Keeping the Gift Budget Under Control

Earlier today I read Sharon’s most recent post– just a regular update sort of thing. But this time, she mentioned two specific spend issues she has problems with that I directly related to.  So I’ve been thinking about them all day like I said I would in the comments and I do have some ideas but I wanted to scratch your brains as well. Only one problem per post because these suck up my brain power!

Problem One: Blowing the Gift Budget Every. Single. Time.

Ah, gifts. These are really tough for people with the deadly combination of loving to shop and loving to give. If you’re the type of person who absolutely loves to help someone else shop but fall apart when it’s time to spend on yourself you most likely have a struggle with keeping gifts under budget.

First things first– get a realistic grip on your gift spending. If it feels like the right amount when you spread it out across the year, it’s the right amount. If it feels way too high even when you spread it out across the year into monthly chunks, bring it down. Accept whatever the real amount needs to be.  The bottom line is if every year you look and you’ve spent $1200 on gifts, you need to set aside $100 for gifts period, end of story. No occasions to celebrate in July? Don’t delude yourself into thinking you can use the gift money for something else because you will be pressed in August when you have four birthdays to deal with. If deep down you know the number is too high because you’re just being extravagant to be extravagant, you’ve got to wrestle that demon and whittle it down to a reasonable number. If it’s because your circumstances just don’t allow you to spend as much as you want, you’ve got to accept that too.

Now that you’ve wrestled with the real and true and livable gift budget, I think it’s time we all truly embrace the one solution that just makes sense– the gift closet.

Oh, the groans! I can hear them, you know. But seriously, the gift closet makes sense (and cents, ha). I think it really is time to put this concept to the test. How many times have I gone into the store not looking for anything in particular, finding the perfect thing for so and so, not buying it because there’s no occasion coming up to give it to them and I can’t be giving things just because, to then not find a damn thing when it IS time to give them something?

There are certain things in life that are highly probable at least once a year. This is my list:

  • Your loved ones will have a birthday
  • You will celebrate Valentine’s Day one way or another
  • You may celebrate Easter one way or another
  • You will have at least one person deserving of a Mother’s Day gift
  • You will have at least one person deserving of a Father’s Day gift
  • You will celebrate some sort of holiday in December
  • Someone will have a baby
  • If you have children, there will be birthday parties
  • There will be an occasion you really wish you had a hostess gift for
  • There will be an occasion you really wish you had a thank you gift for
  • There will be an occasion you really wish you had a congratulations gift for

The thing is, these somewhat predictable events will always come around when you have the least money available for them. Not only that, but the stores will instantly hide all of their good stuff too. So clearly, the only real solution I can see is year-round shopping. You can make this as haphazard as you want or as neat and organized as you want. My idea for myself is to maintain some sort of list I can access with my phone so I can check really quick if I’ve already got Mutant Wino’s gifts covered for the year or if something’s missing because I just found the most perfect thing for him at the most perfect price. And even if he is covered for the year, I might get it anyways because there’s next year. As long as the gift closet doesn’t turn into some out of control clutter beast, I really do think this is the answer for us gift-budget-busting gals. The trick is to not put it off. You find something, it fits the budget, it fits the closet, do it. Make it a point to go gift shopping once a month so you’re not tempted to paint yourself into a corner two months from now.

There are some gifts that are classics. There are gorgeous baby items in neutral colors deeply discounted. You can find some great deals on great gift basket shelf-stable items like wines and gourmet foods (check the expiration date before buying). Keep an eye on the clearance section of department stores for discounts on classic home gifts like frames, vases, candles, and so on. Check the kids’ department for discounted books. Toys R Us constantly marks down toys too– maybe avoid the more trendy pieces and stick to classic characters and games.

Even those of us who make things can benefit greatly from a gift closet. How many of us have those gaps in the calendar when no one’s celebrating anything and suddenly it’s everyone’s birthday and right after that is Christmas? Make a gift every month for the closet. If a pattern catches your eye, go for it and add it to the gift closet. You can even turn this into one of those annual challenges!

What do you think? Any strategies or tips for keeping the cost of giving gifts down that don’t include the classic, “Instead of buying a gift, give the gift of time”? Share!

17 thoughts on “Keeping the Gift Budget Under Control

  1. Love these ideas… my problem is that money seems to be the logical gift for some of the recipients…i.e. a very close friend’s son graduating from high school (they gave my kids $$ too), etc. I’ve decided that my parents and MIL need money more than stuff, so that’s what I end up sending. I LOVE the idea of the gift closet…I think I’ll start doing that because I’m sure that will come in handy.

  2. I don’t want anything or need anything or have any room to put more of anything. Something I like to receive truthfully is a tin or tray of homemade baked goods. I may be the last creature in the world that really does like to get fruit cake during the holidays.

  3. I try to leave a mental note of what my family talks about needing or I notice they need or like when I visit…I really need to write them down…that way when I am out shopping I have a few things in the back of my mind I am looking for. Take this past weekend…my mom’s birthday is coming up and I have been looking, unsuccessfully, for a purse for her but happened to come upon the perfect little dripless teapot in no other than a cheese shop! Her little teapot broke the last time I was visiting and I know she has yet to find one…I picked one up in sunny yellow! I am so excited to give it to her! I love gift closets! Susan H. @ The Food Allergy Chronicles

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  5. This is one of the reasons I try to make jams, pickles, etc every year. I like to give homemade food gifts because everyone eats! I don’t have to worry about gifts for little kids very much, though, so maybe that’s why this works for me.

  6. I have to laugh because I did this today. I was shopping for my daughter and overspent. So tomorrow the things I didn’t really need to buy go back!
    Judy

  7. I have a gift budget & only so much money to go around… I’ve been trying to make more gifts as well. But with men it’s kind f hard, but we have been able to cut down our gift budget with my handmade gifts for the women! :) It helps!!

  8. This is a category where I usually spend with reckless abandon. I much prefer buying other people things vs myself. I went a little nuts when the kids were little during xmas as I was trying to make up for all the presents I never got, but now I keep that in check as most of the time it’s the $3 stocking stuffer that gets the most action and not the “big expensive toy”. Hopefully, I’m learning as I get older. I’ve actually toned down the gift giving in a major way over the last couple of years when certain family members got a sense of entitlement to a specific dollar amount gift and were putting things like kindle fire’s on their wish list. That’s when I knew I was doing more harm than good by being generous to extended family. I love giving though. It feels so good when done correctly.

    • Yup! Guilty as charged. My littlest one’s birthday is Monday. It’s SO tempting to think of some huge flashy present but I’m trying SO hard to take them to Orlando and the parks in the summer that I really need to just do a small little thing. And he loves small things.

  9. Also– I do have to say there’s something to be said for the gift of time. That is, a well thought out gift doesn’t need to cost as much as “omg I have no idea what to give so here’s a gift certificate.” If you can get the perfect gift it doesn’t matter how much it cost, whereas if we’re thoughtless sometimes we use money to compensate for imperfection.

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