It never fails. Every holiday those of us who are self-proclaimed tightwads discover, horror-stricken, our love lives and our finances are crossing paths like a long-standing girlfriend and a dollar-store variety mistress. Nothing is worse than the look on your special someone's face when they suddenly feel like you not only lacked compassion, but you were cheap about it.
Don't get me wrong, I am the first believer of the old adage "It's the thought that counts," but a heart-shaped rock is only a sweet thought once or twice. This may make shopping for your long-term lover more of a hassle than you had anticipated. I assure you this is a no-panic situation, especially if you take the time to listen to what your partner has to say. This applies to everyone you might be shopping for this winter as well as birthdays, anniversaries and summer solstice parties.
Before you run off to extend your line of credit, start small. The little things often mean much more than any grand gift ever could. The people who love you understand when money is tight and it wouldn't be a shock if everyone around you is struggling, as well. Start small with something like coupons for help around the house and put your hobbies to work. If you like to write, compose a poem, a short story or even just a letter for the recipient. A little of your time is worth a lot when you care. Paint a picture, knit a hat or make a short film especially for your someone special and you'll have come up with an inexpensive gift worth more than any cheap trinket.
If you're determined to buy gifts instead of making things, try to find something your recipient actually needs. Maybe your special someone is always short a lighter. Something as simple as an engraved Zippo is surprisingly cheap on Amazon and will ensure it stays in the pockets of your sweetheart and out of the hands of a light-fingered stranger. The same idea applies to other people, too. If your roommate always complains about that screw in the hall that isn't quite flush and snags his socks every day, maybe he would appreciate some slippers to protect what few socks he has left. When you find a gift that requires some relevance and knowledge of the recipient, you’re letting that person know he or she is important.
Be sure to shop the sales. If you missed your shot at Black Friday and Cyber Monday there will still be plenty of opportunities to catch up. Be wary of super sale impulse buys. You might be able to find the right recipient for that 80 percent off mini flashlight set but you can expect a fair amount of regret to accompany your splurges. Planning ahead will allow you to scour the ads and the Internet for the right price.
Strike the balance between tightwad and savvy this holiday season. Keep your friends close and your wallets closer.