October 27, 2011

Tip of the day—Making a List and Checking it Twice

How are you doing with your Christmas shopping?  Haven’t started yet?  Are you more than half way through?  Or is your response, “Are you kidding me, I’ve been done for months now?” 

I tend to shop for Christmas presents as I spot good deals, have great coupons, or hear about a friend or family member wanting something specific.  I’m about half way through shopping, and I thought now would be a good time to recap ways to save when shopping for Christmas gifts. 

In addition to the tips below which are focused on getting the most bang for your buck, you might want to also look at the big picture.  Could you suggest to family that you have a gift swap instead of buying for every person?  Could you talk with friends about putting a cap on the amount spent per year?  Could you give family gifts instead of gifts for each person?  You’ll also want to set a budget for your Christmas shopping to help keep you on track with your spending.

  • “Like” all of your favorite stores, manufacturers and artisans on Facebook.  Sign up for all of the e-newsletters that you can.  This is how I find out about the best deals and sales. 
  • Designate a spot in your home for gifts.  Thanks to my sweet Hubby I have an official gift closet.  For years, I’ve crammed wrapping paper, ribbons, bags, bows, tissue paper, and all of the gifts I needed to hide into our office closet.  We cleaned out the closet, moved some boxes and such to storage, moved the filing cabinets to a different location, and voila the gift closet was born.  I can’t tell you how much easier it is now to look in there and see all I have purchased.  Gone are the days when I pull everything out to start wrapping for Christmas only to say, “I totally forgot I had bought that!”
  • Wait.  The last couple of years, I’ve found that the best deals that I’ve found have been on Cyber Monday.  I sit in the comfort of my own home, often in my pjs with a cup of tea and look through my email to find where I can get the most bang for my buck.
  • Use coupons.  A couple of days ago, I went to Mast General Store armed with school coupon book coupons, ready to buy Hubby a couple of pairs of special socks that he likes for his birthday.  Our daughter was proud to make one purchase for him, and I made another.  The school coupon books allow us to patronize local stores with the added bonus of a little discount.  Watch for coupons in mailer magazines like Mint, in the newspaper, and online.  You might be surprised at how much you can save if you just take a few minutes to look for a coupon.
  • Network.  Ask friends and relatives about their shopping deals.  I have a friend at church who often shares with me deals she spots around town, and I do the same for her. 
  • Don’t forget the intangible as a gift.  For years I would bake or make something for neighbors as Christmas gifts.  A couple of years ago,we decided that instead we would donate to a local charity in their honor.  We chose Random Acts of Flowers because I’ve seen first hand the joy that the charity brings to people’s lives and how much they help our community.  The response was amazing—neighbors told us how much they appreciated reading about the charity and how much the liked the idea of supporting it.  This year we are expanding to make donations in honor of other friends.  In this same vein, you might consider buying season tickets to a symphony or theater for a relative, a zoo membership for a child in your life, or an art class for your uber-creative friend. 
  • Be a host or hostess instead of giving gifts.  We have a couple of friends who host a big, all day, open house party instead of sending out gifts to everyone.  It is a great time to catch up with people you don’t get to see very often.  Other friends would host a grown-up, sit-down dinner that always felt so special.  All of us would get decked out in our dressiest attire and dine on lovely food for the evening. 
  • Making gifts.  Probably one of the best ways to lower your out of pocket expense is to make gifts for others.  I’m not an extremely crafty person, but even so I can make rice bags or a gift basket full of home canned items.  What is your talent?  Are you a knitter? Baker?  Candle-stick maker?  Well, use that talent as a way to give to those you love.  A friend of mine says that she is hesitant to gift pottery all of the time because she’s afraid people will get sick of it.  As a recipient, I always tell her that I never tire of her pottery.  If you are concerned about this, though, you might want to have a barter day with friends.  Get together with other crafty people and swap wares.  She might exchange her pottery for some iron work from another person. 

What else?  What ways to you work to lower your costs?

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