In my recent Christmas article, I asked you to submit your favorite ideas for saving money during the holidays. Your suggestions were great. Among the best were these (which I've edited slightly):
Samuel's tip: “Give your ‘favorite things' as gifts. Find items you love and use everyday, then share these with others. By giving favorite things, the focus is on sharing things you like rather than how much you spent. For example, my ‘favorite thing' gift this year is a Zyliss pizza cutter. It is an unbelievably useful kitchen gadget! We use it to cut up everything, not just pizza. It costs less than $10!”
English Major's tip: “Do crafts that require the same basic supplies but still remain customizable to the recipient. Homemade baking mixes are good for this, because with big bags of ingredients you have the bases for several different kinds of baked goods — Aunt Julie can get oatmeal-raisin and Cousin Larry can get peanut-butter chip with a minimum of tweaking and few extra ingredients. My all-time favorite, though, is marble magnets, which require absolutely minimal supply (florist's gems, silicon glue, a scissor or craft punch, old magazines), offer tons of opportunity for personalization (I do cartoon images for my boyfriend, the letters of their names for my little cousins, and flowers for a garden-crazy friend), look great packaged in tulle or an Altoids tin, and get much, much cheaper when you make them in bulk. Making 20 magnets costs about $30, but it doesn't cost you any more to make 200, and only about $5 more for a new bag of florist's gems to make 400. It's all about working with the supplies you have without homogenizing your gifts.”
RJ's tip: “Sometimes when my partner and I exchange cards at Christmas, we'll include a cut-out image or two of a really expensive gift that we might have liked to buy, but didn't. For example, a couple years, he inserted a pic of a $175 bottle of scotch, but gave me a perfectly wonderful and less costly (~$25) bottle of a different kind of scotch instead. This year I'm giving him a matchbook from a very expensive restaurant in town, though our holiday dinner will actually be at a friend's house. It's our jesting way of reminding each other of the shopping insanity at this time of year, and it helps us appreciate what we do get for the little money we spend.”
It was difficult, but my wife and I chose two tips we liked best. The people who submitted these will each receive a one-year subscription to Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine.
Kris' favorite tip comes from Amberlynn, who writes: “My family draws names with a $20 limit, but we're phasing that out for something even better. We are writing a chapter of our family history each year. We pick a topic, and each family member will write about it. One person plays â€œeditor,â€ collecting the stories together for Christmas. We've written about our favorite Christmas (seven differing perspectives on the same year), the house we grew up in, and this year we're writing about how we met our spouse. Last year, my Mom sent out her first draft of her entire life history. This gift costs nothing. It does take a little time if you want to contribute quality. It will, however, carry a lasting value unmatched by any tangible gifts we've exchanged, or even experiential gifts!”
My favorite tip comes from Angie: “My husband and I have a tradition of giving each other experiences for Christmas, rather than more stuff. This doesn't always end up being the cheapest route, but it does keep our house from being cluttered up with extraneous stuff. For instance, my husband had always wanted to try blowing glass. An art glass studio opened up a few blocks from our house, and last year at Christmastime they held workshops where you could blow your own glass ornament. I gifted him two sequential half-hour workshops, at $25 apiece — once so he could ‘get the hang of it', and the second so he could better use his new skills. (He's that kinda guy.) He came home with two beautiful ornaments he made himself, and he absolutely raved about how much fun he'd had. I saw essentially identical blown-glass ornaments at the local art gallery for about $20 apiece. For a $10 premium, I fulfilled his longheld wish and gave him a really awesome memory. Now that's a bargain!”
A common theme among your suggestions was: do-it-yourself. Homemade gifts are fun to produce, and are generally more valued by the recipient. I'd take a plate of PCCCs (plain chocolate-chip cookies) over some plastic gee-gaw any day.
Thanks to everyone who participated!