How to be a thrifty gifter this year

By jessica gulseth

gulsethje@mnstate.edu

As college students, some days it’s a struggle to afford more than a bag of pizza rolls for dinner, gas to get to work and socks that don’t have holes in them.  So when it comes to buying gifts for the holidays, I want to pull my hair out.

Christmas is the time of year when everyone is filled with love and happiness. Peppermint mochas, furry boots and snowmobiling are in season, and you want to tell everyone you love them.

You also want to buy your friends and family that one gift you know they really want. It’s always a battle between what you want and what your bank account says you can afford.

While it’s the thought that counts, the past years have made for a few pathetic seasons of gift giving. However last year, I was determined to give my family great gifts.

Last Christmas I managed to buy my mom a Google Nexus and a pink case to go with it. I bought my dad a rifle case, a fancy Bear Grylls survival knife, and a case for his new tablet. For my sister, I bought two pairs of jeans from American Eagle, her favorite place, an orange tablet cover and a rifle case (my family likes to hunt). I spent about a hundred dollars on each person, so roughly three hundred dollars. Now that was just for my family, that didn’t include any of my friends, colleagues or roommates.

So, now you might be asking, how did she do that? Well, I saved, and I saved a lot. Here are 10 ways to cut back and get the gifts you want.

1) Start saving early. This seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes you don’t realize how beneficial it can be until you crunch some numbers.

Let’s say you get paid every two weeks and you put $10 aside every time for a whole year; that’s over 500 dollars. Maybe you can afford $15 or $20 every two weeks. It can only go up from there.

2) Make your list before Black Friday comes around. The earlier the better. If you know what you’re getting everyone, you can keep an eye out for sales. If you make a list ahead of time, you can shop year-round. A few dollars here and there won’t empty the bank as fast as binge shopping on Black Friday.

3) Give a gift you can make at home. It’s cheaper and many view homemade gifts as the most thoughtful of all.

“Homemade gifts can help save a ton. Look on Pinterest for crafty ideas if you’re crafty, or if you have a crafty friend, do a trade,” junior Tomi Thompson said. “Another cool idea for presents that aren’t usually expensive are ‘nights.’ Put together a basket of popcorn, a couple five dollar movies and a bottle of wine; you’re spending less than you would on a movie in a theatre.”

4) Reuse, recycle or buy all your gift-wrapping necessities at a dollar store. You can buy a roll of wrapping paper, a bag of bows and tape at a dollar store cheaper than anywhere else.

If you can, reuse boxes and bags from past Christmases. I like to use old newspaper and fun colored bows. You can use the comic section of the newspaper to give the recipient a gift and a laugh or two.

5) Go in on a gift for your parents with your siblings.

“My siblings and I usually team up on gift giving and buy something a little more expensive for one another,” Brian Ashburn, MSUM graduate, said. “It usually saves a bit of money and we give nicer gifts.”

Maybe you also want to buy your mom a tablet for Christmas, and instead of spending a $100 you could spend $50 or $25.

6) Sell your stuff. Maybe you once loved Gilmore Girls so you have every season on DVD, but you always end up watching it on Netflix — sell them. Have clothes that don’t fit anymore? Sell them. Have CD’s and DVD’s that just collect dust? Sell them.

Some people have a hard time getting rid of their belongings, but you could have piles of money lying around and not even know it.

Clothes Mentor, Plato’s Closet and My Best Friend’s Closet buy gently used clothes. Pawn America buys anything from jewelry to musical instruments. Websites like Ebay, Amazon and Craigslist allow you to sell just about anything. There are many ways to get rid of your unused and unwanted items for a little extra money.

7) Donate plasma and participate in AXIS studies. Both Fargo and Moorhead have Biolife plasma donation centers that allow you to donate plasma for money. The donation takes about an hour, and you can donate twice a week for a total of up to $70 each week. If you donate every week for a month that’s $280. Donate for a couple months and it’ll add up quickly to equal a nice Christmas fund. There is an AXIS study facility in Dilworth where you can participate in a study and earn some extra cash.

8) Work temporary jobs. Offering to shovel your neighbor’s driveway when it snows can add up fast, even if you only charge $10. Sometimes people need a pet sitter while they’re away for the weekend. You can baby sit or clean houses on occasion. Just before the holidays people with large houses might be looking for someone to help clean. People who are moving may need help, whether it’s cleaning or moving. 

9) Find other ways to cut back on spending. If you can’t pick up extra work, don’t have things to sell or don’t like needles, cut back on the name-brand items.

Carpooling, eating at restaurants less, and buying generic items will help you save. Skip the movie and pizza this week. Dine in and watch a movie you already own.

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