MONEY CENTS

Navigating Gift Giving

Before you jump all over me and say “it’s only fall, can we PLEASE leave the Christmas talk until it’s actually Christmas”, just hear me out. Gift giving is not something that only comes up once a year, it’s something that pops up all the time with birthdays, mother’s day, father’s day, weddings, and baby showers just to name a few. Gift giving can be met with a lot of stress, resentment and hurt feelings if it’s not handled well, so here are a few tips on tip-toeing through the gift-giving mine-field.

Include incidental gift giving in your budget
It’s not a surprise, sometimes we need or want to give gifts and it’s nice to not take a financial hit every time an invite arrives in your inbox. The best way to estimate this is to go though your calendar and write down all the occasions that you give gifts through throughout the whole year and estimate how much you want to spend on each occasion. Don’t forget birthday cards (and the associated cash), friends’ birthday parties or hostess gifts. Leave Christmas out of this calculation, I’ll explain why later. Get an annual total and divide it by 12 to get an average monthly amount. I usually like to add a little extra for one off events like weddings and baby showers.

Save for Christmas all year long
Regardless of whether you are an Excited Elf or a Grumpy Grinch, Christmas is coming. It’s comes every year and it’s not surprise that a lot of people spend way more than they can afford. Even if you keep your budget under control it’s still a big weight on your December finances. A way to avoid this is to figure out how much Christmas will cost you including food, transportation and gifts, divide that total by 12 and save a little bit every month so you have a nice little nest egg waiting for you when it’s time to start shopping.

Ways to cut back
Sometimes, even with careful planning there just isn’t enough money for you to be as generous as you would like to be. Not to worry, there are things you can do to ease your economic burden:
1. Gift exchanges: Do you have a big family or a large group of friends? Chances are many people in the group would be more than happy to receive fewer gifts in exchange for only needing to purchase a few. Put everyone’s name in a hat and pull names to see who buys for whom.
2. Give the gift of time: Do you have a friend or family member that recently had a baby? Most new moms get tons of adorable clothes and blankets for their little ones but what new mom wouldn’t love the gift of a home-cooked meal, a clean load of laundry or a freshly vacuumed carpet? I even know a few that would give anything to have someone watch their bundle of joy so they could shower and take an uninterrupted nap.
3. Are you looking around your home and thinking, I don’t want anything this year? My house already has too much stuff in it! Ask those that would normally give gifts if they want to do something special together instead of exchanging gifts.
4. Gift wrapping can become just as pricey as gift giving. Getting creative with the gift wrapping can be a great way to cut back. A big roll of brown paper and some pretty ribbon makes a beautiful package for a fraction of the cost. A fun way to wrap baby gifts is in receiving blankets.
5. Beware the DIY trap. While it can be fun to give gifts that are homemade its can be very expensive to purchase the items needed to make the gift. Especially if you are doing something different for each recipient. If you are determined to DIY it, try to buy things in bulk to avoid this pitfall.

Avoid the reciprocation trap
We’ve all been there, you are finished with your Christmas shopping and are just sitting down to enjoy a well earned cup of tea when there is a knock at the door. Your friendly neighbour brought by a small token of the holiday season. On the outside you are smiling and saying a gracious thank you and on the inside you are a big ball of stress because you hadn’t planned on buying gifts for your neighbours. Having a couple generic gifts on hand can ease that stress and make these unexpected visits a pleasant surprise and not a cause for panic.