Social Question

Jude's avatar

How do you handle Christmas shopping when you're low on cash? Do you feel pressured to buy for others, when they buy for you?

Asked by Jude (31971 points ) December 20th, 2011

My schooling (masters) is sucking up my funds. I don’t have a lot of money to throw around right now, and Christmas, this year, has been tough, money-wise. My sister and my Dad like spending a nice chunk of coin on presents, and I feel pressured to get them something just as nice.

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20 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Make them something or give them an IOU for a homemade dinner.

Blackberry's avatar

Someone is just not going to get something. That’s how that works lol. Adults will understand, so just get stuff for kids, that’s who this is for anyway.

sliceswiththings's avatar

Secondhand everything! Often times you can find a new board game at a thrift store or recycling center, and used bookstores often have books in very good shape. I hate to promote corporate shopping rather than local shopping, but get $0.01 books and CDs and stuff on Amazon!

jonsblond's avatar

We started giving gifts of homemade baked goodies when money got tight. That’s what all of my siblings do now when we get together. You just need to be honest about your situation and hopefully they’ll understand. We don’t even get presents for nieces and nephews. That’s where grandparents get to step in and spoil their grandchildren.

downtide's avatar

I make something instead. I’m a painter, so I can always do a picture as a gift.

Brian1946's avatar

I once told my family ahead of time, that neither my wife nor I would be participating in any gift exchanging for xmas 1979.

JLeslie's avatar

With my own family I would never feel pressure. They would know my situation and never want me to buy them something if I was financially strapped. We don’t really trade gifts in reality, my parents give me Chanukah money still. If there were children in the family, I would only worry about getting them something, not the adults. In my hsuband’s family they would understand also if someone had little money; there have been times where one person did not give gifts while others did.

With friends, I would feel a little pressure if they got me something really nice. But, not so much if they just gave me some cookies or a very small something. I would either put together something small, bake something, or go into my re-gift stash that I have.

I don’t have many people I trade gifts with, so it isn’t much of a problem.

wundayatta's avatar

I always stayed within a budget. It wasn’t a written down budget. It was more like I needed to have a certain amount of money in the bank before I let myself spend on anything more than the absolutely necessities. I would always save money until I felt like I had enough of a cushion, and then I might ease up a bit.

It’s three decades since I started being on my own and I started treating money that way, and I am finally to a point where I can spend in ways I never could have imagined back when I just got out of college. But I never let anything pressure me. My bottom line was my own financial security, and I would always do without until I could purchase it and still know that if everything went to hell the next day, I’d still have enough in the bank to keep me for six months (that was my cushion in the beginning).

Later, my cushion extended to a year, then two years, then five years, and now probably more than a decade.

There are always presents that fit the budget. They may not be yachts or gold pen knives or the latest boxed set of whatever, but you can afford them within your safety budget. Letting social pressures make you feel like you violate your budget is what gets you into trouble. That’s how people get into financial trouble. They either don’t know what their safety budget it, or they don’t believe it is more important than anything else. Then they spend too much, and it ends disastrously with homelessness or something.

Know what you can afford to spend, and only spend that… preferably less. Don’t let social pressures make you do things that could cause you serious trouble in the long run.

tinyfaery's avatar

It’s the spirit of giving that makes me happy. I love to buy things for people. If it causes you grief, then you are not in the spirit of giving.

How about cards with hand
written sentiments.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I learned long ago not to feel pressured. I appreciate it when someone gives me a nice gift, and I certainly hope that it’s given with a spirit of generosity, and not an expectation of reciprocity. Some years I am generous and giving to all, other years I can do very little, so I happily give food I’ve made, maybe with the recipe enclosed. I can’t be responsible for how others feel about it, I just do what I do. I am always a bit sad if they feel somehow shorted or let down, but usually all things balance out eventually.

janbb's avatar

You can always go for experiential or homemade things – decoupage, babysitting, gardening help, etc.

