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How much do you spend on gifts?

Your holiday shopping tab can expand in the blink of an eye if you're not careful.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 14, 2011 12:56PM

This post comes from J.D. Roth at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.


As Kris and I neared the end our trip to Peru, we began to make preparations for our return home. That meant shopping.


I spent some time buying books, for instance. Keeping in mind my recently drafted guidelines of what to buy, I picked up a couple dozen Spanish translations of classic novels and popular children's books. These books are all tiny (about the size of a religious tract) and cost only about 50 cents. I now have practice material for months to come!


The shopping Kris did was more practical. She went in search of socks. Not for herself, but for other people. Christmas is coming, and buying gifts in a place like Peru is a fun change of pace. Plus, it's cost-effective. By shopping for Christmas gifts there, she was able to stretch her budget. (Obviously, it wouldn't be cost-effective to fly all the way to Peru to do Christmas shopping; but it's frugal to do so if you're already there.)


As I've mentioned before, my family has interesting way to cope with holiday spending. Every adult spends no more than $5 to buy a gift for each other adult. This makes it a challenge to find interesting items throughout the year. I often do my shopping at summer garage sales, for instance. This year, the bulk of my shopping was done at markets in Peru and Zimbabwe.


Note: One nice benefit of having a fixed limit for holiday spending? No gift wars! You don’t have one family outspending (or underspending) everyone else, and you don't have the resulting hard feelings.


Christmas isn't the only gift-giving occasion in our lives, of course. There are birthdays and weddings and anniversaries and graduations and promotions. And sometimes it's fun to give a friend something just for the heck of it.


Not long ago, a friend of mine confided that his wife's spending on gifts was out of control. "We spent more last year on gifts than we spent of food for our family," he told me. I think part of this is because the lady in question is generous, but part of it is because she doesn't want to look bad. For some people, it's very important to remember the birthdays and anniversaries of everyone in their lives, and to do so with gifts. Post continues below.

I fall on the frugal side of gift-giving. Yes, if I see something that's perfect for a friend or family member, I'll buy it for them, even if it's expensive. But that happens rarely. Most of the time, I'd prefer to drop an e-mail or to send a card or to take them out to lunch. As a percentage of my income, my spending on gifts in miniscule -- and certainly far less than my spending on food.


What about you? How much do you spend on gifts? Not just Christmas gifts, but all gifts? How do you budget for this spending? How do you decide what to give and to whom to give it? What shopping habits do you have to make the most of your money? Most of all, what sorts of tips and tricks can you pass on to your fellow GRS readers?


Note: Don't forget that if you are trying to stretch your gift-giving budget, Get Rich Slowly has a fantastic list of homemade gifts that are both fun and affordable.


More on Get Rich Slowly and MSN Money:



Nov 15, 2011 5:47PM

My wife and I save for Xmas year round.  We put aside $100 each payday, so by December, we have $2,600 saved for gifts.  Usually we have some left over, which we save for birthdays through out the year.  We set a budget on what we will spend on parents, siblings, and nieces & nephews...etc. 


When we first go married, we set a pretty high budget for what we would spend on each other.  We ended up buying a lot of garbage that we didn't want or need.  After that, we decided that we would pick out a single large present for ourselves and maybe put aside a little money for a few small  surprise presents.  It works out great for us, and we have no financial stress during the holidays.


Also, if we can't afford it, we don't buy it.  Six years ago when we were first married, we only put aside $20 per paycheck, and our Xmas gift giving was just as enjoyable as it is now.  Overspending will not make for an enjoyable holiday season.

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