STARTING OUT


Avoid Overspending on Wedding Gifts

Cameron Huddleston

When your friends start walking down the aisle, the bills for wedding gifts can really add up. But you can keep costs to a minimum with our tried-and-true advice.



Shortly after I graduated from college, one of my childhood friends got married. I was invited to not one, but two, showers for her and the actual wedding. On my miniscule reporter's salary, buying three gifts put a dent in my budget. She even commented that she felt bad that I had to get her so many presents.

It's been more than a decade since then, but now I'm watching the young woman who babysits my children go through the same thing -- only worse. She's a bridesmaid for a sorority sister and has to pay for a dress, plane tickets and a hotel room on top of what she'll be spending for gifts.

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Sure, weddings can be fun, but buying gifts for your betrothed friends can be an expensive endeavor. Now that wedding season is upon us and the invitations are rolling in, you're probably wondering how you can afford to get your buddies something nice without racking up big credit-card bills or looking like a cheapskate when you give them a present that's actually in your price range.

The good news is that you can keep costs to a minimum by shopping smart and using a little creativity. To get you started, here are six ways to avoid overspending on wedding gifts. Then check out our slide show of ten thoughtful -- yet inexpensive -- gifts.

Set a budget. As always, the key to life is budgeting, say Denise and Alan Fields, authors of Bridal Bargains. Examine your finances to figure out how much you can afford (use our budget worksheet). And avoid the urge to over-give, the Fields say. "Just because you are being invited to a fancy, $200-per-person dinner, that doesn't mean your gift must exactly match the entrée price."

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Get creative. Homemade and heartfelt gifts can have a big impact -- at little cost to you. The key to pulling it off, though, is to personalize the gift -- match your homemade gift to the bride or groom's favorite things, the Fields say. For example, you could make a scrapbook of a great golf outing you had with the groom; or a special vacation you had with the bride. If you're not crafty, consider a DVD photo album. Or pick something for their shared interests, such as a travel magazine subscription and a pair of binoculars for a globe-trotting couple, or a DVD collector's set for film buffs. (For more ideas, see our slide show.)

Get a group gift. Go in together to get a big-impact item. Group gifts are a common practice among baby-shower guests, and they work just as well for wedding presents. Ask other friends invited to the ceremony to pitch in so you can give the couple one of the more pricey items on their registry.

Stick to the registry. If you don't know the couple well, the registry definitely is your best bet. If you try to pick out something on your own but don't know the couple’s tastes, your gift might be the butt of jokes for years to come.

More important, by selecting an item from the registry, you know you're going to get them something they really want. Ah, but you're afraid they'll know how much you paid for the gift and think you are cheap because you only sprung for a toaster. Well, the wedding gifts my husband and I have gotten the most use out of in the seven years since receiving them are a set of glass mixing bowls and an iron. Not very exciting gifts, but I sure am glad people saw them on our registry and got them for us. You can also personalize a registry item to make it more meaningful. Include a couple of your favorite cookie recipes with that mixing bowl set, for example, and toss in a few of the key ingredients.

Offer your services. "If you can't afford a pricey item off the couple's registry (isn't great when folks only register for $200 place settings?), then give your skills," the Fields say. For example, if you're short on a cash but a whiz at editing home movies, offer to edit any amateur video that's taken at the wedding, they say. Then the couple will have a special keepsake. If you play an instrument or sing well, you could offer your musical talents for the ceremony or reception -- and save the couple the cost of hiring a musician.

A last resort. So you have no money, no skills to offer and no creativity. Start looking around your apartment or house for gifts you received but don't want. Yes, we're talking about re-gifting. The Fields say it's okay to do this as long as the item is in its original packaging.




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