Tuesday, June 26, 2012

10 Cheap wedding gifts

My husband and I just returned from our friends' wedding. Now, our budget is tight to begin with, and saving for this trip didn't work out as planned. After $500 bus tickets, there wasn't much left over for a gift or buying something new to wear or staying at a hotel... and we still had to survive the rest of the month after the wedding, too.

So the first thing we did is give in to our friends' offer to stay at their house. Originally we were going to get a hotel to have some time to ourselves since we were leaving our son with my in-laws, but there was no way we could afford it. We still ended up having one night to ourselves, though - they spent the night after their wedding in a hotel room and let us stay at their place on our own.

Next I ransacked my closet. The chances of me finding a dress we could afford at the mall were slim, and since our friends were the only ones we knew at this wedding and they've never seen me dressed up before (well, besides at my own wedding), no one would know the dress wasn't new. Luckily black is acceptable to wear to weddings these days. I would have preferred to wear something more colorful, but my choices were black or black and white unless I wanted to go with something less formal. I chose the black and white one so I would feel less like I was going to a funeral, paired it with the only black shoes I own and then I bought a $5 headband to tame the hair I haven't been able to afford to cut in a few months.

My husband went through his closet and finally found a shirt and some dress pants that fit properly. If he hadn't found one, I'm sure we could have borrowed from his dad or brother in law or uncle. I used to be embarrassed to ask to borrow things we couldn't afford, but now I just remind myself that they've all been where we are. They understand and are usually more than happy to help.

Then we got to the gift. We stressed about this for longer than we should have, especially since we both knew they weren't really expecting anything from us. Just being there and helping out was enough. They're amazing friends, though, and we couldn't bear the thought of giving them nothing... so we re-gifted. We had a $50 gift card from our wedding that we had never used, so we checked the balance (which hadn't changed) and made sure there was a store near them that they could use it at and then that became their wedding gift. It's not the amazing gift we would have liked to get them, but at least it's a gift.

Re-gifting isn't always the best option. Our friends didn't care - in fact, they were worried that we'd spent more money and relieved when we told them we hadn't. Plus they already have all the stuff you typically give at a wedding and I know the card will end up being used for something practical. However, some people would be really offended if they recognized the gift as something you had been given... and of course you don't want to gift someone a gift they gave you. So here are some more low-cost ideas:
  1. Make something. If you can sew or draw or paint or do woodwork or have any other talents, make something for them. You might even find something on their registry that you can make yourself.
  2. Wedding services. If you can do anything they might need for the wedding - photography, cooking, bar tending, decorating, babysitting, ect... offer to do it for free. For something like bar tending, get them to pay for the alcohol, but charge nothing for your services - and give them your tips at the end of the night.
  3. Future services. This could be a helping hand in the garden or fixing up their new house or babysitting - whatever your skills are. Get a card and write what you're offering in it. Be sure to put in the number of hours or amount of work you're offering, and make it something you wouldn't necessarily do for free normally. If you already watch their kid for free every weekend, it makes no sense to give them a voucher for free babysitting.
  4. Bake. If you bake regularly, you likely already have most of the ingredients you need in your house. Go to the dollar store for a basket, some tissue paper, some baggies and some ribbon. Then bake up a bunch of your best cookies, candies and snacks, put them in the baggies, tie with ribbon and arrange them nicely in the tissue paper lined basket.
  5. Themed DIY gift baskets. For example, a romantic dinner. Get a basket, a table cloth and some pretty candles from the dollar store. Buy a bag of pasta and some parmesan cheese and make or buy some pasta sauce. Add in whatever finishing touches you want (cheese grater, colander, serving spoon, recipe book) and arrange nicely in the basket. The possibilities are endless.
  6. A magazine subscription.
  7. A bottle of wine and a couple glasses or a box of chocolates. Ask the people at the liquor store to help you find a good bottle of wine within your budget.
  8. Give to a charity - make sure it's one the couple cares about!
  9. Sales! Most of the time you'll know about a wedding a year or more in advance. Keep an eye out during holiday sales to find expensive gifts at a huge discount.
  10. Group up. Maybe you can't afford an expensive gift from the registry, but you and a few friends or family members can if you pool your money.

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