Let’s cut to the chase: the holiday season is an excellent excuse to spend a lot of money. And while your holiday celebrations this year may look very different from years past, you might still be buying holiday presents for loved ones. So before you start (or continue) your buying frenzy, read on for some practical tips and low cost gift ideas to save money on presents this year!
Why It’s Hard For Me To Save Money on Presents
This post was inspired by an email I recently sent to my email subscribers. In it, I reflected on a few reasons why it can be hard for me to save money on presents. Ultimately, it comes down to this: I really like to spend money and give gifts. And give good gifts. However, I am also a serial procrastinator. Because of this, there are a three different scenarios I tend to be in around this season:
- Scenario #1: I obsess about finding the perfect present and end up spending way too much money;
- Scenario #2: I try to be more frugal with gift ideas, but because I’m pressed for time they usually end up being off the mark; or
- Scenario #3: I give up and everyone gets gift cards. Which is a perfectly acceptable gift idea, but is something I’ve been trying to steer away from recently. It also can be more expensive that getting thoughtful but frugal gifts.
Bummer, right? But it doesn’t have to all be doom and gloom! I admit that some years – like this year – we’ll spend a bit more money if we can afford it and want to acknowledge a special birthday/anniversary year. But other years, we will scale back and focus more energy on frugal but thoughtful ideas.
All that is to say, spending money on presents isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But I’d like to argue that whether you’re ready to spend a lot or a little, the following tips may help you stay mindful, grounded, and relaxed while going down your holiday list.
Practical Tips for Staying Mindful When Buying Presents
Tip #1: Gratitude comes first.
Ground your mindset in being thankful for what you and others already have. Using this as your starting point helps deflect impulse buys. It also makes you think twice before you buy something because someone “has” to have it. I know, this one is a bit cliché, but in the 3 days it’s taken me to write this post I’ve had to remind myself of it at least 5 times while present-shopping.
Tip #2: Relationships are more important than presents.
While this is potentially another cliché, it’s also something I’ve had to remind myself of multiple times this week. I’ve given some pretty terrible presents over the years, or forgotten to get one all together. But while embarrassing at the time, these have become blips in the otherwise healthy relationships I have with my family and friends. So if you’re going to put your effort into something, invest it in cultivating your relationships the rest of the year.
Tip #3: “The true purpose of a present is to be received.”
This passage from Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is often quoted to reassure people that it’s okay to discard items that were gifted to them. I would argue that it also helps when selecting a present. Remember that just the gesture of sending a present is a gift in and of itself. You can’t control how much the recipient will like it, but you can control whether you give something in an honest and loving way.
Tip #4: Your Self Worth Is Not In How Much People Like Your Gifts
Hopefully this one is pretty self explanatory, but just to drive home the message: you are a good person no matter how much people like or dislike your gifts. And if you can’t afford to get presents this year, that’s OK, too! Please, please, please remember this. You are worthy and loved no matter whether you’re opting for a no-present holiday or if you’re freaking Santa Claus himself.
*Breathe* Let’s pause for a moment. Have you gotten this far and are thinking, “your mindful tips are great and all, but I need actual ideas for frugal holiday presents.” No worries, friend – I got you! Read on for low-cost gift ideas that I have personally done in the recent past.
Practical Tips For Actually Saving Money on Presents
Idea #1: Start A Secret Santa Circle
I’m very lucky to live fairly close to lots of family members. Thankfully, a few years ago my cousins on my mom’s side started a Secret Santa circle that assigns one nuclear family to another. This prevents all of us from feeling pressure to buy presents for upwards of 50 people / 10+ families. And when we implemented this idea on my dad’s side – with fewer people to consider – we do a one to one gift exchange. Note about kids: it’s understood that all young kids (say, 12 and under) can still get presents from whomever wants to gift them something.
Idea #2: Write Letters
Last year, I decided to try something different. Because we had a more intimate Christmas with my dad’s side last year, I wrote a multi-paragraph thank you letter for every adult that was there. The letters included fun memories I had with them and reasons I was thankful for them in my life. If you enjoy writing and are close with your gift recipients, I highly recommend this idea! It’s enjoyable both for you as the gift giver and for the gift recipients. Even better, it drives home Tip #1 above: gratitude comes first.
Idea #3: Go For Consumable Gifts
In case you don’t already know this about me, I strongly dislike clutter. So consumable gifts are always a winner for me, whether I’m giving them or receiving them. Here are a few consumable gifts I’ve either made or received which cost very little money:
- Make your own s’mores kits
- Make your own cookie kits
- Homemade cookies and brownies
- Homemade soap
- Homemade essential oil kits
- Homemade mint extract (more below)
I’m particularly excited about the mint extract! One of my neighbors has an abundance of mint in her garden that’s free for picking, so I picked a few stems and am currently soaking the mint leaves in mason jars of vodka and rum. I stir them up every week or so, and will transfer them to smaller extract jars the week of Christmas. I hope to gift these to all our neighbor friends if it turns out well! Total cost: for $40 for 12 bottles of homemade mint extract. This includes $26 for the liquor and $15 for the bottles.
To recap, I recommend two steps to save money on presents:
- Ground yourself with a few mindful reminders about gratitude, friendships, and your self worth.
- Explore low- or no-cost gift options while researching your presents.
Thanks for reading!