3 Money-Saving Rules to Live By When You Shop For Christmas Gifts This Year

Joanne Poh



It’s that time of the year again… no, not bonus season, not the month you cane your kid over his report card, but Christmas.

And unless you’re not afraid to declare yourself a complete grinch, changes are there are a few recipients on your Christmas gift list you’ve got to shell out a bit of money for.

Whether you’re looking for an appropriate gift for your kids, your boss or your evil mother-in-law, here are some rules you should live by so your wallet survives intact for the next massacre—Chinese New Year.


Don’t feel obliged to spend a lot of money

All those times you splashed out on Christmas gifts that left you wincing in pain when you arrived at the checkout counter, did you really have a burning desire to provide your recipient with a chic item you would never have bought for yourself? Or did you feel obliged to, because your recipient had bought you a luxurious gift the year before?

I understand that gift-giving in Singapore often follows the same rule as wedding dinners—nobody wants to do anything that will make them lose face.

But you should never have to spend money you’re not comfortable with spending just because you imagine that people will think badly of you. In fact, I would be too embarrassed to accept a gift from someone if I knew they had been eating 7-11 Quick Bites for dinner every day to pay for it.

If you want to spread some holiday cheer, blah blah, there’s no need to send your neighbourhood loanshark a Christmas card with your latest request. Which brings us to our next point….


Effort trumps cost

Unless you are your recipient’s sugar baby, it’s likely he or she would be far more impressed by and appreciative of a gift displaying effort and thoughtfulness, than one that simply cost a lot money. Let that always be your guide when you make or buy Christmas gifts for someone.

A thoughtful gift doesn’t have to mean you spent hours labouring over a cross-stitch project for your recipient, or sewed them an entire wardrobe from scratch. If your recipient is one of twenty colleagues at the office, unless the two of you have some illicit affair going on you probably don’t want to spend weeks carving her image out of stone.

Baking a batch of cookies for a group of friends or printing out self-taken photographs to turn into Christmas postcards are not only one step up from purchasing Body Shop body wash (which surely wins a prize for most generic gift ever) for everyone yet again, they’re also cheaper.

In this day and age, with everyone so darned busy all the time, even minimal effort like a handmade card gets a lot of appreciation and gives recipients the warm fuzzies.


It’s the thought that counts (really)

“It’s the thought that counts” is not only the war-cry of just about every cheapskate during Christmas, it’s also true.

There is nothing worse than an overpriced gift that was obviously picked up as an afterthought and displays the fact that the giver knows nothing about the recipient.

When you’re buying a Christmas gift for someone, please try to put in those few minutes of thought and decide on something your recipient would actually like, and not what YOU think is cool.

That means you probably should not buy your mum that ironic T-shirt with “thug life” emblazoned across the chest no matter how funny you think it is.

You also shouldn’t buy your girlfriend that Kim Kardashian-esque outfit just because that’s what you would like to see her in, especially if her style is more Denise from Under One Roof than Snooki from Jersey Shore.

As a general rule of thumb, buying generic gifts like chocolate or soap is okay if you have to buy the same thing for a large group of recipients, like your entire team at the office.

But if you’re getting something for your best friends, your parents or your significant other, you’ll need to put a bit more thought into the gift than simply reverting to the same thing you got last year.

Do you enjoy buying Christmas gifts? Tell us why or why not in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.