Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Gifts: A Last Minute Guide

It always seem like we have plenty of time to prepare for the holidays, and then BOOM! Christmas is upon us like an avalanche and we’re left scrambling to come up with some last minute Christmas gift ideas. If this sounds like the yearly scenario for you, and you only have days left to get your holiday shopping done, here are a few last minute gift ideas that might help you out of a tight squeeze.

Coupon gifts – Sometimes we don’t need an actual object to make us happy on Christmas. I can tell you from experience, my wife would much rather be pampered with a half-hour massage from yours truly than have most of the Christmas gift ideas I could come up with at the last minute.

Tickets – You can order tickets online to a variety of sporting events, plays, movies, or whatever your gift receiver is interested in. While the actual tickets themselves might not arrive until after Christmas, it might not matter. Just print out the information – minus the price of course – fold it, and put it into a holiday envelope, and you’ve got a perfect last minute Christmas gift! This is what my wife did for me last year when she bought us tickets to the Indianapolis 500 and I was completely overjoyed. I didn’t need the tickets in my hand, just the knowledge that I would be going to the event.

Gift cards – Widely available at places like your local convenience mart or drugstore as well as a variety of retail shops or online, it’s hard to deny the power of gift cards these days. While they might not have that personal gift giving touch, they make for quick and easy last minute Christmas gifts and take the burden of coming up with an idea off your shoulders.

Food or libations – Making a last minute run to the local grocery store or superstore can work out in your favor as a last resort gift idea. Picking up some nice wine, a good bottle of booze, or a favor food item can be a nice way to celebrate the holiday season. Using wine bags or a nice basket in which to present your gift, and picking up some flowers or a Poinsettia along the way, can make your Christmas gift idea look a little classier and as if it wasn’t a last minute purchase.

______ of the month club – While these type gifts are often a bit on the pricey side, similar to tickets to a show or sporting event they are great ways out of a gift giving jam. You can just give the print off the order receipt as acknowledgment of the gift. Beer, steak, gourmet fruit, or whatever, there is plenty of variety out there when it comes to finding various items to receive monthly.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Parties: When The Budget Counts

Having a Christmas party can be a great way to get friends and family together for a fun time and good food. But even if you hold your Christmas party at home and cook all the food yourself, the costs of a Christmas party can still add up -- significantly in some cases. Between food, drinks, cleaning, and decorations, you can find yourself spending hundreds of dollars just for one event. So if you’ve had it with overspending on your Christmas parties, and you’re looking for some ways to save, consider these budget tips that might help in reigning in your Christmas party costs.

Utilize your discount stores – Consider checking out your local dollar or party supply stores. You can stock up on cheap party supplies, decorations, and party favors. You might want to pick up some super cheap cleaning supplies while you’re at the dollar store.

Themed party sets – At many party supply or discount stores, you can often find cheap, themed party sets that may include cups, plates, napkins, and party favors. These sets can make your life easier as well as save you money.

Make punch – Brewing up a big bowl of punch can save you money on cans of soda as well as liquor costs at your Christmas party. Since no one will know what kind of mix you are using, you can use lower costs brands of liquor and sodas, or reduce the amounts of liquor you add to the mixture.

Bring a dish – You could invite your guests to bring along a favorite dish to help you save on food costs. You can phrase it as, “Oh, I just love that _____ you make! Would you mind bringing that to the party?” This way, it makes the other person feel useful, appreciated, and as if they are contributing to the Christmas party.

Minimize – Often, by using smaller plates people have less room for food, so they take less, meaning that there is less waste and lower consumption, thereby decreasing your Christmas party costs. The same goes for cup or glass sizes.

Choose your spot – Depending on the size of your home, you might not want people roaming about and straying into portions of your home you aren’t using during your Christmas party. Therefore, consider keeping doors shut to unused rooms or areas within your home. This way you can shut off vents to these areas to save you on heating costs. With people coming and going, letting cold outside air in from outside, you’ll have enough space to heat without extra rooms being left open.

Have the kids decorate – By having your kids do the decorating by making pictures, party favors, and other holiday crafts, it makes them feel involved, saves money, and if it looks cheap or chintzy you can say, “This year I let the kids decorate,” and your guests probably won’t say much.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Budget Buys

Times are tough, and buying Christmas gifts can be a hit to your budget that can be hard to take. You don’t want to look like Scrooge, but hey, you still want to eat too. Don’t get down on yourself and the holiday season just yet though. Here are a few ideas that might help you come up with some cheap gifts that will let you get through the holiday season with your budget still intact.

Dollar Store Delights – Forget the DVDs, cell phones and diamond pendant earrings as stocking stuffers this year. You might be surprised, but you can load up on some pretty good buys at your local dollar store. Many of the items you find there can make for perfect stocking stuffers or tasty treats on which to nibble on Christmas Day. For ten bucks plus tax, you can get out of there with ten cheap but fun items with which to fill stockings or give as office gifts at work.

Gift Cards – Gift cards can be great budget buys for family members. This might not sound like the best cheap Christmas gift, but give me a chance to explain. Many couples and families go out to eat at restaurants make home repairs, and buy clothing. With gift cards, you are pre-empting the costs that would come anyway and turning them into Christmas gifts. Plus, many stores are offering free gift cards when you spend a certain amount on another gift card -- you might buy a $100 gift card and receive a $25 gift card for free -- meaning you have two gifts for the price of one.

