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Holiday Gift Giving on a Budget

Trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on your holiday list can be time-consuming, frustrating, and expensive. Many people find that this experience causes them to overspend their holiday budget - assuming they were prudent enough to set a budget limit in the first place. Unfortunately for some, the only budget limit they set is the limit on their credit cards and the holiday shopping only ends when this limit is reached. The holidays don't have to be a time to go into debt. With a little bit of planning, you can take advantage of some easy, low-cost ways to spread the holiday cheer this season.

Use Your Special Talents

Take an inventory of your basic talents and skills to see which ones you could put to use to create holiday gifts. Most people would appreciate a gift that someone put time and effort into and personally make for them as opposed to something purchased at the mall. With an investment of just a few dollars for ingredients or materials and some basic skills you could:

  • Use your cooking skills to bake some holiday themed cookies.
  • Use your knitting talent to create a scarf, mittens, or a hat.
  • Use your scrap booking skills to make an album of special photos.
  • Use your craft talents to make a holiday wreath.
  • Use your handyman skills to complete household repairs for someone.

The possibilities for low-budget gift giving are endless if you have a hobby or basic skill that you are willing to share with others.

Not so Talented?

If you are still searching for your special talents, don't despair, there are plenty of thoughtful low-cost ways to create meaningful holiday gifts. You can find lots of ideas by visiting Internet sites like: www.ivillage.com, www.familyfun.com, or www.diynetwork.com. Some simple ideas that don't require a lot of talent and allow you to stretch individual packages of items amongst several gift recipients would be:

  • Get some inexpensive decorative tins from a Dollar store or discount store and divide packages of store bought cookies to fill them.
  • Buy some mason jars with screw-on lids and fill them with ingredients to make a batch of tasty cookies. Print the recipe out on a gift tag or index card and tie on with a ribbon.
  • Wrap some chocolates in colored plastic wrap (usually available around the holidays) and tie with a festive ribbon and a candy cane.

Use your imagination and you can probably come up with a number of ideas that won't cost a lot of money or take a lot of time especially if you assemble your gifts all at one time.

Give the Gift of Time � Your Time

Another easy way to manage your holiday budget is to give the gift of time. Offer to do a specific chore for someone, or better yet, make them a coupon or certificate you can present to them in place of a store-bought gift. Some ideas could be:

  • Make a home-cooked meal
  • Do a week's worth of laundry
  • Clean their house
  • Wash their car
  • Do an afternoon of yard work
  • Baby-sit their kids

You can tailor the offer to the gift recipients needs and if you know them well, you should have a pretty good idea of what offer would be most appreciated. Have fun with it!

Come to a Family Consensus

In addition to utilizing some of these inexpensive gift ideas, you can also consider discussing cost-saving strategies with family members such as:

  • Setting a spending limit on individual gifts.
  • Doing a gift exchange, where you each draw a name out of a hat, instead of exchanging individual gifts with each family member.
  • Going in together on a family gift, like a season pass to a pool, amusement park, zoo, or state park.

By getting the whole family to agree on some gift-giving guidelines, everyone can save money, and no one will be disappointed because they had other expectations.

Don't Forget the Less Fortunate

The holidays are also a good time of year to evaluate and rid yourself of things you no longer need but could be useful to others. If you donate them to a non-profit charity like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, it's also a good idea to get a receipt, because you can deduct the value of the donation when you do your taxes. You'll probably not only feel good about de-cluttering your home, but you just might brighten someone else's holiday. So take some time to:

  • Go through your closets, and drawers to look for clothes you no longer wear.
  • Get your kids involved and find toys they're no longer interested in.
  • Clean out your basement, garage, and storage areas.

While you are going through this process, you may even find some valuable items you are no longer using that you could sell on EBay or through your community newspaper, like the Penny Saver or Thrifty Nickel, to make some extra money to use for the holidays.

The holidays should be an occasion to celebrate and enjoy time with family friends. Don't let a tight budget turn it into a stressful occasion instead. Take some time this year to plan your gift giving to keep it within your budget. With a little bit of time, effort, and creativity you can spread a little holiday cheer without spending a lot!

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