Here's a little holiday cheer:
You don't have to give your family and friends ornaments made out
of dryer lint or knickknacks from your local dollar store just so
you can stay on budget this holiday season.
With a little forethought and a bit of creativity,
you can avoid going into debt and give great gifts that won't seem the least bit
Make a gift list, and check
As uncreative as it might initially sound, a detailed gift list
is really your best weapon in the cheap-but-chic holiday game.
"Decide ahead of time what your overall holiday
gift budget will be -- don't forget teacher gifts and tips --
then list all of your gift recipients and break your budget down
person by person," says Ellie Kay, author of several money-saving
books, including "The Debt Diet."
If you start with just a lump-sum gift
budget, it might initially seem like a generous cache. You might even be tempted
to spend a little more than usual on a few of your gifts. But Kay suggests that
if you assign a dollar value to each person -- say, $40 for each child, $20 for
each teacher and so on -- you may quickly realize that you don't have quite as
much wiggle room as you initially thought.
the number of kids' gifts
Face it: Children usually open their first three or four gifts with
glee and then start mindlessly rushing through the unwrapping process.
The last gifts never have quite the impact of the first few. Take
advantage of this natural phenomenon and give your own kids and
pint-size relatives fewer gifts.
Some families use the biblical "three gifts of
the Magi" as a reason to limit children's gifts to three apiece,
but you can create a gift limit for your own family according to
your budget or tradition. Whatever number you choose, stick to it!
Don't run out the night before the holiday to get "just one
more" present so the gift pile will seem more plentiful.
inexpensive gifts more memorable
Robyn Spizman, author of "Make it Memorable" and other
gift-giving books, suggests rethinking the way you buy presents.
"When you're buying, put your budget aside temporarily,"
she says. "Don't focus on saving money; focus on being thoughtful."
Another way to think of it: A gift that doesn't reflect
the recipient's taste and interests is wasteful, even if it is expensive.
On the other hand, a gift that is carefully chosen just for your
friend or family member can feel priceless to them, even if it cost
only $20, she says.
How can you pick a memorable gift?
"Ask questions or do a little observation,"
says Spizman. "If you're buying for a woman, notice what she
wears. Does she like bright colors or subdued tones? That will give
you a clue about the colors of candles or little accessories she
Another important clue: "Does she wear
silver jewelry or gold tones? Most women wear one or the other,
so if you get her a charm bracelet or a brooch, you need to make
sure it matches her other jewelry," says Spizman.