Saving money on holiday gifts

I was determined this year I would not write another blog on saving money on Christmas presents. However, over the last couple of weeks, I have had several folks ask me to write on just that topic. So, here we go. Several of these suggestions are repeats from prior years.

  • This is probably the hardest step to do yet one of the most important. Pare down your gift-giving list. Honestly go through the list and decide if you really must give a gift to each person. For example, your co-workers probably won’t mind if you don’t give them a gift every year. If you feel obligated to give a gift, think about giving a plate of cookies or making a charitable donation in their name instead of purchasing a gift. Once you have your gift-giving list pared down, stick to it!
  • Instead of purchasing all the gifts, consider making some or all of the gifts. Most of us have some type of talent. Besides the usual talents of woodworking, sewing, knitting, crocheting, or other crafts, think about the recipient and what you could make that would fit their interests and personality. Cautionary note: if this is the route you want to take, be sure to start early to reduce stress.
    • Music lover? Make them a personalized album of their favorite songs on MP3 or other media. Or, if you have a musical talent that they enjoy, record your own music for them. When our oldest daughter was young, she and I made a music album for my mother. Professional? No. Loved by my mother? Definitely!
    • Person who loves to cook? Make a cookbook of their favorite recipes or cherished family recipes.
    • Person who enjoys family photos? Make a video of their life or family adventures. Add background music for a gift that will be enjoyed for years.
    • Person who enjoys family heirlooms? Go through your parents’ attic (or your own) and create a one-of-a-kind family heirloom gift. Turn antique kitchen utensils into a wall hanging by mounting them on a board. Make hooks for hanging kitchen utensils by bending old spoons and forks into hook shapes and attaching them to a board to hang on the wall.
  • Pair an inexpensive purchased gift with a homemade gift that matches their interests.
  • Instead of purchasing small gifts for all your friends, have a cookie baking party or a cookie exchange.
    • Each person brings the recipe and the ingredients to make the cookies or the already baked cookies to share.
    • Everyone gets to sample each cookie type and also take some home, along with the recipes.
    • It’s a double gift: Time together as friends and holiday cookie baking is done.
  • Give gifts of time. Present the person on your gift list with a certificate they can “cash in” for lunch with you, for babysitting services, or for a movie night. “Lunch with you” certificate would be especially appreciated by a parent or grandparent.
  • If you are a parent or a grandparent with pre-college-age children, consider making a contribution to a college savings plan instead of buying gifts. While this may not reduce your “expense,” it is a gift that keeps giving, while toys or electronics wear out or the kids lose interest in them. In addition to being a great gift, some states offer tax breaks for residents who make contributions to college savings plans. If you participate in the Nebraska NEST529 plan, you can even download a gift certificate from their website:–family-gifting.html.
  • Another suggestion for grandparents is to take your grandchildren Christmas shopping.
    • For younger grandchildren, you could help them shop for their parents and siblings. This could also be a big help to their parents.
    • For older grandchildren who may be more difficult to shop for, take them shopping after Christmas so they can pick out their own gift and you can enjoy the great after-Christmas sales. Make sure they know ahead of time how much they can spend.

What ideas do you have for saving money on gift giving? Share them with me and I’ll send you a gift certificate for 10% off your choice of one of our services or workshops.


Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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