Holiday shopping on a budget: Gift giving has never been more affordable

Ladies and gentleman, it’s that magical time of the year again: holiday shopping. It’s hard enough finding out where the sales are (who has time to wait around for them?), and clipping coupons wastes more time than it saves money, so what’s the holiday college-shopper to do? Being cheap doesn’t always mean being thoughtless. Find out how to save, and make money this holiday season. Here are some frugal gift ideas that will make your family and friends think you spent major dollars:

Need fast cash? Check out Plato’s Closet.

The great thing about Plato’s Closet is that they will pay you for your old, lightly-worn clothes. Trade in some of your clothes, and use the money to put towards gifts (or treat yourself to something nice, I won’t tell). Plato’s Closet also has a wide selection of unique, pre-owned, name brand clothes and apparel at discount prices that would also make excellent gifts.

On the hunt for nick-knacks? Head over to Ross and TJ Maxx.

The best part of bargain hunting is finding cheap and unique gifts. Instead of giving something that will sit in a corner and collect dust, try giving decorative picture frames, ornamental wine bottle openers or exotic candles. Each check out at around $5 at these stores. If you’re shopping for a gadget fiend, you can also find an assortment of technologically savvy appliances for the home, such as clocks, kitchen appliances and iPod accessories.

Spoil the ones you love. Treat them to an affordable luxury with online savings.

Online shopping has never been easier. Sites like Groupon and Living Social offer discount prices for spa treatments, airline tickets, yoga sessions and exclusive dining coupons to local hot spots — you name it. All you need is an email address to begin the indulgence. The temptation to buy is high, but remember you’re shopping for others. The discounted prices they offer are outrageous. However, items are in limited stock and run on a timer. So hurry and make your purchases before they’re gone.

Don’t forget to spoil the kids in your life.

This one is for the kids. Head over to Marshall’s, Ross or Walmart to find a selection of toys and children’s clothes that will not disappoint the kiddies (well, maybe the clothes might). Marshall’s and Ross may have a limited selection of toys but they are at the right price and are significantly cheaper than what Toys ‘R Us has to offer. For young children who have not yet discovered the PS3, a cheap, stuffed friend sounds just right for the toddler in your life. For those kids who have discovered the wonders of technology, Walmart typically has cheaper electronics than most of their competitors. Pick up video games, game consoles and cameras at Walmart.

Have a new addition to the family? Bundle up the bundle of joy with affordable baby outfits, bibs and booties without blowing up your credit card. You can expect to get nearly four outfits before reaching $10 at either of the three stores.

Prepare to be amazed at how far a dollar can get you at Dollar Tree.

I know what you’re thinking, “Dollar Store presents, what the hell?” but hear me out. It’s astounding to see how much Dollar Tree has to offer. For less than $10 you can pack an assortment of goodies into a gift basket. It’s thoughtful, and, hey, everyone loves getting a bunch of presents. Build a gift basket. They offer the cellophane paper, basket and ribbons, all for under $5. Fill it with cards, candy and hot chocolate. Get creative with your basket — sometimes a practical gift is more appreciated than a luxury, and they give you so much to work with. The best thing about Dollar Tree (unlike many so-called dollar stores) everything is actually for $1, so you can’t go wrong.

Whatever gifts you decide to give, remember it’s not the price that matters but the intention behind it. Happy Holidays!

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