Gift Giving on a Budget

Hey guys. I thought since Christmas (or whichever winter holiday you happen to celebrate, if any) is fast-approaching I should impart some Christmas shopping wisdom to get your through the season with bank account (mostly) intact. Now, I have much wisdom, so this may come at you in several parts leading up to the big day. I’ll start off with some general advice. Enjoy.

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS buy in advance. This will reduce the amount of money you spend as well as the amount of last-minute panic you’ll feel as you search for an open store at 11 PM on Christmas Eve. If I see something someone on my list would like on sale or just cheap, I buy it, even if it’s still January. This can lead to a stockpile of gifts you can use for that person for years to come for their birthday, Christmas, or any other gift-giving holiday.

Now, for those of you who have giftees who only like really specific categories of gifts, such as clothes or electronics, that update frequently, you may want to wait to buy them until later. A great time to buy things like that is on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. I’m not saying you should stand outside in the cold for four hours or anything crazy like that, but a lot of stores have early-bird specials until 9, 10, or even as late as 11 AM.

We shouldn't be her, no matter how much we want to.

So as long as you get out of bed at a reasonable time, you should be able to hit those sales without a problem. Of course, plan out your trip ahead of time so you know when the specials end at each store so you leave yourself plenty of time for browsing – a key element of gift giving.

Also, it is important to know your giftee well enough to get them something they actually like. If you don’t know them well enough, ask them what they want. Personally, if I buy someone a gift and they end up returning it/exchanging it for something they actually want, I feel like I have wasted my money. Most of the joy of gift-giving is getting to see the look of excitement on the person’s face as they open your present and reveal a super awesome gift. If I get a lukewarm, well-intentioned thank you, all of the fun is taken out of it for me, and the money I spent wasn’t worth it. So, to avoid this, I’m extra careful to make sure that even if my gift isn’t the best gift the person got that day, it’s still something they’ll enjoy.

Avoid this fate!

One of the worst things about Christmas is that you never know who’s going to get you a gift. So, throughout the year, look for cheap, generic gifts. Some examples are combination packs of lotion/soap/bodywash, jewelry, tool kits, boxes of candy (these you may not want to buy that far in advance, obviously) etc. These are for those, “Oops, I didn’t get this person a gift but they got me one” moments. These clearly won’t be the best gifts of the century, but at least the gift receiver will be able to use them, and you won’t look like a complete jerk for not having gotten your cousin’s sister-in-law’s ex-husband’s friend a gift.

Finally, Secret Santa is a lifesaver. Now, with your family members this may not be a good idea, but with your friends who are also in college, go for it. Sure, you all love each other, but chances are they won’t want to spend their hard-earned money on you any more than you’ll want to spend yours on them. Also, this solves the problem of “With which people am I close enough friends to give a gift?” and there won’t be any hurt feelings if someone gets you a gift and you don’t get them one (although if you’ve followed the advice of the paragraph above, you’ve already circumvented that eventuality, you clever thing, you). So expand Secret Santa to those with whom you’re only just barely friends, and everyone’s happy.

Let’s try to avoid number five, shall we?