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.
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