In this day and age (and I mean since the fall of 2008), everyone is looking to do things cheaply. Even if you can "afford" to spend more money, we have all become more conscious of what we spend and the luxuries we allow ourselves. We have also re-evaluated what is really important. What is pretty much universally recognized is that we no longer look at the price tags of things, but the value. We have not lost our desire to have or give nice things, but we have lost the feeling (in general) that it is necessary to spend an obscene amount of money on something - in order to make it a meaningful gift. Here are a few ideas that I've come up with that I think show a lot of consideration and thoughtfulness, for little or no money. For the most part, the biggest cost is time - and that really is the greater gift!
Free Babysitting - parents ALWAYS love this gift. Last year, before I had a baby, I gave my closest three girlfriends certificates for one night of free babysitting - up to 4 hours! I cannot tell you how much my friends loved this gift! Around Charlotte, that is a $40-$50 value, and all it cost me was time! My husband was working nights at the time, so I had a lot of evenings completely free - so it worked out perfectly. But this can be done as a couple as well - if your husband doesn't work nights. If you don't have kids, what a wonderful way to get an idea of what life will be like with them! If you do have kids, either take them with you, or leave them with your spouse. Either way - don't discount this idea just because you have kids! A great pairing with this gift is a restaurant gift certificate. You may be thinking that if you did that, it would turn your no-money gift into something expensive - but it doesn't have to! If you go to restaurant.com & enter in your zip code, you'll find listing of local restaurants with gift certificates at discounted rates. Right now in Charlotte, you can get a $25 GC (good for $25 off of a $35 + ticket) at Arooji's Wine Room for only $5 using coupon code EAT! If you give that along with your free babysitting, your friends can go out to a super nice restaurant for a few drinks and appetizers - for about $10 + tip - where it would normally cost them nearly $75-85!
Speaking of certificates...
Make a coupon book for your friends! Sometimes the best gifts are the ones that help you out, not necessarily something tangible! Make a coupon book for your friend that includes things like:
- will take your kids on a walk one afternoon, so you can have the house all to yourself for 1 hour
- will pick up "Johnny" from school on the day of your choice
- will take "Susie" to her piano lesson, and feed her dinner; she'll be home by 7:00!
- will weed your front flower bed
- will return your books to the library
- will take your church nursery duty
- will water your plants & collect your mail next time you leave town
- will walk your dog on a cold night
- will serve as the photographer at your child's birthday party
- will allow you to spontaneously show up at my house and demand a cocktail
All you couponers out there: What do you do with all of your excess goods? What about the stuff you get great coupons for, but don't personally use? Well, here are some ideas! These are all things I've gotten recently using coupons and sales - for FREE (unless otherwise noted):
Assemble a gift basket/bag for a friend who is...
... under the weather!
Kleenex, Halls Cough Drops (can be gotten for $.19 at Target this week with coupon stacks), Wolfgang Puck Chicken Noodle Soup, Saltine Crackers, Ghirardelli Chocolate Bar, Pack of Gum, and maybe a bottle of Nyquil, Thereflu, or something like that (I get coupons for those all the time and can normally get a bottle for $1-2). Then look on the Redbox website for a coupon code for a free movie rental - stop by and pick a classic for the "sickie" (just remember that you'll need to pick it up and return it the next day). How awesome would all of this be to get when you're sick?!?!? And the total cost is about $.19 - $2.19...and a little time.
...just had a baby!
Ghirardelli Chocolate Bar, Pack of Gum, 2 Vitamin Waters (purchased for $.50 last week), 2 Frozen Smart Ones Meals (can be purchased at Target this week for $.90 each after coupons and $5 gift card), Kleenex, Rimmel Nail Polish, Yo-Plait Yogurt, Baby Wipes (can normally be purchased for less than $1 with coupons/sales), Package of Diapers (can normally be purchased for about $4-5 with sales/coupons). This is a little more of a pricey gift basket, but the total is still only around $8.80 for about $30 worth of stuff.
...just got married or moved!
Nestle Tolls House Refrigerated Cookie Dough, Philly Cream Cheese, Activia or Yo-Plait Yogurt, Simply Lemonade (purchased for $.50 last week), Eggs (purchased one dozen Egglands Best last week for $1), Tombstone frozen pizza (purchased 12 inch last week for $1.50), Tostitoes Chips (purchased for $.79 last week), Dean's French Onion Dip (purchased for $.07 last week), Breakstone's Sour Cream (purchased for $.40 last week). This little convenience food care package will be great for someone who is trying to get settled in and needs quick convenience food and the total cost is about $4.25, for about $25 worth of groceries.
...just got a new pet!
We do not have any pets, but boy do I get a lot of dog/cat food and treat coupons! Plus, a new Petsmart just opened up in a shopping center really close to my house, so they've been advertising like crazy. I've gotten several coupons for $5 off anything - no minimum purchase required. Much to my shame, I haven't actually done this, but I should have used all those coupons to go in and get little treats or bags/cans of food to keep on hand. I could give such a fun gift bag to a friend with a new puppy - with toys, treats, and puppy food. What a fun little "happy" that would be to give/receive! Or, I could get bags of treats to keep on hand for when people come to visit who have pets!
The lesson learned is: just because you can't personally use it, doesn't mean that someone else you know can't! So, these are just a few ideas to get you started. Look for more ideas coming soon, and please feel free to leave your ideas in the comment section!