Gift Giving on a Budget

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the holiday shopping season is upon us. Many of you may have already ventured out to find some great deals on Black Friday, but for Michael and I, gift giving is about being savvy through the whole holiday season this year. However, savvy shopping doesn’t have to mean giving lame gifts. It really just means being a little creative.

Here are 3 key ways to save some much needed money this holiday season while still giving gifts sure to bring a smile to the recipient’s face.

1. Make a Budget.

I can’t tell you how many years I’ve blindly shopped only to realize that I’m out of money long before I’m out of people I need to buy for. So this year, Michael and I are being smart and creating a holiday shopping budget to determine exactly how much we can spend.

Here’s how to make one:

  1. Figure out what you can afford.
    This can be done a variety of ways — it really just depends on your financial situation. Just take a look at your finances and figure out what you can afford to spend during the holidays. Make this number your absolute spending limit.
  2. Figure out everything you need to buy.
    There’s a lot more to the holidays than just gift giving, so you need to factor that in when you’re creating your budget. Remember things like holiday cards and postage, household decorations, gift wrap, baking supplies, food items, holiday clothing, travel expenses, etc. Make a list of everything you need to buy during the holiday season and figure out how much of your budget will go to each line item.
  3. Separate Out Your Gift Budget
    Once you have your total budget figured out, break out your gift giving budget by creating a list of people you need to buy for. Then, attribute a dollar amount to each person. This will allow you to keep a spending limit in mind when you’re shopping, ensuring you don’t max out your budget too quickly.
  4. Keep Track of Your Spending Through the Season
    Of course, it’s not always logical to assume you’ll be able to stick completely to your budget, so it’s important to keep track of it in case you overspend a bit in one category. If this happens, tweek your budget by scaling back in another category to cover where you went over.

2. Find Deals.

I’m all about finding great deals all year round, so the holiday shopping season is no exception. And while stores often offer special deals at certain times, there are a host of other resources that can help you save even more. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Plastic Jungle is a gift card exchange website that allows people to sell their unwanted gift cards for a percentage of their value in cash. The website then sells these gift cards at a discount of up to 30%! So basically, you can either buy discounted gift cards to give as gifts, or you can purchase gift cards for you to use in your shopping. The best savings are often on the higher dollar amount cards, so if you’re planning to do a lot of shopping in one store, you really could save quite a bit by using Plastic Jungle.
  2. Half Off Depot is a daily deal-type website that also features a virtual shopping mall of savings from 50-90% off in about 30 cities across the US and Canada. We actually used Half Off Depot when shopping for thank you gifts for our parents before the wedding and we ended up getting Michael’s mom and grandmother $100 in gift certificates to a nice steakhouse in Knoxville for only $50!
  3. RetailMeNot is an online community listing TONS of coupon codes and discounts for 65,000 online stores. I actually don’t order anything online, not even a pizza, without first checking RetailMeNot to see what deals are out there. So if you’re an online shopper like me, you must check it out for all the best coupon codes on the internet.

3. Get Creative.

Sometimes the best gifts are the ones with the most thought behind them. So a good way to save money during the holidays while still giving great gifts is to great creative and make them yourself! Of course, you have lots of options here, and it really depends what skills you have when it comes to DIY. But here are a few places I find holiday DIY inspiration:

  1. Holiday Gift Ideas DIY Flickr Group — This is where some very awesome people have been kind enough to post photos and tutorials of a bunch of great DIY holiday gift ideas. There are currently over 1,000 photos in the group, so you’re sure to find some inspiration there.
  2. The Craft Store — Sometimes in my spare time, I head over to Jo-Ann to simply wander around and gather DIY ideas.

So there you have it! That’s how Michael and I plan to make the holiday season a little more manageable on our bank account. Do you have any other savvy tips?


Photo by eye of einstein. Used under Creative Commons.
Disclosure: The Plastic Jungle & Half Off Depot links above are affiliate links.

About Nicole Denton

With a love of planning just about anything — from her own wedding, to bridal and baby showers, to dinner parties, and more – Nicole is the Plunge Project’s founder and former editor-in-chief. A New Jersey native, Nicole has called Chandler, Arizona home since 2013, where she currently lives with her husband Michael; two pit bulls, Shelby and Link; and cat, Kity Perry. A University of Tennessee graduate, Nicole has a bachelors in communications and a career at a rapidly-growing digital marketing firm.

2 Comments on Gift Giving on a Budget

  1. lizzie [love your way]
    December 5, 2010 at 4:23 pm (5 years ago)

    great tips! i didn’t know about plastic jungle…that is a GREAT site!

  2. coupons
    August 25, 2012 at 12:04 am (3 years ago)

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