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Irette Patterson

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Do you want to give a gift that everyone loves and is within your budget? It can be done. Follow these five steps to keep your sanity and keep to your budget during the holiday season.

1. Making a List and Checking it Twice

First, make a list of everyone you want to buy a gift for. There should be two lists - Essential and Would-Be-Nice. The Essential list would include people like family members and close friends. Some examples of those who would fall on the Would-Be-Nice list are co-workers and service providers.

2. It's About the Money, Honey

Create a gift-giving budget. This is an estimate of how much you want to spend per person. Don't worry exactly how this will work out. For now, set a budget for your essentials and decide to stick to it.

3. Profiler

Take out your Essential list. Now, what are you going to buy them? People will tell you what they want or what they're interested in if you listen. Does someone on your list love roses? A gift certificate to a reputable mail order nursery would be appreciated. Do you need to buy a gift for a bookworm? Give them a discount card from a nationwide bookstore. They'll love it. You can find more ideas at http://www.lovingatlanta.com/inexpensive-gift-ideas.html. The point is that everyone has a dream or favorite hobby. Give them something related to their passion and it's sure to be a winner.

4. If You've Got it, Flaunt It

When it comes to actually purchasing the gifts, use everything you have including skills. Think of what people compliment you on. Do folks love your pound cake? Give a gift certificate good for one. Does your credit card earn you points somewhere? If not, dump it and get one that does. Are you a member of a site such as http://www.mypoints.com where you can earn points to redeem for items? If not, go over there and sign up. I had enough points from mypoints.com to take care of two people on my Essential list. That left me with more money for the rest.

When you actually buy a present for someone, get the best price possible. Using the Internet you can do this easily. Start by going to www.half.com for the best deals.

5. Everybody is Somebody

Most of the time, the Would-Be-Nice people are easy to take care of. Everyone likes to eat. Most everyone likes sweets. Most ingredients for baked goods go on sale around holiday time. Bake them cookies.

If you don't know any good recipes, go to http://www.allrecipes.com. There you can find recipes that are rated by real people on taste and how easy they are to prepare. You can't go wrong making a highly rated recipe from the site. Once you've baked, get some colored saran wrap and wrap up the cookies for individuals. Take a plate in for the workplace.

You could make this into a social occasion. Consider getting some friends together for an afternoon baking and making candy. You get to split the costs and the work. If you seriously doubt your culinary ability, maybe you can come up with a deal - you supply the ingredients (and maybe a lunch) and they supply the baked goods.

If you can not bake at all, you can still subsidize someone's sweet tooth. Buy some holiday mugs and a big bag of jelly beans. Place a scoop of jelly beans in the middle of a square of plastic wrap. Secure with ribbon. Place inside mug. Instant gift!

So enjoy your holiday shopping in a sensible way. With all the money you have saved, you can buy yourself something special.

Irette Patterson is a native Atlantan and frugal adventurer. If you're planning on visiting Atlanta, Georgia, in the near future or you live in the metro Atlanta area, stop by her web site http://www.lovingatlanta.com for information on living, working and playing in The Big Peach.




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