Even though we are on a very tight budget, I still enjoy giving thoughtful gifts to friends and family throughout the year. Through creative shopping, we have almost completely eliminated the gift category from our expenses and I continuously challenge myself to give more on less. Over the past year, I have learned how to apply the same principles from couponing to save a tremendous amount on another area of our budget.
Here are a few tips that have worked for me to stretch our gift giving dollars:
1. Get Organized. I have a list posted in my office that has all the events & holidays listed by month. This ensures I never need to rush out to buy a last minute gift for something I have forgotten.
2. Plan Ahead. I always look ahead to the next event on the list as the year progresses. My local grocery store recently had a great greeting card promotion so I took advantage of the promotion and bought cards for the next three events. I shop all year long and check the event off my list as I go and keep everything organized in a clear tub in my closet. There is no point in purchasing gifts in advance if you just forget what you have or misplace things.
3. Take Advantage of Sales. Clearance events are fairly predictable and you can often buy things for a substantial discount. An example is the annual baby clearance events that take place at major retailers in January and July. Prior to these sales I will check my list to see what baby gifts I might need. I then follow the sales and try to purchase items at 75%-90% off.
This means I am often Christmas shopping in July which might seem crazy to some people. Last year however, I experienced an extremely relaxed Christmas as most of my shopping was already done. I was able to avoid the pressure to overspend during the holidays as I had no need to go to the mall. I also had time to decorate, bake, go to parties—all the things we want to do but can’t seem to find the time to fit in.
4. Maximize Coupons. I have discovered there are a lot of coupons that can be found outside the grocery store. A great example is the recent $15 off coupon at NY & Co. clothing store. I always utilize these coupons regardless of whether I need an item from that store. I know I can find something that will make a wonderful gift for someone on my list. A friend and I went to NY & Co and we used one coupon each- for a combined total of $8.64 we were able to get a wallet, 2 t-shirts, 2 charm bracelets and 2 pairs of earrings. I kept the wallet, a t shirt and one pair of earrings and tucked the bracelet and second pair of earrings into my gift bin. Since we were at the mall, I also stopped by Victoria’s Secret for a small lotion I had a free coupon for. This lotion will make a nice addition to a gift basket or stocking at Christmas.
Another example is the Kohl’s $5 off any purchase coupon I got for joining the email list. Kohl’s also sent me 2 extra $10 off $10 coupons- I have heard many areas around the country receieved this same coupon in the mail recently. Since this is an ongoing deal at Kohl’s, I registered right before Easter to take advantage of post holiday sales. Click here to see how I got gifts for a baby shower totally free.
6. Think Outside the Box. I always buy tissue paper and gift wrap at Walgreens when it goes on sale for .39 during the year. I know I will use it and it makes a great filler item. Ribbon can be purchased for next to nothing after Christmas or baskets after Easter and providing you find a neutral color, a nice presentation can immediately add class to an inexpensive gift. I also save all the fancy gift bags I receive throughout the year to recycle for gifts I give. Many of those bags are $5 each and just thrown away virtually new.
7. Utilize Online Resources. Swagbucks is a popular way to earn free gift cards and by signing up now, you can probably accumulate enough bucks to buy a lot of holiday gifts at retailers like Amazon or Target.
If you have the time, the multitude of giveaways are a great way to build up your gift closet. Deal Seeking Mom posts a weekly link to hundreds of giveaways around the blogosphere. Many giveaways are for expensive items like strollers and high chairs- or more custom items like jewelry. I try to set aside an hour a week in the evening to go through these giveaways and enter.
I hope these tips are helpful to you in shaving a little extra off your gift budget. I don’t mean to suggest that one always has to buy something to give generously. Sometimes the best gift is something simple like offering baby sitting services to a busy mom or dropping off home cooked meals to a sick friend.
For more great ideas check out Frugal Friday here.
Stay tuned as I will be posting examples of gifts I have put together for $10 or less in the next few days!