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Friday, September 20, 2013

Gift giving when the budget is small: part 2, how I purchase gifts with a modest budget

In my post earlier this week, I outlined gifts that I could craft for fall birthdays and Christmas, this year. But not every gift on my list can be crafted. And even when I handcraft a gift or two, for a particular person, there's always a little something that I'd like to purchase, in addition. 

In part 2, I thought I'd share with you the gifts that I purchase, while keeping to my modest budget. And as my spending money is limited, I've had to get creative in just how I make these purchases. Here are my plans, so far.

Gift cards that I've been given, can be used to purchase new gifts

--I have craft store, book store, coffee shop, and outdoor recreation store gift cards. When I have a person on my list that I need to actually buy a gift for, I'll turn to stores where I have gift cards, first.


--I receive Kohl's $10 coupons every couple of months. These are good for $10 off any purchase. Last month I was able to birthday shop for someone, using one of these coupons and found a couple of nice gifts.
--I received a coupon for Lands' End last month, for a percentage off, free shipping, and they sent me the clearance catalog. I was able to purchase 2 of my son's birthday gifts, and 1 Christmas gift for about half the retail price. And all three of these items were generically on my list for him (meaning I wasn't particular about color or pattern, but had a type of shirt, slacks and belt in mind). I had intended to shop Lands' End for him anyways, as that's a preferred brand with him.

Second hand stores

--there's a type of second-hand gift that is generally acceptable to almost all gift recipients, that's the collectible gift. When I'm in a second-hand shop I always check areas like housewares, for potential gifts. Last December, I found a Christmas serving dish (new condition), in a pattern that someone I know collects, for about 1/10 of the retail price. I had already sent a gift to this person, so this has been saved for this Christmas. It's a small Christmas serving tray. I'll make up a batch of homemade candies (like toffee), and some white chocolate-covered pretzels, sprinkled with candy cane pieces. Then I'll bag these goodies up, and include with the tray. 

Dollar stores

--I buy mittens every year as stocking stuffers at the dollar store. Sometimes there are two pairs tagged together, making the gift 50 cents per pair
--picture frames, for the framed photo you plan on sending to Grandma and Grandpa. In addition to finished frames, they have unfinished wood frames, which can be painted or gilded to customize them to the recipient's decor. We have two "someones" on our list, to whom we'll be sending family photos. I'll customize the frames to each recipient, and add a picture or two, from this past year.
--candles and candle holders. I like to start with a pillar candle, then add decor, like greenery, moss, beads, etc. These make nice hostess gifts or teacher thank you gifts, and several can be made at a time, kept in a closet, then wrapped up for presentation when needed.
--confection-making supplies, like pretzels, for chocolate covered pretzels, and nuts, for peanut brittle, toffee and fudge.

It may only be September, but by beginning early, I should have the holidays wrapped and under the tree in time for me to enjoy the season. And not receive the Grinch's hefty credit card bill in the mail come January!

Have you begun your Christmas gift planning for this year? What are your best tips for gift-shopping with a small budget? Some of you are fabulous "clearance shoppers". Do you have any tips on finding those great bargains?


  1. I am definitely thinking about Christmas. I already bought a couple of presents when I was in Thailand because everything was so cheap there, and am planning a lot of other ones.

    If you know the recipient doesn't mind them, second-hand books can be a good gift. I often buy them for my sister.

    I also like buying photo gifts like calendars and mugs, especially for older relatives. Snapfish will often have 50% off sales, so if you can plan ahead they are not too expensive.

    1. Hi Liz,
      I think gifts from travel abroad are wonderful! And like your vacation to Thailand, you found some interesting gifts for a good price. My grandmother traveled a lot and often brought back "treasures" from her travels to use as gifts.

  2. Garage sales, thrift stores, and Amazon are my main sources of used books. My mom also frequents a used bookstore and is able to find books for my children there.

    I use any money I make through my Amazon affiliates to purchase gifts (including the fore-mentioned used books). I don't make a lot, but I have used this way in the past.

    I have also purchased jewelry supplies on Etsy to make jewelry gifts. Between Etsy, some garage sale beads, some supplies I bought at Walmart for $2, and some beads I bought 40% off at Michael's, I have made earrings for .10 to .25 a pair for people. Those were really well received and they cost very little per person, though I did have to pay more for a larger amount of supplies. The great thing there is that I have more supplies to make gifts this year that were paid for last year (like the necklace and bracelet that I posted on my blog recently).

    1. Hi Brandy,
      I really loved the bracelet and necklace that you made for your daughter recently. Now that my two daughters have pierced ears, I'll look into making earrings for them as gifts. Etsy sounds like a great place to find supplies!

  3. Fun ideas! I've started, like Liz, doing photo gifts. Both my parents and my in-laws aren't really into "stuff" at this stage of their lives but they love photo books.

    My tips for clearance shopping? Well, I troll the clearance areas year-round and snap up items when I see them. My kids laugh about getting a hat/mittens every year for Christmas ... and a new shirt ... I guess they've found me out. I use the dollar store for calendars and puzzles for the kids every year. For clearance shopping, you need to live close to a shopping district and be aware of where the clearance items are placed (it helps to have a general idea of what will go on sale when) and be disciplined enough to NOT buy non-clearance items.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Your clearance shopping tips are very helpful! I will be doing more of that this year, and am planning ahead for just after Christmas already. What I do buy clearance after most holidays, is candy for the next holiday. I bought Christmas candy after Christmas last year, kept it in a cold dark place, and it will show up in the stockings this year. I did the same with Easter as well. And for Valentine's day, I buy a bag of red foil chocolates (like Dove) after Christmas, and save till February. I do have to keep this candy well-hidden, and in an inaccessible spot for even me to get into.

