May is a rough month for my family when it comes to gift giving. There are two birthdays, one anniversary, and one Mother's Day and that is just in the immediate family. Add in the extended family of aunts, uncles, and grandparents and you have double that.

Since birthdays are the individual special day for each person I want to let them know I was thinking of them, but I also need to stay within my income.

For myself, I like to get ideas from each person so that I get what they need or want. In March I sent this email out to the members of my family (You are free to use):

"Ok, it has now been 80 days since Christmas passed and I am giving you this notice that I am gathering your want lists for Christmas 2009. (I use this for birthdays as well)
I will notify you one more time this year and if I don't hear from you then you will get my 'backup plan' gift.
Since it is hard to come up with ideas for gifts, you can email me as you think of them or send a list. Obviously since Christmas is quite a few months off, please let me know of things you WANT and not things you NEED that can't wait.

Ok, there you have it... your official notification that I want your Christmas list.

Of course you don't have to do something like that so here are a few more ideas for ways to save money on those situations where one must come bearing gifts.

1. Baby Showers – Buying baby clothes at the yard sale or getting stuff from Freecycle or Craigslist are ideal. Make sure you inspect them well for stains, rips, buttons missing, and snaps that don't work. Mother’s just want their babies clothed, no one notices the brand name over the squeezable goodness of a baby anyway.

2. Anniversaries – If you are close enough to relatives and friends, offer to baby-sit their kids/pets for a night to get them out of the house and have a date. You give the ultimate gift – time together.

3. Large Families – My father’s side of the family is large and they would draw names for adults and some older kids for Christmas. That keeps the amount of gifts down a bit and no one is forgotten. Another alternative is a ‘white elephant’ gift – you wrap a used item or joke gift for everyone.

4. Spending Limit – At the very least set this up for yourself and let others know what your limit is. And if you can persuade others, make the cap a family affair.

5. Give Home-made – This includes baked goods, home-cooked dinners for a busy family, or hand-made items that you see they may need around the house. Obviously give yourself time to get the item finished, so pre-planning is a must. For my mother’s Birthday, some of her favorite songs were burned to a CD for her for one birthday..

6. In Their Name – Donate to a cause THEY feel comfortable with. In some cases this may go against what you feel is right, but would show your respect to that person and what their beliefs are. Remember to keep the tax deduction receipt for taxes next year.

7. Receiving – Sometimes you just don’t have the money for giving a tangible item. Sometimes the best gift you can give is one of graciousness and gratitude when others help you out. Sometimes a letter that breaks down all the ways they are special and helpful to you can be the most valuable gift that they keep the longest.

And last, but not part of the list - don't forget the Thank you notes for what you have received. Sometimes people feel that what they gave wasn't enough or wasn't appreciated, and receiving a thank-you note lets them know your personal thoughts.

Reader comments:
Let us know what ways have you saved money for anniversaries, birthdays and other gift giving occasions?


  1. Allie // Monday, May 04, 2009 5:25:00 PM  

    When it comes to giving gifts, I often go for favorites like gift cards. Just about every store carries them now, and I even get cash back when I purchase them through Ebates. This way I'm getting a little something back. I consider it good karma!

  2. Jane D // Wednesday, May 06, 2009 9:27:00 AM  

    We usually give books. For baby showers, a few favorite board books is a fabulous gift. I sometimes call the soon to be grandparents to find out what books they read to their kids when they were little. I do pay attention to what kind of books people like and I often give copies of books that I have enjoyed to friends so we can discuss them after they have read them. My mom gets craft books or cookbooks.

  3. Anonymous // Friday, June 12, 2009 9:53:00 AM  

    Seriously, why give a gift, if you aren't willing to put the time in and find out what the recipient would like. As a member of my family, I would tell you not to give me anything.

  4. Dawn C // Friday, June 12, 2009 10:02:00 AM  

    @ Allie
    Good point, buy gifts AND save money with cash back

    @Jane & Kyleen
    The best ways to give gifts are to find out what they want specifically. However, I have asked for ideas over and over and sometimes still don't get info back, so they get the "back up plan" which is just as good - less personal, but you've to work with what you are NOT given