For many people, Christmas is a favorite time of year. Unfortunately, it can also be the most stressful. The costs of Christmas cards, Christmas trees, decorations, and gifts can really burden one’s finances.
You might be wondering why I am talking about Christmas today when it is only July. Both of my children’s birthdays fall in July. Once their birthdays have passed I begin thinking about the next big event, which is Christmas. Giving myself some time to think, plan, and prepare helps to save money. Hopefully, this post will encourage you to think ahead and plan too so that you can also save money.
Here are some ways to save money on Christmas gifts. Another day we can discuss ways to save money on the other parts of Christmas.
1. Get help from friends and family. Let them know what you’re shopping for. When I do this, other people let me know when they spot a good deal on something I need. It goes both ways. I have been known to text pictures to people at midnight on Black Friday with deals they might be interested in. It helps to have others watching out for what you need.
2. Ask friends and family what they want. Hopefully, this will avoid countless hours shopping, racking your brain, wasted gas, extra unwanted products in the environment, and the hassle of returns.
3. Try gift cards. Some people may think this is inappropriate, but I think it’s a great solution. Gift cards save time, wrapping paper, shipping expenses, and help avoid unwanted gifts. Let the person buy what they want.
4. Save your receipts. Get an envelope for your purse or have a special file folder in your filing cabinet. You never know when you’ll have bought the wrong size or something didn’t work. It’s really upsetting to return something without a receipt and not get the full value of the item.
5. See if your store offers a gift receipt. I think it’s nice when someone includes a gift receipt in the box. This avoids the uncomfortable situation of asking where they bought it or if they still have the receipt. I’ll admit that many times I’ve been left with things I couldn’t use or return. Gift receipts are great!
6. Be specific in your requests. If someone asks what to get your child, try to be as specific as possible. Tell them the exact name of the toy or their specific pants size. Before Christmas and birthdays, I have my kids write a list of the things they really like and want. Then when family asks for gift ideas, I have something to tell them. I like to have a variety of lower priced items on the list too (such as hair bows, stickers, etc.) so that people don’t feel like they have to spend a lot. This also helps with people looking for filler items.
7. Consider drawing names with co-workers or family. We did this with my husband’s family for several years. To make it more fun, we kept the names we drew a secret and were surprised when we exchanged gifts.
8. Buy just for the children. This is becoming a common practice in our families. We buy for our parents and the children. This has really cut down on spending and getting unusable gifts. It also makes for a more relaxed Christmas.
9. Consider playing a game instead of swapping gifts. Try a white elephant or dirty Santa game. Some games involve bringing a nice gift that someone would want. Other games involve bringing a funny or prank type gift. There is usually a gift maximum price suggested, such as $10-20. With the games, each person brings one gift and each person leaves with one gift. Be prepared for lots of laughter and fun.
10. Be realistic. While you’re out there shopping, you’ll probably find loads of great deals and things you want for yourself. Be sure to budget in some money for things that you want.
11. Make a budget and stick with it. NO CHARGING! If you can only afford a $20 gift then make those dollars stretch. There are deals all around so that you can make your purchase special.
12. Take those credit cards out of your wallet. It’s much more tempting to charge something and purchase something out of your price range when the credit cards are in your wallet. You don’t need a debt hangover in January.
13. Try making homemade gifts. With the new craft items, DIY tv shows, and Pinterest, hand crafted items have made a comeback and are more desirable. Do you have a nitch? You can make note cards, pillows, crocheted hats, wreaths, and many other different things that are nice. A gift doesn’t have to be store bought.
14. Instead of individual gifts, consider a family gift. You could purchase a popcorn bowl and fill it with microwave popcorn, candy bars, and a new DVD. Perhaps you could purchase the family a season pass to the aquarium or something else they would like. The key is to think about the family and what their interests are.
15. Keep a gift closet or special place for gifts. Years ago, I used to have a gift closet. I would purchase things throughout the year and put them away for later use. Now that I no longer have a gift closet, I have gift totes. It’s not as convenient but the concept is the same. I find things throughout the year that I think people will like (on clearance or not) and put them away for Christmas. Honestly, I think it is a more thoughtful process because I am able to think ahead and consider the person that I am buying for. I am also able to pick up a few extra things for teachers, co-workers, and extended family.
16. Don’t wait until the last minute. Shopping the week before Christmas means that things will be picked over and you’ll have to choose from what’s left. You may not end up with a nice gift like you had planned, or you may have to pay more for something.
18. Give the gift of service. Instead of you and your friend exchanging gifts, consider giving a gift of service. Everyone wants to go out on a date with their husband. Many of us don’t go out though because we can’t afford to go out and to pay a sitter. Give your friend babysitting services. You could also give other services such as housecleaning, gardening, raking, etc. Perhaps you could pick a chore that she doesn’t like to do. Use your computer or art skills to make a certificate for the services you are giving.
19. Consider giving something used. I remember just a few years ago my son kept asking for Rescue Heroes. Each of the figurines were around $10 each. Finally I did some searching online and found two huge lots on ebay. I got the two lots for around $50, including shipping. Something similar happened with Polly Pockets for my daughter. She soon realized that she could only get a few Polly Pocket pieces for $15 but we found a big box with buildings, figurines, clothes, and more on Craigslist for $40. Consider the person you are buying for and decide if they would mind something used.
20. Consider regifting. Regifting doesn’t have to be tacky or thoughtless. We all get gifts we have don’t need. Hang onto those gifts and try to thoughtfully give them to someone else. Perhaps you could give them to your neighbor, mail carrier, your child’s teacher, the person that picks up your recycling, or your favorite bank teller. Regifting doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Just make sure what you are giving is considerate of what that person likes and that the gift is in good condition. Here is a post with regifting tips.
This is certainly not a complete list of ways to save on Christmas gifts. Which ways do you save?
This article was originally written by me in 2007. It has been revised and edited.