Do you want to spend $1,000 in total? $200? Whatever the number, write it down or put it in a notes app on your phone and work from there. If you need to buy eight gifts and you have $240 to do so, the limit for each gift is $30. Or maybe you want to spend a little more on some people than others – as long as the math works, you’re good.
Once you’re out of that money, you can either say « no » to more gifts (try something like « I’m maxed out on Secret Santas unfortunately, but maybe next year! » or « I need to opt out of the gift exchange, but thanks for including me! ») or go DIY. Can you whip up an average batch of peanut butter cookies? Do that! Are you a painter with a penchant for small watercolors? Instead, consider offering your personal creations.
Consider offering the same to everyone on your list.
You don’t have to buy every one of your friends and family members a major Oprah-style gift, but giving everyone something from the heart (that also fits into your budget) can help you avoid overspending by reducing decision fatigue. We can only make so many decisions throughout the day (what to eat, wear, buy, etc.) before we begin to become emotionally drained, which makes decision-making more difficult and, according to my experience, can increase the likelihood of buying something. you regret.
So rather than trying to rack your brains to find the perfect gift for your Great Aunt, ask yourself, « What I spend money for this year that has brought me joy? A neighborhood friend started doing it a few years ago. Instead of giving away a bunch of different items, she buys her favorite purchase of the year in bulk and gives it away with a note explaining why she loves it. Over the years, his thoughtful gifts have ranged from those $5 Exfoliating Shower Gloves for that Michigan-grown biodynamic tea– which I was delighted to receive.
Imagine the recipient opening your gift without you.
Remember the study I mentioned earlier on recipient reaction-motivated gift givers? Wanting to wow your loved ones could make you spend more than you should (perhaps on things that won’t even satisfy them in the long run, according to the study). That’s why I recommend imagining the recipient opening a potential purchase when you’re not there. This exercise can help reduce the tendency to want to elicit a Cheshire Cat smile and can help you give a gift that better suits the recipient’s needs and long-term enjoyment (and your budget).
For example, I received a very practical gift a few years ago. My in-laws, knowing how much I love popcorn, gave me a hot air popcorn machine. It might not be the most exciting (or expensive) thing you can think of, but I enjoy them so much, and I think of them at least once a week when I pull it out of the closet and loads it with my local corn kernels.