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Frugal Living & Freebies

6 Quick Tips for Affordable Gift-Giving in a Tough Economy
by Kim Green-Spangler
Everyone's feeling the pinch of the economy right now. However, a tough economy doesn't mean you have to completely abandon gift-giving; it simply means you have to be smarter about gift-giving. Here are six quick tips to ease your wallet, now and in the future.
  1. Make a list! If you're shopping for your immediate family, extended family, birthdays, holidays and anniversaries your list is pretty extensive. This year, why not make a list of everyone who needs a gift. Also, take it to the next step and write down what you think each might like and the amount you have budgeted to spend. Yes, I did say the dreaded six-letter word budget. It's so much easier to shop for someone once you have a possible gift in mind, and it makes it much easier to stay within budget or tweak your budget, when you have a realistic idea of what the item will cost.

  2. Start shopping EARLY! Wouldn't it be nice to be completely done with your holiday shopping by August? Well, if you start early you'll be done faster, and the savings will be incredible! Time is on your side, so use it to your advantage. With your list already assembled, you know your ideal gift and you can comparison shop and/or wait for your prized gift to go on sale. When you start early you have more control over your purchases instead of being at the mercy of big business.

  3. Shop out of Season! In this economy it makes sense to stretch your dollar the furthest you can. Why pay full price for something if you can get it for at least a 50% discount? Waiting for end of season sales translates into HUGE savings! This is especially true for big ticket items. A snow blower in March, a holiday platter in January, or a swimsuit in September - all spell fantastic deals for you and the perfect gift for your recipient. Shopping out of season is also great for gifts for casual acquaintances, birthday parties for classmates, holiday and/or end of year teachers' gifts, etc. You can typically find exceptionally nice gifts you probably wouldn't be able to afford to give to acquaintances when shopping in season, for the proverbial steal. Talk about maximizing your gift-giving capabilities!

  4. Search Online for Items and Sign-up for Sales Notification. The key to getting a good price is knowing what's available. In this day and age you can do that from the comfort of your home, make your purchases online, and even have them delivered to the recipient. You can comparison shop, search for promotion codes to receive additional savings and/or free shipping, and even find price match opportunities. Let's say you find the perfect gift and it's going for full-price. If you have the time to wait, and you should since you started shopping early, sign up to receive sales notifications via email and you may eventually have a killer deal sent directly to your inbox.

  5. Mix It Up! Stores often sell goodie bags, gift baskets, and a variety of other pre-packaged items. Who says they have to stay that way? A gift basket of six items could yield six perfect individual gifts, or a value two-pack holiday DVD could make two children very happy and really stretch your savings. Look for ways to capitalize on pre-packaged items. Sam's Club, Costco, BJ's and other discount wholesalers are great places to search for value packs.

  6. Take Advantage of Gift Certificates. During the holidays there were several sites dedicated to offering gift certificates to restaurants for $.50 on the dollar! Consumers were able to purchase $100 gift certificates for $50. Locally, many restaurants and business paired up and offered consumers package deals like, purchase five car washes and receive a dinner for two up to $40. Just think, you could give someone like the school bus driver or mail carrier the car washes and the dinner for two could be a gift for a dear relative. Gift certificates can be a very thoughtful and cost effective gift. However, be sure to read the fine print, check expiration dates and exclusions - especially when shopping early, and when possible, try to purchase directly from the business responsible for redeeming the certificate.

Hopefully these tips will help you find the gifts you need and keep you within budget. Who knows, if you put enough of these tips into play, you may be able to put some extra money in the bank this year too!

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