Guest Post: Saving Money on Gift Giving

by Lisa on June 11th, 2009

This is the last of Bargain Hunter Laurie’s guest posts on Fantabulously Frugal. (Can you all give her a round of applause, please?) Today she’s going to share with us some of the ways she saves money on gift giving, which is one area where I do not excel. As I told Laurie – I’m not sure I could ever abide by Tip #2!! :)

Today I’m listing some of my favorite money saving tips related to gift giving (and receiving.)

1.) Say no to store bought cards: They are the biggest waste of money. Seriously. I was at CVS buying a wedding card for my best friend a few weeks ago and the one I picked out was $4. $4!!! For a piece of paper. Up until the CVS freebie sale on cards back around Valentine’s Day, I hadn’t bought a card in years. I (almost) always make cards. I say almost because I haven’t figured out how to make a nice sympathy card using my bright colored scrapbooking stuff.

2.) Wrapping paper is the second biggest waste of money: I hate to say this because there is nothing more aesthetically pleasing to me than a nicely packaged present. What I’ve been doing the past few years is buying Christmas wrapping paper when it is 90% off after the holidays. I also recently purchased a huge roll of plain brown paper (think grocery store paper bag texture & color) for a couple of bucks at Ikea. This will allow me to get as creative as I want with ribbon and other scrapbooking supplies I already have on hand. You can also use the Sunday comics for children’s birthday gifts. Or better yet….

3.) Reuse gift bags: I think everyone does this, but I figured I’d list it anyway. Other than an impulse Target clearance purchase, I don’t think I’ve ever really bought bags, but I have a huge stash of them. And they’re so easy! Just stuff them with some tissue paper (which if you’re like me, you bought after the holidays for 90% off) and you’re done.

4.) Gift Giving: How many times do we receive gifts from people that just aren’t that great? I have gotten so many mediocre gifts from wonderful people that just ended up stuffed in a closet or in my yard sale pile. A few of these items stick out in my mind…..the angel vase, the hot pink fleece monkey blanket, the Encyclopedia of Hand Guns coffee table book (no joke)….the list goes on…. So here are some alternate ideas instead:

  • Give a homemade item: I once made a scrapbook for a friend who was moving away to New York. It cost me very little (probably less than $15 total), I had a blast making it and it was something unique that came from the heart. Not that crafty? Don’t worry, I’m not either. I have found a ton of easy do it yourself ideas on Casa Sugar’s DIY section and on the Martha Stewart site.
  • Bake: I do this at Christmas time when I go to Ryan’s parents’ house. Rather than buy all of his aunts and cousins little trinkets they may or may not like, I bake up a few batches of cookies or brownies. I put them in cute little plastic gift bags (kind of like children’s party favor bags) with snowmen (or whatever) printed on them and tie them up with ribbon. Easy Peasy.
  • Cook: One of the most thoughtful gifts ever given to me was dinner cooked from scratch. This was part of Ryan’s gift to me for my birthday when we first started dating. It was so special, I remember every detail almost two years later.
  • Time: This is my new favorite gift idea. I’ve decided to give my friends and family the gift of time. For her birthday, I’m going to spend a few hours helping my sister plow through all of the junk in her apartment and figure out what to keep and what to get rid off. Then I’ll help her organize everything. This is something she needs help with and we’ll get to spend time together in the process. And it won’t cost me anything except the gas it takes to drive to her house. It’s useful and meaningful. While I probably would do this for her anyway, it sure beats blowing $100 on clothes, make up and candles that would just get thrown into the mix and be soon forgotten about.

It’s wicked easy to do….tell your friend/family member that they have you for X number of hours. You could help with yard work, cleaning, offer to watch their kids for the evening….anything, be creative.

5.) Gift Swaps/Group gifts: I’ve stopped exchanging gifts with most of my friends and extended family for Christmas and birthdays. If this isn’t something you can do, perhaps you can suggest a gift swap or a group gift. I know a group of girls that does this for birthdays throughout the year. Each time a birthday is approaching, everyone kicks in $5 towards the purchase of a gift card for the receivers favorite clothing store.

6.) Make a “wish list“: We have to discuss receiving gifts too :-) … Sherry over at This Young House had this tip on her list too (#4). I’ve been doing this at my parents’ request for years. They want to make sure they get me something useful that I will like, and that works for me. A few years ago, I asked for and got new pillows for my bed. This saved me from having to purchase them at a later date. Win/Win.

7.) Create a Gift Closet/Box: Lots of people do this and I’m in the process of getting on board. Little People Wealth (http://www.littlepeoplewealth.com/2008/12/saving-money-with-gift-box.html) has a great definition of the gift closet….”A gift box is just that – a box with lots of gifts in it. When you see something that is on sale that would work for somebody in your family, a coworker, a friend, etc, you buy it and put it in the box. When a birthday, wedding, Christmas, Easter, baptism, etc comes up you just go to your box, pick out what they would like, wrap it, and give it to them.

If you’re looking for gifts for people at the last minute, you’re bound to over pay for items. If you are adding items to it year round that you find on sale or clearance, you will definitely save money in the long run. It also helps out big time when you do get invited to something at the last minute. I have a few generic items like candles and photo frames for my stash so far. (Thanks JSkell http://frugalityinthemaking.blogspot.com/for this tip!)

That’s all I’ve got for now. Did I miss any other gift giving related tips?

5 Responses

  1. Mrs. McB says:

    Great ideas! I do several of them. I have a gift closet and it is the best thing ever. :)

  2. Perfectly Pleasant says:

    Instead of store bought cards I buy a package of blank cards and use those for whatever I need. A pack of about 12 is normally under $5.00 so less than 50cents a card!

  3. Jenny Georgio-who says:

    When I worked at a daycare a lot of the teachers didn't make a lot of money so instead of feeling bad that they can't buy another teacher a gift we'd always just put in a few bucks to buy something from the group. It worked out perfectly.

    Also, in Montreal there is a wrapping paper store that has a huge huge huge sale once a year (around Xmas) I go and stock up on wrapping paper for X-mas, birthdays, weddings, etc. I still have a roll of beautiful paper I bought 3 years ago…and yes i've used it often!!

    As for baking…Since my boss doesn't like to tip the mail men etc at the office I'll bake a bunch of cookies and give a tin (bought from the $1 store) full of cookies to the mail men/UPS guy that service our office. They love them and now request them!

  4. twinkle730 says:

    thanks for the awesome ideas & tips!

    my favorite is: give a homemade item. i just started a beginning knitting class & am trying to knit cute scarves for christmas gifts, but they may end up potholders if i don't get the hang of it soon, LOL!

  5. LittlePeopleWealth says:

    Great ideas! Cards are one of my biggest pet peeves. I do have a grandmother who still loves them though. I always get frustrated b/c I feel like I have to keep it for "sentimental" value, but I always throw it out since the clutter drives me nuts. $4 for a throw away item is crazy!