Personal Finance

How to Pick Budget-Friendly Gifts

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Spring is often a big time for celebration. Between graduations, Father’s Day, birthdays and general warmer weather merriment, you may find yourself headed to more parties. This can lead to the dilemma of what to bring.

A birthday barbecue may require only that you bring a six-pack of beer or liter of soda, but other occasions necessitate actual gifts. Here are some gift ideas that won’t break the bank.

Gifts for Grads

High school and college graduations abound this season. To celebrate a friend or family member’s accomplishment, it’s a good idea to set them up for future success.

Those heading onto further education (either going from high school to college or college to grad school) have specific needs. Think about meeting those needs with a practical gift. One option is a gift card to the campus bookstore or to a restaurant near the school they will be attending.

My mother likes to personalize her gifts by buying a T-shirt from the school they will be attending and making a throw pillow. This requires some sewing knowledge but DIY gifts like this really show you took time and care with your present.

Those joining the working world will have new expenses like work clothes. A gift card to a favorite boutique can help them show up dressed for success. Or if you have a skill like photography, you could offer to take photos at the graduation ceremony or party.

A crafty, thoughtful and cheap gift for either type of grad might be a book of advice. Get family and friends to fill out a page in a nice notebook with tips they learned as they moved from one stage of life to the next.

Gifts for Dads

Letting Dad know you appreciate him doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. In fact, if your father is at that stage in life where he is downsizing — he might not want or need another shirt or tie.

It may sound corny, but time with you can be the greatest gift. So plan a picnic for the family in his honor or a night with his favorite activities. This could be a movie night of his favorite movies or a family poker night.

Everything Else

Housewarming parties, birthdays and summer barbecues can follow some of the same rules. Be truly thoughtful, focus on time instead of money, and don’t stretch yourself too thin. You’ve set a budget, and now you are executing it. It isn’t always easy but you want to stick to that budget to see financial success.

While you don’t have to apologize for your budget constraints, if you would feel better you can be honest with your friend or family member. Let them know that you would love to celebrate with them but that you aren’t in a position to bring an expensive gift. Chances are they really won’t care and will be more than happy for you to show up with a contribution to the food table instead of a pricey present.

Going into debt during gift-giving season is not a smart idea. Neither is running up the balances on your credit cards to buy extravagant gifts, even if you plan to pay the balances off in full. Why? Because credit utilization is one of the five main factors that go into your credit score. You can check how your credit utilization is helping or hurting your credit scores on Credit.com.

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