This is the first in our money series that will run through New Year’s Day! It’s time to get those finances in order before we gift, and then heading to the new year. Let’s chop our debt and get in the green!


Once you start having kids, or your family starts growing, gifting becomes expensive. Everyone has a spouse, then kids and the one or two gifts a year has suddenly turned into ten times that!

How do we save money when we are obligated to gift?
Well, are we obligated (that’s a whole other topic)? Most of us will say yes. And frankly we do want the little ones to be happy and we do want adults to appreciate our thought, right?

Tip 1: Start with a Budget for the Whole Year of Gifting
You can use my handy gifting budget planner. (This is just one page of my series that’s for sale). Make a list of everyone you buy gifts for during the entire year. Follow the columns to create budgets for each gift you buy for them. You will see in the chart we have birthdays, holidays, anniversary and other. The other category is for a miscellaneous type of situation (such as a graduation or special gathering that requires a gift).

Once you have a list of all the people you will gift and their expenses, you should add in an extra $100 for the year. This is for people who might invite you to something that requires a gift. If you have children and they have friends, budget at least $50 per child for birthday gatherings throughout the whole year. If your child is still young, your budget could be much smaller because they will be invited to fewer parties. Remember, this may seem like a lot of money but we are going to develop a plan to come in at exactly or under budget each gifting experience!

Once you have set this budget STICK TO IT! DO NOT DEVIATE FROM THIS PLAN! (I will share how to do that below).

How much do I spend you might ask?
Here is a sample of my gifting budget.

giftbudgetsheetexample

Tip 2: Cut out unnecessary costs related to gifting
What the heck does that mean? That means let’s eliminate things that we BUY at the store as PART of the gift that we don’t need to spend money on. Or we can choose to spend less.

CARDS & TAGS!
This is in all caps because it’s a huge budget buster! If you start shopping smart (ideas below) you will realize purchasing a store-made card is nearly ¼ of your gift budget! SAY WHAT? Cards range from $2.50 on the low end to over $5.00 per card. When you are buying a gift for a kid from school and your budget is $10 you see how a card really chops that up.

Hint: For kids, your child needs the experience of making their own cards. It’s simple. They use paper from home, stamps, stickers, markers and more. Not sure they want to create their own? Good news I have created cheap re-printable tags and foldover cards you can reprint from home.

Don’t want to print either? Another tip is to have them take a page from their coloring book, color it special for their friend. Write the friend’s name on it, and then sign it. A piece of art for their friend.

What about adults? Same thing really. Use the cheap re-printable version here (comes in multiple themes). Hand-write a special note and you are done! You can also create your own handwritten cards just like kids if you wanted. They are special and so different today the recipient will love them.

Wrapping & Gift Bags
Another expensive bunch of items. They can also eat up as much or more than ¼ of the budget. So between the card and the wrapping, you could be at 50% of your budget! Insane.

What to do? RECYCLE is the best thing ever. Literally, save every bag you receive a gift in throughout the year. Reuse them all year. Each year we are replenished with bags to the point where I can’t remember the last time I bought a bag or wrapping.

Don’t want a bag but you need to wrap? Sounds good. The cheapest way to wrap is to buy from the craft or dollar store. NOT WRAPPING PAPER! Of course, if you are doing something super special and want something very trendy, buying wrapping paper to suit will work. Just budget for that. However, if you just want the gift wrapped then let’s go simple. I use tissue paper. Straight up dollar store tissue paper. You get a whole bundle of paper for a dollar. You can also buy it cheap in a craft store and they always offer coupons. You can also create your own specialized paper by purchasing a roll of kraft paper from the craft store (or Dollar Tree). You can stamp, sticker and decorate as you wish. Or give as a plain brown packaged gift – a bit vintage.

Gifting on a Budget - save a ton with these tips and toolsTip 3: Getting the Best Price on Gifts is Key to the Budget
Most people think major chain stores when they start thinking about gifts. That way of thinking is a way to blow the budget. I am generally able to find much cheaper gifts in different locations. Where?

