5 frugal last-minute gifts for the holiday season

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The approaching holidays mean that we’re well in the swing of shopping season, rushing to pick the perfect presents to gift to our friends and family. But the price tag for these presents can add up to big bills for you — and everyone else. But if you’re on a tight budget this holiday season, there’s no reason you can’t still give great gifts that anyone would appreciate, even if you’re now shopping at the last minute. You can stay frugal this holiday season without disappointing anyone.

1. Set a gift budget. It’s not how much you spend, it’s the thought that counts. So if you’re on a tight budget this holiday season, it may be time to have a chat with friends and family to set gift budgets. Saying you’ll only spend $5, $10, $25, or $50 for gifts can take a lot of the budget-busting stress out of holiday gift-giving for everyone involved. Whether it’s a white elephant at work or giving gifts to family, have a chat with them and all of you can worry a little less about diving into debt this holiday season.

gift-box-3002. Pick up gifts for (almost) nothing.There are lots of ways to get things for (mostly) free, and to save this holiday season you should use all of them you can. Here are three common options:

  • Gift cards: Chances are you’ve collected gift cards at past birthdays or holidays that you’ve forgotten to spend. The holiday season is a great time to rummage through your desk and find any gift cards that can be used to fund your own holiday shopping spree.
  • Credit card reward points: If you have a rewards card and you’ve been collecting points, now’s a great time to cash in for any potential rewards that might help you fund your gift-giving. Some rewards points can be cashed in for cash, gift cards, or even used directly at retailers — so investigate your rewards program and make use of it!
  • Other reward points: A lot of brands and retailers have their own rewards program that lets you earn points for purchases that you can use to pick up items for your holiday gift list. So before you spend any cash, take a careful look at the things you already buy to see if they might be worth reward points.

3. Get crafty. Homemade gifts may not be free, but they do tend to cost less than store-bought alternatives. And even if you don’t feel you have any crafting skills, there are plenty of easy ways to make your own homemade gifts, personalized for your friends and family. Consider making family photo albums, baking cookies, gathering themed items into a special gift basket, or enlisting the kids to help make holiday cards. Trust us, the time and effort you put into these gifts will be appreciated.

4. Pick up gift cards at a discount. Gift cards are a great present for the hard-to-buy for — and they help eliminate the hassle of unwanted gifts and returns. Sharp-eyed shoppers can find gift cards retailers and restaurants on discount for less than their value around the holidays, or at warehouse stores year-round. Whether you use the cards to buy gifts or just give them as gifts, it can really help your money go farther.

5. Give the gift of credit union membership. You didn’t think we’d get to the end of this list without mentioning our favorite frugal gift, did you? Credit union membership might not seem like an exciting present, but it’s a very practical one that’s ideal for young adults heading off to college (or beyond) as well as anyone trying to cut down on banking fees — and debt.

Now good luck — and happy holiday shopping!

Posted in: Holiday, PenFed 5, Saving Money
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