Monday, September 19, 2011

Giving on a Budget - Part One

My husband and I love being able to give. On a tight budget, I sometimes feel so limited. We always budget for tithing because it is part of our love and honor toward God. Then after all our necessities have been budgeted, we set aside gift money for family birthdays and special occasions like father’s/mother’s day and Christmas. I also like to include gifts for close friends when possible.

Sometimes there just isn’t enough room in the budget for a gift category, so I’ve learned to get creative. Turns out we don’t need to spend much money to be able to give!

Since Christmas is about 3 months away, I wanted to share some ways I’ve beat the budget. I will be posting this in two parts, so be sure to check back for more ideas.

Be realistic about giving gifts. It is natural for me to want to give a gift to someone for every happy milestone in their life. But it is not practical to do so! It is also not necessary to spend a huge amount of money on a gift either. I have to remember it’s more important to be a good steward with our finances and focus on being a blessing to people, rather than just giving them another “thing”.

Save throughout the year. This is especially helpful when getting ready for Christmas. Each month if there is a little left over, it can be set aside to go toward gifts so we have it when we need it.

Shop throughout the year. Over the past couple of years I have learned how to watch for sales, use coupons and buy strategically. If I plan my shopping ahead of time (rather than buying them a day before the occasion) I can usually find the best deals. I will get items at their lowest prices and hold them until it is time to gift them.

Earn rewards/cash back for gifts. I am signed up with Swagbucks, Ebates and Synovate to help me earn some extra cash. These are sites that award points, bucks or cash back for doing internet searches, taking surveys, shopping online and more. So far this year, I have earned a little more than $100 combined from these sites. There are many sites like this you can choose from, but these are ones I focus on. (Click the links above and look for upcoming posts to find out more about each one.)

Join social deal sites like Groupon or Living Social. These sites will post deals 50-90% off regular prices for dining out, travel, spa services, attractions and more. They will often give you opportunities to earn “bucks” toward purchases on their site when you refer a friend…or sometimes just for being a customer! I have given these certificates as gifts and also used them to purchase gifts. Again, there are so many sites that are like this, but these are the two I use most often.

More ideas are coming…check back soon! J