I love the holidays. Unfortunately, the holidays love me—and by me, I mean my wallet—a little too much. I get so excited about getting things for my friends that I forget that I have no money, and thus end up in January with very happily-gifted friends, but a very empty wallet.
Obviously, I still want to give presents my friends will enjoy, but I don’t want to spend all of my money on them. So I have created ten steps to have both happy friends and a happy wallet! Enjoy.
- If you have a large group of friends, have a Secret Santa exchange. Buying one good present for someone is better than buying eight sorta-good presents for your whole circle.
- Sign up for Groupon and other sale sites. Groupon has great sales on not only fun activities in your area, but goods in general. I named a star after my BFF (I know, super cheesy, but she loved it) for her birthday after I got it half off on a Groupon deal. Other sale sites like Hautelook and Ideeli offer flash sales on designer brands that can often save you 30% off or more on luxury brands.
- Pay for a Cosmo (or other magazine) subscription. The gift that keeps on giving, at an inexpensive one time cost for you! Your friends will think of you every time they get their favorite guilty pleasure in the mail. Check amazon.com for some killer deals on subscriptions.
- Make a coupon book, or find another way to promise future services. Forget the cut-out construction paper book of past (although that would still be super cute and fun to make)—with Photoshop nowadays, you can make anything look professional. Staple a “book” together of pictures of you and the lucky giftee, and on the back of the photos promise them back massages, cooking them dinner, or whatever special talent you have to offer (juggling lessons, anybody?).
- Plan a month or year of dates. If the holiday’s leave you super broke but you have a reasonable financial cushion the rest of the year, plan out the next three month's worth (or year, even) of activities for you and someone else to do. You'll have a pre-planned excuse to get together once a month, and no more "What do you want to do?" "I don't know, what do you wanna do?" Plus, in the following months you can actually afford said activities, unlike during the holidays.
- Give time instead of gifts. Experiences are often much more memorable than gifts. Gifting a bracelet? Cute. Making dinner with your friend and burning the salad...and your eyebrows off? Priceless, although probably not the kind of “memorable” you were going for. Instead of giving tangible presents, promise to spend an entire day or evening just enjoying each others’ company.
- Don’t give out presents. Relatives and friends will understand if you'd rather have electricity than spend money on them. And if they don't, they don’t deserve presents anyway.
- Go homemade. With all of the cute DIY ideas on Pinterest, it's super hard not to find something totally cute—and totally cheap—to make and give away for the holidays. Plus it's the effort that counts, right? And homemade definitely equals lots of effort, and therefore lots of love.
- Give food. Bake me something delicious and I’m your new best friend—the best way to the heart is through the stomach, after all. With a pile of gingerbread cookies or just a bucket of cream cheese frosting, people will forget everything but how amazing of a friend (and cook!) you are.
- Agree on a spending limit. If your fellow collegiettes are financially strapped as well, challenge each other to only spend $15 on gifts and see who gives the most original presents.