Goodwill Gifts – Now don’t scoff at this idea as one that is beneath you – especially if you’ve never been to a Goodwill store before. Goodwill has a variety of gift options ranging from clothing and kitchenware to toys and games. While you might have to do a bit of sifting, you can come across lightly used and sometimes unused items, some of which are brand name products. – can be a fast and easy way to come up with cheap Christmas gift ideas. Their easy to use website allows you to sort by price, recipient, occasion, even personality. It can be a great to find a variety of budget gifts for adults and children alike. You might want to check out the alarm clock for the “Morning Impaired,” one of my personal favorites.

Agree to Nothing – Sometimes you just reach a point when it’s time to call it quits with the whole gift-giving thing. If you’ve reached the point where you are just tired of buying gifts you know people really don’t want or need and you don’t like or getting the same type of gifts in return, why bother? Talk to your friends and family. See if they feel the same way. If so, you might agree to skip gift giving this holiday season and just enjoy the good company of family and friends during a party or dinner instead. Doing so can save you time, money, and the effort involved in purchasing gifts that might go unused or unappreciated anyway.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cheap Christmas Gifts: Unique Ideas

Does the approach of another holiday season during an economically tough year have you scratching your head when searching for unique gift ideas? It can be hard enough coming up with interesting gift ideas, but when you have to do so on a budget, it can seem downright impossible. There are plenty of cheap Christmas gifts out there, and there are quite a few unique ideas as well, but typically the more unique the gift, the more it costs. So how do you combine the two? Well, here are a few ideas that might offer a little bit of both to help you out with your cheap, yet unique Christmas gift ideas.

ID Guard Stamp – This little jewel can be a great unique Christmas gift that fits well within your budget. Not only can it save you on your Christmas budget, but it could save the person you give it to by protecting their identity and personal documents. You might find that you buy and extra one to try out for yourself.

Alarm Clock – No, not just any alarm clock, this is the flying alarm clock! Yes, you heard me right, I said flying! This could be the perfect unique Christmas gift idea for the person that has a tough time waking up in the morning. When the alarm goes off, a helicopter-like top goes spinning from the top of the clock, forcing the sleepy head to rise and find the top in order to stop the alarm.

Bank – Let’s be honest, times are tough and money is tight. But buying your child a cool bank is the perfect unique Christmas gift to teach them the importance of saving early on. There are some pretty neat banks out there to make saving money fun. Consider something like the Money Maze Bank or similar gift for the child who has money to stash.

Snuggie – Not quite the rage they were last year, but still a possible gift idea. Consider changing it up and trying a Collegiate Snuggie as an affordable Christmas gift. It can be a great unique gift idea for a college student, graduate, or just the avid sports enthusiast.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tips for Saving on a Christmas Dinner

With Christmas fast approaching and the economy suffering, you might be searching for ways to conserve a little cash during the holiday season. You want to stick to a budget but at the same time, you don’t want to look like Scrooge, skimping on the essentials.

Christmas is a time for caring and sharing, and it just wouldn’t be the same without a Christmas dinner. If you want your dinner to be fun and friendly, but still stick to your cost savings plan, here are some quick and easy tips on how to save money during your Christmas dinner.

Here are some simple ways to save on your food and drink budget, as well as make what you purchase go further.

• Have each guest bring a food dish.
• Have guests bring their own alcohol.
• Save leftovers.
• Pass on alcohol altogether.
• Serve punch rather than individually portioned and more expensive drinks.
• Buy generic.
• Buy in bulk.
• Prepared in advance and buy your supplies and food items when they are on sale.
• Skip the soda.
• Make your own snacks and hors d’oeuvres.

Dinner is more than just food and drinks. There are all the supplies that go into decorating and making your dinner more than just a quick bite to eat. Here are some ways to make efficient use of your party supplies as well as some ideas of what to buy to keep your costs to a minimum.

• Use your own glassware rather than costly paper/plastic products.
• Send invites over email to avoid buying paper invitations or consider make your own.
• Create your own party decorations.
• Use party decorations from last year’s party.
• Borrow party supplies you don’t have from friends.
• Buy Christmas decorations at post-Christmas sales for next year’s party.

Here are a few extra tidbits and tips that can make your party efficient while saving you a buck or two in the process.

• Keep the thermostat low since large parties tend to generate more body heat.
• Turn lights off in unused rooms during the party.
• Close doors to unused rooms during the party to save on heating costs.
• If it’s snowing, shovel your own walks and driveway rather than paying someone else to do it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Using a Gift Card to Buy a Gift Card

Here's a question for all you gift savvy buyers out there. I haven't been able to find an answer to this one, and maybe you'll be able to help me out.

I've been wondering lately if it is possible to use a gift card to buy a gift card. You might be wondering why I would want to do this, so I'll explain.

Let's say you get a gift card to Blockbuster. Maybe you aren't particularly into watching movies and don't want to buy any of their candy. However, they happen to sell gift cards to other stores and restaurants at the checkout.

Could you use your gift card to buy a gift card to a place you might be more prone to go?

If anyone has tried this or knows the answer, please let me know. Thanks.