o matter what holiday you celebrate, gift shopping is an annual tradition for many. As the holiday season approaches it can be overwhelming to think about having to pay for presents for your loved ones. When you're on a budget,  sometimes you need to come up with creative solutions for good gifts.

When Thanksgiving rolls around each year, it seems as if the cost of the holiday season starts to loom over everyone. Just the thought of prioritizing everyone and your gift buying can produce a hefty cost that may affect some people more than others during the holidays. 

Shopping on a budget can sometimes make you feel guilty for not buying more expensive gifts or a gift for every person in your life. There is such a thing as being too generous, especially when it's out of your means. If they are truly people who love you they will understand if you're unable to afford something really expensive for them this year. Keeping that in mind, it might even be necessary to have a conversation with your friends and family about your financial situation just so they don't go into the holiday season with high expectations.

Here are some overall tips and tricks to save your wallet extra stress throughout the holidays. 

It doesn’t feel the same as writing a letter to Santa, but making a wish list on an online shopping platform might be able to help you with narrowing down some options. For instance, if you exchange lists with your friends then you can find some affordable things to buy that are just their taste. Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Plan Ahead of Time (If Possible) 

It might not be a bad idea to create a list of people that you are planning on giving gifts to and even jot down a few ideas for each person within your price range. Then, bring this list with you everywhere. Whether this list is physical or in your iPhone Notes it will save you grief later. This can help you prioritize certain gifts first if you're out and about during a random day with a few extra bucks to spend. Say that you are out at the store and see something that is already on your list within your price range. The list has served as a reminder to buy presents and also a good way for you to think ahead of time instead of buying everything at the last minute.

Also, when planning ahead of time you can give yourself a budget when it comes to individual gifts. For instance, maybe you only want to spend up to $20 per person. Odds are, you’ll want to spend more on your significant other than on a Secret Santa with your coworkers or even other acquaintances. Prioritizing gifts in this way means that you can still remain generous but also realistic about your limitations. If you save up for the more expensive presents that you purchase for a select few people, this can also help you out when buying gifts. 

In 2020, 100 million consumers shopped online, a record-breaking year for digital sales. Cyber Monday was the top day consumers planned to shop, with 30% saying they planned to shop Cyber Monday sales, compared to 24% saying they planned to shop on Black Friday. Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Search Daily for Special Deals

We all generally think of a Black Friday sale or Cyber Monday when it comes to savings. However, sometimes these deals can be underwhelming and they are mostly for advertising purposes to make people go out and buy their product. Be aware of sales ahead of time so that you can see if the price actually fluctuates enough for you to purchase it. Instead of looking for event-based sales and deals, paying attention to every day deals might actually save you more than a holiday sale. 

If you're looking to buy most of your gifts online this can be easy because some websites have price trackers. If you use Google Chrome, the free Honey Chrome Extension is elite at finding coupons and tracking the price changes on items in your cart for you. The extension keeps an eye on what shops are currently trending in sales when you click on it in your toolbar. You can also follow your favorite websites or brands, and they can individually keep track of those for you. Saving money can be as simple as just checking the Honey extension daily. On top of this, when you purchase using Honey, you’ll rack up points, which will then lead to you getting at least a $10 gift card to use at some of your favorite stores. 

Throwing a small office party and doing a gift exchange can be a great way to bond with your coworkers in an easy and affordable way. Your friends and family can also get a few laughs from a funny present. Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Initiate a Secret Santa with Family & Friends 

There's a chance that many of your friends are also in a similar financial situation as you and can’t get a present for everyone in the friend group. Or, maybe you and your family can't come together for the holidays, and you need to ship presents to them directly. Doing a Secret Santa and having everyone open the presents via a mass Zoom call can be an easy solution for those on a budget. 

Some tips for doing Secret Santa are to establish a base budget for everyone, so that those who can't afford something super expensive don't feel left out by someone buying a gift outside of their price range. This makes things fair and also simpler and takes pressure off by asking people not to buy something really expensive. Once you receive your Secret Santa person, then you can do research on what gift they would like most. If it's someone that's not as close to you I would consider that a challenge to get to know that person better through getting a meaningful gift. 

Websites like Elfster, an online Secret Santa generator which also functions as an app, online shop, and has their own blog, makes it very easy to arrange a Secret Santa exchange for free. Using this platform only requires you to collect the emails or contact information of each participant. Then, they will make an account and can even add their own wish list of items to make it easier for each gift giver. 

If you want to mix things up a little bit maybe you can do a white elephant secret Santa which is a little different than your traditional Secret Santa. During the white elephant Secret Santa, each Gift Giver and recipient wants to vie for the best present in the bunch. Meaning that everyone just puts their gift into a central position for everyone to see, and everyone draws a random number to see who chooses first. It makes for a little bit of light competition and fun that can be enjoyable when managed properly.

Another great idea would be to have an ugly holiday sweater exchange instead of random Secret Santa gifts. Each participant will only have to give their name and sweater size to participate in the fun. When names are drawn, you'll need to purchase a sweater for that person, which can lead to light-hearted entertainment and slight embarrassment. If you're very DIY savvy, you can even knit somebody a personalized ugly holiday sweater. The possibilities are endless. 

Handmade gifts can sometimes last longer than purchased ones. If you make a scrapbook or photo album, they are great keepsakes for your significant other, parents, grandparents, or friends. Photo courtesy of Pexels.

When In Doubt, Make Something Meaningful 

Sometimes, there's nothing like a personalized handmade gift versus only giving expensive electronics to your loved ones. Obviously this can vary from person to person, but if you think that you want to give someone a handmade present that they'll actually use in some way, you should go for it. Most people aren’t too picky with certain gifts and giving someone a cool present might surprise them. Sometimes, you can make multiple people a present with the same supplies and still individualize them.

Here are a few ideas for handmade gifts during the holidays: 

  • Photo Calendar
  • Photo album
  • Scrapbook 
  • Drawings/paintings
  • Handmade furniture (rocking chair, side table, etc.)
  • DIY Christmas ornaments
  • Terrarium kits
  • Handmade candles
  • Painted planters
  • DIY Jewelry

Holiday shopping doesn't always have to be expensive, and if you take these tips under your wing, you'll be guaranteed that you won't go over your budget.

Nov 18, 2021