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Financial planning tips

December 11, 2015

How to save money with creative gift ideas

It truly is the thought that counts. Stay within your budget this holiday season by creating homemade gifts that are both thoughtful and inexpensive.

Trying to find the perfect present for everyone in your life can be exhausting and expensive. Your wallet can really take a hit. In fact, according to research by consumer information app Field Agent, in 2015 the average Canadian consumer plans to spend $875 on holiday shopping.

But a little fun with frugality can go a long way toward ensuring you're not broke in the buying season, says Kerry Taylor, from money-smart blog Squawkfox.

"We are all creative. The challenge is in really knowing the person you're giving to," says Taylor. "The best gifts show thought and caring and the desire to bring a little happiness into someone's life."

If you're gift-giving on a budget, here are some smart ways to combine a little thought with your thriftiness:

1. Set limits

To keep your annual gift-giving within your budget, set an agreed-upon spending limit with your friends and family. Alternatively, consider opting for a gift exchange or agreeing to only buy Christmas presents for kids under 14.

Taylor suggests shoppers start by making a list of the gifts they need to buy, outline how much money to allot to each person and then go online to compare prices so as to know where to shop.

2. Get cooking

Home cooking - from cookies and cakes to soups and dips - is always appreciated. Or consider giving a "meal in a jar" by filling a large-sized mason jar with all the non-perishable ingredients needed to complete a recipe. Then, screw on the lid and attach the recipe card with a pretty ribbon.

Taylor says one of her most popular blog posts has been one on creating an individual-sized pie in a jar. The tiny treat makes a great party favour or hostess gift during the holiday season.

3. Do it yourself

Homemade gifts can be both thoughtful and inexpensive. And no, we're not talking about those knitted Christmas sweaters your grandma gave you as a kid.

Do-it-yourself jewellery can be both impressive and easy to make. Many craft stores have a wealth of beads and other supplies that can be used to make fun earrings. Or how about creating instant art by taking some brightly patterned paper from your local stationery store and inserting it in two or three large, decorative frames? When the frames are lined up along a wall or layered over top of one another, they can add an easy and pretty splash of colour to any room.

For more ideas, surf well-known DIY sites such as StyleAtHome or Poppytalk. Also, local community centres, libraries and craft stores often offer DIY tutorials where you just need to purchase the supplies.

4. Give the gift of time

For a frazzled parent, buy some movie passes and book yourself as a babysitter for the night. Kids can create books of gift coupons, promising to do the laundry, make breakfast or wash the dishes. Taylor says her husband takes his father fishing every year — a tradition both look forward to annually and that costs next to nothing.

The most important part? Be sure to follow through with your promised commitment.

5. Choose quality over quantity

Show you care by taking time to tailor gifts to your friends' and family's interests. Have a friend who's a runner? Create a pedicure kit by throwing together a buffing board, some scented foot cream, a pair of cheap flip-flops and a shade or two of polish in her favourite colours.

Give a gardener a packet of seeds, along with a new pair of work gloves and a potted plant for something to look forward to in the spring.

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