4 unexpected ways to pay for gifts.
We've talked about the financial burden of the holidays and life events. Some of those costs are trimmings and trees, feasts and festivities, but the tradition of gift giving can be especially weighty. I am surrounded by creative people who make amazing handcrafted gifts. With our own extended family, we've explored gift giving to just one adult by random drawing or gift exchange. I know of others who have questioned the tradition of gifts altogether, putting the focus back on quality time spent together.
All of these alternatives are amazing ways to reduce the costs of the holiday seasons and put the focus back on meaning. But sometimes this just won't do. Some relationships we would prefer to honor and recognize in the traditional way - with a meaningful gift, selected with love. Below are four ways that I've used to pay for gift shopping without spending a cent from my bank account (and one additional tip for saving money on gifts that do cost cash):
- Mistakes from the past became cash in hand.
There are some perks to being someone who is new to intentional spending. Correcting less thrifty choices and habits from the past gives lots of room for big wins. It also put some surprising resources at my disposal. If you have unused purchases collecting dust, you can take these items back to the store and immediately have cash or store credit in hand for your holiday shopping. At many places, this won’t even require a receipt. In my case, I had some boots that I purchased in August (yes, three months ago) whose color was always never quite right to go with any of my clothes (not to mention that they were wholly unnecessary). I eliminated some clutter by bringing those boots back to the store. While I didn’t have a receipt, I could present the card that they were purchased on. A moment later, I had $65 back in my pocket that could be spent on others. If the store had offered my refund on a gift card (as I expected), it still would have provides for some great gift shopping.
- Used books (records, movies, etc) became new again!
My husband and I recently undertook a big project organizing our books and records. The end result (besides a well-organized bookcase full of the things we love best) was about three boxes of books that no longer felt essential to us. (To be fair, I had been hanging on to some for a few years with the idea of opening a little free library.) To turn these books into Christmas gifts, I brought them to a used bookstore where they earned us $55 in credit that we can use to surprise the many readers on our list. The store even ordered me in a selection they didn’t have in-stock, conveniently getting my holiday shopping started. This technique can be used with other kinds of media as well. Some stores (like Half Price Books) will also accept used movies and music. Many records stores will also take used offerings.
- Gift cards became the easiest re-gift to ever be regifted.
Yes, gift cards in your pocket can provide a nice treat now and again (especially for those of us trying to limit our spending). However, they can also be regifted or used to buy gifts for the folks you love. Sometimes generosity feels just as good as treating ourselves.
- Old stuff became shiny new toys.
As part of my journey to ensure that my time, money, and energy are mindfully spent, I started the process of decluttering our home. (If you need to be convinced of the financial benefits of decluttering and limiting future purchases, you should watch this.) It’s a slow process, but some of the things that we no longer need do have value to others. Because I’m hoping to put cash in our pocket in time for the holidays, I’ve been using easy apps like OfferUp or sites like Craigslist to sell the items that have some cash value. A quick skim of whichever sales platform you want to use will tell you whether others are buying similar items and how much they’re selling for. Different apps and websites appeal to different kinds of people. If what you have isn’t selling on one platform, then check another before giving up hope. Be sure to include lots of descriptive words, sizes (if shoes or clothing), and measurements for things like furniture to increase the odds of your item appearing in a search and to ensure a potential buyer has the info they need to make a decision.
While these four tips focus on how to rustle up brand new holiday gifts for the ones you love, used things can make for a great gift at times too. (No, really!) The year my son got really excited about Ping Pong, I found a high-quality Ping Pong table that still looked brand new for about half of its original price. Not only did I save money, I would have had to settle for a much lower quality item if I’d paid retail price. No small benefit of this purchase: this amazing used Ping Pong table arrived PRE-ASSEMBLED!!!!
Need another fun example? I have some friends that host a gift exchange that people look forward to all year. They as hosts provide ALL the gifts for the exchange. This is affordable because every unique and sometimes unbelievable item is a result of the garage sales they shop avidly throughout the year. They also save and reuse the gift bags from year-to-year. The gifts range from ridiculous to beautiful to hilarious to rare.
I am continuing to question the ways I think about the holidays. I'm working on ways that our family can honor traditions and memories instead of materialism. I am trying to give gifts, no matter what they are, that stand as strong messages of love and thoughtfulness instead of just dollars.