What do you think your average spend is for gifts for your family and friends each year? I was fairly shocked to be honest when I worked out recently that I spent just over £800 last year on gifts for other people (Christmas, Birthdays etc). I didn’t have a budget back then so I didn’t keep tabs on what I was spending, I just thought I wasn’t spending that much. Actually I hadn’t spent that much compared to earlier years – gulp!
It wouldn’t be right for me to say spending that £800 on gifts was a waste of money because I’m sure some people loved the gifts they received from me and I loved spoiling them… but I could have had a little bit less debt than I do right now if I hadn’t spent so much money in this area.
The thing is, if you’re in debt and focused on paying it off, the last thing you should be doing is spending a lot of money on gifts even if you really love buying for other people. Especially spontaneous spending on gifts as that just upsets the apple cart and distracts from what’s important: paying off debts! Yep, the money that you’re spending on gifts could go towards paying off the debts and over time it would really help make your journey to debt freedom that little bit shorter.
But you know how it is, things crop up. The birthdays of your family and close friends come around really fast and before you know it, it’s Christmas again. Sometimes you can’t avoid spending on gifts unless you want to look and feel like a complete Scrooge. And it’s hard not to buy for children, especially if you have kids of your own and other people buy presents for them. That can be rather awkward. 🙂
Buying gifts without busting your wannabe debt free budget
If you really want to get that special person something, you can avoid taking the wind out of your debt blasting sails by adapting one or more of these approaches.
1. Hand-make gifts for friends and family
If you have any crafty skills such as knitting, feltmaking, sewing, carpentry, painting, jewellery-making, or scrap booking, you could try your hand at making a gift for your loved ones! You can pick up materials like wool, wood and beads at craft fairs and even car boot sales at a very fair price. The main cost here would be your time.
Even if you don’t have crafty skills, there are easy beginner project tutorials on the internet which are suitable for anyone. I knitted a few easy scarves and hats for birthdays at the beginning of this year, which my family members politely accepted despite a few holes where I missed a few stitches here and there! One of the hats is being used as a tea cosy now. Versatile gift or what?!
2. Put aside a pot of money for gifts
Add a section to your monthly budget for gifts. Use a separate savings account, a piggy bank, or even an envelope where you can put aside some cash each month to spread the cost of buying presents throughout the year. I don’t put much aside as nearly all of my spare money goes towards debts but even a little pot of money could get you out of a sticky gift giving situation!
3. Use the sales
By planning ahead and really thinking about what you want to get for that special person, you can make use of seasonal sales and save your gifts for later. I try to do this for children’s birthday presents – my daughter is invited to other children’s birthday parties and gift buying can really add up. You just can’t turn up to a kid’s birthday party without a present for the birthday boy or girl! It’s an unwritten rule in the world of parenting.
4. Prioritise the people you’re buying gifts for
Sounds a bit mean doesn’t it? But in all honesty, some people aren’t bothered about receiving gifts although I’m sure they appreciate the sentiment. Why not just buy for those people closest to you? And if you can tell some friends and family about your debts, they’ll probably ask you not to buy anything. Some of our trusted friends who we were brave enough to tell now insist on us not buying gifts. We have an arrangement where we buy for the kids only. It’s so much easier!
5. Balance gift buying with debt payoff
If you receive any money yourself in the way of gifts, you could use that to pay off your debts. Yes, it’s hard to do sometimes as you probably want to treat yourself on your birthday but using the money to pay off debts kind of balances things out. Another way of balancing the books is to plan ahead as to how much you’ll be spending next month on presents for example and try to earn extra income to replace it.
It’s funny how there seems to be one month of the year for most people where they find they are buying for several people’s birthdays. They all seem to come at once don’t they? My killer gift buying month is in April – 5 birthdays for friends in that one month alone.
What do you do in terms of buying gifts for others when you’re trying to pay off debt or save for something?
- My list of free or cheap things to do!
- My top 10 list of budget make up products.
- Planning a cheap birthday party for kids.
* Photo from Stock Xchng (Happy Birthday 2)