  4. I am very frustrated. I have new keyboard and I keep hitting a key that closes whatever I have open. Which means my several paragraph comment is gone. The important part was most teachers don't want or need most of the gifts that students give them (although they appreciate the thought). I have heard them say this and saw this when I volunteered in a thrift store and would get boxes full of things that were obviously teacher gifts (lots of apples). Gifts for the classroom or whole class donations toward a gift certificate are good ways to go.

    1. Our school does something nice at Christmas--instead of individual teacher gifts, we are encouraged to donate a (new, in its package) toy to an organization called Toys For Tots (I don't know if they have this in other states--it's a big deal in Michigan), and to send a note of appreciation to the teacher. Toys for Tots provides low-income families with a new toy for their child to open at Christmas. I feel like this is win-win. I've acknowledged the teacher and have given a needy child something to make them smile. This is part of my "trolling" mission during the year--if I see toys/games on clearance, I pick them up for donations.

      I like your idea of whole class donations and gift certificates. I have done individual gift certificates at different times as well--my family has several teachers in it and I know they have great appreciation for gift cards.

    2. Live and learn, I've heard this, too, about teachers not wanting a bunch of knick knacks. At the end of the school year this last year, we did buy Starbucks gift cards (we're in Seattle here), but what I think was special was that my daughters each wrote nice notes, personally to each of their teachers and staff at the school. I think classroom gifts would be very appreciated, as so many teachers pay for supplies and classroom extras out of pocket.

      Kris, we have Toys for Tots here, too. That is great that you scour deals on toys, so you can donate even more with your money!

  5. My methods of gifting consist of clearance shopping, baking, and making.

    I especially shop Target for clearance items. I think the keys to successful and efficient clearance shopping are knowing what you NEED, knowing the schedule, and not over buying.

    For instance, I know that the big toy clearance times are after Christmas and Julyish (to get ready for the latest and greatest items). I have things I've been tucking away since January for my three and five year olds!

    We also do a treat plate for neighbors and friends. I spend a lot more than I normally would to make fancy treats (like candy, etc.), because I want it to feel special, but it costs me much less than if I bought each person something.

    I always make my husband something (I think I'll be making my husband a car tool kit and bag this year) and I plan on making some pretend-wear for my children. I also love making decorations for people. It's fun, thoughtful and can be inexpensive.

    I find that starting early helps me to be much more thoughtful and creative. It's great to see that other people start early and how they do it. Great post series!

    1. Hi Katie,
      That's good to know about July being a good toy clearance time. I'll remember that for next year, as I still have a couple of young-ish niece/nephews.
      I like giving (and receiving) baked goodies, too. I would like to do more in the area of candy-making. Maybe this year will be the year I jump into that a bit more.
      Oh, the car tool kit idea sounds fabulous for guys! And I do have two guys on my list who could use something like that. What are you planning on putting in the tool kit?

    2. I plan on putting a flashlight, multi-bit screwdriver, wrench, pliers, tire pressure guage, and maybe some jumper cables. I'm going to see if I'm missing anything that would be good to have in an emergency or just in general. Maybe some bungee chords or ties/rope. I hope this helps!

    3. Hi Katie, really good ideas for the kit! I have a set of bungie cords in my trunk and I find them invaluable. I use them to secure tall items to the side of the trunk, like bags of groceries, so they don't topple over. And I've used them to secure the trunk lid, so I could transport large items home. I'm also thinking of adding some cold weather stuff for a kit for my son, like an ice scraper and a blanket plus maybe an emergency rations food bar. He bought his car in late winter last year and didn't need any winter gear yet. Thanks for your great ideas!

    4. Ooooh! Good additions! It's so difficult to find things to get for men. One year I hand sewed a special pouch for my dad to keep guitar picks in, but I'm pretty sure that's the only thing I've made for my dad in a long time! I'm hoping my husband will like this car kit, though. He doesn't have one!

  6. I have started my Christmas list. I am not constrained by a budget as tight as yours so I have a few "expensive" gifts planned. My youngest son and his wife enjoy taking their little one to a children's science museum in their area but at $58 a visit for the family, a membership which is $175 is a good deal and will be a family gift for them. The children will be getting craft boxes to keep them busy during the winter months, these will be filled from the craft store where I will pick through dollar packs of assorted supplies, this will also encourage their imagination to think up ways to use the items rather than buying kits would be much more expensive.

    I also have quilts I am making from scrap fabric on hand that will have game boards so the family can sit around and play checkers or monopoly on those chilly winter nights.

    For my ex, I am repurposing his old guitars. One is a lamp for his living room (which he needs) the other will be art for over his bed. Zero cost as I already had the supplies on hand.

    1. Hi Lois,
      your science museum membership gift will be well-used and appreciated! My dad gave us a science membership as our Christmas gift one year, and we really enjoyed it. Our membership came with some visitor passes, which we saved for my son's birthday. We took 3 of his friends to the museum for that birthday celebration, and all had a great time.
      I love the game board quilt idea! How fun! And a great way to use random scraps of fabric.


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