Yankee Swap. White Elephant Gift Exchange. Secret Santa. Gift Pool. Whatever you call it -- whatever cutesy moniker it comes as -- it has a way of resulting in unnecessary stress and expense.
The idea is simple: Everyone spends just a little, resulting in fun and happiness for all. The reality is more complicated: It's another shopping "assignment," you don't want to look cheap, and (depending on the setting) people may be judging what you bring to the table.
But I'm going to let you in on a little secret. It's both easy and cheap to rock the Yankee Swap if you know what you're doing. Really! Here's five different ways to do it:
1) Regift. Regifting costs you absolutely nothing, and it's a great way to find a better home for that scarf you'll never wear or that candle whose scent gives you a headache. As long as the person who gave it to you won't be present at the Swap, you're good. Frugal Fergie is a bit torn on the etiquette here, but a recent Savvy Sugar poll comes down overwhelmingly in favor of regifting as a reducing waste.
2) "Free with purchase." 'Tis the season for all sorts of sales and special offers, and there's plenty of places offering freebies or bonuses with your order which in turn will make fabulous Swap gifts. This can be as fancy or utilitarian as you like; Clinique, Bliss, Bath & Body Works, and many other "pampering" lines routinely offer full-size items free with purchases you were already making, or go the As-Seen-On-TV route with Saving With Amy and check out a bunch of buy-1-get-1 deals she has listed.
3) Restaurant.com. The nice thing about Restaurant.com -- I mean, aside from the money it saves you -- is that they have all different levels of restaurants available (more choices available in larger metropolitan areas, obviously). Their standard cost is $10 for a $25 dining certificate, but I'm not exaggerating when I tell you they have discount codes available more often than not; I post them to Want Not regularly, and I'd say never bother buying without a code for at least 60% off. So, $25 of dining out for $4 (or less) -- I'd call that a win. And check it out: Latina on a Mission has the skinny on how to score free certificates this month, too!
4) $5 for a kid. Sometimes kids get tasked with these swaps at school, too, and then what do you do? I'm a big fan of Kohls Cares For Kids, both because the items always include books and because a portion of the proceeds go to charity. And for $5, you could do a lot worse, am I right? Megan at Savings Our Cents and Jennifer at Saving and Giving share my enthusiasm.
5) Gift closet. Anyone who's been reading me for any period of time knows that I belong to the Church Of Gift Closet, and our primary tenant is that if you find a great little deal at any time of the year that would work for a variety of people, you scoop it up and put it away for later. While this won't necessarily help you for right now if you haven't already been doing it, it's never too late to start -- the goodies you find in this year's after-holiday sales will work just fine for next year. I promise. Mom, are you watching me? has some great tips on the zen of gift closet-ing. (Okay, that may not actually be a word.)
With a little bit of planning, these little gift exchanges don't have to nickel and dime you to death, nor do they have to make you crazy. I promise!
Do you have any other tips to share? I'm always looking for more ways to be cheap. Er, frugal. Frugal sounds nicer.
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