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Gift Giving on a Budget

It's getting to be that time of year again when you start thinking about holiday presents for everyone. For me, last year was a first as I set out to save money in a rather unique way: buying most of my gifts on eBay. Online auctions have become part of our everyday lives and for a lot of us, a great way to save money. As a guide in this effort, I've compiled a list of tips that I used last year during this time.

Tip 1: Budgeting

The first step that I always take in holiday shopping is to establish a budget of what I can comfortably spend. After many years of lesson learning in overspending, I began to list each and every gift that I needed to get along with the total amount of money to spend. Next I then allocate everyone into three categories:

Family - Husband / Wife, Children, Parents - anyone who is considered very close

2nd Family - Relatives that are not as close as those under 1), friends, etc

Work - Coworkers, bosses, etc

Using these three categories, I then assign a dollar amount to each category. This establishes a starting point in the beginning of the budget. The next step I use is to pencil in the gifts that I know I want to buy. After assigning these prices, I then re-tabulate the budget amount among those left in the category. Continuing in this method, I can systemically price down the gifts that I need to purchase and have a price target for those that I have not decided on yet. This is especially helpful in Tip #2.

Tip 2: The Gift Wizard

The biggest challenge that I always have is always selecting the gift. I find it very difficult to come up with a gift for a twelve year old girl (being a middle aged man) so I enlist the help of my new friend the Gift Wizard. Upon entering the wizard, you are required to enter the person's age, gender, hobbies, interests and so on. The wizard then presents you with gift ideas tailored to your entries. For example, for the twelve year old girl the following is the list that it generated: Aquapets, Bikes, Bratz Dolls, Care Bear, FurReal Friends, Game Boy Advance, Harry Potter, Madeline, Scooby Doo, Shrek

By clicking on these options, I can see different products within these categories that a twelve year old girl might like. Using our budget from Tip #1, we can further segment these selections and get a targeted list of potential gifts.

Tip 3: Gift Icons

Once you have made your selection, one of the best aspects of shopping on eBay is the seller's use of gift icons. Sellers using the gift icon routinely offer the following services: Gift wrap, Gift cards, Express shipping, Gift Recipient shipping

Being all-thumbs with wrapping paper, this option is especially pleasing to me. If you are also a traveler on holidays and need to get gifts to another location, the gift recipient shipping is also a great option. After the 9/11 attacks, with airport security being increased, no longer can you bring wrapped items on board with you. For me, this was especially hard as it meant that I would spend hours upon hours once I got to the other location wrapping, or in most instances trying to wrap, presents when I should have been eating, drinking and being merry.

By Matt Goodman from New York, NY

Recent Feedback

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By suzanne [240]08/14/2007

I just went to this site. it is great !! never knew it existed. thanks for sharing this

RE: Gift Giving on a Budget

By Martha Fickling [3]08/13/2007

One year I was particularly cashed-strapped and therefore forced to shop with an extremely limited budget. I ended up getting "creative" with my gifts and made many of the things I gave to people.
Not only did I have fun thinking creatively, the gifts ended up being a more personal reflection of the person receiving the gift, and were greatly appreciated.
Although no longer cash-strapped, I enjoyed this process so much that I try and do it every year now!

By reddlb11/20/2005

I had never heard of the gift wizard. Did a google search and found a friend!!
Thanks so much for the advice.
This wizard is going to help me alot!

By Melanie10/28/2005

Thank you for the tip! Another great way to save is to give "FAMILY GIFTS". That is, a single gift that encourages usage by the entire family...its a gift that gives more. For instance, I got the idea from some TV show to give a video store certificate and some popcorn and punch (or something else economical to drink). Put it in a nicely decorated bag and let the family know you are treating them to a movie which they are expected to watch together (with popcorn and drink). Another idea I did one year was to send a certificate to families for some monies off to get their picture taken with a commercial photographer. I have a big family and I try to include everyone as much as possible and these seem to work. You can go as low or as high as you like per family gift...based on your budget. If you have more ideas for family gifts, I could use one for this year. I am thinking of researching some sort of nice recipe for which I can put the ingredients together and type up a nice recipe card. The family could enjoy the recipe together. I am not the best cook in the world so I need a simple yet tried and true recipe.

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