Great Savings 43 – Give More With Less


It’s easy to go into debt without meaning to. That’s especially true during the holidays. One reason we do it is we confuse giving with the expression of love. Love is boundless. It knows no limits. When we give to those we love it’s only natural to want to give more than we can afford. The trouble comes when we go to pay the bill. Thus, in the spirit of imparting love to friends and family on a more conscious basis, consider trying one of the 12 gift-giving tips below.


Make you own calendar.

Use photos you took or digital art you created to make a calendar.

(1)  Make gifts instead of buying them. If you’re good at an art or craft this can be easy. Do you enjoy creating digital art or taking photos? Then consider creating a personalized calendar featuring your favorite works. If the intention is to make only one or two calendars you can do this by hand. However, for larger numbers consider a professionally printed calendar or photo book. You can find a number of sites online like Shutterfly who specialize in printing any photo or photo related item or you can get personalized assistance at companies like Fedex/Kinko’s or Costco. If calendars aren’t your thing, you can also frame art or pictures or have most any “.jpg” file turned into a puzzle or a mug.


Give pies for Christmas.

Give a pie coupon.

Don’t worry if you feel your art or photos aren’t good enough. There are other options for making your own gifts. For example, if you knit or sew you could easily make dozens of useful household items or clothing. Not sure whether the intended recipient will like what you make? Then why not offer a coupon for one or more sewing projects or repairs? Everyone could use an occasional hem on pants or a skirt and buttons frequently need a fix.


These cookies taste amazing.

Want to wow a loved one with a delicious treat? Try our Chili Chocolate Cinnamon Cookies. Click on the image to see the recipe.

If you like to cook there are many more options. For example, you might bake a favorite bread or pie. And if you don’t have the time to cook now, you could give a coupon for several seasonal breads or pies. That way you can spread the joy year around.


Another idea? Offer coupons for a service—for example, mowing the lawn, gardening, weeding, or vacuuming. One of the best home-made presents I ever received was a coupon book for a dozen hugs.  That was terrific and just proves the possibilities are endless.


Great Savings 43 Give More With LessSome might say cookies deserve their own special category. Practically everyone likes cookies. Why not give cookies you make instead of those you buy from the store. Better yet, make it fun by organizing a group of close friends—each of you can make one or two different kinds. By combining efforts you end up with more variety. Check out our recipe page for several delicious ideas to get started. And don’t forget the kids! Kids love making cookies so be sure to solicit their help.


(2) Budget for gift giving—this is a gift to self. For years I dealt with paying off credit cards after Christmas. Then I finally woke up and realized the holidays were even more expensive because I was paying all that credit card interest. Since then, I created a separate savings account and put aside a little money each mouth. It’s simple to set up an automatic transfer if you use on-line banking. Or if you prefer the personal touch talk to your local banker. They’ll be glad to help. Think about it: Sixty dollars a month adds up to $720 a year and that’s about the average most people spend on Christmas each year.


(3) Make your own holiday greeting or birthday cards. Scrap booking stores sell an amazing variety of supplies for making cards so dare to go crazy! However, if buying new is too hard to justify, look for scrap booking supplies at garage sales for pennies on the dollar.  To add a personal touch, include a handwritten note or letter. It doesn’t have to be long. Say how much the recipient’s love or friendship means or sum up the important events of the year. Either is nice if you’re on the receiving end.


A party is a great way to say how much the people in your life mean to you.

Invite friends over for a potluck party. The time you spend together is precious.

(4) Make a point to spend time with loved ones. In a world of virtual connection, face-to-face connection is easy to forgo, especially during the holidays. Make time for it. If a plain old visit doesn’t spark your imagination, try a “potluck” white elephant gift exchange with a group of close  friends. It’s great to see old faces, plus it’s fun to turn old trinkets into laughs. Smaller dinner parties also work. Again, try a potluck if you’re on a tight budget.  One other note: Seniors typically own most of the things they need, so a visit can actually be more meaningful than any gift you buy for them.


Christmas cookies are delicious.

Make cookies with a friend.

