Thrifty for the holidays

Amid supply-chain shortages, rising prices, you might have to think outside the big box store this holiday season


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If you’re stressed about finding the perfect gift for loved ones this holiday season, you might want to consider not just getting creative, but a little thrifty too.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/11/2021 (312 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you’re stressed about finding the perfect gift for loved ones this holiday season, you might want to consider not just getting creative, but a little thrifty too.

With supply-chain hiccups leading to less abundantly stuffed store shelves, and rapidly inflating prices not seen in decades, purchasing presents — by no means easy in past years — has taken on a new level of difficulty that money alone may not solve.

In turn, you might want to follow the lead of Winnipeg mom Eileen Fowler who has taken a love of thrifting (buying items secondhand) and a flair for gift-giving to create vintage gift sets for the holidays.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Eileen Fowler, a Winnipeg mom and thrifter, recently launched a side hustle curating gift sets of pre-loved items.

You don’t even have to do it yourself.

Rather, you only need to follow her Instagram account to purchase holidays-of-yore tin and glass ornaments, or a 1970s-style bar set with martini shaker and cocktail book for that special someone with an affinity for items often not found in big box stores.

“Some people can have a hard time putting together — or curating — a gift, and I realized I’m good at that, so why not turn this into a bit of a business?” explains Fowler, a restaurant manager by day.

This holiday side hustle is “literally out of my garage,” she adds.

Fowler’s creativity is likely to strike a chord this Christmas season, based on findings from recent surveys, including one by the Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) of Canada that found folks plan to spend $555 this year on gifts. That’s down slightly from 2020 and 2019.

Despite the reduction of about $30 from previous years, the sum is by no means chump change, says Tammy Oze, a Winnipeg CPA and spokesperson for the organization.

“If you haven’t been saving throughout the year, that can be a really big hit on your budget.”

Canada’s accountants have a few suggestions for those getting a late start on holiday expenditures.

“Start with a budget. Don’t start with a list,” Oze says.

First, figure out what you can spend based on your income, expenses and debts.

“If you’re struggling to pay a bunch of bills already, then your budget might be close to zero.”

The problem is most people do the opposite. They come up with a list of 10 people for gifts and allocate “$100 apiece on them.”

That approach is likely to lead to an appalling credit-card statement in January, Oze adds.

Instead get creative.

And you need not spend a pile of money. You can, for example, give time… like offering to babysit grandchildren, nieces or nephews.

“Time is essentially a free gift,” but a meaningful one, Oze says.

A thoughtful card, home-baked dainties or home-cooked meals to sock away in the freezer “are all ways of not spending a lot of money on gifts” that are likely more meaningful, says Emily Strybosch with Libro Credit Union in Ontario.

If spending money is not an issue, consider buying local, she adds.

“It’s convenient to use Amazon, but think about the impact you can have on your community and neighbours buying at a local small business with your buying power as a force for good,” she says.

Indeed, one credit union study shows that for every $100 spent locally on a small business, $68 remains in the community.

If you prefer the convenience of online shopping, consider Amazon’s often overlooked competitor eBay, especially for hard-to-find new items — like a PlayStation 5.

As eBay Canada’s general manager Rob Bigler puts it, the e-commerce portal “is built for scarcity.”

If you can’t find the gaming console in a big box store, “some entrepreneur” is offering it on eBay, he adds.

Albeit “entrepreneur” might be less apt than “hoarder” given PlayStation 5s sell for roughly double their suggested retail price on eBay.

Another, less costly option for electronics is buying refurbished products, which are like brand new, only “at 40 per cent of the price,” Bigler says, adding manufacturer-refurbished laptops often come with a warranty.

Of course, you could go for that nostalgia “wow!” factor gift too, similar to what Bigler’s kids have done, buying him a 1970s Star Wars bubble-gum card of Han Solo.

“It beats going to the big box and getting something standard — it’s more personal.”

Not to mention, regifting old items “keeps them out of the landfill,” he says.

Fowler wholeheartedly concurs on that front, adding she considers thrifting an act of “backseat” environmentalism.

“That’s for sure a component behind my inspiration to reuse things,” she says. “There are so many things to just reuse; you could stop making new baking ware today, and there would be enough in the city for everyone.”

What’s more, she says people are more open than you might think to preloved gifts, which may bear a few nicks and notches but stir up plenty of fond, priceless memories.

“There are so many people that want to give a meaningful gift and don’t know exactly how,” she says “Unapologetically, things (I sell) are used and thrifted — and that’s what makes them special.”

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