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How to Give Holiday Gifts on a Budget

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December 03, 2015 · 3k Views

The holidays are a time filled with joy and cheer. Decorations, family get togethers, and festive music all add to the occasion. However, often times the focus of the season ends up being on the giving and receiving of gifts.

Watching a huge smile on the face of someone you gave the perfect gift to is a moment to be treasured, but the unfortunate reality is that there is an extreme amount of stress that goes into creating those memories. Not to mention a maxed out budget, and sometimes even credit card debt.

The average person in the United States spends $805 per year on gifts during the holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. Is all that really necessary? Between significant others, immediate family, close friends, co-workers, in-laws, etc. the list of gifts can become out of control in a hurry. No wonder so many people get stressed out around the holidays!

There tends to be a fear of seeming cheap, ungrateful, uncaring, or boring  to our loved ones. This creates an obligation for buying gifts that we simply can not afford. Rather than get creative on how to give cheaper gifts, or simply not giving gifts at all, the average person will opt to spend hundreds of dollars and put a big strain on their finances.

Related Post: 50 Holiday Gifts Under $20 That Your Friends Will Actually Want

So how can these problems be avoided? Here are some tips for how to cut down the cost of gift giving, without sacrificing the true spirit of the holiday season.


Homemade Gifts

One of the best ways to cut down the cost of gifts is to make them at home instead of purchasing them. While sometimes homemade gifts get a bad rep, it all comes down to the time and effort put into them. With the proper idea and planning it can be quite the opposite. Be sure, to check out sites like Pinterest and Etsy for extra inspiration. Making  your own gifts is an effective way to show your loved ones that they are special – something that buying a gift card usually does not. Plus it’s a way to really customize a gift exactly to that person’s liking!

Spend on Experiences

Do you remember all the presents you got last year? What about two years ago? Probably not. Rather than spending money on material gifts that don’t fill a need and are easily forgotten, spend your money on experiences. Try outings such as concerts, sports games, dinners, picnics, weekend trips, hiking, among numerous other ideas.  By giving a gift that involves an experience you’re creating memories and spending time with one another. While it may be cliche, the best present really is one another’s presence. A material gift is quickly forgotten, while these types of gifts can have an impact for years.

Consumable Gifts

Another great option is to give consumable gifts such as a bottle of wine, bag of coffee, or baked goods. These items tend to be less expensive than material gifts, and are also guaranteed to be usable by whoever you’re giving them to. Rather than taking the risk on finding an expensive product that becomes destined to collect dust in the back of a closet, go with these type of gifts instead.

Shop Early for Better Sales

If you do choose to purchase gifts, do so in a timely manner. Avoid the crowds of people scrambling to find last minute gifts with just days to spare. Plenty of retailers have ongoing sales between now and Christmas to help you save some money on your holiday shopping.

For all the hottest deals and sales, head over to your favorite store page on DealsPlus! Or, check out featured coupons on the homepage for all the best trending discounts.

Secret Santa

With so many friends and family members, the list of gifts you feel obligated to purchase becomes longer and longer. An effective way to narrow that list down is with a Secret Santa gift exchange. This works best for a group of people, such as your family or coworkers.

  • Write everyone’s name down on a slip of paper and put them into a hat. Have everybody draw out one name from the hat, and that is the person they will be getting a gift for.
  • Set a dollar limit, such as $25. This gives people a baseline for how much money to spend.
  • It can also be helpful to send out some sort of questionnaire beforehand, so that people can fill it out with gift ideas of what they their interests are.
  • Have one person collect all the gifts before everyone meets up and place them in the center of the room.
  • One by one, each person gets to open the gift from their Secret Santa.
  • After everyone has opened their gift, take turns guessing who gave you your gift. Finally, reveal who everyone’s Secret Santa was.

This way, you only have the responsibility of getting one gift total, while still taking part in the joy of giving gifts and being with one another.

White Elephant Gift Exchange

Another group game that lets you experience the joy of gift giving without the pressures of doing a lot of shopping or spending a significant amount of money, is a White Elephant gift exchange. This type of exchange is best for a holiday party. It involves everyone bringing one wrapped gift to the party, and placing them all together.

  • Write numbers on a piece of paper for however many gifts there are, for example if there are 20 gifts, write down numbers 1-20 on small slips of paper. Put all the slips of paper into a hat, and let each person draw out a number.
  • In number order, take turns selecting a gift.
  • Person #1 will go to the gift pile, select a gift, and unwrap it.
  • Then Person #2 has a turn to choose. They can either select one of the unwrapped gifts, or steal Person #1’s gift.
  • When someone’s gift is stolen, they have the option of stealing from someone else or selecting a wrapped gift from the center.
  • A gift can only be stolen a total of three times before it becomes “frozen,” meaning the person who steals it the third time gets to keep it freely. You also can’t immediately steal back a gift that has been stolen from you.

With White Elephant gift exchanges, the items can be anything. From random trinkets found around the house, to gift cards, candy, and more. The dollar value per gift should usually be kept to $10 or less, making this a highly entertaining yet cost effective solution for holiday gift giving.


Final Thoughts

It’s easier to buy something expensive and not put much thought into it. However, our goal for gift giving should be to make it a personal gift with a specific value or purpose, instead of simply giving presents out of obligation. Gifts don’t have to be expensive to achieve this goal, the cost has no bearing on how much love you’re demonstrating to the other person.

It comes down to having conversations with your loved ones about why you’re making the decisions you’re making. Hopefully they see the value in getting creative with less expensive gifts and support your new mindset. In this way, the obligation and anxiety of breaking the bank to purchase everyone the perfect gift will be changed. Our gifts will be about being creative, building memories, spending time with the ones we love, and be much more meaningful this holiday season.

sfgiantsfan8 profile picture
A lifelong Bay Area native, Matt Spillar graduated in 2013 from Fresno State with a Sports Marketing degree. He strives to combine his passion for sports marketing along with his interests in finance and budgeting. In his spare time, he writes for his personal blog, spillsspot.com

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