(four minute read)
There’s little better than shopping for a gift to give someone we love – aside from, fill in the blanks if you’re an adult with a healthy sense of ravage for your favorite gender, or you’re a human with a literal appetite. With gift giving comes spending, and this is one area many of us incredibly savvy & generous shoppers fall prone to over spending in, myself included. The fact is, we are never not in the season of gift giving and – we love to celebrate! Not to mention, in the money-department, we are programmed, loyal consumers who don’t think twice before stimulating the economy and downgrading our bank accounts due to our unconscious habit of spending.
I’m not even going to go into the topic of over-spending, anti-budgeting, and racking up credit card debt that often accompanies gift giving, as this would damper the topic. Instead, watch this hella bullet point version video of HOW TO SAVE MONEY & BUDGET which will cover our bases on that note. Now let’s move on to the pleasantry and reality of gift giving 101!
Before diving in, remember this: the value of money and the value of a gift do not directly correlate. Value in this department is not determined by a higher spend monetarily.
RULES OF THUMB TO GIFT GIVING AND MONEY 101
1. Have a purpose and do not spend out of obligation. Spending money buying gifts out of obligation is just as tacky as it feels. Spending money without purpose is the same thing as literally taking a match to a $20 bill. Instead, have a legitimate purpose when choosing to spend money in the name of gift giving. Give a gift that holds some meaning, and give with a purpose.
2. Remove stress. More on this topic come future, though do not include stress as part of your gift giving plan. Abort spending money in gift purchase if you are feeling stress around the occasion. The person who demands an expensive gift? If this expense (or demand) fits the budget and you must, go for it. Perhaps next, pose the question on why this person might be in your life if this demand has legitimate relevance and they can’t afford this big ticket item oneself. Fire stress givers who are unreasonable and hire joy givers in all areas of life.
Alternative? Make this individual dinner. Don’t live in the same locale? Have a virtual dinner date via Skype or Facetime. Send this person a gift card to Whole Foods or Seamless, instruct them to get a bottle of wine pre-date go-time, and make the whole situation casual. Stress be gone fun be had. Who’s to complain? If your gift-receiver doesn’t value your company (time spent together), the gift be that you’d been stressing over likely wouldn’t hold much value to this type of individual long term either.
3. Budget in advance. This is self explanatory. When you’re planning out your year, look to all the prospective events you’ll be celebrating and the gifts you’ll be buying. Literally print a paper calendar out and write the dates & events on it throughout the year as they arise. Set a budget, save consistently over time and in advance, and make the budget “work” without expanding it or dipping into savings. Gift giving does not justify use of the emergency fund.
4. Be a good listener ALL OF THE TIME. The best way to pick up on what someone’s interested in, loves, wants, or needs, is simply to actively & attentively listen to them whenever they open their mouth, not just when it comes time to scramble and buy a gift. When listening, you’ll often hear the want or need for something simple and beautiful that coincidentally is something the gift receiever would by themselves. I’m not talking about a vehicle upgrade, I’m talking about the konjac sponge, new lipgloss or subscription to Vanity Fair that would be a good add to the daily mix (in this person’s life) that won’t break the bank.
5. Accumulate gifts as you find them throughout the year. When you see something with someone’s name on it, make the purchase and put it in safe keeping until the gift is ready to give. When spending at various times throughout the year you won’t feel as strapped or crunched for cash as you will when purchasing all of your gifts at once (i.e. December).
6. Do not blow the budget. I repeat, spend within your range, hunt deals, look for sales, find diamonds in the rough. Part of planning for gift giving opportunities and events in advance means you have time to look around vs. be pressed for time without the choice to make calculated decisions around quality spending (or investing), however you look at it.
7. Leave yourself enough time so you aren’t scrambling, and in turn, eventually overspending. When we are pressed for time, we make poor decisions and expensively make “grab & go” the #1 option. How many times have you randomly found a deal in a pinch when you needed one vs. going to a department store in a pinch and picking up something (expensive) and spectacular as a band-aid? I just said this, but it’s worth repeating. Plan in advance. Literally write that shit down in the calendar and map out spending and where you’re going to spend.
8. Notes on cards. Purchase cards in advance (not necessarily bulk) so they’re at your fingertips when you need them.
Savings tip one: buy cards that are a gorgeous mix of different images on the outside and are blank on the inside. A personal message is better than a signature any day.
Savings tip two: e-cards work. Purchase an annual subscription to an online greeting card company if this is what fits the budget and you prefer. It’s fun to receive cards in any form and it’s the thought that counts. E-cards might also be the best form of delivery. We have friends all over the world and it’s safe to say most check their email once every few minutes or hours (let alone days). E-cards sing and dance and can be personalized. They are fucking hilarious. I love sending and receiving them.
Savings tip three: don’t actually make a card, unless this too, is the gift itself – a gift I’m personally fond of. If you’re “crafting” a card to save money, you might be going about this the wrong way. Unless you all ready have craft supplies on hand for some reason (and maybe you do), you’ll end up spending more dough on craft supplies than what it would to purchase a really nice card in the first place. In the case of trying to save in this example, you’re not only spending more money, you’re spending more time. Evaluate!
Note: if your gift is the physical card plus personalized message, splurge a little on the card and make it highly personal (and still personalize it with a note). Nothing beats a handwritten note thought out in advance and mailed. It takes time to do this one. The thought here really counts 😉
9. Give joint gifts / share the cost of one “big” gift. Not to be confused with amalgamating two gifts into one for December babies around Christmas! Achem* Mostly joking. Say someone wants a big ticket item and it’s a really special occasion or milestone, or this is a killer wedding gift you want to buy the happy couple to help them out. Round up those who might want to participate, pool your resources and share the cost of the gift among all parties.
10. Give a gift to someone who needs help in a pinch. Someone has a flat tire and you know they’re tight for cash this month? Be the guardian angel and spring for the spare. I’m not saying skip birthday appreciation, though when it comes down to that point in time, give a card instead of racking your brain on what to give someone who doesn’t want (or need) anything (other than love and hugs!) in that moment.
11. Don’t go overboard. Is it more important to impress someone (everyone you gift give to, because you ARE that person) with overflowing gifts than it is to be financially healthy and spoil them without going over the top? I’m all for going over the top once in a while and on extra special occasions, though truly, gift giving means living within your means. Be creative. This is where the extra-special in magic usually comes in.
12. Do keep a running total on what you’ve spent on gifts, cards, dinners, drinks, and party throwing around all of these events so you can tally the totals ongoing and see if you are sticking within your annual budget allocated to gift giving and spending in this department. Keep your receipts.
Gift giving doesn’t have to be mandatory or stressful when purpose and thought are incorporated. Things are literally just material. I’m as big of “thing” lover as the next individual, though far exceeding any shiny “thing”, I’m a human lover – as are you if you’re reading this. You’ve put enough thought into caring about giving a gift to someone you love, and it’s all about your relationship with that person at the end of the day. Think of how you feel and what the other person will feel as a result of this whole action – while fully, every step of the way, keeping a healthy budget in tact and in mind.