When you’re on a budget, you walk a fine line between saving as much money as you can and showing your friends and family members that you care about them. While gifts seem to be the standard expression of love/like/care/concern, don’t forget that overspending can derail your financial goals.
Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid looking like the Grinch, while also avoiding the tendency to spend more than you can afford.
Below are 6 ways to save money while showing that you care.
#1: Bake Some Goodies
Surely, “homemade baked goodies” are synonymous with the word “care.” Cookies – sugar, oatmeal, ginger, or chocolate chip – are a popular option, and brownies are also a crowd pleaser. You can also cheat, by making nut goody bars, a relatively simple concoction of chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, peanut butter, and walnuts. After melting the chips on low heat, you simply stir in the peanut butter and walnuts, and then stir in the mini marshmallows. Pour the ingredients into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and then refrigerate – no baking required.
Presentation is everything, and the dollar store has a variety of decorative tin cans that can make your cookies look as professional as a store-bought version – but at a fraction of the cost.
#2: Make it a Wedding to Remember
If you’re looking for an inexpensive yet elegant wedding gift, consider using the couple’s wedding invitation. Purchase an inexpensive picture frame with a mat from a big box store, or get a custom mat from an arts and craft store. Center the wedding invitation on the matted surface and frame. This will create a gift that the couple can cherish for years to come. (Since the glass is breakable, be sure to wrap the picture frame carefully – you don’t want the big day to be memorable because the bride cut her hand on broken glass!)
#3: Warm it up with coffee mugs and hot chocolate or tea
The beauty of this gift is that you can buy everything you need at the dollar store. Most locations have a good assortment of decorative coffee mugs. You can fill the mugs with several packets of hot chocolate, put a bow on the mug, and you’re done. If the intended recipient is not a hot chocolate lover, substitute packets of tea.
#4: Make a personalized coffee mug
If you want to put a little more effort – but not a lot more money – into the coffee mug gift, consider engraving it. Seriously, how cool does that sound? According to Sarah at Laughs, Crafts, and Photographs, all you need is a plain white mug and a Sharpie permanent marker. Use the marker to write a word or phrase on the mug, or draw an object, or both. Then, place the mug on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven to bake your design. Set the oven to 350 degrees for 30 minutes and place the cookie sheet in while the oven is warming up. Sarah warns against preheating before placing the sheet in because the mugs will break if they get too hot. At the end of 30 minutes, turn off the oven and give the mugs time to cool.
#5: Create a DIY Spa Trio
A day at the spa can be expensive, but this homemade gift includes peppermint scrub, peppermint whipped body butter, and peppermint foot soak. With three 1 ½ pint canning jars, few drops of essential peppermint oil, and a handful of other ingredients, you can easily create the perfect relaxation trio.
According to PopSugar, the scrub requires essential peppermint oil, sugar, coconut oil, and red food coloring. The ingredients for the whipped body butter are cocoa butter, coconut oil, peppermint oil and food coloring. For the foot soak, you’ll need Epsom salts, baking, soda sea salt, food coloring and peppermint oil. The link provides the exact instructions.
Unless you have all of the products on hand, this project is probably more cost effective if you plan to gift several people – although you could always keep the excess for yourself.
To create an alternative type of spa gift, head back to the dollar store. Purchase a plastic basin or bucket large enough for soak feet. These items typically come in a variety of colors, such as blue, pink, red, purple, etc. Next, purchase some of the name brand or dollar store brand foot scrubs and foot lotions. The dollar store also sells exfoliating sponges and pumices, in addition to toe nail clippers. For $5, you can gift someone with everything they need to enjoy a DIY foot spa experience at home.
#6: Gift Cards
If you don’t feel like making gifts or shopping for them, gift cards can be a lifesaver. However, if you spend $25 for a $25 gift card, you’re not really saving anything. The key is to purchase discounted gift cards. At the time of publication, these were just a few of the discounted gift cards advertised on RetailMeNot:
Boston Market – up to 15% off
Chili’s/Maggiano’s – up to 17% off
California Pizza Kitchen – up to 17% off
Macaroni Grill – up to 22% off
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf – up to 28% off
Also, some companies provide discounts for multiple purchases. For example, if you buy three $25 gift cards, you’ll get one free. If you plan to purchase several gift cards in this price range, that’s a great way to save substantially.
It’s important to show that you care about others, but it’s also important to stay within your budget and reduce your debt. These 6 ideas can help you do both.