10 Strategies for Smart Gift-Giving This Year

©. Unsplash/ Eugene Zhyvchik

No more shopping blindly. It's time to question your whole approach to holiday gifts.

Christmas is wonderful, but seeing one's hard-earned cash disappear rapidly in the form of gifts is less than delightful. Don't get me wrong – it's good and worthwhile to give, but it doesn't need to be done in the lavish way that is so often portrayed in Christmas movies or by advertisers. You can still be thoughtful and generous without breaking the bank.

Enter Mrs. Frugalwoods' lengthy 2019 holiday gift guide. It's full of readers' suggestions for trimming the gift expenses and avoiding the financial distress that so often ensues in January. These are some of my favorite suggestions from that list, as well as some of my own.

1. Use credit card reward points to shop. Whether you have a cash-back card or points, this is a great way to get something for nothing.

2. Regift. This works best if you plan in advance. If someone gives you something you don't need, keep it for regifting down the road. Scour second-hand stores and garage sales for items with tags still on and scoop them up. Mrs. Frugalwoods says she does this all year round, stashing items in a large tote.

3. Give second-hand. Discuss with family members in advance if this interests you. If everyone follows the same rule, it can work well. Otherwise, give second-hand to young kids who won't notice the lack of tags. Mrs. Frugalwoods jokes that it's more authentic, anyway:

"Look, as far as I know, Santa does not do packages with tags on. He’s more of an old-school fellow with no use for cellophane. I’m just keeping it real."

4. Give gifts only to kids. Again, talk to family members and see if they'd be interested in limiting gift-giving to children.

5. Pick names. My extended family always did this, putting all the nine grandchildren's names into a hat and picking one. It made shopping so much easier, and allowed each child to get a nicer gift.

6. Make homemade luxury goods. I loved this idea of making homemade preserves, chocolate-dipped strawberries, bath bombs, whipped body butters, biscotti, spiced nuts, ginger beer, infused oils or vinegars, tomato sauce, etc.

7. Give edible gifts. Maple syrup, coffee beans, wine, craft beer, olive oil, nuts, spices, chocolate, homemade cookies or granola, or jars of applesauce are all consumables that can be enjoyed without cluttering a person's home permanently.

8. Stick with practical gifts. Certain things, such as wool socks, undergarments, mittens, nice soaps, stainless steel water bottles, glass food storage containers, slippers, and snow gear, are eternally useful, especially if you have a young family.

9. Give a favor. This is an adult-to-adult gift that would mean a lot. Offer a night or two of babysitting, or daytime childcare. Offer to make dinner certain number of times, pay for a housecleaner to come, have the family car detailed, or have a yard cleanup crew come to the house.

10. Experiences last longer than things. I'm a big fan of experiential gifts. A day at the local ski hill, an outing to the spa or a nearby winery/cidery/brewery with friends, a pedicure or manicure, a horse-and-wagon ride, a trip to an indoor water park or rock climbing facility, a cooking lesson – all of these are wonderful ways to spend time with people you love, while creating a memory you'll never forget.