Monday, December 3, 2007

The Holidays: Good gifts for you.

I will be writing a series of posts that specifically relate to the epic debt life style in and around this lovely time of year, the holidays.

A lot of frugal bloggers are posting means of saving money by shopping during sales and what not and leaving it at that. Well, I can't afford to do any shopping what so ever. It's totally cool to live a frugal life style and pinch a couple of pennies, but have the ability to actually spend some cash.

But not one penny can be spared in my household. Surely there must be others like me.
Not only will these posts be in relation to gift making and morale maintenance, but other often over looked things as well. Such as cheap holiday foods and what-to-do scenarios. Don't worry, I'll space them out in between regular posts. I'm sure a lot of folk are already tired with the season as it is.

It's this time of year that I receive a lot of phone calls from friends and relatives. I'm a fairly difficult person to shop for, and as such everyone who cares to purchase me a gift is usually crippled by indecision. Such is the case with my mother.

It's not that I have everything. No, not at all. It's just that my interests are very specific.

If you're like me you can use this to your thrifty advantage. While it's tempting to ask for shiny new toys like headphones, iPod accessories and DVDs you're more than likely giving yourself the short end of the stick. So if someone asks you "What do you want, anyway?" consider some potentially beneficial points.

  • Ask for clothes: I know, I know. When you were a kid you probably dreaded receiving clothes. Sure, you needed them. But you wanted toys. I think this carries over into adulthood more often than not. But now you're mature enough to recognize that yes, maybe those tattered jeans could use replacing and that no, being able to see your feet through your shoes is likely not going to attract potential girlfriends/boyfriends.

    Some articles to consider? Those relating to your job, especially shoes. Regardless of if you spend the winter season outside plowing driveways or inside an office building toiling away behind a screen, you likely wear through your fair share of clothes. Especially shoes, as they're likely worn more than anything else.

    And hey, if you look snappy in your new work duds, maybe you'll have the confidence to ask for a raise, eh?

    More articles to consider? Pajamas, sweaters and socks. If you live in the northern country and are battling epic debt, chances are your fuel budget has taken a beating. Combat it by wearing sweaters and other warm articles of clothing around the house.

  • An increased food budget: Less practical than clothes, but it's more likely to keep your spirits up. Gift cards in ten dollar increments to your favorite places to eat will not only provide you with sustenance after you pull that quadruple shift in the middle of February, but it'll give you something to look forward to doing.

    Specific gift cards to consider? The classics, of course. McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, Subway, et cetera. Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks are always good, especially if you regularly find yourself at the beginning of long days.

    But you can always get a bit more elaborate than that. Many grocery stores offer gift cards for every day shopping. Or you can suggest certificates to your favorite sit down restaurants.

    Remember, you don't need to have a full meals worth of credit on the gift card. You can use it as a buffer should you happen upon the need to splurge.

  • Home repairs: Are you living in a house, trailer or condo that may be a little run down? Well, curb your future spending by asking for materials and tools you're going to need for repairs and renovations.

    This can include everything from a power drill, to rope (don't use it on yourself!), to a new staple gun.

    If your needs are somewhat less impressive in gift form (i.e. six rolls of duct tape and twelve dozen nails), ask for, you guessed it, gift cards to your local hardware stores.

  • Car maintenance: Are you a do-it-yourselfer? Like to get into the inner workings of machines and get all greasy? Well, you're a better person than I.

    Help curb the maintenance cost of your beater and ask for some tools of the trade to keep her running for another six months. Sure, it'd be a little weird asking for the passenger side door to a '98 Silver Lumina Sedan, but you can always use good, quality engine oil. Or maybe some turtle wax.

  • Games: Whether it's for that barely functioning Atari you found in a dumpster or for the table top, games are a great way to pass the time if you're in a financial crisis. Especially if you can't afford broadband, cable or movie rentals.

    Just make sure you examine the games you're asking for for high replay value. It's pretty crappy to blow through something in 15 hours only to discover that's pretty much all there is.

    For the table top, great ideas include all the classics. Uno, Monopoly, Battleship and Risk. It's a little geeky, I know, but Dungeons and Dragons is a fantastic way to ward off boredom, too. It's highly modular rule framework can literally provide an endless amount of game play.

    For your console? Well, it'd depend on what you have. But puzzle games are always a good way to pass the time. Whether it's Super Bust-a-Move or Breakout.

  • Art supplies: The poor are required to be thrifty. It's in our blood. Why not exercise that by asking for some simple, easy to come by art supplies? Whether you like knitting, beading or drawing it's always useful to have a couple of artsy things in the house.

    And hey, if you're really thrifty, who's to say that that beautiful beaded necklace you spend two weeks on wouldn't make a fine gift to your mother? Or your sorely lacking eBay account?

  • Resume paper, envelopes and ink: So you're poor and on job market, eh? A week ago I spent $40+ dollars on resume supplies. It's expensive, but it's a requisite if you're looking for a higher paying job.

    Especially if that job has health insurance, which I'm guessing you probably need. So ask for resume paper, matching envelopes and printer cartridges.

  • Pet supplies: I love my pets. They bring me a lot of joy on the days where I would have otherwise been lonely and depressed. But they're a drain on my bank account. Food, toys, veterinary appointments, the works.

    It's one of my small luxuries. But there's nothing saying you couldn't ask the clueless potential benefactor to provide you with some doggy biscuits or a slick new collar for Spot.
And hey, if you're not in a dire financial situation but know someone who is, now you have an idea as to what they may need for another couple months of survival.



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