31 Day Budget (Day 17): Giving Gifts on a Budget

31 Days to a Better Budget

Giving Gifts on a Budget

Each day of the series offers new tips, ideas and a challenge to start the year with a solid financial plan.


birthday presentsI was originally going to focus on the entertainment budget today, but last night I had a brainstorm and switched tactics. I started thinking ahead to Valentine’s Day exchanges & Easter baskets—and, I realized our gift budget probably needs the most work. The entertainment budget is actually pretty easy to control with easy access to free fun, deep discounts through Groupon, EverSave and Savvy Source.

The problem with gift giving is there’s always something else—Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, teacher appreciation day, baby & bridal showers. The list just goes on & on. Instead of getting caught off guard, you need to set a budget now, at the beginning of the year. You’ll have to draw lines—which wedding invitations get a gift, whose birthday will you celebrate, what small “holidays” will you recognize? Make a list of occasions where you would want to give a gift. Want—that’s the key. Don’t get caught up in obligation. Don’t feel like you have to give a gift for every invitation you receive.

When invitations or holidays arrive, take a look at the list you’ve just created. Is this someone you would have gifted, if you weren’t invited? Is this a holiday you intend to feature with gifts? If so, how much do you have to spend? Take some time now to think about what you’ll spend for each type of occasion or degree of relationship. Will all wedding gifts be the same amount or do you spend more or less depending on how well you know someone?

If you have one that isn’t in your budget, you can avoid the purchase without guilt. You’ve already made the decision, and they aren’t likely to notice anyway. (I once received a thank you note from a newlywed couple we had decided not to gift.) If you want to honor an occasion with a little something, check out ideas for homemade gifts, our frugal gift ideas, consider regifting or create a gift basket from things you have on hand.

For today, decide how many gifts you want to give throughout the year, and how much you’ll spend on each. Once you know how much you intend to spend throughout the year, start setting aside a portion each month. If you use a savings account, you’ll even have the opportunity to build on your gift giving fund as the money earns interest. Having the money set aside will keep the little gifts from catching you off guard throughout the year, especially at Christmas.

December 25th arrives at the same time each year—don’t let it take you by surprise!


I’m not a financial planner or a budget expert. I’ll just be walking you through the steps I take each time my budget needs an adjustment. In fact, I’ll be participating myself!

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