FOOL'S SCHOOL DAILY Q&A
How to Save Money on Gifts

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By Selena Maranjian (TMF Selena)
December 13, 2001

Q. How can I save money on gifts?

A. Below are a bunch of handy ideas, many of them contributed by Fool community members on our Living Below Your Means discussion board.

� Do your holiday and birthday gift shopping throughout the year. You may find some perfect presents at good prices four months away from the gift-giving time, and that will save you from having to buy a less-perfect, more-expensive gift later. (Oops -- it may be too late for this for the holidays, but it's still a good idea. Keep reading for more ideas.)

� Wrap gifts in the comics from your Sunday newspaper, aluminum foil, photocopies of your body parts, or just plain paper that can be decorated by the kids.

� If you're sending flowers to someone, contact a florist near the recipient and order a bouquet directly. This can be considerably cheaper than using a national service such as FTD. If you're ordering flowers for someone in a hospital far away, try calling the hospital gift shop. They can often send a nice bouquet or plant to the patient upstairs for less than you'd pay ordering from a national florist.

� Some very special gifts can be quite affordable. Consider having a T-shirt, mug, or calendar made for a friend or relative from a favorite photo. Photos themselves make wonderful gifts. Grandparents, for example, will likely treasure a collection of family photos more than a new waffle iron.

� Make your own customized calendar gifts for others by buying a calendar of the upcoming year and pasting your own photos over the ones it comes with. This can also be done with most desktop publishing programs such as PhotoShop, using digital pictures or pictures scanned into the computer.

� For people who have everything, consider giving a gift to a charity in their name. (And consider the five fascinating charities we're raising money for this year in our Foolanthropy campaign.)

� Assemble a booklet of your favorite and most successful recipes -- it costs little and can mean a lot to the recipient(s). Perhaps include some samples of the dishes the recipes will create.

� Assemble and give someone a scrapbook filled with memories -- or a collection of letters and thoughts from the recipient's friends and loved ones.

� If you know what you want to buy for someone, seek out the best price. Check out online sales, too. Sites such as DealCatcher, Amazing-Bargains, SmartBargains, and Bluefly can help you save big bucks.

� Consider doing some gift shopping using "pre-owned" items. (Just call them "vintage" or "classic" or "collectors' items," instead of "used.") Sites such as eBay, uBid.com, Half.com, as well as Amazon.com and Yahoo! auction sites can yield some treasures.

� Give coupons for services you'll render. Your parents can redeem a coupon worth six hours of your help fixing up the house. Give a friend a coupon offering two Saturdays of gardening help, or three nights of babysitting. You might even offer coupons for delivered meals. Just ask for a 48-hour lead time to deliver a tasty homemade casserole and cake.

� Chip in on a gift with friends and relatives. It can end up costing you less and resulting in a boffo gift for the recipient.

If you have more ideas, share them on our Living Below Your Means discussion board. And browse through FoolMart for gifts, too. We even offer convenient gift certificates!

This question and answer is adapted from The Motley Fool Money Guide: Answers to Your Questions About Saving, Spending and Investing. For answers to this and 499 other common money questions, check it out -- it's a handy resource (and a terrific holiday gift!).