Folks: we’re entering the height of the gift-giving season. There are more events – weddings, graduation ceremonies, baby showers, etc. – in May, June and July than almost every other month combined. And whether you love to give gifts, or would prefer almost any other method of showing your love and admiration, a disorganized last-minute approach can do serious damage to your wallet.
Last-minute gift buying – like last minute buying of almost anything – leads to misguided purchases. You buy something you want (instead of what your giftee wants), or fall victim to peer pressure (“if so-and-so is spending $100, I have to spend $100”), or revert to the same old habit (every baby gets a blanket even if the blanket that used to cost you $35, now costs $60). Whether you always look for the “perfect” present, or find yourself snagging a gift 45 minutes before your nephew’s graduation party, taking a more strategic approach could help save you money and guilt. Here’s how:
Plan by quarter. Look ahead three months in your calendar (I think it’s easiest to do this by season – spring, summer, etc.). Compile a list of all the occasions for which a gift is expected, then figure out how much you can afford to spend. Is it $300? $500? A thousand dollars? Once you do that, you know how the gifts you have to buy match up against the money in your budget.
Remember, not all gifts are created equal. You don’t have to treat every gift the same way – and there’s no need to pull the same lever every time. Think about the person you’re buying for – what do they value? It’s usually one of four things: 1) money –to help them start a new phase of their life 2) time – spending time with you, or finding more time for them; 3) thoughtfulness – whether it’s a picture album or a piece of art; or 4) practicality – they want exactly the item they’ve asked for (think wedding or shower registry). Remember: don’t confuse what you would want with what the person you’re buying for values.
Prioritize and get creative. Once you know how many gifts you need to buy (and when), and have a ballpark gift budget tailored to each recipient, you’re ready to shop.
New York Times bestselling author Julie Morgenstern is an organizing and time-management expert, business productivity consultant and speaker. Her company, Julie Morgenstern Enterprises, is dedicated to using her philosophies and methods to provide a wide range of practical solutions that transform the way people and companies function.