I Don't Buy Gifts for Special Occasions: Day 6 - SavingAdvice.com Blog - Saving Advice Articles
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I Don’t Buy Gifts for Special Occasions: Day 6

By , January 6th, 2013 | 10 Comments »

happy birthday card

My sister messaged me asking what I was going to get my niece for her birthday. She graciously included a list of really expensive gifts that my niece wanted and told me how I would be a terrible uncle if I didn’t get her one.

Sister: You don’t want to be a terrible uncle, do you?

Me: You know I don’t buy presents.

Sister: Well, you should. You will break her little heart if you don’t get here something.

Me: Then I must have broken it all the previous years I didn’t buy her presents.

Sister: Yes, you did. You need to make up for it now with an extra big gift. Don’t be an awful uncle!

Me: heh, nice try sis…

Sister: It’s not fair. You aren’t really doing the challenge because most people have to give gifts. You should have to give gifts too, otherwise you’re cheating…

This, of course, is just another one of her official duties as part of SARBSS to try to make me feel guilty into buying expensive stuff so that I lose the challenge. I made a rule a long time ago that I don’t buy gifts for special occasions and everyone who knows me knows this. I didn’t buy a single gift for Christmas this year. I can’t remember the last time that I purchased a birthday gift for someone. I have always gone with the philosophy that I buy gifts when I come across something that I know someone will really like whether there is a special occasion for it or not. It’s why I send my nieces postcards from the places that I visit, and I’m willing to make sure that continues despite being on a limited budget — I know that they love to get mail.

On the other hand, I realize that many people can’t do this. There are some occasions and relationships that require a gift. While I do believe that many people who feel obligated to give gifts could opt to do what I do, I also realize that it might not be possible for many as well. So to humor my sister and make the challenge all the more difficult, I recently decided that sometime during this year I will get gifts for five people who follow me on Facebook (the first five who responded) I stole and copied the idea from another friend on Facebook.

2013 Creative Pay-It-Forward: The first five people to comment on this status will receive from me, sometime in the next calendar year, a gift – perhaps a book, or baked goods, or a candle, music – a surprise! There will likely be no warning and it will happen whenever the mood strikes me. The catch? Those five people must make the same offer in their FB status. Who’s in?? Come on — it’s 2013 Let’s just DO IT!!

So, I have committed to give five gifts to five people (three women, two men — many I haven’t seen since high school and college). I’ll have to come up with creative ways to get them something interesting and worthwhile while keeping it within the minimum wage budget for the year. I think it will be an interesting side challenge within the bigger challenge.

I did manage to take a short trip today to the Sedona area and to Red Rock state park which I enjoyed — especially the bare tree branches against the red rocks:

red rock state park arizona

I also did a bit of hiking at Bell Rock (I almost got to the top, but chickened out the last part since I was alone and it was pretty steep. I didn’t want to end up being one of those people you read about in the newspaper where everyone says what a stupid thing they did) which was free with the national parks pass.

Bell Rock Sedona

I think this will be the last park visit I’ll be able to take on this trip. The people who I am house sitting for will return tomorrow and I will need to pick them up from the airport, so there likely won’t be time for me to take another quick trip.

While I did have expenses today, they were mainly business expenses. There was a $10 entrance charge to get into Red Rock state park, and since I didn’t have an Arizona state park pass, I had to pay the entrance fee in cash. I do, however, write about state parks as well as national parks on my blog, so the $10 entrance fee is a direct business expense. I also filled up the gas tank when I returned ($29) so that the car is full when I pick them up from the airport tomorrow. Since all of the driving I did while house sitting was to go to national parks and state parks, all the gas costs ($110 in total) were business related expenses. Even if I wasn’t able to deduct this expense, I think I would have done it as seeing all those places for just over a hundred dollars would still be quite the deal.

The only personal expense I had was buying three more postcards, this time for $0.75 (they were a deal at the state park). I have noticed that I can buy postcards outside the parks for less (usually $0.20 a card vs $0.30 – $0.40 inside the parks). Ten to twenty cents might not seem like a significant amount, but with the number of postcards I will likely buy over the year, this could end up being a significant amount of money. I have purposely chosen to buy them inside the parks even though they are more expensive because I feel it’s important to support them in any little way I can since I enjoy them so much. This might be something I’m forced to change if money gets really tight, but I hope it doesn’t come to that.

