Tips for Evaluating Who is on your Gift List

Published on November 14, 2016 By Lauren
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    The holidays are rapidly approaching and for most people it is one of the most stressful times of the year due to finances. I want to talk about something that might be a bit of a sensitive topic... at least, I know it can be for me! Holiday gifts. Specifically, how many we're buying and who are we buying them for.

    This is Day 14 of the 30 Days to a Debt Free Christmas Challenge

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    Today’s tip is key – How to Evaluate Who is on Your Gift List

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    The holidays are rapidly approaching and for most people it is one of the most stressful times of the year due to finances. I want to talk about something that might be a bit of a sensitive topic… at least, I know it can be for me! Holiday gifts. Specifically, how many we’re buying and who are we buying them for.

    It has never been a secret that I enjoy helping people simplify their lives and save money. I think one of the biggest problems we face during the holidays is the pressure to ‘go big or go home’ in terms of gifts. Let’s face it, where do most of our holiday expenses go? Travel and gifts.

    It’s not something we like to think about, but sometimes we need to evaluate who is on our gift list and fight some of these habits we’ve fallen into. Now I’m not telling you NOT to give gifts and I’m not telling you WHO to give gifts to. However, I do think that we can do a better job of examining our gift list.

    Here are some of the biggest issues we face with our gift lists:

    1. Sticking to a budget – We tend to get so excited around the holiday times. Everything is on sale (or so it seems) and everything in the market is designed to make us want to spend, spend, spend. Setting a budget, whether it is an overall budget or a budget per person is a great first step into making sure you’re not overdoing things.
    2. Reciprocation– This might be a tough one for most of us. What happens when someone you gives you a gift? You want to give them one in return. If you have a gift closet, you may have some generic ‘just in case’ gifts stashed away, so that you’ll be prepared. Here is the honest truth, you do NOT have to give a gift for every gift you receive. Yes, I said it. We often feel pressured to give gifts in return, despite not being able to afford it.  Don’t give in to guilt.
    3. Equality – We tend to want to make things fair. There’s nothing wrong with that. But sometimes it can be too much. You might need to make some choices about who gets gifts, what type of gifts, etc. For example you might not be able to afford gifts for all your cousins, or all your nieces and nephews. Or you might not be able to afford ‘big’ gifts for everyone. Consider alternative options.
    4. Reasonable Alternatives  – This is one I think we tend to overlook. There is so much pressure during the holiday season that sometimes we just decide to suck it up and spend money we really shouldn’t be spending. Consider buying many small gift cards for coffee shops or gas stations so that everyone gets something useful. Take charge of family situations by proposing gift exchanges or a secret santa exchanges.

    The point is, I think we tend to lose focus. Even I do. We get caught up in the excitement, we don’t want people to be disappointed. So, above are some of the big issues with our gift lists… but here comes the real tough part. We need to evaluate who is on our gift list. Keep in mind, these are tips and NOT rules.  You know where you need to reconsider your gift-giving.  Do what works for your situation.

    Evaluating who is on your gift list:

    This is tough. Remember, many people may feel similar pressure to spend outside their means. A lot of times people get stuck in cycles of gift giving and no one wants to be the one to stop.

    Here are some methods you can use to evaluate who is on your gift list:

    1. Co-workers – Do you work directly with someone or are they casual acquaintances? Is there a work gift exchange? Remember you can be the creator of a new work tradition by suggesting a secret santa, a holiday pot luck luncheon, etc.
    2. Friends – This can be tough because we like to show our friends we care, but if we gave gifts to all of our friends it could be pricey fast. This would be a great time to institute an alternative solution of setting up a coffee date instead of exchanging expensive gifts.  What could be more valuable than time together?!
    3. Family – As families get older, people get married, have kids, etc. Gift giving can become a huge financial headache. Some families choose to no longer exchange gifts, or only give ‘family’ gifts rather than individual ones.  Discuss it openly with your family.  Everyone should be on the same page on how changes can help everyone focus on what really matters.
    4. Neighbors/Others – Often times these are the groups that may give us unexpected gifts.  Sometimes gifts come out of the blue, sometimes as a thank you for something we did earlier in the year. You don’t need to feel obligated to give a gift in return (although it can certainly be tough to fight that urge).  A sincere thank you note is perfect for this situation.

    Don’t forget – there are plenty of alternative gift ideas that don’t come with a big price tag. Some of those people who aren’t on your gift list may appreciate acts of kindness or service. For example, consider giving the gift of baby sitting your friend’s children so she and her husband can enjoy a date night. Or offer to help someone clean out their attic, something they’ve wanted to do for years. You can give experiences and not gifts.  Acts of service can even be more meaningful than a purchased present.

    Unfortunately there is no quick fix or best solution for solving your gift giving woes. But hopefully this gives you some food for thought and reasonable solutions to keeping your holiday spending under budget! How do you determine who is on your gift list?

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