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Gifting on a Dime

"Oh no, it's Susan's birthday today and I have nothing and we need to be at the party in an hour!" Wendy and John finished getting ready and jumped in their car. Fifteen minutes later they pull into the drug store parking lot and Wendy runs inside. She scans the lines of cards for five minutes until one pops out. She fails to notice the $11.99 price tag. The meager

gift rack is no more forgiving. Wendy settles on a set of costume jewelry, and grabs a gift bag on her way out to the checkout. "How much did it all come to?" asked John when Wendy returned to the car. Wendy's face went red and she said quietly, "Fifty dollars." John groaned while his eyes flitted over the gas gauge. Quarter tank left. "How long have you known Susan?" he asked. "We used to work together five years ago. We keep in touch sporadically on Facebook." They pull out of the lot and use their remaining gas to reach the next town. When they enter the neighborhood John jams on the brakes. "We forgot a bottle of wine!" Sound like a familiar story? Gifts are one of those expenses that tend to be unplanned and constantly throw off the weekly budget. But they don't have to be. We all know the major holidays are coming and the same birthdays are on the calendar each year. For each event calculate how much you expect each to cost. If you already have the savings, set it aside at the beginning of the year for these expenses. But even if you don't, this is where a gift corner becomes a blessing. After a holiday when everything goes on clearance, take this opportunity to stock up your gift reserve with discounted cards and generic gifts that anyone would enjoy. Think soap and shampoo gift sets, boxes of tea, a set of hand towels, dinky cars, puzzles, dolls and other things the average household uses regularly. Try to keep the cost of each item in the gift corner at $10 or less. Don't go crazy accumulating gifts. Five should be sufficient. Speaking from experience, the gift corner completely bailed us out this past Christmas. Using the above example of Wendy and John, they could have spent $15 instead of $50 last minute. These dollars add up fast so don't throw off your budget by a fun, impromptu social event. Most people are simply happy you thought of them and aren't expecting a lavish gift, so don't break the bank when you don't have to. Remember, life is sweeter with a little planning.

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