The A to Z Gift-Giving Guide

posted in: Gift Guides, Shopping Tips


Giving gifts can be fun but it can also be overwhelming, especially during the holiday season or during a month that is packed with birthdays. To help make your job easier—and hopefully more fun!—here is my A – Z gift-giving guide, which is packed with gift-giving tips and inspiration, plus savings advice galore.


A day in the life

If you’re having trouble thinking of a gift for someone, imagine a day in their life. Maybe Dad works from home and you imagine him digging through a tangle of cords to find the right one.  A cord organizer would help him keep everything sorted. Or maybe your sister-in-law has a long commute. A leak-free, insulated travel mug that will keep her morning brew hot for hours will be the perfect morning pick-me-up.


Browser extensions

Browser extensions are one of my favorite ways to save money. They help your browser, i.e. Google Chrome or Safari, do things it couldn’t do before. Try installing the free Honey or Rakuten browser extensions and see how they help you earn cash back or save money with digital coupons as you shop online.


Carry a balance? I say NO

Whether you are buying a couple of graduation gifts or 20+ holiday gifts, try your best to only spend what you can pay off in full at the end of the month. If you carry a balance, you end up negating any savings efforts you’ve made.


Discounted gift cards

Gift cards are always a great way to go if you don’t know exactly what someone wants, but they are also a clever way to save on your shopping! Use a site like GiftCardGranny to look for gift cards that are on sale. If you purchase a card for 10% off and then shop with it, you’ve saved yourself 10% automatically!

Related Post: The Future of Gift Cards is Here

Estimate a budget

Especially around big gift-giving times, like wedding season or the holiday season, estimate how much you’ll be spending so you can make sure you have enough room in your budget. If it looks like things are going to be tight, try shaving off a few dollars per gift until you arrive at a number that feels comfortable.


Family traditions

If your family tradition of buying gifts for literally every family member is busting your budget, suggest drawing names, setting spending limits or buying only for the kids. The same goes for work gifts. (Most) people will be happy you made the suggestion.


Get organized

I would strongly recommend making an ongoing list of gift recipients, gift ideas and budget per person that you add to as the year goes on. Whether it’s in your phone memo, in an excel sheet on your computer or in a notebook, this list can help keep you on track.


Happy Halloween!

Something to know about Halloween is that the discounts on candy, costumes, and décor will deepen as October progresses, but the selection will also thin. So, if you have specific things you need, bite the bullet and buy them early. If you can be flexible, wait and save a bundle.



If you’re looking for gift ideas, I have dozens of them in my Amazon influencer store. I have tried and tested all of these items so you know they’re good! You’ll find tech gifts, beauty essentials, gifts for the home, toys, gifts under $25 and more!


Just in case

Keep a small stockpile of unique little gifts for hosts, hostesses, your child’s teacher or a forgotten birthday. Unless you’re really strapped for space, it doesn’t matter if you bought the gift months in advance of when you give it (unless it’s food, obvs). Also, save all gift bags and bows that are in good condition and re-use them.


Keeping up with the Joneses

Everyone has their own unique financial situation. If someone gives you a pricey gift, there is no reason to give a comparable gift in return if it causes you financial strain. Give what you can afford to give and don’t worry about everyone else.


Last-minute gifts

Last-minute gifting is not always bad, especially around the holidays when discounts can deepen the closer you get to the holiday itself. Also, there are so many cool digital gifts that you can give in minutes. One of my favorites is GiftYa, where you literally give someone spending money for something they love, like a manicure at their favorite salon or money for lunch at a local cafe. Also, check out the photo gifts from your favorite drugstore chain. You can often get photo gifts in an hour.


Make extra money

Selling what you no longer use is a great way to make some extra cash. If you have some beautiful suits from your corporate days, sell them on a site, like Poshmark or ThredUp. Or, if you have some gently-used furniture or toys, try selling them to a local buyer using Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.


Never take a price at face value

Just because an item is on sale, doesn’t mean that you’ve found the best price. A quick Google search on your phone will tell you if there’s a better price elsewhere. Also, try searching “[retailer name] coupons” for promo codes or coupons that could be applied to your order.


