want to truly show people you care, carve out time to spend with them this season.