As we package up all the Christmas decorations, I feel a satisfaction in knowing that we were able to give to our children, as well as family, friends, and neighbors, without incurring all kinds of debt and without stressing over giving on a tight budget.
I have learned and put into practice a few things over the years to allow our family to be a blessing, and to be givers, while living on a "ministry" salary, and not being extravagant. The old saying "It's the thought that counts" really is true! Many times, we are dissatisfied with our giving because it does not meet our own expectations of what we would like to give, or how we want the gift to look. A gift can be beautiful in it's simplicity. It does not need $10 worth of wrap, packaging, and ribbons to be "nice."
That's when creative gift giving ideas come in to play.....
First, I would like to link up to a nifty website I found on Pinterest, that has all kinds of ideas for gift giving on a budget. Money Saving Mom - 7 Ways to Give Generously This link goes directly to a nice summary list, but if you look around on the site, there are all kinds of posts and listings that have a lot of neat ideas.
Next, in no particular order, are some ideas we use to be able to participate in gift giving without overspending. In our budget, there is almost no extra space for "frivolous spending", so we have to be pretty creative!
- Use a credit card that gives rewards. We have an Amazon credit card that gives us "points" on Amazon. You can find almost anything on Amazon! Works great for gift shopping. For years we have relied on a Toys R Us credit card, where we got "rewards" on all our spending, in the form of TRU gift cards. This has provided countless gifts over the years!
- Shop the Dollar Store for cards. We have two dollar stores in our area that have a beautiful selection of cards. All the cards are either 50 cents or one dollar. Packs of thank you cards are $1. It is quite possible for us to buy all our cards for birthdays and special occasions at these two places, and save quite a bit. OR....MAKE your own handmade cards! It could be as easy as using colored or scrapbook paper. You can find nice poems or sentiments easily online, and copy them into your card. If you involve the children in this, people enjoy it even more!
- Shop clearance sales. I can't emphasize this enough! I have a section of my closet that I stash all my clearance finds in, and almost always have a gift on hand and available when the need arises! Often, I will see something that is 70-90% off, and is generic enough that I know it will be put to good use. At that price, for pennies on the dollar, it makes sense to use some money from the grocery budget if I'm able, and purchase the gift item.
- Make handmade gifts! With the dawning of Pinterest in my life, I have found so many ideas of cute DIY or small handmade gifts that I can easily make. I'm not a real "crafty" person, but so many of the ideas are simple enough that I can make them. The bonus is that it doubles as quality time with the kids when we make something together!
- Is it ever ok to recycle gifts? Personally, I don't have a problem with it in some very limited circumstances. There have been some categories of gifts, such as when my kids received several dolls, that I encouraged them to choose the one they liked best, and share the other with a friend. This is one area that I think we have to be very careful with, as it would never be a good idea to hurt the feelings of someone who gave to you. But, if the gifts are generic enough and you feel you want to "share them forward" then it is a possibility.
- Homemade baked goods or food gifts are always a welcome gift! Most people really enjoy the fact that you are sharing yummyness with them! Often, I will make a dinner to share with a family that could use some encouragement, just had a new baby, or is contending with some illness or stress. I will choose a tasty but simple dish, and just make twice as much, packaging half of it up to deliver to the other family. One hint here....hit up the dollar store for their cheap aluminum serving dishes and give your food gifts in those, so the family does not have the added pressure of remembering to return your dishes!
- Recycle everyday items into new uses! This is where it helps to be a creative person! I don't have much originality or creativity, but I am a great copier. When I see good ideas, I can put them to good use! Perhaps you can take an empty can, paint or paper it, and make it into something new! Again, here's where google, pinterest, and other blogs comes in. If I see blogs that have great ideas for stuff like this, written by people who are much more creative than me, I will subscribe to them so I have a steady stream of good ideas to pick from.
- Shop thrift stores. There are a few thrift stores in my area that even have 50% off days.... In the housewares section, there are often a lot of new items. There are also items that you can remake into something new. For example, our local thrift store had plain white plates for 50cents. With just a little paint, they become a beautiful personalized gift!
- Use coupons! Every week our local craft stores have a coupon for 40% or 50% off one item. These can make great gift items. Sometimes, JcPenney or one of the other department stores will have a $10 off any purchase. I will always look for an item that is as close to $10 as I can find, so that I can get it for nearly no cost. The jewelry clearance section is one of my favorite spots to shop. Often I have found necklaces for 90% off, and the $10 coupon will cover the balance.
- Use reward programs! Again, I think of the local craft store. I faithfully use my "rewards" card every time I make a purchase. About twice a year, I receive a $10 gift certificate from the store to reward my efforts. This almost always goes towards gift items.
- Give the gift of yourself and your time. Maybe you can just sit and visit with someone. What are you good at? Can you use that talent to help someone? Maybe you can clean their car or house, or give them an evening of free babysitting. Be creative and think about the needs of the other person, and you just might surprise yourself about how much you can give!
- Don't wait till the last minute! If you shop all year round, you won't be bound by the pressure of NEEDING to leave the store with something! Like I said previously, I have my gift stash in my closet, and usually always have a small selection of items available to be wrapped and given away. I also shop year round for Christmas! If it comes to my attention that there is something my family members are interested in that would make a great gift, I will stalk it on ebay until I find an auction where the price is right, and then make the purchase. Or I will wait until coupons become available to make the purchase.... It's always fun when we start to wrap gifts at Christmas time. Usually there are always a few 'surprise' items at the bottom of my pile that I forgot about, since they had been sitting there for months!
These are just a few ideas that we have put into practice. I think it's so important to teach our children to be givers. When they are giving and tasting of the joy that comes with giving, it will reinforce the lesson to them, and spur them on to be generous and overcome the selfishness in their own lives. Many times I will come up with a gift, but pass it on to my children and have them do the actual giving, to give them more opportunities to experience that joy.
As the new year comes, may you be blessed as you remember and practice what the Bible says:
Acts 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Check out the TOS Review Crew Blog for more frugal living ideas!
This post is linked to a series called "Frugal Family 2013" at "Ben and Me"