I understand; this time of year is sentimental (and prices on everything from holiday decorations to food to gifts reflect that). But it’s just not worth it to derail your budget in the very last month of the year when you’ve been so good leading up to it. Here are a few ways to gift smarter this year without looking like a Grinch:
- Get Personal. When it comes to elevating your gift-giving game, it’s about putting in the extra effort—not the extra dough. Take the time to find gifts that are specific, inexpensive and special for each recipient. I can write an entire book about the presents I’ve given to people over the years, whether for a holiday or after a great meeting. They are thoughtful tokens of love and appreciation; nothing lavish. For example, I gave a fun Superwoman USB drive to a hardworking female relative who said she liked the one I had on my keychain. I sent a little box with nail polish, top coat, and a package of cute emory boards to a friend who said she was thinking about trying a daring yellow manicure for her holiday vacation. One year, I sent a monthly subscription for a box of gluten-free snacks to a colleague who said she had a tough time finding healthy food at work. I keep an ongoing list in the Notes app on my phone where I jot down little things that people mention throughout the year, so that when the holidays roll around I’m not stuck for thoughtful ideas. The point is that the gifts should be personal, not pricey.
- Avoid temptation. As you can see, I’m a huge proponent of the thought counting more than the pricetag, which is why you should avoid a little thing I like to call “price matching.” No, not the kind where you find a lower price elsewhere and ask your retailer to match it — that one, I fully approve! I mean the phenomenon in which you feel the need to spend the same amount of money on various people on your list. Here’s the thing: the price is only one component of the gift. The thought and the gift’s utility should factor in immensely, too. Maybe you spent $50 on a cozy wool scarf for you uncle, because he lives in blustery Chicago and walks to work. You want to get your aunt a $25 gift card for a manicure at her favorite local nail salon, but don’t want her to feel slighted. I say: bologna!! The price differential doesn’t matter in the least as long as both parties will enjoy (and actually) use their gifts, and sticking with your gut on the “perfect” gift regardless of a more modest price tag will save you money in the long run.
- Show some love. The holidays are an important time to show your regular support team some extra love. If you have a housekeeper, nanny, personal trainer, dog-walker, or any other person who is regularly working in your home, they come first. The custom is to tip them a day’s wages, but I also like the idea of giving them an extra day off if you can manage (after all, they probably have holiday shopping of their own to tackle!). If you do go the cash route, tuck it inside a festive card with a thoughtful note from the whole family. Gift cards are also a nice gesture, but unless you know their tastes keep it generic (Visa or Target gift cards are usually a safe bet). If you live in an apartment building or condo complex, your doorman and superintendent are the next group of people with whom you probably have the most day-to-day contact. Tipping varies wildly by region, just as rent does, so asking your neighbors (especially those who have lived in the building for a while) is a good way to start. If you’re still not sure, calculate 2-5% of your monthly rent and offer that as a cash tip. Homemade gifts like cookies and candy are also a nice reminder that you appreciate the work they do for your home. If you’re like many women, you’re probably going to see your hairdresser, nail technician, and other beauty experts during the holidays. So there’s no need to seek them out for a tip; just tack on an extra 5% to what you usually tip at your next appointment.
Remember, no matter who you’re gifting or tipping and how much, it’s the delivery that counts. Always include a personal note, especially in the event that you’re giving less than usual — or can’t afford to give it all. That way your recipient will feel appreciated regardless of the dollar amount inside. A simple “happy holidays” and note of appreciation goes a long way. ‘Tis the season, right?