‘Tis the season to shop and be merry

This is the time of year when I say that it’s not always better to give than receive. Don’t call me Scrooge.  I want you to give only as much as you decided you would when you made your budget. (Don’t have a budget?  That’s a different subject for a different day.)  In other words, I am asking you to keep the promises you made to yourself.  
Maybe you are open to ideas on how to spend less without compromising your gift standards?   Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
Discounted Gift Certificates – Think PRICE discount and VALUE premium.
Have you heard of www.livingsocial.com?  My experience has been great.  Here’s one for a massage, two weeks of yoga classes and $20 off any purchase for $89.  http://www.livingsocial.com/cities/343/deals/92255-two-weeks-of-yoga-massage-and-20-to-spend   The massage alone is worth more than the value of the coupon; the massage class I attended was outstanding.  Keep an eye for your favorite restaurants.  I picked up a $50 certificate for Two Bird Café for $25.  Act fast when you see those deals as they move fast. http://www.livingsocial.com/deals/169631-50-to-spend-on-food-and-drink
Want more choices on an ongoing basis?  Try www.marinmagazine.com/dineout where you can get a $50 certificate for $35.   You will recognize some of the participating restaurants, and I will personally vouch for the following:
  • Servino’s in Tiburon
  • Robata Grill in Mill Valley
  • Comforts in San Anselmo
  • Taj of Marin in San Rafael
Give a Tree for Less than You Can Send Flowers – Not only is it cheaper but it’s a very green thing to do.  http://www.treepeople.org/how-can-i-plant-tree-someones-name
Want some great inexpensive gift ideas?  Check out Jeena’s favorites.
http://scriptinghappiness.com/last-minute-gift-ideas-under-20/.  Gift cards have shown up high on lists of most asked for gifts.  Consider iTunes for the kids, big and small, and Starbucks or Pete’s Coffee for the adults.
What if cash is tight?  How about some ideas for those of us who have more time than money on our hands this holiday season?  When someone suggests that I make a gift, my fear of paste and paper cuts shows up.  Instead, I some times give an experience that combines something I enjoy doing, and I also enjoy the benefits?
  • Maybe you have friends who don’t cook, but they love your meat sauce for spaghetti or your Coquille St. Jacques, which both freeze well.
  • Maybe someone would love a break from house cleaning or laundry for a week or two?
  • How about a pedicure and manicure for your best gal or guy?
What if you are tight for time and money now but could be “flush” in a month? Give the gift that keeps giving.
  • Hand delivered fresh flowers once a month – I know, I just told you to plan a tree instead of having flowers delivered.  These flowers are delivered by you after you combine several bunches from Trader Joe’s along with some awesome accent branch or flower from the expensive place down the street.
  • Hand delivered bottle of wine along with a yummy chocolate treat once a month – Enough said.
  • Get Out of Jail Card – While not a gift in itself, it is sure to be well received. Typically it’s redeemed in lieu of lecture, argument or dirty looks.  It’s probably a safer bet for a spouse than your teenage son or daughter.
  • Offer to Make a Meal – Come on. We all have friends who get hungry, and most people really enjoy someone cooking for them.  This is especially well received by people who live alone and always cook for themselves.
My last suggestion is that you talk to your family now about next year while you are all gathered together.  Maybe you decide to draw names for the adults and give to the kids?  Maybe you do Secret Santa gift giving?  One version of Secret Santa involves giving occasional, inexpensive gifts in secret for weeks in advance of Christmas, then when everyone gets together they give one more significant gift to the person directly, and all Secret Santa identities are exposed.
Happy Holidays!  I’ll see you in the New Year when I’ll discuss your financial resolutions and how to make them happen.