It’s the most wonderful time…but also that time of year that might just make you want to grab your cash and credit cards, crawl into a hole and not come out until after New Year’s. Between parties, decorating, travelling or hosting out of town guests, requests for year-end charitable donations and, of course, gift giving, the holidays can throw even the most disciplined budgeter for a loop.
Tackling the gift list is a great way to trim the holiday budget…and cutting costs doesn’t have to mean feeling like Scrooge! Here are a few ideas to get the holiday gift giving (and spending) under control.
Shorten the List
There are likely a few people with whom you exchange gifts that would be happy to end that ritual. A few of my girlfriends and I exchanged small gifts for several years before deciding to put a stop to it. Instead we agreed to make time during the busy holiday season for a long lunch so that we could linger over a leisurely meal and really enjoy each others’ company for an hour or so before rushing off to get back to the to-do lists. We all love the new tradition and cherish the time together much more than we did the trinkets we used to receive from one another.
Just about anyone can be a candidate for suggesting calling it quits with the gift giving; consider friends, neighbours, co-workers or adult siblings. It can be a tough conversation to start, though coming up with a new tradition like my friends’ holiday lunch can make it clear it’s not that you don’t value the person or your relationship. You might just find they love the idea, as many of us get overwhelmed by the number of gifts given and received this time of year.
Coordinate a group gift among your siblings for your parents or grandparents or the parents of your childrens’ classmates for their teachers. Each person can contribute less than they might spend on an individual gift and the group can give one really nice present the recipient will really love rather than a number of small things.
You can also simplify gift giving by giving a present to a group. Surprise all your cousins with tickets to a concert they can attend together, give several friends a certificate for a group wine tasting, or put together a game night gift basket for a whole family filled with games, snacks, and special drinks for a fun filled evening.
Propose a gift exchange where everyone buys a gift for one other person rather than exchanging presents with each member of the group. This works for extended families, offices, classrooms, neighbours and groups of friends. Choose from several fun ways to coordinate the exchange:
- Everyone draws a name and gets something special for that person. It’s often helpful to set a dollar limit, which can also help keep the budget manageable.
- Each person brings a gift that could be for anyone, and then takes a turn selecting a gift at random (draw numbers from a hat to determine the order).
- White elephant exchange. Just like the above, but participants have the option to “steal” a previously opened gift or select an unopened package. This can be a lot of fun!
- Homemade gifts only. Let everyone tap into their creative sides by specifying that all presents must be homemade. Freshly baked cookies, a knitted scarf or a hand painted ornament all make wonderful gifts.
Have a safe and happy holiday season everyone!
Anna Platz writes for the popular personal finance blog, Good Cents Savings, which helps you save money, stick to a budget, and live well on less. She is also the mother of a four year old daughter who is worth every penny!