I’m extremely happy at how these first six days have gone and feel that I am in a wonderful position for the start of this challenge. I know that saving as much as I have house sitting won’t be possible a lot of the time, but it’s good to bank some savings at the beginning when the inevitable unexpected expenses arise in the future.

Today’s Spending

Food: $0.00
Car: $0.00
Housing: $0.00
Travel: $0.00
Misc: $0.75

Total: $0.75

Total Spending

Food: $1.12
Car: $0.00
Housing: $0.00
Travel: $0.00
Misc: $6.15

Total: $7.27

Next article: Day Seven: Leaving Places in Better Shape

(Top photo courtesy of -l.i.l.l.i.a.n-)

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  • Alexandria says:


    We don’t buy a lot of gifts. These are all very normal things that people do on a budget. & I am not sure if my parents have ever particularly bought my kids gifts – they don’t notice. (This decision made because my in-laws go totally insane with the gifts – we call them gift hogs. The point seems so futile to everyone else. Though again, my parents have gotten them very special things when the opportunity has arose). Meh. I doubt your nieces notice or care. We also don’t buy gifts for any of our nieces or nephews. Up to age 10, it has never been an issue in the least. Heck, we really don’t buy presents for our own kids. They’ve never asked us why we get them a couple of small things, no one else gives them anything, and why Grandma gives them 100 gifts every Christmas. To them, it is just the way it is.

  • Marie at FamilyMoneyValues says:

    We enjoy giving our nieces and nephews and our grand-nieces and nephews gifts – when they are kids, but we stop at a certain age.

  • Melanie Pierce says:

    I hardly EVER buy my kids birthday gifts and have NEVER given them a Christmas present. I am a firm believer in gifting something when it is needed/wanted/discovered through-out the year, as opposed to saving it for some “magical” date. My kids are so used to this that they virtually never ask for something “for their birthday”. Good call, Jeffrey!

  • Denise Arneson says:

    I promise to pay it forward even if I don’t get a gift. Remember used and cheap is good. It really is the thought that counts.

  • Fe2o3ez says:

    Two things:

    1. I dont blame you. I have 22 nieces and nephews, and a few grand-niece/nephews (whatever they are called – boy that makes me feel old) so I would go broke gifting them.

    2. What did you set for a weekly budget? How much do you feel you “banked” this week?

    • jeffrey says:

      2. What did you set for a weekly budget? How much do you feel you “banked” this week?

      I have banked at least $100+ — I figured housing would be $400+ a month and it was $0. Food I was hoping I could keep to $5 a day, so there is another $25+ Probably a bit more since I really had no other expenses and I knew I would be traveling and have car/gas expenses as well. Of course, I’m sure that there will be weeks when I go above those amounts as well, but it’s nice to have that banked when those times come.

  • Wendy says:

    Apparently your sister doesn’t see all the news stories at the holidays about the Christmas charities to get gifts for those kids whose parents are too poor. As a child, I had 2 aunts that gave me gifts on my birthdays. The other 3 aunts/uncles had their own kids. I loved them all, but I remember the ones who spent time with me. Your time is the most important gift. You are giving them memories.

  • Ellen says:

    Hello.. Read your blog and was glad to hear you had a great trip to Red Rock State Park. I suggest you consider a State Park pass for a family which is only $75 for the year and allows the entire family to go to the State Parks for 364 days a year. Gifts are important if they are those that create “memories” with them…. Or get the pass for yourself and take all your nieces and nephews and friends different days….that’s what I do for my grandchildren and they remember everything they learn at the park.

  • Debra says:

    I love reading your series. The wonderful pictures of places you are seeing is a great added bonus!

  • Rita says:

    There’s nothing wrong with gift giving, Wanting to express your love and thoughtfulness is a wonderful thing..if thats what you truely feel, No MATTER WHAT AGE!!!!!


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