Budgeting for Birthdays

18 Mar

Photo by Erin Kohlenberg via Flickr

Photo by Erin Kohlenberg via Flickr

I have a few reasons to love the month of March. First, it signals the end of my least favorite months of the year (January and February), when time seems to drag and springtime seems eons away. Second, it commences the incline toward longer, sunnier days when I don’t feel like crawling into bed at 5:30pm. And finally, March is my birthday month. It’s also my father’s and my brother’s birthday month, making it a pricey 30 days for my mother.

I’ve received some amazing birthday gifts in my lifetime but as we get older, the process of gift-giving gets more challenging. This is especially true as I endeavor to be mindful of my budget without being a total cheapskate. I like saving money on just about everything, but I like buying gifts for other people so much that it often clouds my better financial judgement. I tend to think the cost of something is justified when it’s for someone else, especially if I think it’s the perfect gift.

I’m not opposed to splurging on a gift when I can afford it and when it’s something I know the recipient will truly enjoy. However, knowing what people want or need is a tough nut to crack depending on the recipient. For example, gifting my dad has become easier because nothing makes him happier than a pound of bold coffee beans and a homemade steak dinner. Buying presents for my brother is harder, however, since we no longer live together and I have no idea what he’s been pining for since last March.

Happily, there is one gift that’s universally well-received and represents my go-to for the last couple years. People have different attitudes about gift cards, but they’re my personal favorite gift to receive. While purchasing gift cards is incredibly easy, there are a few ways to actually save money on gift cards, some of which I’ve employed recently.

Regift: One of the biggest complaints about gift cards is the potential for them to go unused. Despite my affection for them, I’ve received a few cards that have missed the mark. I gifted one such card to my cousin for Christmas after holding onto it for over a year. Even though gift cards represent free money, I still see them as valuable additions to income that shouldn’t languish in wallets or be tossed.

Redeem rewards: Last year, I finally did something I’ve been telling everyone else to do for ages: I used credit card rewards toward a gift for my brother. Though the two $25 gift cards I gave him didn’t cost me anything at the time, I’ll make it clear they weren’t “free”; rewards are earned through spending, so at some point I did pay for these cards. However, my amazing restraint for spending money on only those things I need (ha!) made this method pretty budget savvy.

Buy at a discount: This year, I ordered two discount gift cards through GiftCardGranny.com for my dad. He got a $30 gift card to Starbucks (I paid $25) and a $25 gift card to iTunes (I paid $22.50). I spent less than my budgeted $50 and my dad actually received 10-percent more in value.

So there you have it: my tried-and-true methods for saving money on gift cards. What are your strategies for saving money on birthday gifts?

8 Responses to “Budgeting for Birthdays”

  1. Living Debt Free Rocks! March 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    March is a big birthday month for me as well as there are several people dear to me that are born in March. Other than my husband, my mother and mother-in-law I don’t really buy birthday presents for others. My close friends and I will instead take each other out for breakfast or dinner. It really does help to keep the spending down and no one feels offended. Everyone else gets a happy birthday e-mail, phone call or text. Thanks for visiting my blog :)

    • Kendal March 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

      That’s a great point about celebrating friends with less formal gifts. My husband and his good friend always buy each other a round of golf, or we have dinner at our place and I always bake a special treat. Ultimately, finding ways to celebrate together is best; gift cards are great but shared experiences are better! Thanks for visiting!

  2. Catherine March 21, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    Your March is our family’s April. We have 5 birthdays and Easter (usually). Not fun. My husband has a tendency to go a little overboard with gifts I’m really hoping to pull in the reigns this year and make him realise we just can’t spend 300 on gifts in one month!

    • Kendal March 21, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

      5 birthdays?! That’s crazy!! It sounds like your husband treats gift-giving much like my mom; buying presents is one of her favorite things to do so March can be a pricey month if she doesn’t reign it in. Have you ever purchased birthday gifts during other months to mitigate the effect April has on your budget? I guess it’s similar to buying Christmas gifts year-round; it’s a great idea but then suddenly it’s November and I have nothing to show for it. Thanks for commenting!

  3. CF March 23, 2013 at 4:43 am #

    There’s not many people I buy gifts for – only my close family and Brian, really. Occasionally, friends. I usually choose something consumable, like wine, or I take them out for a lunch or dinner. As a result, I don’t really try to “save money” on the gift. Rather, I try to save up enough money throughout the year that I can easily pay for the gift when the time comes.

    • Kendal March 25, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Buying lunch or a bottle of wine for friends’ birthdays is definitely the way to go, budget-wise. Birthdays are definitely not a “formal gift” affair once we go beyond a certain age! Thanks for visiting and for commenting. :)

  4. The Norwegian Girl March 26, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    I often buy gifts months in advance whenever I find something on sale. I especially do this before christmas, so that it won`t be too expensive.

    • Kendal March 26, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

      That’s awesome! I always intend to do that and every January I promise myself I will, and then suddenly it’s November and I’ve broken that promise yet again. In fact, I think I bought a Christmas gift for a friend super early in the year and then forgot about it. I bought her something else and found the original gift in my closet while searching for gift wrap. I still have a lot to learn, apparently! Thanks for your comment!