Gift-giving gets a little smaller
Faced with tight budgets this year, many Americans put greater value on time with family.
For Kay Meyers, and evidently for millions of others, silver bells will ring out new and creative ways of holiday gifting this year, as Americans come to terms with today's tough economic times.Skip to next paragraph
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Take Ms. Meyers' gifting agenda: This year, the Mukilteo, Wash., resident plans to treat family members and her fiancé – 22 people all told – to a week at a resort in Copalis Beach, Wash., where she owns a time-share. In contrast, last year, she took the family group, including 16 nieces and nephews to a costlier ski trip in Idaho.
Moreover, she is asking friends to exchange with her a gift of a shared activity rather than a purchased item. And Ms. Meyers, who owns a mini-storage facility, is taking her two employees out to dinner as a holiday gift this year; in contrast, last year she treated them to a two-nights, three-days' stay at a mountain retreat in Leavenworth, Wash. The way Meyers sees it, "We don't have to spend a lot of money to enjoy ourselves. It's time we hunkered down and enjoyed things within our means."
That's a theme echoing across the United States this year. Data show that many Americans, feeling less secure in their jobs and watching their investments pummeled in value, have put their holiday shopping lists on the chopping block. While that doesn't mean coal in everyone's stockings this year, it does mean that Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa celebrations won't be as gift-laden and expensive as in recent years.
A bevy of surveys all point to thriftiness. For instance, the National Retail Federation has forecast $470 billion in holiday sales, a 2.2 percent rise from last year and significantly lower than the average 4.4 percent holiday sales growth over the past 10 years. Moreover, the International Council of Shopping Centers predicts a 1 percent gain in US chain stores' 2008 holiday sales – the lowest percentage growth since 2002.
An increase in frugality doesn't have to dampen the holiday season. As several gifting experts point out, some creative giving can actually brighten the season. Among the money-saving tips:
• Agree among family members and friends to give presents only to children.
• Decide within the family, or among friends and co-workers, on a specified amount to spend on each gift.
• Have each family member or co-worker pick one person from within the group to give a gift to. To make that process easier, participants can specify before the name-drawing what item they'd like to receive within a cost limit.
• Agree within the family to buy one big gift that everyone can enjoy or a few highly desired gifts.
• Create homemade gifts – anything from baked cookies to knitted clothes to painted pottery and beyond.
• Offer gifts of your time. Among the suggestions: giving Grandma address labels made on a computer, helping to organize someone's desk, or promising to teach a child a new skill. Such gifts can be written on an index card and wrapped like any other gift, says gifting expert Robyn Spizman, coauthor of the new book, "Do Your Giving While You Are Living."
• Buy items on the Internet, which could make it easier to comparison shop, and limit impulse buys that can occur in stores.
• Sign up for e-newsletters from stores where you shop to get online coupons, says gifting expert Rhonda Grote, of thinkthoughtful.com.
• Give a partial amount toward a highly desired but expensive gift.
how to stretch those holiday dollars