September 4, 2003
Fruits are acceptable gifts, because they are the flower of commodities, and admit of fantastic values being attached to them. If a man should send to me to come a hundred miles to visit him, and should set before me a basket of fine summer-fruit, I should think there was some proportion between the labor and the reward. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Believe it or not, you can enjoy a reputation as a superior gift-giver without going into debt. Below are a bunch of handy money-saving gift-giving 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.
- Wrap gifts in the comics from your Sunday newspaper, aluminum foil, drawings from the kids, or photocopies of your body parts.
- 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. Nowadays, many computer programs can create calendars from your pictures.
- For people who have everything, consider giving a gift to a charity in their name. (We invite you to consider the five fascinating charities we've raised money for in past Foolanthropy campaigns.)
- Assemble a booklet of your favorite and most successful recipes -- it costs little and can mean a lot to the recipient(s).
- Create 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 for the best price on it. Check out online sales, too. Sites such as DealCatcher, DealTime, Amazing-Bargains, 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 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 whenever they're needed.
- 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. Or just pop in there to see what other Fools are saying. And consider browsing through FoolMart for gifts, too.
For more personal finance and investing basics, visit our Personal Finance area, our Investing Basics area, and our Fool's School. You can also learn a lot via our acclaimed How-to Guides and online seminars and our book,The Motley Fool Money Guide: Answers to Your Questions About Saving, Spending and Investing.