It’s almost mid-December, so I’m sure we’re all knee deep in Christmas shopping, or if you’re anything like me–you might be done by now. Something that occurred to me in this season is that people may assume being frugal and being generous are mutually exclusive in terms of gift giving and I’m here to say that just isn’t the case! It’s all about planning and finding the right gift and the right deal at the right time. A helpful tactic I enjoy with one of my siblings and husband is telling one another what we’d like, sometimes even in November. That way you can track the thing and see if it goes on sale or at the very least have time to plan around the cost of it. And you can ensure that the giftee receives something she would like. It’s always a little tough to take a shot in the dark with gift giving. I know I really care whether or not the recipient would enjoy or get use out of the item I’m buying, so I try to be thoughtful about it. All too often I think people assume that something they would want must be what another would as well.
I tend to steer clear from homemade gifts–partially because I am not talented in any way that would contribute, but also because I don’t want to add to that person’s collection of useless items that may or may not be in her taste. I think it also adds the extra pressure of, “I can’t give this away because so and so made it by hand”. Your recipient shouldn’t feel stressed that she received something she now has to pull out every time you’re over to pretend like it’s in use. I’m sure the idea behind the thought is nice– you’re saving money and making an effort from the heart–but as a fellow frugalite, all I see is the saving money part and wonder if the person actually thought of me at all when making whatever the object is. Can you relate or do you think that’s off the mark? I’m sure there are plenty of talented folk who do just fine handing out mason jars of homemade cocoa and quilts (I wouldn’t mind the former). And to be fair, I’ve actually hired out help to make something creative before, but I’m talking an Etsy artist doing something very specifically geared toward the individual I was giving it to. It certainly didn’t save me any money–but I was very pleased with the personal end result. Maybe all you can afford to do is make gifts because it’s been a hard financial year. No judgment here, but for the purposes of this blog–I am writing to a financially stable audience who likes to save money even though they don’t have to.
Another tip–Black Friday is your friend! There is nothing wrong with this day other than the fact that in certain parts of the country–in certain stores–people go absolutely nuts. But I like to believe those guys are weirdos in general, so all the event is doing is unleashing that person’s flaws that normally show up in other ways. Not that this is good, but I don’t know if it’s really fair to write off a day in which awesome sales occur because you see people on the news losing their minds. That said, I wouldn’t go to Walmart. Anyhow, I’ve never had a stereotypical Black Friday experience in my three years of engaging in it. Last year I discovered that outlet malls were the place to go. Already marked down, sometimes high-end products for an even lower price? The stores are often 50% off the outlet prices and hand out coupons for 10-15% MORE at the door! There’s no better marriage of quality and frugal than that.
If bad parking and long lines for the bathroom still scare you off, Cyber Monday is also a wonderful alternative–and you can find some great deals on Amazon for the entire week. Most other retailers offer free shipping that whole weekend. What have you got to lose? This year Amazon did a discount code for books, which was helpful for one gift and I received daily emails (by choice) to be in the know of what the deal was each day. I’d say this is definitely your safest bet for successful Christmas shopping with little hassle. It’s not something to be scared of or dread. I also noticed this year that if I shopped with my Discover card that they were offering free gift wrapping on things I purchased from Amazon! I didn’t take this option, but it’s nice to know I could save whatever the cost of wrapping paper or paying for the service online would have been had I wanted it. There are a lot of great options out there that allow you to be generous, but cut corners and save money without looking like you did. Also, don’t forget how much goes on sale right before and right after the holiday itself. No better time to stock up on gift wrapping supplies, ornaments or stocking stuffers for next year. I still don’t have Amazon Prime, but managed to avoid all shipping costs by simply spending over the $35 minimum every time I placed an order. It all came within a few days anyway, presumably because of the higher number of purchases this month.
What are your clever tactics for the holiday gift giving season? Do you buy things on sale months in advance? Do you listen for clues at family gatherings? Spy on someone’s Amazon wishlist? I think Christmas registries would be so helpful, but I fear many people would think that goes too far. So for now–we have to be creative in the ways we give! Happy hunting and let us know what worked for you!