Friday, December 14, 2012

5 Tips for Frugal, Easy, Last-Minute Christmas Gift Ideas


Every year I think I'm going to plan ahead better than the last Christmas season and be prepared before the last minute.....aaaand I'm not.  Especially this year....a new baby in November, grandparents all coming to visit, and we're just finishing up all six kids having chickenpox.....yeah, things haven't exactly been picture perfect around here.

And is it just me, or does it seem like Murphy's Law says that every year your budget will be extra slim just as Christmas rolls around?  If a car breaks down, appliance quits working, or all the kids grow out of their shoes.....it's going to be right before the holidays. 

If you're feeling tight on time or money this year, here are some ideas that I'm using that may help you too.......

#1: Assess What You Have - take inventory of what's already around and you may have more to work with than you realized without spending a dime.....
  • gift cards
  • store credit
  • "points" you have accumulated that you can redeem for gift cards or other things - Swagbucks, bank points, MyPoints...etc.
  • free item coupons
  • gift closet/stash where you've put things throughout the year and planned for gift occasions
  • freebie gift basket - start with a little basket or bag, then add lotions, body wash, candles, etc. that you have from Bath and Body Works or have requested in the mail

#2: Go Home(made) - all it takes is little time (and sometimes skill), and you can create a one-of-a-kind handmade gift that often requires very little money....
  • Pinterest - of course I start there for endless ideas and inspiration - recipes, crafts, DIY ideas....
  • Food gifts - a little effort and pretty packaging can make a wonderful and very inexpensive gift (here are a few I'm looking at making...White Chocolate Cinnamon Pretzels, Crock Pot Cinnamon Almonds, Cake Balls, No-bake White Chocolate Pumpkin Fudge, Caramel Popcorn - so good!...)
  • Gifts in a jar - they're very simple to put together, but practical, pretty, and cheap!  You can do a google/swagbucks search and you'll find lots of ideas, or check out books like these.  A friend of ours made us these Cranberry Hootycreeks and they were de-licious!
  • Skills - what talents do you already have to whip up something personal?  Knitting, sewing, crafts, photography...?
  • Kids stuff - close relatives usually love things that involve the kids...hand/footprints, artwork on mugs/plates...again, lots of ideas on Pinterest!
  • Photograph gifts - photo gifts are personal, but can be very cheap!  Walgreens often offers free 8x10 enlargements or collage prints
  • "I love you because" frame - sweet gift for less than $2!
  • Movie basket - include things like....microwave popcorn, theater candy, gift cards to Redbox or a video store, theater tickets....you could put it in a cute popcorn "bucket" from Target's dollar section or make your own
  • Engineer print artwork - incredible impact for very little money!


#3: Be Creative - think outside the box....
  • Gift of time/service - babysitting, help cleaning out garage or sorting/scanning pictures, gift certificate for housecleaning...
  • "Experience" gifts - give a gift of time together in the months ahead....horseback riding, a trip to the zoo or aquarium, skydiving.....it extends the time needed to pay for it, and the time you get to enjoy it -- you also know the gift won't be "over" in a 20 minute unwrapping frenzy
  • Be thoughtful or sentimental - old photo framed, handwritten poem/letter, put mementos in a shadowbox...


#4: Take Advantage of the Last Minute - procrastination isn't always a terrible thing....there are usually some amazing offers as the holiday shopping season ends....
  • Groupon - they often run great specials near Christmas, highlighting deals that are perfect for gift giving!  And what's fantastic about Groupon is that you can buy the gift, print the certificate and you're ready to give a gift in minutes!
  • Amazon - their "deal of the day" and "lightning deals" offer some big discounts! 



#5: Keep it Simple - don't try to "keep up with the Joneses" and stress yourself out because you're not doing it "right", this is a wonderful time of the year to enjoy friends and family and have fun together.....
  • Prioritize Your Time - what's important to you and your family?  Is it spending time together?  Making memories?  There are so many ways to do that cheaply - and many more that are free!  Hot chocolate taste testing, snowball fights, Christmas movie pajama party, make crafts or cookies, volunteer, have a game night....
  • Focus on Values - slow down this season and remember what's it's all about....keep the focus on what's important and not on the hustle and bustle and "stuff"
  • Be an Example - I think it's important that we start early to teach our children what really matters. The newest electronics or game console can be fun, but it should be balanced with the intangible things too.  I recently have heard a sweet little rhyme to help keep gift-giving from getting out of hand...."Something you want, something you need, something you'll wear, something you'll read" -- I love that idea for the kids, and I just found a cute printable on Pinterest for them to fill out.  We typically have had a 3-gift guideline in our home, but I think we may do this and go to four.



Remember to slow down and enjoy the time you have with your loved ones, keep the spending in check......do what you can now to keep from starting the New Year with regret and a big credit card bill!  ;)

What do you think?  Good ideas?  Any favorites?  What tips or tricks do you have to save time or money during the holidays?





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