GladysMensch's avatar

My wife and I are pretty much living paycheck to paycheck. Anyone who expects a gift from us knows that. We told people straight-up that we’re barely making it. They will not be surprised by our sorry gifts.

stardust's avatar

I’m just buying for the nieces and nephews this year as I simply don’t have the money for other gifts. I do feel pressured to spend, in terms of nights out with friends and things like that. I’m burying my head in the sand this year.

jca's avatar

I have some thoughts. One is to tell people ahead of time (it might be a bit late to do this at this point, though) that you are tight for cash and “let’s not exchange gifts this year.” They may or may not buy you something anyway, but at least you warned them that they might not be on the receiving end.

Another is making cookies, as @jonsblond suggested. That is something my mom told me she did when I was a baby, when she was divorcing my father and she did not have much money. People love homemade cookies, you can get some recipes from a magazine or the internet, and you can put them in a tin (even a coffee tin or a plastic gallon bag tied with a pretty ribbon) and people will love it.

Another idea is a candle, which you can often get from a supermarket on sale (I find some supermarkets have better prices on stuff like that because they want to move it out and not have to deal with seasonal crap after the season’s over). Get a nice “jar” candle, put it in pretty paper and it’s good for everyone, and it’s usually about $5 each.

If you have a special craft that you do, there’s nothing like a homemade gift. I wish I had a craft that I am good at that is not too time consuming, and I could whip out some gifts. I have a friend who sews, and she makes all kinds of stuff, easy and cheap. I do decoupage, which is quite time consuming so it’s not practical for making 10 or 20 gifts!

muppetish's avatar

I haven’t felt any pressure as an adult so far. I’m a university student. Everyone knows I don’t have much money (and that what little I do have should be put into savings for occasions when I really need it.) I bought gifts for my immediate family, Significant Other and his little sister. That’s it. Everyone’s gift, except my SO’s, was in the $20 range. It makes my life easier and I know they will like everything I picked out all the same. My friends usually don’t buy my gifts (they’re all school bums too) and though my extended family will buy me something, there isn’t any pressure for reciprocity.

If I had the means to make DIY projects for everyone, I would. But I don’t even have money for materials. Baking would be a swell option, but several people in my family are diabetic and it’s hard to find good recipes for them (it’s something that I need to work on.)

When budget was tight on my parents, they bought all but one of our gifts second hand. The new item would be a shared present for my brothers and I—maybe a video game or board game that we could get some use out of. I spent much of my childhood not even grasping just how tight our budget was.

I don’t think anyone should feel pressured to drop a lot of cash on Christmas. That defeats the purpose of the holiday and its spirit.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Make some homemade food goodie and give each a card. In the card write something to the effect that though this is a cash strapped holiday for you, what you write them is heartfelt- make it heartfelt.

dee1313's avatar

Pinterest is an awesome site for ideas on gift giving… whether it’s crafts or goodies. I found a recipe on there for Cinnamon Honey Butter which is awesome, and I’m going to make a bunch, put it in mason jars, and give that this year.

If you’re curious, the recipe is:
2 sticks butter
1 cup honey
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

creative1's avatar

Knit handmade scarves, bake things and give them out, or look at what supplies I have in the house and create something.

figbash's avatar

I had this problem in grad school, and here’s what I learned. First, if you are in grad school, people don’t expect you to be able to afford the kinds of things that you would if you were working full time. A lot of that pressure is unnecessary pressure you’re placing on yourself!

Second, a little creativity goes a LONG way with a small budget, a few antique/vintage stores and an afternoon to blow. Think about some of the things that are meaningful to your family and get them something that compliments that, for example – my brother was crazy about the movie ET when he was little. I found a set of 4, vintage, original ET glasses for $16. Gift one, done. Someone else in my family was a writer – I found a vintage typewriter for $15. I got a friend a plate from an insane asylum for $5. I found that these odd, obscure gifts seemed more rare/nostalgic and throughtful, which totally eradicated any concept of what I may have paid for them. The receivers were just thrilled at the the concept of having a one-of-a-kind item that meant something to them.

jca's avatar

Also, if people have their own houses/apartments, Christmas ornaments can be had at very cheap prices on clearance, and you can wrap them up very prettily with a nice bow and it’s a nice little gift, fun to open, practical.

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