Although Christmas 2007 was one of the best Christmas-es I've ever had, I was a bit discouraged afterwards by the financial strain we've been experiencing. It wasn't necessarily because I spent soooooo much on Christmas, but the money I spent for Christmas took us beyond what my family could truly afford. Therefore, for the past several weeks, I've been mulling over the thought of gift giving and how to give nice, good, and thoughtful gifts without putting financial strain on ourselves.
At the end of Christmas 2006 I finally put the blinders away and admitted to myself that I do enjoy giving gifts. Not necessarily just at Christmas time, but on birthdays too. That was a huge step to take because I did live in a state of denial that I like to give gifts. What that resulted in was either purchasing really cheap gifts at the last minute just to have a gift to give and then probably later have that gift just end up being a waste of money because it's in the trash or I would pay full price for a really nice gift and go over our budget. The latter of the two happened more often and we would usually end up spending hundreds of dollars on gifts we couldn't necessarily afford. Therefore, when I finally admitted that we enjoy giving gifts, I finally set aside a good budget for gifts in the year 2007.
Unfortunately, I went into 2007 without a gift giving plan. Whenever an occasion popped up, I felt confident about purchasing a gift because I had a gift giving budget and it didn't bother me to pay full price for an item. Well, when Christmastime came, there was nothing left in my gift giving budget. In addition, I didn't start thinking about Christmas until 19 days before and I ended up paying full price for a lot of the gifts I purchased. I did limit my gift giving to only a few people; my DearHubby, my 2 LittleGirls, my EncouragingSister (accountability partner) from church and her newborn, my co-leader of the ministry I'm involved in at church, my 3 local DearFriends, DearDaughter1's best friend and parents, and DearDaughter2's little friend. In addition, for my family, I limited the amount of gifts they received to only 3, and so really the most I spent on 1 person in my family was about $40. However, all the little $5s, $10s, $15s, and an occasional $20 added up quickly and I spent far more than what we had in our budget, which was $0.
So, coming into 2008, I knew I needed a better plan. I was in the right direction for setting up a gift budget in 2007, but there were no guidelines for me to follow. So, before writing this post, I sought advice from several people to see how they give gifts.
One DearFriend has a Christmas fund set up with the bank. Money is automatically withdrawn from her husband's paycheck and deposited into this fund. Then, in October, she receives a HUGE check from the bank and that's when my friend starts Christmas shopping. She asks her family for a WISH list and basically tries to purchase as much as she can on that wish list, whether it's on sale or not. She shops until she has no more money left in the budget and that's all the gifts her family will receive. With regards to others outside of the family, I am guessing that just comes out of her regular budget.
Another DearFriend, who comes from a large family, shops throughout the year, keeping an eye out on garage sales and good sales in the stores. She limits her spending to about $5-$10 per person, but doesn't necessarily have a budget for gifts.
One last DearFriend keeps in mind a list of people she's giving gifts to, not only for Christmas, but for other occasions, and then as she sees sales, she purchases items for the person and occasion. These items are like an investment and she has an area in her house just to store gifts so that when an occasion arises, she is not rushing out to purchase a gift, but she already has a nice and well thought of gift to give. In addition, this friend has family outside of the state she lives in. Instead of purchasing a gift and having to spend money for shipping cost, she sends out gift cards.
After receiving all of my DearFriends' advice, there were 2 things I realized:
1. Giving nice and thoughtful gifts is an acheivable goal
2. Staying within a budget is also an achievalbe goal
The secret...DEVELOP a gift giving plan:
1. Set aside a reasonable yearly budget for gifts. This is the money you have to work with for the year and stay within the budget. If there is no more money in the budget, there is no more gift giving and a nice card will have to do.
2. Determine who you will be giving gifts to and for what occasions.
3. Keep a lookout on sales, especially clearance sales, and try to purchase items only when it saves you 50% off the item or more. Try to stay within the $5-$10 range. If it's a really good buy, spending between $15-$20 is acceptable, but really think about the occasion and the person.
3A. If there is a surprise occasion for someone that wasn't on your "list", start shopping for the occasion immediately and do not wait until the last minute.
3B. Send gift cards or cash to any one living outside a driveable distance to save on shipping costs.
4. Remember that it's OK to have these items stored in your house. It was a planned purchase.
5. Keep from impulse buying.
So, I put my plan into action this past week and I found great deals!!!
1. There were 3 weddings that DearHubby and I were invited to and we had not purchased a gift for any of the couples. 2 of the weddings already occurred and one will happen in February. Well, I saw an ad for a Target clearance sale and so MyGirls and I treked over to Target specifically to find wedding gifts. I had a particular gift in mind which I thought was on sale, but it was only on sale online. Well, blessedly, while I was browsing through the store, I ran into a beautiful carving set that comes in its own lovely wooden box. The original cost of the item was $20 and it was on sale for $10. I purchased 3.
2. Then we had another wedding that we weren't able to attend and the couple just moved into a new home. JC Penny was also having a clearance sale on almost everything and I found a lovely framed saying, "Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much", which I thought would be a good combination wedding and housewarming gift. The original cost of the item was $30 and it was on sale for $15.
3. Then there was a clearance sale at Toys R Us. DearDaughter1's best friend's birthday is this month and DearDaughter2's friend's birthday is in March. I found the best deal on DearDaughter1's friend's gift!!! It was a Cuddlin Cutie doll on sale for $10! They didn't have the original price on the rack, but you would pay $45-$50 for the same doll on Amazon.com! That's about an 80% savings. I was tempted to keep the doll for DearDaughter1 herself, but DearHubby told me to keep my original intent and to give the doll away. He was right. Anyway, I also purchased DearDaughter2's friends gift for 50% off AND I purchased DearDaughter1's Christmas 2008 gifts for 50% off!!!
Although within the last week I spent quite a bit of money on gifts, I know that these gifts were planned and within our budget.
My next plan is trying to get creative and finding nice craft ideas that people would keep for under $5 to give as gifts.
As I come across these ideas, I will post them.
ONE LAST AND EXTRA THOUGHT:
A great gift idea for you and your hubby are new cell phones. Wait until the end of the year to renew your cell phone subscription and then upgrade your phones for free! DearHubby and I renewed our cell phone subscription at the end of 2007. Unfortunately, we did make an impulse buy and spent $50 (after rebate) each on new phones. It was still a good purchase because the original phone was about $230. However, we could have gotten an awesome phone for free also, we just chose to get ourselves the phones we wanted since it was at a discounted price.