Monday, September 5, 2011

MrsDrPoe: Giving Gifts without Going Broke

It's Money Monday, and I'd like to start things off today with the surprise I mentioned last week. As you know, today is September 5, Labor Day, and 3 months and 20 days away from CHRISTMAS! I absolutely love Christmas. In fact, I listen to Christmas music and watch Christmas movies year-round. While I realize this is pretty weird, I'm going to suggest to you today that you start thinking about the holidays year-round as well (although perhaps not to the extent that I do) and before you stop reading, let me tell you why.

Christmas is a time of giving, but giving can be hard if you're: a student, unemployed, living on one income, etc. As you can imagine, planning and thinking more often about Christmas gifts will greatly help you stick to your budget (no matter how small) around the holidays. It's for this reason that I've decided to focus September's Money Monday posts about giving gifts without going broke. Of course the tips and tricks discussed will be applicable to any gifts you give throughout the year, but I hope that it'll definitely help out this holiday season. Please feel free to comment with more thoughts/suggestions!

The future topics I have planned for the rest of the month are: how to afford more lavish gifts on a budget (for everyone on your list), how to have a homemade holiday, and how to make sure you're a responsible receiver. This first post in the series will be a brief introduction on how to give without going broke.

Evaluating your situation

Keeping a budget and knowing where you stand with your income, debt, investments, etc. is as important to giving without going broke as it is to any subject of purchasing. If you don't have a working budget, you need to make one. Right now. And I suggest you read this to help you do so. Make sure that when you're creating yours that you include a gift giving category- Mr. Poe and I decided how much we could to spend on parents, siblings, etc. for birthdays and holidays, added everything up, and divided it by 12 to see how much we needed to save each month to spend what we could* on everyone throughout the year. Each time I make a gift purchase, I deduct it from our gift savings.

*Keep in mind that what you want to spend on family and friends might not be fiscally possible for you. If you want to save $30 a month, but you can only save $20 because the remainder of your monthly budget is going toward bills, debt, etc. that's alright. A thought: if you get into financial trouble trying to give your family their 'dream Christmas,' you're not doing them any favors because they'll probably be the ones you go to for help...or the ones who will inherit your debt.Having said that, we need to keep in mind that "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). If the reason you can only save $20 a month to give to others (family or otherwise) is because you have 3 car payments in a two-driver house, a boat payment, and you're saving $300 to go skiing next winter, you might want to rethink your priorities (and maybe sell a few things). It's good for us to enjoy the fruit of our labor, because it's a gift from God (Ecc 2:24, 3:13, 5:18) but not at the expense of our service to others (remember Jas 1:27).

Being honest

Once you've looked over your finances and established a gift budget, you need to be honest with yourself and with the people you want to give to. If people on your list usually spend mega bucks on you, and you can't reciprocate this year like usual, put your pride aside and tell them. It'll be much less awkward to have this discussion now before most people have purchased presents than waiting till these folks open a manual can opener after giving you a 60" flat screen.

Don't feel bad if you can't give your loved ones the world right now. It really is okay to be 'cheap'- especially if you're not hording what you have for your own enjoyment.

Jumping into action

So now you've figured out how much you can afford to give and you've had some possibly difficult conversations...what next? The answer is one of things I'm best known for: planning. Start by visiting your list of people you'll be shopping for and brainstorm about these people's hobbies, careers, likes, needs, wants, etc. A second brainstorming session should immediately follow producing a list of gift ideas.

Just because you write something down doesn't mean that's definitely what you'll end up purchasing, but having ideas will greatly aid you in your deal scouting. For instance, if Uncle Jimmy loves golf, I know that I'll want to keep my eye on daily deal sites that may get him a free game at his favorite course and/or sporting goods store sales. Who knows...I may find a fantastic deal on golf balls and tees next month that will allow me to get him something he'd like at a price that's in my budget. (FYI I don't have an Uncle Jimmy.)

I'm sure you can see how planning ahead and scouting for deals can quickly become a year-long task.  One of my favorite times to spot fantastic prices on gifts is black Friday.  In years past I've been able to get kitchen appliances like waffle makers and crockpots for $10-$15, dvd players for $10.00, dvds for $3, and the list goes on and on.  Great deals are definitely there to be found on the most wonderful shopping day of the year; however, not every sale that goes on during black Friday is the best sale...or even a good sale.  Again by keeping your eye out, you'll become aware of what constitutes a 'good' sale on the gifts you're looking for.

However you find your deals, I hope that these tips on budgeting and planning ahead will help you give gifts without going broke.  Stay tuned next week for some lavish but thrifty gift ideas!


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