Do you need to send gifts to loyal customers although your business is facing reduced sales? Have you lost your job or had your income significantly reduced as you contemplate a holiday shopping list that makes you want to assume a head-buried-in-sand ostrich pose until January? In these difficult times you can make it through the season with your dignity intact and joy brimming in your heart.
Some of you look forward to opening day of hunting, fishing, racing or sailing seasons; opening night at the theatre, opera, ballet or symphony. While most of those hold appeal for me, I get shivers up my spine when I contemplate the 5 am opening of my favorite mall on Friday after Thanksgiving. It’s a ritual not to be denied.
Others slump in front of the television after overindulging on the trimmings that make the turkey-centered meal contain more calories than most of us consume over a few days. I rifle through the pile of ads that accompanied the day’s newspaper. Circling the best bargains and organizing according to store location, I plan shopping assault strategy with the precision of an accomplished warrior. Recently, I’ve conducted this mission with a cousin who once climbed over shoppers’ carts jammed in a store aisle to get to the perfect gift for an unheard of price. We alternate as point-woman and follow-on unit in our quests for beyond belief deals.
While we’ll go through the motions this year because it’s who we are, the economy has affected us as it has most of the country. Our zest for bargain shopping as blood sport on Frenetic Friday has been mollified.
When resources are limited, where do you begin?
- Figure out how much money you can spend.
- Make a list of everyone you need to purchase a gift for.
- Allocate your budget among all recipients.
- If you spend more than anticipated for one person, reduce the amount for another.
- Stick to your spending plan.
Please don’t consider whipping out plastic to charge stuff. Credit card interest rates have been increasing and there will be continued financial uncertainty for at least another year, probably two. Don’t risk piling debt into 2009.
Last year, I wrote about places to shop for holiday bargains. The same cost-reducing advice applies. In addition, I’ve discovered a website with coupons to use in 20,000 online or brick and mortar stores. Check out RetailMeNot.com.
For many, finances are much tighter this year and traditional bargain hunting doesn’t apply. You want to honor your customers, family, and friends. You don’t have the cash and don’t want to go into debt to do it. What is the solution?
If you can spend a small amount, consider giving money in the names of others to a community kitchen that feeds the hungry. Perhaps your budget is $3 per gift. That won’t purchase much individually. However, you can make one larger donation. Send notes to each person on your list; tell them a donation has been made in their name. You might want to pick up a stack of the little pocket brochures most organizations print to describe their services and include one with your note.
Baking something yummy or cooking a specialty such as croutons, candy, or pasta sauce is always welcomed. To the delicious packages, add notes expressing your care.
And if the cost to produce cooked items is too great or you’re not proficient in the kitchen, consider joining an online card creator. I have used Blue Mountain Cards for several years – mostly because I tend to send greetings at the last minute and their ever-changing supply of online cards for every imaginable occasion makes it easy to email the perfect thought on time. Blue Mountain offers both free and low cost annual subscription-paid ecards. Flavia Movicards designs exquisite soft-focus cards with a gentle appeal for an inexpensive annual fee. Both EGreetings and 123Greetings provide a wide selection of free cards. Remember: When you send ecards you save trees and the gasoline used to deliver snail mail in addition to money.
Whether you can afford gifts this year or you simply send notes with ecards, your customers will welcome your expressed appreciation for their business. Your friends and family will understand that your words, which communicate care and love, make you a person they treasure in their lives.