Last week I wrote about handmade gifts, but what if you’re saying, “that’s all well and good, but my teenager wants the iPod not the iPod cover!” or “I don’t have the time to do handmade.” Well I found a few tips and tricks for saving money when buying Christmas gifts. This was inspired by a terrible article about doing Christmas on the cheap, some of the comments to this article are good though.
Planning and Budgeting
I’m a paper and pencil sort of girl. I start Christmas shopping long before Christmas by writing out a list of who I have to buy for and jotting down possible gift ideas. This way, the great gift idea you had in August doesn’t get forgotten. I also set a budget on how much I’m going to spend. Truth be told, I don’t always stick to the budget, but it generally balances out. I really don’t like last minute stressed out shopping, but taking the time to find the perfect gift can be fun.
Most obsolescence is what is called “perceived obsolescence”, we’ve been trained to believe that stuff is no longer good if it’s not the latest and greatest. But does a good book become obsolete? What about a nice necklace? Or stocking fillers like crayons for the kids?
I know the chance that the recipient will have read the book increases the longer it’s sitting in your cupboard, and the opportunity to return it decreases, but it depends on the book.
If you know what you want to buy and you start early then you can take advantage of sales as they come up during the year. Really, Christmas shopping can start in January, that’s the best time to buy gift wrap and decorations, but that’s kind of irrelevant in December.
Junk mail, the internet and the telephone make shopping around for the best price as easy as pie. We normally recycle all our junk mail without reading it, but if there is something that we’re looking for specifically, we keep an eye out for prices and specials. Many stores have their products and prices online so it makes it even easier, and a telephone call could save you hundreds. If it’s a big ticket item, don’t forget to mention cheaper prices elsewhere, a store will usually either match or better the competition.
We were looking at purchasing a camcorder, and an advert in the junk mail for a particular store emphasised that it came with a “bonus starter package”. I called the store then and there to find out exactly what was in this starter package, only to find that it was the power cord and instructions – in other words what comes standard no matter where you buy it. Talk about false advertising! But a quick phone call saved us a trip to the store and money.
I love Etsy. No, I really love Etsy. If you’re new to Etsy, it’s kind of like EBay for people to sell their handmade goods, except it’s not an auction. It’s like an online market place of individual stores.
You don’t have to make handmade to give handmade. This year I bought a couple of little gifts, but I browsed Etsy by country so I could purchase locally and reduce delivery costs. If you do this, some stores offer to sell directly in local currency – if your credit card charges for currency exchange this could be something to keep in mind.
Of course, you don’t have to buy handmade online. I have visions of giving homemade strawberry jam, but the reality is I’ll probably end up buying it handmade at the markets. We’re lucky here as we have a whole heap of markets to choose from, but the most famous is the Eumundi markets. I honestly have never seen markets like these before we moved here.
Buying Books and Magazines
While I’m all for supporting local business, the reality is that it’s often much cheaper to buy books on Amazon (aff. link), even with currency conversion and shipping, than buying books in Australia. A case in point: my father enjoys a couple of popular fiction authors at least one of which releases a new book just before Christmas. This year, the one I purchased had a recommended retail price of $50.00! For a novel! None of the large shops are actually selling it for that, it’s retailing at $33. I bought it for $22 including shipping and conversion. An Australian alternative to Amazon is The Nile Bookstore (aff. link).
An alternative to books is magazine subscriptions, which is a gift that lasts all year. iSUBSCRIBE (aff. link) is a good place to begin looking for discount subscriptions.
Online Department stores
After 11 years working in retail (in the Christmas department of Grace Bros as well, no less) I really, really hate shopping especially at this time of the year. Purchasing most things online has not only been stress free but a huge time and money saver. I’m all for shopping in my PJs.
This year we bought ourselves / each other a camcorder for Christmas. As my parents live a fair distance away, we thought it would be nice to video the new bub so that they wouldn’t be too left out. We did a fair bit of research into which camera to buy, checked prices in stores, kept an eye out for catalogue specials. The one we bought had a RRP of $550, best price I saw it in store was $495, we purchased it online from Top Buy, an Australian online company for $320 and that included a bonus 16gig SD card (which we would have had to purchase separately), a bag and delivery. I’m pretty pleased with our savings.
There are a whole variety of online department stores, but the best tool is a price comparison website. My Shopping is the one that we used, you have to have done your research and know exactly what you’re looking for when using a comparison tool. While Google Shopping is in the US only, it’s a great way to find product reviews by people who have purchased and used what you plan to buy. EBay is another great source for saving online.
For me, if I’m making up a hamper, rather than a daggy basket that gets thrown away, a pretty one off serving plate or bowl that will be used is a good substitute, and second hand stores can be a great source of inexpensive crockery. And Jars. And all sorts of goodies really.
Expense has nothing to do with the value of the gift. If you make it personal, something that reflects the receiver’s tastes and personality, and it shows that you’ve put thought and consideration into choosing the gift, it will be special no matter how much of the paper (or plastic) stuff you outlay.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.