Dreaming of A Tight (Budgeted) Christmas?

Don't let the stress of holiday shopping bring you to tears.

One of the things I pride myself on is that I put a lot of thought and effort into giving gifts. Any family member, boyfriend or great friend of mine will attest to this. And what I've found is that people lovelovelove any gift that requires thought, that's commemorative and that's from the heart. Luckily, those kinds of gifts cost little money---great news in a steadily declining economy (and after moving into a superexpensive NYC apartment). So for your pockets and mine, I've come up with a slew of heartfelt, budget-friendly gifts that can help save a bundle during the winter holiday season.


1- What people love more that the beautiful, glitterized card with a 3-d Christmas tree, glow-in-the-dark ornaments and pop-up Santa? Cards that seem like they were made specifically for them. Make your own card with a holiday picture of your family or kids...and your own words on the inside. People appreciate it so much more, and it costs so much less.

2- Send letters, instead of Christmas cards. Lots of people did this last year, and I see why. You can give a brief update of what's going on in your life, personal pictures and best wishes for the holiday season. And it only costs you printing paper and ink.

3- Buy packs of blank cards and write your own personalized message inside each one.

4- Cut off the cover of old Christmas cards and send them as postcards (the postage costs less for mailing them, too).


1- In 2005, I made a calendar with pictures of my grandmother and her twin sister on display for each month. It was a huge hit for them, especially since they're miles away and don't get to see each other often. I only paid $30 for both calendars, and they still have it hanging up to this day.

2- My uncle wrote the most sincere, heartfelt letter to my grandmother last Christmas and framed it- now, it's one of her most treasured possessions. This is a great gift for someone who you haven't seen in awhile, and they'll cherish it through the years.

3- Shhh! This year, my family will get a cookbook from me, compiled of our best, homemade recipes, from my grandma's fried chicken to my cousin's strawberry cake. I'll bind and copy it at Kinko's and include pictures of our entire family. Def a keepsake!

4- If I had a child, I would give her a crayon and construction paper and make her draw masterpieces for grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles all afternoon. Draw arrows with people's names (or coach your child through it), pay for a picture frame for those creations and call it a day. And the recipients will just adore it!

5- When my birthday came, all I wanted from my Aunt was her famous peach cobbler, which gave me the bright idea of sharing the gift of food for the holidays. Last year, my dad got his favorite desserts from me: cookies from Ms. Fields, homemade brownies, apple crumb pie, the works. This gift is amazing for people who are far away and don't get to eat your cooking often (i.e. college students)---or people who just love a specialty dish of yours.

If you're not a whiz in the kitchen, buy an assortment of your recipient's favorite snacks (or baked goods), and present it to him/her in a basket with plastic wrapping and an ornament on top. A delicious apple pie (loove littlepiecompany.com), assortment of fruit (ediblearrangements.com) or great bottle of wine are also excellent options.

6- Homemade gifts are always more appreciated. So if you're great at sewing, knitting or painting, give something creative and original to your recipients that they'll just love. Maybe a knitted hat, a crocheted scarf or a watercolor painting of the beach. The time and thoughtfulness behind such gifts makes all the difference.

7- If you have a little money to spend, I'm all about unconventional gifts: activities, services and gifts that keep on giving. $20 for a mani, pedi gift certificate. A day baby-sitting your nephew so his mother can get some much-deserved "me time." A ticket to the movies for a couple. A yoga class or spa gift certificate that's apropos for anyone in need of R&R. A dining gift card to someone's favorite restaurant (go to brguestrestaurants.com). Magazine subscriptions catered to their tastes (cars, sports, cooking, fashion, health, there's something for everybody!). Itunes cards for the music aficionado. Tickets to their favorite artist's concert or favorite team's game.


1- Shopping online is your best bet to avoid Christmas chaos. Especially when it comes to toys! I can't begin to explain (and don't want to relive) the horror I endured at Toys R Us shopping for my two little nieces last year. It is all-out war, parents are vicious and unruly and the store display looks like the aftermath of a small hurricane. So besides the safety and convenience of shopping from home that e-commerce provides, you can be certain you won't be wrestling a housewife for the last Tickle-Me-Elmo.

Plus most websites offer cards, gift-wrapping and free shipping (in some cases, you can send it to the person's house). Shopping online also makes it easier to compare prices. *And don't sleep on Ebay for those unique, impossible-to-find gifts, within reason. (Say No to $200 Obama toast!).

2- My four best girlfriends and I do Secret Santa every year, and I cannot stress how beneficial and cost-efficient it is. Instead of three mediocre gifts, we can each save up and splurge on a fab, thoughtful gift for one of our friends. And everybody ends up with something they love. Absolutely the way to go when buying gifts for groups of friends, co-workers or extended families.

3- When mall-shopping, I find it best to bring cash and leave the credit cards at home, so you are forced to stick to your budget and avoid over-spending. This absolutely sucks when you see that amazing but ridiculously priced Juicy Couture top you just have to buy your little sister, but your bank account thanks you later.

4- Give several inexpensive and/or "from the heart," gifts rather than one costly gift. For my guy friend's birthday, I bought a book he loved, tickets to a baseball game, a photo album with our pictures (and a poem I'd written on the front cover), a gift certificate to his favorite restaurant and a mix CD with some of his most beloved tunes.

The whole gift was certainly greater than the sum of its parts---he was thrilled! And people love unwrapping surprise after surprise until they reach the bottom of the bag. (And you'll love the extra spending money in your pocket!)

5- Don't rule out splitting the cost of a great gift with friends or siblings. If you know your Mom would love a new sewing machine, or a close mutual friend really needs a new briefcase, pool your resources to make the gift a possibility. Two (and three or four) bank accounts are better than one.

6- Focus! Focus! Focus! It's been proven that retailers trick consumers with everything from captivating displays to enticing smells (one word: Cinnabon). Stick to your buying plan. Make a list detailing each recipient, gift idea and corresponding budget. Never leave home without it. Also, buy two extra, "generic" gifts than can work for a man or a woman in case you get an unexpected gift and want to reciprocate or forget someone altogether (worst feeling ever!).

7- Start planning and shopping YESTERDAY. Last-minute stress, and panic buying, is the easiest way to overspend. The Dec. 24th holiday shopping frenzy can turn even the most cheerful person into the Grinch. So pace yourself and when everyone else is knee-deep in pine cones and wrapping paper, you'll be sipping eggnog in front of the fire with "Let it Snow" by Boys II Men playing softly in the background.

Happy holidays...and happy shopping!




Anonymous said...

i'll give my daughter's drawing to her godparents that livr in arizona and a frame with some of her pictures. like you said, thoughtful and free. these are great tips. merry xmas & happy holidays coutura......~tifah~

Anonymous said...

hey wow great blog....thanx for all the gift ideas lady....proud of all your work, keep it up...god bless

Channy B. said...

GREAT IDEAS!! Never really thought about any of these ideas.

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