The clock is ticking, the calendar’s flipping, and it’s getting scarily close to G-Day. That’s Gift Day, and you’re barely half-way through your shopping list. You can’t afford to take off a couple of days from work to finish it up, and you’re starting to panic.
The worst thing you could do is to rip up the holiday budget you so carefully laid out weeks ago and start indiscriminately flinging money at the problem. Then you’ll have deep regrets and perhaps resentment when the bills come in after the new year.
So what to do? Let Billshark offer some ideas to help you out of your holiday dilemma.
Chances are, whether you work for yourself or someone else, you’re expert at budgeting your time given the work you need to accomplish. Think of this as just another task you have to complete, on time and within budget.
First, figure out how much of your holiday money you have left. Then figure out who is left on your list. This may hurt, but see if there’s anyone you can drop from the list. If not, you’ll have to figure out a way to make the available dollars stretch to match the remaining recipients.
If you’re short of time:
The fastest way to complete your list is on the Internet. There are still many last-minute deals available. You can quickly compare prices at the different retailers, as well as shipping costs, return policies, and so forth, and never have to leave home. And check out such sites as Pricegrabber to do faster price comparisons.
Another timesaver is to find a great gift you can give to multiple recipients. For instance, if your entire family is into cats, you can give each of them a subscription to a popular monthly magazine about the little feline critters.
If you shop at the mall or other crowded venues, shop early in the morning or late at night to avoid crowds. Then figure out where you have to go to get each gift, and devise an itinerary that will allow you to complete it with one or two trips. And be sure to have back-up gifts in mind for each person on your list in case your first preference is sold out.
If you’re short of money:
If you buy from the Internet and shop carefully, you should be able to avoid shipping fees altogether. Many merchants offer free shipping, sometimes with a minimum purchase (the longer you wait, the more you’ll likely have to pay for last-minute delivery). Also be sure to use any coupon codes, customer loyalty points, or cash-back deals various sites may offer. Many brick-and-mortar stores will let you shop online and pick up the items in the store, thus saving on shipping.
Also, friend businesses you like on Facebook to see whether they have holiday specials or price-matching guarantees.
If you have any sort of skills, you can make your gift. Woodworking? How about a frame for a picture of the two of you. Scrapbooking? Who wouldn’t love one filled with special memories?
The saying, “The best things in life are free” can apply here. If you have time, it’s a wonderful gift to offer people. A certificate for a romantic picnic in the park would probably thrill that special someone. If someone you know is caring for a sick loved one, a certificate for an afternoon’s break would mean the world to them. Or offer to shovel an older relative’s driveway or plant her garden come Spring.
If you have a great antique or thrift store near you, you might be able to find the perfect gift for far less than you’d pay for something new. Or look around your home—there’s no sin in re-gifting something you no longer need.
If you’re short of ideas:
Of course the quickest way to come up with gift ideas is to hit the Internet, specifically the search engines. Find two or three interests for your intended recipient, and type in “gift ideas for _____.” As always when searching on the Internet, it’s best to be specific. “Gift ideas for fathers” will yield hundreds of thousands of generic—and probably useless—results. “Gift ideas for golfers” narrows the field considerably, and provides far more useful results.
Another way to come up with ideas is to check everyone’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or other social media sites to zero in on their most recent interests.
Finally, relax. No one will ostracize you if you don’t find the perfect gift or go into debt to fulfill their every wish. And between now and this time next year, Billshark can find you lots of extra cash that will provide you a little bit of a cushion at holiday time.