Ways to Save on Gifts, Wrapping and Decorations

by Dr. Charlotte Gorman

1. Limit gift-giving, both in the number of people to whom you give gifts and in the cost of the gifts. Otherwise, you could find yourself spending a disproportionate amount of your income on gift-giving. Other people may enjoy your generosity, but it is you who will have to pay the bills.

2. Always keep an assortment of gifts on hand for gift-giving. Buy gift items when they are on sale (preferably when they are 75 percent or more off) and save them until the appropriate occasions arise. Usually, you will pay much more (probably full price) for gifts if you wait and buy them immediately prior to the times you need them.

3. Give gift vouchers to immediate family members and other relatives, to neighbors, and to friends. The recipients can exchange these vouchers for the items listed on them. Some examples are: A child could give his or her working mother a voucher reading "dishes from one meal washed"; a wife could give her husband one which says "one breakfast in bed"; a husband could give one to his wife saying "one outside grilled dinner for the family"; you could give to an elderly neighbor a voucher which says "one free lawn mowing"; and to a friend who seldom goes out because she can’t afford a baby-sitter, you could give a voucher which reads "one night of free baby sitting." These gifts need not cost anything extra and could be unique and fun.

4. Make gifts. Use your talents and imagination to make attractive gifts for less than you could purchase satisfactory gifts. (Below are just a few examples of gift items which could be made.) Think–"what gifts could I make?"

a. Make cookies, cakes, and candies to give to family members, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.

b. Make and give jams, jellies, and preserves as gifts.

c. Write out your favorite recipes on cards, place them in recipe file boxes, and give them to people you know who take particular pride in their own cooking.

d. Compose a poem for a friend or family member who would appreciate such a gift. Your only cost should be a few sheets of paper.

5. Purchase potted plants from a nursery, grocery store, or discount store to give as gifts.

6. If you receive a gift which you cannot use or you have a sufficient number of similar items already, save it and give it as a gift to someone else for whom it would be appropriate. Giving this item will save you the expense of purchasing a gift.

7. If you win items or receive free merchandise which you cannot use, put them in your gift inventory. The fewer gifts you have to buy, the more money you will save.

8. Get free gifts by saving and sending in box tops, labels, and other proofs-of-purchase. Place these gifts in your gift inventory and use them on appropriate occasions.

9. Get free gifts for your gift inventory by hosting parties offered by home-party plans. The gifts you receive usually are based on the dollar amount of orders you are able to sell. Getting free gifts saves you money.

10. Be on the lookout for new items suitable for gifts when you go to garage sales. The items normally will be only a fraction of the cost of similar items purchased in a store.

11. When you receive a gift and think you might want or need to exchange it, be sure to save the box, wrapping paper, and any labels and tags which will identify the store from which the gift was purchased. Take all of these with you when you go to exchange the gift and present them to the salesperson as evidence that the gift was purchased at that store. Being able to exchange an unusable gift will allow you to exchange it for something you would ordinarily have to buy yourself.

12. Save and reuse gift-wrap paper. The more you can reuse, the less you will have to buy.

13. Buy gift-wrap paper on sale (up to 75 percent off) following Christmas and other holidays for use next year. If you wait until just prior to the holidays to buy the paper, you will likely have to pay full price.

14. Check to see if rolls of gift-wrap paper are cheaper per unit (square inch, square foot, or square yard) than sheets of gift-wrap paper. Buy the type that offers the most for the money.

15. Use black-and-white and colored sheets of newspaper for some of your gift wrapping. It’s cheap and chic.

16. Wrap your gifts yourself, rather than pay to have them wrapped, unless, of course, having them wrapped is cheaper than wrapping them yourself. If free gift wrapping is offered, by all means take advantage of the service.

17. Save and reuse bows and ribbons. The more of these you reuse, the fewer you will have to purchase.

18. Whenever you purchase items which you are not going to use immediately as gifts, always ask for free gift boxes, anyway. Save the boxes for later gift-giving. Gift boxes can be expensive if you have to purchase them, and this adds to the cost of the gifts.

19. Save suitable, miscellaneous boxes for use as gift boxes. Keep a supply on hand at all times.

20. Buy Christmas cards on sale following Christmas. You can expect to save up to 75 percent over the price charged before Christmas. Keep the cards until next year and use them.

21. Buy holiday decorations on sale following Christmas for use next year. Buying decorations after specific holidays can mean savings of 50 to 75 percent or more over pre-holiday prices.

22. Check at garage sales for used holiday decorations. You may be able to find new or nearly new decorations at almost "giveaway" prices.

23. Make your own holiday decorations. Use your talents and imagination to make decorations cheaper than you can buy them.

24. Save holiday decorations for use again next year. The longer you can use them, the longer you can postpone purchasing ones to replace them.

25. Save used Christmas cards for use in decorating. For example, cutouts from used Christmas cards make excellent decorations for your Christmas tree and dining table.

26. Buy an artificial Christmas tree which can be used year after year rather than buying an expensive live tree every year. A $40 live tree each year over a ten-year period would amount to $400. By shopping carefully and after Christmas, you should be able to buy an artificial tree for a small fraction of that $400.

27. Cut your own Christmas tree. It should be cheaper than buying one already cut. Maybe you have a friend who lives in the country and has an ample supply of wild, suitable evergreen trees. Ask if you might cut one for your Christmas tree. Some Christmas tree farms will give you a discount if you cut your own tree from their plantation.

About the Author:
Dr. Charlotte Gorman is an Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences, Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A & M University System. She is the author of The Frugal Mind, The Little Book of Living Frugal, and Speak for Yourself: A Handbook on Practical Public Speaking.

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