I watched as the bride-to-be opened gift after gift piled on the table. I was pleased that my package was up next. Carefully she unwrapped the gift and found two sets of silverware. It was service for 16. I heard the ?ooh?s and ?aah?s from the crowd and felt smug that I?d purchased this gift for less than $5. The regular price of the silverware was almost $50! One woman leaned over to me and said that she?d looked at silverware, but it was way too expensive for her. I smiled and invited her to come shop with me sometime.
I?m a stay-at-home mom, and my husband is a pastor. We don?t have a lot of disposable income, but I love to bargain-hunt. And I love to give gifts to people.
I believe that God has given us the money, time, and energy we have each day and that He expects us to use them wisely. So here are seven tips for helping you give gifts without breaking your bank or hassling last-minute shopping expeditions.
1 Plan ahead. In order to be ready for gift-giving occasions, you need to plan ahead. This sounds simple enough, but every year people wait until the week before Christmas to do their shopping. This takes away the fun of the holidays, and the gift exchanges become a chore rather than the blessings they should be.
2 Make a list. Write down the events and people for whom you?ll need to buy gifts. Also, write down some ideas (sizes, favorite colors, hobbies, etc.). Then, throughout the year, watch for things that are on sale that would work as good gifts for those on your list. Make sure you put dates on your calendar, too, so you can plan ahead if you need to ship the gift or get it delivered on time. When you acquire a gift for someone, note it on your list. This will help when your sister-in-law?s birthday is next week and you want to remember what you?d planned to give her.
3 Establish a gift closet. No, you don?t need a whole closet, but you do need somewhere to store your gifts so you can find them when you need them. It doesn?t save any money at all to plan ahead and purchase a gift and stow it somewhere, but then not be able to find it and have to go out and buy something else at full price!
4 Watch for after-season clearance sales. The silverware I purchased for the bridal shower was on a 90-percent-off sale at Target after Christmas. I paid $2.29 for each set! I bought four boxes for less than the price of one and still have two sets on my shelf for the next bridal shower I?m invited to.
5 Think outside the gift-giving box. There are many things we can give as gifts that are never purchased at the store. A friend made coupons for a new mom for a free hour of babysitting, doing laundry, preparing dinner, and various other services that she might appreciate. The mom was thrilled with the thoughtfulness of this gift.
Several years ago we moved into a new town in the dead of winter. We were lonely and a bit depressed. The movers had left, and we were sitting on piles of boxes trying to figure out what to do first. The doorbell rang, and there stood our new neighbor with two pizza crusts from her freezer, a jar of sauce, and a bag of cheese. I nearly cried right there at the door. It was such a thoughtful gesture. She turned out to be a very good friend the whole time we lived there.
6Go beyond the department store. There are so many places to find great deals on gift items. Some of my favorite places are secondhand stores. I purchase baskets to fill with my bargains. I?ve also found brand-new items with the tags still on them for a fraction of the original price. This summer I purchased brand-new Lands? End duffel bags for $1 each at the thrift shop. I plan to fill them with essentials for a dorm room for those graduations I?m sure will be coming.
Yard sales are also a great place to find all sorts of treasures. You can?t exactly plan on specific items being available, but you might be surprised at the things you find for pennies. I?ve found all sorts of new or like-new items that have gone into my gift closet: mugs to fill with after-Christmas-sale candy; baskets to stuff with lotions, soaps, and other toiletries; tins or boxes to fill with homemade cookies or candy; children?s books; brand-new baby outfits; photo albums and picture frames.
7Shop your own ?store.? We all have gifts that have been given to us or things we?ve purchased but never used that would be perfectly suitable for gifts. Just because Aunt Bertha gave you that item doesn?t mean you can?t bless someone else with it if you?re never going to use it.
As women we love to give good gifts to our children, parents, coworkers, friends, and relatives. Jesus said, ?It is more blessed to give than to receive? (Acts 20:35). When we?ve planned ahead and are able to give gifts without the stress of last-minute shopping and spending, we indeed end up the richer with the blessings that God wants to shower on us.
Karen Carlton is a freelance writer from Wisconsin. She loves to garden, read, sew, and play the piano. She?s also a stay-at-home mom of two children.