So many times we go waaaaayyyy over budget when it comes to our spending during the holiday season. I have been that person who needs to give EVERYONE I know something, even if it was a crappy gift – can you relate to those last minute, late night runs to Walgreens (been there done that). Unfortunately, not only does that often break the bank, but it takes a lot of time and causes a lot of stress too!

Gift giving can make us feel amazingly awesome because making someone else happy makes us happy! BUT there are other ways to make someone feel loved and appreciated without having to spend hundreds of dollars on them.

I appreciate loving words or a hand written card, rather than an expensive gift. The key is to know the hobbies and interests of your intended recipient. The key to a good gift is getting something that refers to their hobbies or interests. This shows that you really know them and have taken the time to really think about their gift.

If you’re happy with your holiday spending level, you may simply want some holiday gift ideas. However, if you would like to cut down on spending in attempts to avoid the stress of holiday debt, here’s a creative list of less expensive Christmas gift giving ideas.

So let’s get to it!

1. Do you have a large family? DRAW NAMES! Many families, especially extended families who are spread out in different cities, adopt the name-drawing tradition for gifts. Basically, each family member only buys one gift for one person, and everyone gets a gift from someone. Whom you give to, and who buys for you, is determined by drawing names from a hat. This is simply taking the office “Secret Santa” idea to your family or friend group, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be secret. Not only does it save you the stress and expense of shopping for multiple people, but it can also ensure that everyone gets one nice gift.

2. Another strategy for large extended families is to have each relative only buy gifts for the kids only (family members under 18). This greatly cuts down costs and ensures that those who might appreciate the gifts most — kids — are the ones who get them. It then becomes a sort of rite of passage when the kids grow older and switch to the gift-giving role.

3. Another strategy people employ is putting a spending limit on each gift. While you and your family can choose whatever number you want, keeping the dollar amount low can sometimes spark people to become more creative with the money that they do spend, taking advantage of sales or putting a lot of thought into the best way to make the most of the allotted budget. While this may cut down on the number of expensive gifts exchanged, it also takes a lot of the pressure off of the situation. There’s no more feeling like you need to spend a lot to show people how much you love them, worrying about spending more or less than they spent on you, or looking “cheap” if you shop the sales.

4. Agreeing to give books only can be an excellent way to keep costs down. Buying loved ones just the right book is a way to show that you know them well and understand their taste. Books also provide hours of fun reading in addition to some interesting topics of conversation. Giving paperbacks can ensure a pretty low cost, and including a gift receipt can basically make any book a “coupon” for any other book the recipient wants (if it turns out you didn’t quite capture his or her tastes).

5. Unsure about the book idea, you can also give a journal and let people make the gift their own, which is especially helpful for those whose reading tastes you don’t know, or who aren’t avid readers. The book gift idea may not work as well for a non-reading crowd, but this is a great way to go for a group of avid readers. You can even write a message on the first page – and maybe even somewhere in the middle so they see it at a later time! It’s a nice surprise for them and guaranteed to give them a smile!

6. Because “it’s the thought that counts,” if your group is really on-board with saving money, you may want to consider just exchanging thoughtful cards. The key is for the card itself to be blank — you create the meaningful message. For those who want to try their hand at poetry, even an average quality poem goes over really well with most recipients — how many of us get poetry written especially for us? For those who can’t even force a crude limerick, writing about fond shared memories or the qualities you love most in your recipients tends to work just as well.

7. Creating a book-o’-favors for your loved ones, including good deeds especially for them, can be an incredibly thoughtful money saver. Coupons offering free babysitting to busy parents, airport trips to the frequent traveler, or a hand-delivered homemade meal to just about anyone can be a welcome and thoughtful gesture. (The possibilities are wide open when you create a coupon book for a spouse (can get very interesting!) or child (maybe a day off from doing chores, a special dinner to be made). The key to making this one successful is to be sure to follow up and push people to actually use the coupons, or include a specific date on which they should be used, if possible. This is also a GREAT GIFT for your kids to give to aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.

8. While cookies, brownies, and bars tend to be gone within days, few faces fail to light up when presented with tasty treats. If the sugary stuff would be an unwelcome diet saboteur, you can always assemble a healthy fruit basket, wine and cheese basket, or come up with your own cheap-and-tasty basket idea. Mmmm. There are TONS of basket ideas on Pinterest too!

9. Do your homework BEFORE you shop! Look online for the best deals on gifts you have in mind. And if you’re short on time…ONLINE SHOPPING is the BEST! many companies will send directly to your recipient as well, and most times will even gift wrap for a small fee!

I hope some of these tips have helped give you some ideas! Here’s my last tip (wait for it…) MAKE A LIST! If you know me well, you already knew I was going to say that right? Stay on track and know exactly who you need to buy a gift for, have an idea of what you want to get them and create a budget. OK…that was like 3 things…but being prepared and having a game plan BEFORE you head out the door to hit the stores not only relieves stress, but saves you time as well.

If you incorporate any of these ideas…I’d love to hear about it! If you have any other ideas, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE share them in the comments and SHARE this BLOG if you think these tips will help anyone else!

And this is your reminder to always SMILE & BE HAPPY!

XoXo, Charlani


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