As Kris and I near the end our trip to Peru, we’ve begun to make preparations for our return home. That means shopping.

I spent some time today buying books, for instance. Keeping in mind my recently-drafted guidelines of what to buy, I picked up a couple dozen Spanish translations of classic novels and popular children’s books. Los LibrosThese books are all tiny (about the size of a religious tract) and cost only S/1.50 each, which is about fifty cents. I now have practice material for months to come!

The shopping Kris did today was more practical. She went in search of socks. Not for herself, but for other people. Christmas is coming, and buying gifts in a place like Peru is a fun change of pace. Plus, it’s cost effective. By shopping for Christmas gifts here, she’s able to stretch her budget. (Obviously, it wouldn’t be cost effective to fly all the way to Peru to do Christmas shopping; but it’s frugal to do so while we’re already here!)

As I’ve mentioned before, my family has interesting way to cope with holiday spending. Every adult spends no more than five dollars to buy a gift for each other adult. This makes it a challenge to find interesting items throughout the year. I often do my shopping at summer garage sales, for instance. This year, the bulk of my shopping was done at markets in Peru and Zimbabwe.

Note: One nice benefit of having a fixed limit for holiday spending? No gift wars! You don’t have one family outspending (or underspending) everyone else, and you don’t have the resulting hard feelings.

Christmas isn’t the only gift-giving occasion in our lives, of course. There are birthdays and weddings and anniversaries and graduations and promotions. And sometimes it’s fun to give a friend something just for the heck of it.

Not long ago, a friend of mine confided that his wife’s spending on gifts was out of control. “We spent more last year on gifts than we spent of food for our family,” he told me. I think part of this is because the lady in question is generous, but part of it is because she doesn’t want to look bad. For some people, it’s very important to remember the birthdays and anniversaries of everyone in their lives, and to do so with gifts.

I fall on the frugal side of gift-giving. Yes, if I see something that’s perfect for a friend or family member, I’ll buy it for them, even if it’s expensive. But that happens rarely. Most of the time, I’d prefer to drop an e-mail or to send a card or to take them out to lunch. As a percentage of my income, my spending on gifts in miniscule — and certainly far less than my spending on food.

What about you? How much do you spend on gifts? Not just Christmas gifts, but all gifts? How do you budget for this spending? How do you decide what to give and to whom to give it? What shopping habits do you have to make the most of your money? Most of all, what sorts of tips and tricks can you pass on to your fellow GRS readers?

Note: Don’t forget that if you are trying to stretch your gift-giving budget, Get Rich Slowly has a fantastic list of homemade gifts that are both fun and affordable.

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