Ollies – A Bargain Outlet Store
If you haven’t heard of this store, look it up for your area! WOW! This place has amazing deals on EVERYTHING! If you become a regular browser of the store you can find amazing things at amazing prices. Once you start finding “good stuff cheap” you will keep checking frequently.

Hint: When you find something that fits a person on your list for one of your gift budget items you should buy it then. It will save you money when it comes time to gift. The extra money set aside for the year can help you if you are running on a month to month budget. Pull it when you find the gift and replenish the money saved when you get paid.

What have I found at Ollies? Kids gifts of all kinds from toys to books, to sandals, to outdoor gear and more. Mother’s day items for kitchen, gardening and decor. Father’s Day grilling items, and outdoor stuff. We have also found amazing deals for home decor in rugs, bedding, blankets, outdoor furniture and lawn care! AMAZING!

Goodwill
Yes, I did say Goodwill. You might have a different store name near you. You might have a Thrifty Shopper or Salvation Army. You might be thinking are you serious? For real? You want me to regift?! No, you are NOT regifting. If you become a regular browser of these stores you will see that many items are brand new at Goodwill. Yes, they are. Some people turn in gifts they never used there. They are literally still in a box and have never been used. I have found an entire dinner plate set there. IKEA brand new, never used ever. An entire set. I check there for items like outdoor furniture, indoor wood furniture, toys, and housewares. I purchase my own jeans from there as well. I have not gifted clothing from there as it is used. But purchasing in housewares, toys and more can cut your budget down to ¼ of the cost.

Hint: Get creative with the packaging. Although the goods might never have been opened the packaging might show wear as it sat around for awhile before it was turned in. I remove the items from the package and repackage them in a creative way. Tie bows to them, use rick rack or ribbon. Make the gift look as beautiful as it is.

Tip: Check your items VERY closely before purchase. There are no returns to these stores. Don’t miss a potential broken item or scratch.

Gifting on a Budget - Save a ton with these tips and tools

 

Bulk & Discount Stores like BJs and Sam’s Club
These places generally carry products as well as groceries. You can use that to your advantage. They generally offer great product discounts if you are a member. Of course, if you don’t have a membership then the cost of membership would weigh into the idea of purchase.

Hint: If you can’t find a single product here to buy, put together a basket of smaller items to stay in budget.

Dollar General & Aldi
This store is a bit more tricky. You can find some great deals here also, but you can sometimes access a better deal at Ollies or a similar store. For kids this place is amazing. You can put together a coloring or book package, with a few toys and be under budget. Great stuff. For adults, not as easy but it can be done. If you are buying something small for someone as a Secret Santa you could put together a really great movie night basket for only a few dollars with some candy, popcorn, a soda and a basket.

At Aldi, you can often find sale items in a singular fashion for purchase at an amazing price. You know someone needs a deck swing – pops up on sale at Aldi generally less than 50% off. You grab that up.

Hint: Dollar General requires creativity to put together cheaper items into a basket. You rarely find just a single item here (unless it’s a special sale) that goes as the only item you are giving.

Last resort – Big chain stores like Walmart and Target
How do you handle these? One item could blow the budget and seem like a meaningless or thoughtless gift (unless it’s a big toy for a kid on sale!). I use these stores to put together baskets of bunches of items that fall into a total budget range. When I can’t find anything anywhere else (almost never happens) I do it that way.

With that said, get your budget in order. Then stick to it. You might need to go to a few places if you can’t find your initial idea at the first stop. You want to look for discount and bargain outlets, goodwill and more to get you going. You can always put together a simple basket from bigger chain stores to save also. If can be done! Don’t forget to get your FREE budget sheet here, and check out our super cheap $.99 set of 6 gift tags or cards ($1.99) you can print at home. Great way to pay a tiny price and reuse over and over again.

Good luck and tell me how you gift on a budget?!

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Kate Bryant

Kate is a mother, wife, writer, and more! Her writing has been on Huffington Post Parents Blog, The Mighty, as well as other publications.