1. Set a budget and stick to it. Be realistic. In these days of economic hardship, people should understand if you are in a difficult financial time. Sit down and make a list of everyone you need to buy for including teachers, hairdressers, etc. All of these can add up quickly.
2. Be creative. Take a minute to think about what each person really likes. I was a teacher for many years and I remember the most creative, heart felt gifts more than any expensive ones I was ever given. Last year, my aunt gave us a recipe of my grandma's (who has since passed) "top secret" chocolate chip cookie recipe. I loved it and it didn't cost a dime!
Include the children. This is a wonderful time for children to learn the value of giving. Older kids can learn the value of money (if you set a good example). If you overspend and then don't have money for bills- you will be setting an example that it is ok to be irresponsible (of course easier said than done!). Everyone wants to make their kid have the biggest smile and excitement when they open their presents but think of the big picture and don't spend money you don't have. This is a great opportunity for them to learn financial responsibility and also a lesson that time and love are the best gifts of all. Just don't be surprised if they don't thank you for not getting them the xbox they wanted so badly :) !
Go to an arts and crafts store and have your kids make something (although be careful-items can add up fast in those stores!)
Use pictures to make a collage or photo album. http://www.vistaprint.com/ has great deals on items you can put pictures on (grandmoms especially love this!)
3. Use online resources. Here are the best websites which have been featured in Newsweek, Rachel Ray, Good Morning America, and Consumer Reports for 2009.
http://www.retailmenot.com/ I checked out this website and couldn't believe that discounts on all the stores I shop at. Definitely a good site.
http://www.etsy.com/ A great website for homemade, unique items at GREAT prices. Don't me scared by "homemade"- these items are very nice!
http://www.kids.woot.com/ My friend really likes this website. Just remember there's no returns.
There are many more out there but I haven't found any that really seem easy and worth the time. Please post a comment if you have one you really like!
4. Buy more than one item at the same store. Many stores including Kohls, Old Navy and Macy's often have deals where you can get a significant discount if you spend a certain amount (usually $75.00 or $100.00)
5. Who to tip and how much? Follow this general rule when tipping those whose services you use often:
Teachers (including coaches, music teachers, etc.) - a gift from your child
House cleaners - up to one weeks pay
Trash person - $10-30 (if private)
Mail delivery person - USPS employees are not allowed to accept cash but can accept gifts up to a $20 limit.
Regular babysitter - one week's pay plus a small gift from your child
Hairstylist: Cost of one haircut or an equivalent gift. If you're an infrequent customer, simply double your usual tip.
Here's a website with lots of other helpful information for tipping!