Yuletide Celebrations: For a holiday gift, you can donate skills as a present

Families who’ve been hit with unemployment, high inflation rates and higher credit card fees are tightening their belts and coming up with creative ways to save money on holiday gift giving.

Ideas such as taking no-spending months, giving the gift of manual labour and using accumulated credit card reward points to buy gifts are ingenious ways that folks can save on gifts.

Here are some nifty and resourceful ways people are saving for the holidays.

Stop spending for a month: If you stop spending, you’ll be able to save money for the holiday season. Bills and other household expenses might make it seem impossible, but it’s not.

Danielle Marquis, adjunct professor of personal finance at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado, suggests a compromise. “Institute a ‘month of nothing’ into your year, and divert all the money you save directly into a savings account titled ‘Holidays,’” she says.

“When I say a ‘month of nothing,’ I mean you don’t spend money on anything that isn’t an absolute necessity. You pack your lunch for work and road trips, bring reusable water bottles to work instead of buying something from a vending machine and meet up for potlucks at friends’ houses,” Marquis says.

Pick any two months throughout the year to put this idea into practice. Marquis says January is easier for her, because she commits to a self-imposed detox after the excess of the holidays; and June is easier too, because it is her birthday month.

“People tend to do nice things for me to celebrate, so it’s easier to do without,” she says.

Gift your skills: Are you good at fixing things? Do you cook? Can you build a kitchen cabinet?

A good way to give a great holiday present without spending much is by donating your skills as gifts. “Wrap your skills in a thoughtful way as an alternative to buying your friends another gift card,” says Farnoosh Torabi, personal finance expert and author of Psych Yourself Rich.

She says if you’re a great designer, offer to redecorate a room in your friend’s house for free. A software whiz? Build a website for a friend or sketch out a plan for a new blog. A photographer? Offer a photography lesson or take and frame some portraits of friends or family, Torabi says. These are useful and meaningful gifts that can not only save money, but also help your family and friends stretch their dollars.

Put together a Christmas closet: What do you do with all the extra holiday wrapping paper, gift bags and unwanted gifts from last year? Instead of throwing them away, Billee Sharp, author of Fix It, Make It, Grow It, Bake It has a better alternative.

Sharp says, “I have a Christmas closet where I put gifts I cannot use, and gift bags, paper... to reuse and give out for the holidays.”

When the holidays comes around, instead of first going shopping, make sure you take a good look at what is in that closest. You just might find an item you can give away or a nice gift box you can reuse. Either way, you save money. Give the same gift to everyone: If you regularly give to the people who help you run your life better — your cleaning professionals, doorman, plumber or grass cutter — give them a useful gift to show your appreciation while you save money.

Find out their particular interests in hobbies and buy them magazine subscriptions. Some annual subscriptions are less than $10. Or make a small donation to their favourite charities.

Use this same tactic with family and friends. Michelle Girasole, co-author of 'The Sassy Ladies’ Toolkit for Start-up Businesses (2nd Edition - S&D book publishers, 2008) ,” says she buys almost everyone on her list the same gift because it saves her time and money.

“Last year, I bought little journals off the Compendium catalogue website (live-inspired.com). They cost less than $10 each because I had a wholesale account. I wrote something complimentary about each person on the first page,” Girasole says. “What a big hit!”

Move the holiday: Although tradition says otherwise, holidays don’t have to be celebrated on their designated dates. Moving the holiday to a different date on the calendar can help you save money.

“Move your family’s Christmas celebration from December 25 and closer to January 1,” says Carrie Rocha, publisher of the Pocket Your Dollars website.

“When you buy presents, this is one of the best ways to take advantage of all the after-Christmas sales.”


In order to comment on BlogHer.com, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.