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Sticking to a Gift Budget at Christmastime

By Stephanie Foster

The Christmas season is upon us, and with it one of the most difficult times to stick on a budget. It's so easy to go overboard on gifts for those you love. There's always some cute, cheap item that is just perfect, but when you find things like that over and over, they really add up.

It's no fun being on a tight budget at this time of year. You wish you could give your kids the gifts they want the most, and give other family members just the right gift too.

There are several ways to give well thought out gifts at this time of year without overdoing it on credit cards or adding to your financial worries. All it takes is a little planning and creativity. Here are a few ideas.

Draw names.

You'll still have to do the shopping for your kids, of course, but getting together with your siblings or other family members and drawing names can save a lot of money, as well as shopping time. This also allows a single, nicer gift to be given, as you can agree beforehand what should be spent on each person, and have it be a gift from all of you.

Give your time.

Make up coupons with favors you will do for the other person. This could be mowing the lawn for your parents or giving your husband a backrub. It could be babysitting a friend's kids.

Share your talents.

If there's something you do well that others have been expressing an interest in learning, give them a card saying you will teach them. This could be music lessons or it could be website design or organizing their home.

Note cards and stamped envelopes.

These are perfect for the person who loves to write. Find an attractive set and get some stamps, and you're ready to go. You could even take this a step further and create your own design on plain cards.

Family calendar.

This one takes a fair bit of time, and you'll need other family members to send you pictures, but makes a great gift. If they give you prints, you can make a collage, but if the photos are digital you can manipulate them for a wonderfully fun family calendar. Take the results to your local print shop and have them make them into calendars.

Make picture frames.

Get a cheap picture frame and decorate it with things that the recipient enjoys.

Bake!

Homemade treats are often welcome. If you have a great pie, cake or cookie recipe, you can be sure people will thank you even if they grumble something about calories.

Make Christmas ornaments.

There are all kinds of ideas for beautiful Christmas ornaments. You can buy the cheap clear glass balls and fill them or paint them. Another idea is to take a clear jar or vase, and put in some Christmas lights, then add potpourri. It looks beautiful when plugged in and smells great.

Make gift baskets or jars.

This doesn't have to mean cheesy, handmade stuff that you really don't do normally. You can make gift baskets with special items inside, such as bath salts and other items good for relaxation. You can print a card with a special recipe and include the ingredients in a jar.

The possibilities here are just about endless, both in terms of affordability and creativity. Think about the recipient's hobbies and put something together that relates; garden gloves with a plant or seeds for a gardener, gourmet coffee with a cup for the coffee lover, and so forth.

You don't have to go overboard with gifts to have a wonderful Christmas. A little planning goes a long way toward easing the financial strain that so many feel at this time of year. Getting creative with Christmas presents doesn't only save money - it makes the gifts more meaningful!

About The Author

Stephanie Foster is the owner of HomeWithTheKids.com, a resource for at-home parents. For more tips on living on a budget, please visit http://www.homewiththekids.com/moneymatters.htm and subscribe to the free newsletter.

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