It’s that special time of year where we are bombarded with ads—and all sorts of societal pressure—to buy gifts for our partners, family, friends, our coworkers, and even our pets. Indeed, to not get into the spirit of gift-giving during the holiday season can feel like embodying the modern-day Uncle Scrooge. They have all that they need. And not a penny more from my coin purse is needed.
Still, buying presents for everyone you value in your life will cost you a pretty penny. But being broke during the holiday season? Not so fun. So, consider this the gift you give yourself this season: Making it through the holidays without going broke. Here’s how to make it happen.
Make a list and check it twice
We’ll assume you no longer believe in Santa Claus, but there are some best practices you can learn from the old man. As in, not everyone deserves a gift. It might seem harsh, but before you get caught up in figuring out whatthe perfect present is, decide who gets one.
- Start with the people who are the “musts” on your list, the people you can’t fathom not giving a gift to
- Then, make a list of people (i.e., your friends or extended family) who are on your “would like to, but they’ll forgive me if I don’t.”
- Finally, if anyone else comes to mind, put them on your third list. These are the people who most likely you feel obligated to give presents to whether because they’re your coworkers or your child’s favorite teacher. (We’ll deal with them last.)
Accurately estimate each gift’s cost
Once you have a list of the people you would like to gift something to, it’s time to set a budget. One of the pitfalls for creating a budget, though, happens when you set an arbitrary number for a gift. That is, you think, $25 or $50 etc., etc. This approach is best suited for the people on your second list (the people it would be nice to give a gift to, but you’re not sure yet if you can afford to).
To save on gifts during the holidays, focus on the people at the top of your list—the ones whom you want to show you care the most. Chances are, you wouldn’t mind spending (a lot) more on your partner or a parent or your child. If so, think about what type of gift you’d like to give.
Then, do some online research to get an accurate cost estimate for the gift. If the average price is $150, then you’ll know from the start how much to set aside and include in your budget. Give yourself some wiggle-room in your budget for larger gifts to offset costs for shipping and taxes.
Sign up for price alerts to save on gifts during the holidays
Once you have an idea of what it is you’re hoping to gift, set price alerts at your favorite stores. See if you can buy it at a department store that’s offering cash back options on purchases. If it’s a gift that errs on the pricier side, consider whether it’s best-saved for purchasing on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. That’s when most stores offer their biggest sales of the year.
There’s no shame in repurposing and re-gifting—really
After you’ve narrowed your list to the must-gift people and have an accurate budget, you can focus on the people on your second gifting list. These are your closest friends, extended family members, and people whom you’d like to show some appreciation to.
Because this is the most varied group of the bunch, you can get away with re-gifting. Did you get a lovely sweater that didn’t suit you but is exactly your friend’s taste? Is there a set of fancy stationery you never opened but know someone who might appreciate it?
Start by analyzing what you can re-gift to cut down on your costs. This will go a long way toward helping you save on gifts during the holidays.
“Batch gift” everything else
Lastly on your list are the people you might feel obligated to give a gift to. Think about easy ways to “batch” your gifts so that you’re not spending too much money or time on them.
- Baking treats for your coworkers or extended family members is one of the easiest ways to save on gifts.
- If baking seems like too much work (let’s face it, it requires patience) you can always decorate some mason jars with ribbon and put the ingredients inside along with some instructions for baking.
Gift your time
Think about ways you can help your extended family members in ways that don’t cost you money. You can offer to babysit for a day. Or you can volunteer to help do some deep cleaning before the New Year or put up some holiday lights? Ask for ways you can help take something off someone’s to-do list.
Host a gathering
Finally, if you’re still worried about not gifting something to someone, think about ways you can create an environment for people to enjoy the holidays. That can mean hosting dinner at your place, organizing a White Elephant exchange or having people over for a holiday movie night or baking session. You’ll spend time with loved ones without the pressure of needing a present for every single guest.