(5) Create a gift giving circle and  agree on a maximum spending limit. Limits are a gift for everyone as they help keep spending under control. Take the time to write out a list of everyone you intend to buy presents for. Now, divide your budget up among all those on the list. The key is to stick to your limit. That’s often easiest when you talk to those you expect to receive gifts from and make the limit part of a mutual understanding.


(6) Instead of buying something for everyone in the family, have the family set up a gift exchange. Put all the names in a hat.  Have everyone draw a name.  Set it up so everyone buys only one gift for the person they draw. You can also do this with a group of close friends or with coworkers.



(7) Buy your own gift(s). Have all the people in your gift giving circle agree to a maximum budget for gifts. Now, each of you go shopping and buy one or more items for yourself. Stay under the agreed upon limit. Take your item(s) home, wrap them up and put them under the tree. On Christmas, take turns opening gifts. Spend some time telling everyone why you wanted what you got and how thankful you are they facilitated getting it. Your family may not agree to this as it takes some of the suspense and surprise out of giving, but consider (a) no one should be disappointed with the outcome since they picked out their own gift and (b) it’s bound to mean less time in traffic and overcrowded malls.


Life experience is just or even more important than any physical gift.

Why not skip the stress of the holidays and enjoy a family trip to a tropical resort as an alternative. Combine your resources to make it happen.

(8) Agree to skip the gift exchange this year in lieu of a special trip somewhere. Has your family has ever wanted to visit Hawaii or Disneyland? Then apply the money saved by cutting out regular gift giving and spend time sharing a wonderful memory instead. One way to make sure to keep the memory alive is keep a trip scrapbook. You can put it together as you go. Add pictures, mementos, postcards and write short blurbs on significant events—for example, you could mention your best dining experience or something you saw along the way. Finally, keep the book with your Christmas decorations and take it out each year. Then sit back and watch all the fun as everyone gathers to reminisce.


(9) Instead of buying create quality time together. Instead of making the holiday all about the physical exchange of presents, make it all about creating quality time together. For example, share time going for a walk, visiting a museum, sipping at a glass of wine, reading a book in front of a roasting fire, or giving each other a gentle massage. If you’re ambitious you could combine all of the above. If you know you like receiving physical “things” a day of sharing time like this may not work for you. However, you won’t know until you try it.


Why does everything have to be brand new?

Do you prefer the feel and smell of “real” books to online versions. Get great books at half price or less by buying used.

(10)  Buy used books and videos. If you abhor digital books and movies, but hate the high cost of the real thing there are many terrific second hand book and video stores where you can find items as good as new. One such store is Half-Price books. For a location near you click here. The store also buys used books and movies so sometimes you can leave the store with a very small hit to your wallet. A good book or movie is always a great present and getting it for anything less than retail saves up big in the long run. By the way, don’t overlook books and DVD’s at garage sales. If you’re smart you can plan ahead for the holidays by doing most of your shopping during the summer when sales are more frequent.


(11)  Make a small donation to charity in the gift recipient’s name. Let’s face it: A lot of folks could use our help so a gift like this has the advantage of giving twice over. Many people actually prefer gifts like this, especially those who are feel fortunate to have what they need. It may be worth asking whether anyone in your gift giving circle would prefer this option.


Have you been good this year?

Have you been naughty or nice?

(12) Volunteer for those less fortunate. Food banks and homeless shelters require a lot of help during the holidays. Many churches sponsor free meals or you can check with your local Salvation Army.  Another way to find groups who serve meals is do an internet search on “free holiday meals in “your city”” (quotes around your city only).  If you want to brighten a child’s day, consider donating to programs like The U.S. Marine Reserve Toys For Tots that seek out needy children and make holidays a brighter, happier experience with a gift. Again an internet search on “toys for needy children “your city”” should bring up a list of organizations in your area. If you can’t donate an item yourself, you may be able to volunteer to wrap packages. Volunteering is a great gift to self or a terrific lesson for the kids. It can help bring your family closer and teach the value in appreciating all you already have.


Action Item: Whether you’re giving for a birthday, special event or the holidays, the best gift giving strategy is one where you don’t have to go into debt, and where you feel you’ve still given something of value to those you love. Think about what your friends and family might like and then try out one of the suggestions above.


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