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Prepare for spending less

By on July 25, 2008

homemade cookies giftphoto by wordridden

Every little thing, everywhere you look, is going up in price. Have you prepared your family for the fact that this year could be different from last year? Maybe you’ve broken the bad news that your annual trip to the amusement park will be a “staycation” instead. While you’re explaining the many money-saving benefits of being a hometown tourist, you might want to break the news early about any changes you need to make to upcoming special occasions.

Call your family and friends and let them in on your plans to tone it down this year. One reader, Sarah from Illinois, writes, “My husband and I were thinking about sending a letter out to our families, stating simply that we are not participating in the traditional gift giving this year.” Preparing family and friends well in advance makes it easier to accept the changes. It gives everyone an opportunity to plan alternatives, such as donating to a family in need as a group, drawing names, buying only for the kids or homemade gift exchanges.

Some people are concerned about the reaction they’ll receive. While some might be relieved and thankful, others might be offended. Connie M. writes: “We tried to send a letter asking everyone to do a drawing, and set a limit on the amount spent. Unfortunately, it was not well received. So I have simply bought less and less over the past few years. I think everyone needed time to accept our position. I simply changed how I gave gifts.” Sometimes, you should state the changes you’re going to make and not impose changes upon others. Gifts aren’t something you should expect, and it’s up to the givers to decide what they want to give. But you should be firm and stand your ground on how you want to handle your end of gift giving.

Get practical. Start looking for small, practical gifts throughout the year instead of waiting until the last minute, when you’re more likely to overspend. You can buy your kids things they need, but with a twist. For example, practical gifts such as toothbrushes, new pillows, snacks, bath products and socks are often needed. You can make it special by buying body wash or gels instead of bar soap, giving an electric toothbrush or starting a new holiday tradition of giving new pajamas, fruit or mixed nuts. Rachel writes: “I gave my daughter a backpack as her big holiday gift — the one I bought before school started began to give her problems. I had her initials monogrammed on it. The good news is that it’s still in great shape, so she’ll be able to use it again next year!”

You can pare down by putting a limit on the gifts you give. Some people buy their kids one want, one need, one wear and one read, or they limit the amount of gifts by having a rule that gifts have to fit into a shoe box. Instead of trying to outdo the grandparents (if they tend to buy your kids more costly gifts), scale back. You can put the emphasis on helping others who are less fortunate, so the focus is on giving rather than receiving. Starting this now and leading by example will cultivate compassion in your kids.

For extended family, you can make practical homemade gifts such as baked goods or themed gift baskets. Smaller gifts such as books, magazine subscriptions, gift certificates or a special meal together are well received, too. The important thing is that you don’t feel obligated or pressured into overspending. Get thinking and talking about these things now. Chances are some of your friends and family will be glad you did.


  1. LC

    10/12/2008 at 11:47 pm

    Instead of expensive gift giving why not make a special treat for gift giving? Not only the traditional cookie baking but how about planning now to give special treats instead? Try collecting (or buying) jelly jars and whip up some home made jams,jellies and spreads? Bake bread or muffins to go along with them. Put them in a beautiful basket that can be purchased at the dollar store! How about making your own cheese spread with a box of fancy crackers? Again put the spread in a decorated
    jar and put the jar and crackers in a basket?
    Why not paint and decorate a large box and make cookies, spreads, breads and other treats such as fudge and rice crispie treats (you can use food coloring, candies ect and shape them anyway you like you can even make lollipops out of them and give them as gifts!) Once you have your box of home made goodies nestled into the box you can tuck sprigs of evergreen between the goodies for an even more eye-pleasing appeal!
    Don’t forget to scour the dollar store for fancy mugs and you can make your own small bags of coffee by adding flavorings such as butter rum, cinnamon, and even chocolate flavoring to the coffee grinds.
    Start by looking on the internet for some home made gifts and don’t be afraid to try the ideas! Last year at our office gift exchange I made Snow Man Poop! Just a marshmallow dipped in chocolate and sprinkles. This was the biggest hit! Everyone LOVED it!

  2. Sara Noel

    10/13/2008 at 12:15 am

    In a previous post, I mentioned homemade compound butters and flavored cream cheeses to give as gifts. I love receiving food gifts around the holidays. My forums have tons of homemade gift ideas. (crafts, baking, mixes, etc.)I love chocolate dipped marshmallows. In fact, I might add them to our family holiday baking list this year. Thanks for the remidner. I think my kids would get a kick out of the name. haha Can dip Oreo cookies in melted chocolate, too. Umm, maybe with a name change. hahaha

  3. Bev

    6/17/2012 at 7:58 pm

    I make my own cream cheese and add flavors to them to take to parties or give as gifts. It takes cheesecloth, heavy cream, and a little buttermilk. I don’t know if anybody has posted about it before-I am pretty new to the site.

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