Special occasions can often cause financial distress. If your family is as large as mine you know what I mean. It seems like every month there is another gift-giving obligation; birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, graduations, and holidays. However, it is possible to give great gifts that your friends and family will love and all with spending little or no money.
Changing where and when you shop for gifts is the first step. Most occasions are predictable. You know that Christmas falls on December 25th each year and you know when family members’ birthdays occur. So why not purchase gifts when they are at their best prices and put them away for future gift giving occasions?
It’s possible to find great gifts at garage sales and flea markets. I’ve found lots of items at garage sales that still have store sales tags attached or that are in like new condition. People often buy things or get things as gifts that they don’t end up using and fail to return them to the store within the store’s allotted return period. Just because these items end up in the garage sale it doesn’t mean that they were bad gifts. It could be that the gift was bought for someone it wasn’t well suited for, or it could be that the item was the wrong size, or that the person already had an item just like it. I’ve purchased brand new never opened DVDs and toys at garage sales, as well as jackets, snowsuits, dresses, and purses, all with the tags still on them.
Even used items can often be restored to their original brilliance with a bit of cleaner, some elbow grease, and/or a $3 can of spray paint. Some of the garage sale gifts I have restored include a rocking chair, an antique silver tea service, horse-shaped bookends, and a designer sweater with a missing button. I can honestly say no one has ever been disappointed with my gifts if anything my relatives fight over them!
Expect to pay 25% of the item’s retail value at garage sales and flea markets. Also never be afraid to ask the seller to take less than their sticker price. Many sellers are motivated to get rid of clutter so they are likely to take what you offer. Most importantly keep a list of the people that you regularly buy gifts for and check them off as you find gifts for them. When you purchase gifts months ahead of an occasion it’s easy to forget that you have already a gift set aside for someone.
Other places where you can find great gifts at low prices include gaming stores, online swap and sell sites- such as Craigslist and Facebook, and paper adverts- such as your local newspaper. Many gaming stores buy and sell used games and gaming systems at a fraction of their retail value. Most of these places offer a 30-day money back guarantee on used items so there is no risk of getting stuck with an item that is damaged. Best of all your kids aren’t going to know or care that the game is used. Amazon also offers a wide variety of used items at discounted prices with return guarantees. If there isn’t a swap and sell group for your area then feel free to create your own on Facebook. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your group will grow!
Shopping the day after a holiday can net you big savings on gifts as well. I stock up on gifts for my kids after every gift-giving holiday, including Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Christmas. Shopping clearance deals at the end of each season is also a big money saver. Stores mark prices way down to make room for new merchandise. Their loss is your gain.
Lastly, who doesn’t like to get a gift card? Gift cards are the most versatile gifts and best of all you can often get them for free. The smartphone Shopkick App awards gift cards to consumers just for doing what they already do. You can earn Shopkick points by walking into stores, scanning merchandise with your phone, and/or making purchases at participating stores. These points can be redeemed for a variety of gift cards. You can give these cards as gifts or redeem them for gifts.
Companies such as Coke Cola and Huggies have reward programs that allow customers to earn gift cards by redeeming codes on their products. Target stores often run gift card promotions as well. They will give you a gift card when you buy participating promotional products. Restaurant chains are another source of free gift cards. Many of them periodically run promotions which reward customers with free bonus gift cards when they make a gift card purchase. If you already eat at these places why not buy the gift cards during the promotional period? Use purchased gift cards instead of cash to pay for your meal and give the bonus cards away as gifts.
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