On sale doesn’t mean BUY

We’ve all done it. We see an item on clearance and we come up with all sorts of reasons why we should buy it. Remember, 50 percent off is a deep discount, but you are still paying 50 percent. Evaluate your purchases carefully and you’ll avoid buying things you don’t need.


Price drops

You probably know that many retailers offer price adjustments if you find a lower price elsewhere. But who has time to track down those adjustments? Now you don’t have to! Link Paribus by Capital One to your email and it will look for—and file claims for—price adjustments from dozens of online merchants, including Amazon, Macy’s and Target.


Queen or King for a Day

Are Mom and Dad impossible to buy for? Instead of a traditional gift, make them a card that offers your services for a day. Maybe they need weeding done, have IKEA bookcases to assemble or they just want your company for the day.


Remember, timing is everything…

especially when it comes to bigger purchases. If you can wait until the right time to buy big-ticket items, like mattresses, laptops and TV’s, you can save hundreds of dollars. Mattresses are usually on sale over Memorial Day and Labor Day and laptops and TV’s are on sale over Black Friday & Cyber Monday. Want more? Here’s a link to my month-by-month guide to sales!


Struggling to save?

Does saving money for gifts seem impossible? Acorns is my favorite (painless) way to save – you connect it to your debit card and it takes the “spare change” from every transaction and invests it for you. If you have a little wiggle room in your budget, you can also set up automatic withdrawals. I’ve saved over $50k with Acorns in just three years.


Tools to save money

Use these tools to make saving easy:

  • Sign up for loyalty programs at stores where you shop frequently. You’ll earn points towards future purchases and be privy to exclusive deals.
  • Have at least one coupon app, like Rakuten, Flipp or Coupon Cabin, on your phone. Before you head to the cash register, check your app to see if there is a coupon that can be applied to your purchase.
  • For online shopping, install at least one browser extension, like Invisible Hand, or the Swagbutton by Swagbucks. Invisible Hand will let you know if prices are lower elsewhere and will test coupons for you. Swagbucks will alert you to coupons and cash-back opportunities.
  • One of my favorite ways to save, especially on expensive items like computers or appliances, is to set a deal alert on net/deal alert. When your item goes on sale, you’ll receive a notification. They do the work for you!


Unique gifts

If you’re looking for a gift for that person who has everything, check out Etsy, which is a massive marketplace of handmade gifts by talented artisans. Another option is The Grommet, an online marketplace that specializes in finding unique items from small companies and inventors.

 Related Post: 5 Father’s Day Gifts for the Dad Who Has Everything

Very important

There’s a good chance your loved ones are telling you what they need or want—you just have to listen. For example, if Dad mentions that he’s concerned about keeping his phone charged on his next trip abroad, a mobile charger with international plugs would make the perfect gift. Or if your friend says that she can never find a good, natural sunscreen for her and her kids…bingo – that’s what you get her for her birthday.

Or, next time you’re at their house, look for things they might need. Are their knives taking up space in a drawer? A stylish wall-mounted knife holder would free up precious real estate.



If you pay for a wholesale membership, you might think buying wholesale is only for groceries, but stores, like Sam’s Club, BJ’s and Costco are packed with great gifts, too. One of my favorite things to do is to separate one of their massive gift baskets into smaller gifts.  And if you don’t have a membership, try, which is an online wholesale club with no membership fee! 



Yeah, I know…but what else begins with X? A great way to save on gifts is to host a gift exchange. Friends can bring a few gifts that they don’t want (make sure you don’t bring anything that they gave you) and you can all swap.


You” Gifts

A guaranteed way to blow your budget? Buying too many things for yourself, especially around the holidays. Rather than one for you/one for me free-for-all, add yourself to your shopping list and set a limit (price or quantity). That way, you’ll choose each gift for yourself very carefully.



Stay calm! If you want to avoid gift-giving panic, preparation is key. Remember to keep an ongoing list of recipients, holidays, gift ideas and budgets. This will keep you organized and stress-free.

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Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist and TV commentator who has specialized in smart shopping, personal finance, and retail for more than a decade. She has appeared on TV over 1,000 times; including Today Show, GMA3, NBC Nightly News, Inside Edition, and network affiliates nationwide. She has been named a Top Voice in Retail by LinkedIn, and her expert commentary has appeared in Forbes,, Kiplinger, Yahoo Finance, and numerous others.