Here are 10 tricks for giving gifts from the heart that go easy on the wallet.
1. Don't buy at full price -- sales are happening all the time. Take your chances and wait a while; you might luck out and find that perfect item on sale either somewhere else, or right where you first saw it.
2. There is no shame in frequenting discount malls and liquidation centres -- you'll find amazing deals on brand new, good-quality stuff.
3. Clip coupons, too. Check product websites for printable coupons. Say you're in the market for a camera: Visit websites of both camera shops and camera manufacturers and you might find some deep Christmas discounts.
4. While we're talking about coupons, give someone you love a DIY coupon for something that won't cost you a cent, just your time and attention: help with some chores; an offer to babysit; a sexy, hour-long massage; or a dinner for two, cooked by you. Not very artistic? Here are some templates to get you started.
5. Not only are police and bailiffs auctions an interesting experience, but you should see the deals on everything from a repossessed speed boat to bottles of perfume seized at the border. Bonus: The items come with cool police-drama backstories. Visit Police Auctions Canada (www.policeauctionscanada.com) and start bidding right now, online.
6. We think it's perfectly fine to give preloved gifts, but if you're not totally comfortable with that and you like to see a tag hanging from that piece of clothing, don't disqualify secondhand shops. Do some digging and you will find brand new items -- tags on, and everything -- hanging on the racks.
Giving preloved gifts for Christmas? Follow these rules: First, always scrub, polish, wash, dry-clean or mend the item, until it's almost new. Second, If you can, include a message that makes the gifts more than just a thing: "When I saw this it reminded me of all the time we spent at Value Village when we had our first apartment together." And third, try to find a box or tin to give the item in -- it makes it more special.
7. No, you don't need 40 matching chairs, but you might want to surprise the gourmet cook in your life with a real professional range, and restaurant auctions is where you'll find them -- cheap. The sets of durable china and professional-quality pots and pans are also fantastic. Here are a few websites to get you looking at the possibilities -- his very own Quizno's oven, perhaps?â€¨â€¨
• Love's Auctioneers, Richmond, B.C.
• Reid's Auction Canada, Calgary
• Storey Auctions, London, Ont.
8. How do you feel about regifting? Oprah fans will remember when the daytime diva made her shocking confession about regifting: She does it! With a clear conscience -- and she's a zillionaire. What we're saying is, if she can do it, anyone can. Just keep track of who gave you what. The last thing you want to do is give that charming set of kitten tea towels to the lovely auntie who gave them to you in the first place.
9. DIY is how it used to be for most folks. Who hasn't bawled her eyes out watching a "Waltons" or "Little House on the Prairie" Christmas special -- Sally Sue presenting Mother Dearest with a wooden spoon she whittled herself? Anyone can go to the mall and spend some cash, but to make the effort, spend the time on baking, woodworking, crafting, knitting, embroidering, sewing or scrapbooking. Now, that's love.
10. Speaking of scrapbooking, what a wonderful way to say, "I love you and you're important to me." Fill up a pretty scrapbook with photos, ticket stubs, menus and memories of your life together with a lover, family member or friend. Or scour the thrift shops for picture frames, then fill them with photos -- it's truly a special gift and inexpensive.
The people you spend time with over the Christmas season want to spend time with you, not your wallet -- and you should feel comfortable giving from the heart, without involving the credit card companies.