Christmas gifts.

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The advent of Black Friday last weekend officially ushered in the holiday shopping season. However, if you are still strapped for cash (it’s been a rough year for many), you might be wondering how you will take care of everyone on your list. While making a list and going out and buying things on sale might be your first thought, there are other things you can do to make the holidays brighter. As long as you put some thought into your gifts, the fact that you might not be able to spend as much won’t matter — at least to those who truly care about you. Here are some things to consider when it comes to saving money on holiday gifts:

Set up gift exchange groups

What if you only had to get a two or three presents instead of more than ten? Organize your friends and family into gift exchange groups. That way, everyone in the group only has to get a gift for one other person. If children are involved, do a separate exchange between the children. Come up with a reasonable price limit on the gifts. This is a good way to stretch your holiday gift giving dollar. This works among groups of friends, co-workers and others.

Look for discounted gift cards

There are a number of places online where you can get discounted gift cards. You can find them online through aggregators like Gift Card Granny. These discounted gift cards are available for less than their face value, such as a $20 Applebee’s card for $15 or a $150 Best Buy card for $71. This is actually a good way for you to do your own shopping as well. Buy a card at a discount, and then use it yourself to either buy gifts for others, or get a few things for yourself. Just make sure that you are getting your discounted cards through reputable sources.

Create gifts with personality

You can also make gifts to give. Some of my friends’ families are having a “homemade Christmas” this year, where everyone gives gifts of themselves. Think about what you can provide. Do you knit? Quilt? Crochet? Paint? Build things? Do some sort of scrapbooking or crafting? Bake? There are a number of ways to create inexpensive holiday gifts for your loved ones. The personal touch offers a more thoughtful and personal gift than anything you will find at the mall. And, if all else fails, you can fall back on the coupon book that offers yourself as a babysitter, editor, cook or some other service provider that would make things a little easier for the recipient. Sometimes, the best gift you can offer is your time and attention.

Perhaps this recession will prompt many of us to rethink the necessity of expensive and materialistic gifts this holiday season. There was a time — in the not too distant past — where gifts were small and inexpensive, yet laden with meaning and sentiment. Perhaps this recession will give us the chance to recapture the true spirit of giving this holiday season by forcing us to re-evaluate our gift giving habits.

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