We have lived on a single income for 25 years. My husband makes a modest income and we have eight children, so there has been a continual need to budget and stretch our dollars.
I like to give good gifts. And I’m just going to say it: I HATE doing crafts, and I don’t like to sew. What I have found is that gifts can be “good” without being expensive or requiring me to be tortured by a hot glue gun or sewing machine. Thoughtful gifts can be the very best kind, and if you plan ahead just a bit, you can save A LOT. Here are some tips I have used over the years:
*Buy before you need: I try to look at my calendar at least a month out and check for birthdays or special occasions that I may need a gift for. Another idea is to grab items that are on clearance or that you see on sale if you know of a specific person who might like to receive them as a gift. If something is a great buy and is a generic gift, like a gift basket with lotions, soaps, etc., it’s often worth buying. Then attach a note to it (who it’s for) and tuck it away. The trick is to have a good spot to store these things. A bin with a lid and a label in a closet somewhere works well. Also make a note to yourself in a day planner or on a calendar on that occasion (birthday, anniversary, etc) that you have a gift tucked away.
*Practical gifts in good packaging: I remember after I had one of our kids, someone brought me a basket with homemade muffins and a couple canning jars filled with homemade granola and decorated simply. You could add a little jar of jam and some some cheese or fruit or other breakfast type of thing. I don’t like crafts, but I do like to cook. Homemade goodies can be a real treat, especially for those who don’t like to cook or don’t have time. Use whatever skill you have or enjoy. Our daughter loves photography and will give a photo, sometimes with text added to it (using picmonkey.com). The dollar store is a great place for frames (you can decorate these too), tissue, basket filler, and inexpensive baskets or containers.
*Dollar Store ribbons, wrap, gift bags, tissue: Again, the Dollar Store is awesome for making simple gifts look more elegant. They also have a good supply of inexpensive cards for all occasions AND packages of notecards, gift card holders, etc.
*Bible book store with boxed cards: I love to have great inspirational cards on hand. We have a Lifeway Bible store in our area and they carry beautiful and fun boxed cards for about $2.50 a box. Check your local Bible book store.
*Buy out of season/clearance racks: This is a biggie. When I am out shopping (usually for practical items) I check on the clearance sections in that store. Even some grocery stores have a clearance area at the back of the store. You can pick up lotions, special soap, sanitizer in pretty bottles, etc that you can buy at a fraction of the price and tuck away. I have often found winter or summer clothing (sweaters, fun socks, flip flops) at the end of the season for a few dollars that may work as a gift as well.
*Making “gifts in a jar” is a fun, inexpensive way to give as well. There are books full of these types of recipes. You can layer the ingredients for soup, cookies, etc. in a canning jar, decorate the jar and tie the recipe around the lid.
*Gift cards: These are an awesome gifts for the people you’re not sure what to get (or really anyone for that matter). If you can find out what restaurant they like or what stores they shop, including online sites like Amazon, you can usually get a gift card. These are also much less expensive if you have to mail the gift, so I can increase the amount on the gift card!
*Pinterest has awesome inexpensive gift ideas that really get the creative juices flowing!
*At the risk of sounding tacky, I have found things at yard sales that still have the tags on them. Honestly, I don’t usually give those to other people, BUT we have found loads of Legos, brand new gaming systems, Lincoln Logs, K’nex, etc. that we have put away and given our kids for Christmas, birthdays, etc. I also have found beautiful vases, ceramic pots, etc. that can be used to put other things in, even a bouquet of wildflowers you pick yourself.
The best thing is to be thoughtful in what you give. It could be acts of service, making a donation to a charity in someone’s name, a skill you can share, something that person has mentioned that she doesn’t have enough of (kitchen utensils) etc. Our daughter and her husband give newly married couples a book/journal with fun date ideas that only costs $11. Sometimes just taking the extra time to think of something unique is the most appreciated and, often, it doesn’t have to be expensive.
Gift graphic is courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net“.