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How to spend and gift wisely this year (and avoid last-minute gift buying)

From savvy shopping tips to meaningful gift ideas, delve into a guide that ensures a year of joy without breaking the bank.

By Rebecca Roberts | Last updated Jan 2, 2024

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A new year brings with it birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, christenings and other special occasions. Yet navigating each event can be a challenge financially as families, like our Mumsnet users, try to master the art of gifting thoughtfully… And spending wisely. 

The pressures of overspending or finding the “perfect gift” can loom large. Plus, if you have a habit of leaving things until the last minute (like a child's birthday party), you'll probably find you spent more than you intended to. Add the fact that the Cost of Living Crisis isn’t expected to ease until later this year, it’s no wonder families are being more deliberate with their gift choices and expenditure. In fact, parents like Ginmonkeyagain are purposely being mindful about spending: “[It] is so much nicer since I made a proactive decision to pare it right down - no frantic saving, no debt, no obligation.” 

“I try to wangle in as many things as possible that they actually need”, says Hearmenow23, “such as coats, furniture for the bedroom etc. I start saving from summer.” 

“I hate loads of stuff and spending too much, but love seeing the kids enjoy [it]”, adds OUB1974

So, to help you avoid over spending throughout the year, we’ve put together a guide to clever hacks that will help you track down the perfect present without breaking the bank. From thoughtful, DIY gifts to vouchers and experiences, keep reading to find five ways to gift wisely this year.

1. Make your own decorations and give them as gifts.

Christmas with Basket

Easter, Christmas, Bonfire Night... You can save pennies when you do the decorations yourself. For example, you can create snow globes at home. Hobby Craft sell the materials and instructions for inside snow globes, and you can use anything from old jars to clear globes that can be found online

Candles or wreaths are two other great options, and there are so many at home kits online, too. 

Related: Best Christmas Eve box ideas for children

2. Keep track of price drops on big ticket items, like outdoor furniture for the summer, or sofas and bunk beds. 

Christmas with Basket

We love the Basket app, which lets you save products from any online retailer. The app - and browser extension - will keep checking prices, letting you know when there's a price drop on the things you've got your eye on.

3. Make use of the post-Christmas sales to get what you need for the new year…

Christmas shopping with Basket

You might even consider getting your Christmas decorations for the following year. But don’t forget to use apps like Basket to get these items saved now so you don’t miss out on discounts or stock. Christmas decorations are timeless, so they're a great buy in the January sales!

4. Share your gift lists and encourage your family to share them too.

Share Christmas lists

This is the only way to avoid spending money on unwanted gifts or end up with three of the same popular toys for your kids, from well-meaning families. Again, you can create different lists using Basket and easily share them via email or WhatsApp. 

Any friends and family members with January birthdays should also share their wish lists ahead of time, so you can take advantage of any price drops or restock alerts of any sought-after items!

Read next: How to budget at Christmas

5. Vouchers are a great way to say thank you to a family or friend.

Christmas presents with Basket

They’re also a great gift so they can spend in the post-Christmas, summer and Black Friday sales, too!

About Basket

Basket

Basket is an app and Chrome extension that allows you to save anything from anywhere online, into one Basket. They’ll let you know when prices drop or items are back in stock. You can share your collections with your friends, family and followers. All for free.

About the author

Rebecca Roberts is a writer, editor, and content marketing expert hailing from Leeds. Here at Mumsnet, she brings parents content designed to make life easier. As a mum-of-two, she knows all too well how much things can cost as a family at Christmas time. So, she's fully invested in finding the best products and services for families that are affordable, long-lasting and can help you save pennies. 

Beyond her role as an editor here at Mumsnet, Rebecca can be found balancing life as a working mum of two toddlers and when she’s not at her desk, you’ll likely find her at a local playgroup, in a nearby coffee shop, or walking the dog.