How to buy a gift
When people hear the word “frugal,” they think “cheap,” and that is an error. Frugal living is planning and making life happen the way you want it to happen.
One factor of life that has to be addressed is gift giving. I’m going to show you how I buy a gift using frugal principles.
I have never heard of anyone say, “I sure wish __________ had paid 20% more for my gift”. There is no reason to not be
frugal when buying a gift. It is important to give gifts the receiver desires and will appreciate, but it is not necessary or important to pay top dollar for them.
In the past, when you bought a gift, I imagine it went something like this: Someone close to you would say, “It sure would be nice if I got a ___________ for my birthday, anniversary, or whatever.” After hearing this, you’d run out and buy it. Nice job, task completed. … Are you kidding me? There’s a huge problem. There was nothing frugal in the process of purchasing that gift!
OK—this post is about how to buy a gift using the frugal mindset.
In order for this event to be accomplished frugally, three elements are needed:
1. Planning. You already know most of the people and the dates you’re likely to give gifts.
2. Funds need to be saved and allocated for the purchase.
3. Allow time to shop for the best price.
More than likely, you knew this date was coming. You may not have known you were going to be asked for an Icelandic Golden Trinity Cross Necklace or a Stihl MS181 chainsaw, but you did know that you were going to be buying gifts. You should have been planning—considering both the preferences of the recipient and the necessary limits to your generosity. That stage needs to be done considerably ahead of time. Then funds for the purchase can be saved and designated. Plenty of time for finding a reasonable supplier (shopping) should also be allowed.
Consider the planning phase. If, from the beginning, you control the whole buying process, then it should be fairly easy to buy a gift frugally. —No Duh— I mean, you do know your family and friends well. Right? So, you should have a pretty good idea of what they would like. You may not get to pick the occasion, but if you set your price and pick a gift with the likes of the one you’re gifting in mind, you’ll probably be able to find a pleasant, inexpensive “surprise.”
Often, it’s not that easy. Most people have an idea about what they’d like to receive for a given occasion; they’ll make a suggestion—solicited or not. Why not preempt the situation? Considerably ahead of time, ask for several suggestions. You can contribute guidance (control) by asking leading questions: Is there a book you’d like? Did I hear you wanted a new charm? Did you wear out your sandals last summer? How often do you stop at Star Bucks? Ask for suggestions that cover a variety of categories and a range of prices.
And, now, you can pick the price and the gift.
Here’s a frugal living tip: When you set up your budget, establish a gift fund to which you make regular contributions. It takes a lot of pressure off if you already have some money set aside when the time comes to buy a gift.
No detail is insignificant. If you’re open to suggestions for gifts, then the person making the request should be willing to give you a clear description of what to look for. Learn everything you can about the item.
Just as an example, if you are looking for a chainsaw, you need to know more than just “chainsaw.” Is a gas, electric, or battery-powered motor preferred? What size motor? What length bar (the chain guide)? What type of work is going to be done; is the back 40 to be cleared or just a couple of limbs trimmed? Is a brand name such as a Stihl a requirement? Or, will something more generic be just as welcomed? (Even if it’s a high-end name brand, given enough time, there is a good probability of finding what you’re looking for at a discount.) The point I am trying to make, is you need to know every detail possible in order to purchase the desired item at the best price.
Obviously, the description will vary from item to item. The details you gather to purchase the perfect chainsaw will be very different from those you need to buy the perfect pair of shoes. However, some of the questions will be the same: Brand? Size? Whenever possible I get a picture of the item.
****put a couple of picts here—a chainsaw & a pair of fancy shoes would be good.
Hopefully, I’ve allowed plenty of time for this phase. I like to make pricing stops at stores I expect to sell the item I’m looking for. (I don’t—usually—look for jewelry in a hardware store.) However, since I work at buying a gift frugally, I don’t make special “destination” trips. I visit places in the areas I have other business. If I’m short on time, or a store is too remote, I call. Regardless, as soon as I know what I’m looking for I start watching ads for a sale.
I also shop online, being very cautious to make sure I’m looking at the correct item. (Sometimes, knockoffs can be a concern.) And, of course, when I do online pricing, I include shipping and handling charges as part of the cost.
As I find my gift item at various venues, I make a note of the shop and the price (location, if I need to). I include any pertinent information I’ve asked for: Is this item regularly stocked, or is it a special promotion? If it is out-of-stock when I’m ready to buy, will it be restocked quickly, or am I likely to be placed on a backorder list?
It’s also a good idea to inquire about return policies. Can the item be returned? Is there a limited time for returns? Is there a restocking fee? Will there be any lag time in getting my money back?
As I (re)search the item I plan purchase, I begin to get a feel for the price range. When I think I have found the best price. I make the purchase. If I find a better deal later, I can take advantage of it and return the first. A few factors might influence me to buy a gift at a greater-than-minimum price (but certainly not at full price)—the store’s stocking routine and, especially, the terms of the return policy.
I’d like to make a point here: I seldom pay full-price for anything. BUT… I did open this post saying that “frugal” and “cheap” are not necessarily synonymous. When I buy a gift I look for the lowest price without compromising on quality. Being frugal should not be demeaning, rather it should enhance your life.
Don’t be a victim of bad gift buying habits. Know the person you’re buying for; know their likes and dislikes. Since most gifting dates come regularly plan ahead by (1) having a fund ($$$) you can draw on to buy a gift, and (2) get input from the person who will receive the gift. (A good description is important!) Set aside an adequate amount of time to find that special gift at a great price. Understand stocking and return policies before you make a purchase. The gift will make the receiver happy. Buying frugally should add to your enjoyment of giving.
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