Yip, it’s the time of the year that gets everyone broke. Christmas should be a time of stress-free festivities, and abundant giving, joy and celebration – but if you don’t plan ahead, you’ll end up giving your mom yet another vase, wrapped in newspaper. Come now, guys – Avoid Getting Broke at Christmas.
It’s not that you don’t see it coming. It’s not that you don’t have years of prior experience. Actually, you have no idea why it always turns out this way… but every year, you come face to face with the brutal reality that Christmas is around the corner and you haven’t bought a single present yet, let alone kept it in mind for your December budget. It’s a shameful moment, isn’t it?
So now you decide that the only possible solution to the destructive habit is to go and spend your entire month’s budget in one fleeting shopping spree, swiping left and right, just in time for all the gifts to be wrapped and laid under the tree. But admit it – it can’t possibly feel good when your family member glances at you smiling, sparkly-eyed, and thanks you for the wonderful, thoughtful present. And you can’t help but wonder if they’re on to you.
Come on now.
There are two ways around this scenario. Both are brilliant in their own merit, and you should profit fully from each of them.
Solution Number 1: Get Prepped Early
Keep your eyes open for possible presents at all times. I’m talking about a year-long subscription to Christmas present alertness. If you come across what may be the perfect present for your mother, but it’s only June, what difference does that make? Will she appreciate it any less if you give it to her in 6 months? The key is to pace your Christmas shopping throughout the year. It will ease the burn in your pocket, as well as make it a more authentic gesture.
Solution Number 2: Get Creative
If option 1 doesn’t float your boat, then listen up now. Creativity is all you need when you’re broke. Hustler’s don’t read rule books – they improvise. So in order for you to give your loved ones cool presents without getting broke, you have to take the simple and make it extraordinary.
When making a present and getting creative, think of something the person loves – and then transform whatever that is into something original. Have a look at the following ideas for inspiration:
Do It Yourself, Dudes and Dudettes
There are endless options of DIY presents. Seriously. Just enter “DIY present ideas” into Instagram, you’ll find lots and lots of ideas.
Here are three DIY prezzies that are quite cool:
This one is as epic as epic gets. With the voucher, you want to aim for the surprise factor, the wow factor, and definitely also the I-love-this! factor. So, figure out what your loved one really wants or needs from you, and then give it to them in the form of an original hand-made voucher. Here are some examples:
- “I will proofread your whole thesis…”
- “One emergency 6-pack of beer (redeemable on a Fri, Sat, or Sun only)”
- “I herewith promise to do the dishes at least once a week for the whole of 2016 – P.S. please misplace this voucher at your earliest convenience”
- “With this voucher, I vow to pay all of our meals and drinks whenever I’m late for one of our dates (valid for 3 months only)”
Two pieces of advice with this one:
Be generous, not crazy.
It’s easy to give someone a hand-made voucher for a future paragliding experience – not so easy when the person redeems the voucher and you can’t come up with the cash. Only make vouchers that you can in fact turn into a reality.
Set an expiry date (it protects you from having to live up to the voucher’s promise three years down line). Adding T&Cs can be really funny too. Use those insider jokes.
For the arties – take your 12 favourite sketches, or 12 photos of your favourite art creations and compile them into a small calendar. You can do the same thing with a selection of 12 inspirational, funny, or insider quotes – just print and cut them out neatly before sticking it into the calendar. It’s a cheap, creative option, and easy as pie to make. Personal presents rock, and a calendar is enjoyable throughout the whole next year.
Mugs are boring, over-used, and generally convey an ad hoc purchase. But, but, but…what if you can make your own design, and thereby create what is possibly the most meaningful or funny mug your loved one will ever see?
Buy a plain mug and get special marker pens and materials at an art supply shop – then get arty. You can decorate the mugs with quotes, insider jokes, cool designs…anything!
So your brother is moving out and needs all kinds of household items. You wish you could give him a fat Mr Price Home voucher, but eish, with the skinny amount you’ve got to spend on presents, the most he’ll walk away with is a multi plug (don’t’ get me wrong – if he really needs a multi plug, why not give it to him for Christmas!).
The point is, petty vouchers suck. So a good way around this is to team up. Join forces with other siblings, family members or friends and get one kick-ass decent present that will stretch a huge smile across his face.
That one thing of yours…
Sometimes your friends or sibling really wish they had something that belongs to you. That one thing that they’ve been eyeing for months. It could be a flattering shirt, a specific lipstick, a book, being allowed to drive your car…
It’s something that you really like too and want for yourself. But, this is actually an opportunity for you to give it to the other person, knowing that you will make their freaking day! It will cost you nothing except a small personal sacrifice. But you’ll feel great about it when you see how happy you can make the other person.
You can always add a T&C, for example “I still get to use it too, LOL.
Don’t underestimate the power of homemade food and baked goods. Ever. It makes epic presents and doesn’t cost too much either (apart from a few ingredients and maybe some electricity). You could make Christmas cookies or brownies and put them in a nice box, or your own take on a cake – really anything that the person loves to eat and can’t find in a store. Now add an original spark to it and get creative with the decoration or presentation, and you’ve got yourself an affordable, personalised present.
Everyone has something that they always need, but never have in stock – and usually they ask if they can borrow or have some of yours. Lighters, pens, sweeteners, tissues, tampons, sunscreen, socks without holes… yes, those things. Identify the item that someone always seems to need but lacks, and then give it to him or her as a present. For example, if someone constantly bugs you for a pen, why not buy them an entire box and label it as “1 year pen supply.” It can be really funny, and often the items don’t cost that much.
Cards are perhaps some of the most undervalued presents ever. What, I challenge you, is more special than receiving a beautiful card from a loved one in which they write down their love and appreciation for you? When someone takes the time to sit down and come up with a unique paragraph of words meant especially for you, that beats any material gift. Cards shouldn’t be taken for granted or seen merely as an accessory.
Sad, but true. Sometimes the most precious thing you can give someone is your time. And these days people seem to run out of this illusive thing we call time. If you are someone with an explosive social life or work schedule who never gets around to spending quality time with a specific person, even though you want to, gift them with a vow or a promise to spend more time together – and keep it.
Try not to make this come across as mega self-absorbed, as in “I vow to bless you with my presence.” Take a humble approach, and communicate that you value the person and suggest going to a workshop or course together – perhaps an activity that the person really enjoys. Or perhaps you have a skill that the person would love to learn and you can you offer to meet weekly to teach him or her. Time!
Deals rock. Have a look at sites like Groupon and see if you can find a cool, affordable deal that you can give to someone as a present. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at the discount they offer. What’s nice is that you can find experiences, such as discounted sushi meals, or wine tasting tours which you can enjoy together with your giftee.
But… what about you?
Of course Christmas is more about giving than receiving, but of course you also hope to find a little parcel for yourself, right? So, while you are learning to be smart about giving on a low-budget, you can also get smart about signalling your own wish list to relatives.
The queen of DIY herself has gone out of her way to break down the best strategies for you. Check out the video for Suzelle DYI’s priceless advice:
So, no more excuses for bad planning and broke Decembers. Your friends and family members are worth a thoughtful present, and now you know that it doesn’t have to cost you an arm, leg, and entire month’s budget.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how little or how much you spend on a gift. The point is to see your loved ones smile. And it doesn’t exactly take rocket science to conclude that money is not necessary to make that happen. You don’t need us to tell you that, but we are telling you anyways.