Monday, February 7, 2011

Living Rich in Retirement-Ye Olde Gift Closet (Or Holidays on $500 yearly)

What's this, you say???? Talking about Christmas in February??????

Truly, when you are attempting to live richly in retirement or be frugal on a tight income, certain expenses have to be watched at all times.  One area where unexpected expenses creep in are those holiday costs.  Another red flag are the little gifting and celebratory expenses that pop up, often unplanned and generally unbudgeted.  These costs range from birthday dinners to new baby gifts, with the biggest category being those December expenses. My problem is, I don't want to give up these costs or celebrations. When it comes to holidays and events, I am NOT a less is more kind of gal.

So in order to continue to be able to gift and celebrate the way I like, I've decided to step outside the box and pump up my creativity.  Remember now, creativity is not just about "craftiness," its about thought processes and originality as well.  I'm not interested in dollar tree gifts for all.  Instead, I  want to give meaningful gifts that the recipients will cherish. I just don't want to spend the typical dollar amount for those gifts.

There are a few techniques I'll use to keep costs down. Some of these I already do (and have shared before), some will be new to me.  Other than crafting options, none of these require any real time other than the quick daily perusal of offers and deals.

  • I have a gift closet, and when I see a great deal a someone will enjoy, this is where I put it.  I want to say again, that I don't buy junk, and I don't buy things people will not use.  I know family members well, and have a good idea of what they need. Admittedly, we have no ankle biters in our midst, and don't have to worry about changing interests and desires of a six year old.
  • I keep an eye out for steals and deals. This is not time consuming, and does not take away from anything else. I visit two websites daily while checking my mail, and have daily email coming in from a couple of websites. In the past week I have gotten two $20 Barnes and Noble gift cards for $10 each.  The week before I got a $35.00 voucher to Bath and Body Works for $10.00
  • I use most of my rewards on gift cards from reputable retailers. Some of these come through swagbucks, some from my debit rewards card, some from other places.  So far I have 3 $5.00 Target gift cards (earned for buying my brand of dog food), a $25.00 Walmart Gift Card (earned through Chase debit rewards), and a $15.00 I tunes Card (gotten for buying one of those twinsets of HP ink.
  • I keep my eyes out occasionally for those so called "unadvertised" specials.  Although I am not a huge shopper, I do mall walk in the cold weather.  I generally do a quick walk around of the anchor stores in case I see a cosmetic special to take advantage of.
  • I allow time ahead and plan for those handmade items, and I don't over extend myself in this area.
None of these tactics would be worthwhile if I didn't store the things properly and keep track of what was there.  Anything can be stored for along time if packed properly. Simply using a Ziploc bag for candles or bath sets keeps them smelling good and in good condition.  When I make a set of coasters, I wrap them in ribbon before storing them in my gift closet.  I keep the gift cards that I may spend (such as Target and Walmart) in my purse, where other gift cards (I tunes and the like) are stored in an envelope with a list of gifts and value.

I truly believe that by enlarging my gift closet (creating a "gift pantry" if you will), up in the creativity and using shopping techniques I already have that I will be able to provide wonderful gifts for half of last year's costs.  Hey, maybe I'll lower that goal to $400.00, what do you think?

To date I have two decorated journals with matching book mark and pen, an eggnog goblet with nutmeg grater, three designer bath sets, an Itunes card and4  gift cards in my wallet to spend. Total amount spent: is $30.00, leaving me $470. If I can achieve the same each month with the same outgo, I will be ahead of the game, and that doesn't take into account the quilts in the sewing room. I love a challenge!!


  1. A gift closet reminds me of something very similar we maintained at the various radio stations I worked at years ago.

    Extra CDs, concert or movie passes, random gifts from various advertisers, T-shirts, and the like were kept in a gift closet and given to station visitors when the need arose. The giveaways were inexpensive but made the recipients happy.

    Your approach using Groupon coupons and other discounted gift cards is tremendous. The goal is to make someone else happy, not spend more money than needed to accomplish that goal.

  2. Thanks for all the information. This is a great idea that has got me thinking.


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