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How to Spend Wisely on Gifts for Family Members

By Rich Beattie

  • PUBLISHED December 07
  • |
  • 4 MINUTE READ

It’s always a thrill to see a family member unwrapping a present you bought for them—seeing a smile spread across their face and feeling the satisfaction that you’ve given a gift they’ll truly enjoy.


Of course, gift-giving doesn’t come cheap. The average American is planning to spend $506 this year on gifts for family members, as well as an additional $132 for gifts for friends and co-workers. It’s no surprise that 71 percent of Americans said that sales and discounts were the most important factors in deciding where to shop.


Fortunately, it’s possible to give meaningful gifts and save money at the same time. These smart strategies can help you do it.


Use Points

Have a credit card that offers points or airline miles you’ve been saving? Look into ways to use them for a gift for a loved one, or even apply them to a future family trip. 


Consider a Store Card

If you’re planning to shop for multiple family members at one store, it might be a good time to sign up for a store credit card. You’ll typically get a discount of 10% or more on your first purchase with a store account, adding to your holiday savings. Some retailers offer no interest on big-ticket items for several months to a year or more.


Choose an Experience

Presents aren’t just material goods—they can also be fun experiences that the recipient can do alone or with others. It could be as simple as movie or concert tickets, or as thrilling as an outing to drive on a race track. And while they may be dreaming of an extravagant journey to the other side of the globe, a trip across town to visit a spa or museum can be just as meaningful.


Send Them to School

Another way to gift an experience is with a class that teaches a skill the recipient can put to use. Perhaps it’s something that encourages an existing passion—a cooking class, for example, or a music lesson. Or maybe it’s instruction in something that could awaken a new passion—origami, say, or gardening. Either way, it’s a gift that the recipient will remember.


Encourage Savings

Gifts that help people save money—to pay for things that really matter to them—can be a truly memorable gesture. Open a savings account or a college fund for a young person, or a CD for an adult. To actually open the account, you may need certain information you don’t have—like a Social Security number or proof of residency—so create a fun card to announce that you’d like to set up the account and contribute funds.


Contribute to Charity

Giving money to a charitable organization in the name of the recipient—perhaps to a cause that they feel strongly about—is a way to do some good while fulfilling your gift-giving obligations. It doesn’t matter how much you give: It’s more about the statement it makes. And it may even make the recipient aware of a new cause—one that they’ll go on to support themselves.


Write Letters

Some people send Christmas newsletters, but when is the last time you wrote a personal letter to one family member? Write about a specific memory of an especially happy time with that person, or share some personal history from your childhood. Either way, the process lends a personal touch that’s sure to be appreciated. Want to personalize your gift even more? Make the paper yourself and write the note by hand.


Rich Beattie is a former executive digital editor of Travel + Leisure, and has written for outlets such as The New York Times, Popular Science, New York Magazine and Ski.

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