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Unwrapping the mystery of budget-friendly gift-giving

Written by:
Staff Writer

Christmas is just around the corner, and the shopping season is in full swing. Budget-friendly gift-giving is a tough dilemma – you want to save money and get out of debt, but you also want to give something thoughtful to your loved ones. 

The total household debt in Canada was $2.33 trillion in 2020. The average Canadian is $73,500 in debt. These kinds of numbers have an unavoidable seat at the proverbial budget table, but they don’t need to take over the holidays. With a little planning, you can strike a balance between finding a good gift and sticking to your budget! 

With so many Canadians struggling, it helps to hold the turn of phrase, “it’s the thought that counts” closer to your heart, both as the gifter and giftee. It’s not about the gift, but how you can best make a difference in each other’s lives. The true spirit of the holiday season!

All of the tips below will help you find a gift that the recipient will cherish, irrespective of your budget.

3 ways to create a gift budget 

Budget-friendly gift-giving all starts with a budget. To ensure you have enough saved up for gifts, you can include an additional section in your budget. There are a few different ways to go about this. You can set aside:

A biweekly paycheck

This is a great option if you get paid biweekly. Some months, you get three paychecks! Set aside one of these additional paychecks and save it for Christmas gift money. The idea is that you will still be able to manage your monthly expenses on the two paychecks you receive as usual. The additional one is then set aside for holiday spending. Future you will appreciate the forethought!

A fixed amount every month

If biweekly doesn’t work for you, don’t worry! You can set aside a fixed amount every month based on your overall gift budget. Choose an amount that is viable to put aside without feeling the pinch for your monthly budget. The important thing is to alleviate the stress from a huge outflow of cash all at once. To figure out a good number to start with, add up how much you spent last year on Christmas gifts. Divide by 12 months of the year to get an estimate of how much you need to set aside monthly.

Money from side hustles

Canadians are picking up side hustles more than ever before. A survey by Interac shows that three-quarters of Canadians doing a side hustle or small business intend to continue doing it alongside their day job.

You can set aside some extra side hustle money for gifts. This way, you can continue to use your day job’s wages for your usual expenses.

You can choose any of these strategies to keep a healthy amount saved for gift shopping! It also reduces stress because you know the money is already budgeted for and set aside. A valuable benefit to budgeting and being debt-free is the peace of mind you can attain. 

8 ways to choose the right gift

Once you have your budget set up, it’s time to spend it on the people you love! It is possible to give thoughtful gifts while spending within your means. After all, you don’t want to get into debt for holiday shopping. Here are some tips that will help you choose the right gift without breaking the bank.

Pay attention to their needs

Do they want something specific? They may appreciate a household item like a crockpot or rice cooker, or a necessary quality of life upgrade, like thicker socks or a high-quality wool hat. See if it’s possible for you to gift them something you know they’ve kept an eye on. A French press for a coffee lover might do the trick!

This way, you’re giving them something they will appreciate and use. As a bonus, they’ll likely remember you made an effort to pay attention and gave them that great gift.

Give them higher-quality variants of things they already use and love

This could be something like a higher-end coffee pot, chocolates, teas or skincare. Consumables are your best bet for this category. This is also an easy one because you probably already know what they enjoy.

Give experiential gifts

You could give them something that you know they enjoy spending time or energy on. Some options are a concert ticket, jewelry kit, or a spa day voucher.

It could also be something you can do together, like a day trip, sporting events, a camping trip, or a pottery class.

An experiential gift doesn’t need to cost much. The beauty of it is that you’re giving them something more valuable than money – you’re giving them great memories!

Be mindful of their budget

If you’re giving them something that is expensive or may require maintenance, make sure it doesn’t result in more expenses for them. It may not be viable for them to regularly maintain or do expensive upkeep for items. Many people live paycheck to paycheck, and can’t afford extra expenses.

While your intentions may be noble, be mindful that you’re not increasing their expenses.

Get creative!

Make them something on your own – homemade baked goods are always a hit! You could also choose to give framed pictures or small plants, both of which would make the recipient happy every time they looked at it.

If you’ve got a creative streak, go all out! Cook up some candy, paint a flower pot, make a festive candle, bottle some of your own wine, whip up some handmade soap or other self-care goodies. Whatever else you think the person would enjoy. Plus, it can be a lot of fun putting together a frugal yet personalized gift.

Remember, a thoughtful gift is always more valuable than an expensive one.  

Keep an eye out a few months or weeks in advance

If you’re out and see something cool for a friend or family member, get it! Then you’re prepared and don’t have to handle the last-minute shopping stress. It also allows you to buy more thoughtful gifts, since there is no rush.

Shop seasonal sales

Seasonal sales are a great way to save money and get quality products. For example, art and craft books are often on sale in August and September because of back-to-school season. That would be a great time to pick up a gift for the artist or craft enthusiast in your life.

Check social media

If you want to make sure you’re getting them something they’ll appreciate, check their social media! You will see what kind of media, books, movies or music they like. Maybe they’re following some brand pages on social – a sign they are fans of the brand! This process will help you narrow down gift options while being sure it’s something they like.

Of course, if you know they need or want something that’s going to make a real difference, those things are definitely worth the price. 

Gifts that are worth it

Sometimes, you may want to go the extra mile for certain things and that’s okay. Budget-friendly gift-giving isn’t about hard and fast rules. If something is going to make you (or them) happy, it’s okay to go that extra mile. It’s really just about being aware that you’re making allowances and being prepared to put in some effort to balance out the numbers.

This is a very personal decision, so take a look at your finances. If you feel like it’s worth the splurge and won’t put you in unmanageable debt, go for it!

Final Thoughts

Budget-friendly gift-giving isn’t an elusive dream. It’s definitely possible to give great gifts on a budget. With a little budgeting and creativity, you can stick to your financial goals too!

If you’re not in a place where you can give freely due to debt, we can help. Connect with us for a consultation with us if you need help getting started with tackling debt. In the meantime, use this guide to help you choose frugal gifts while fighting debt.

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