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Queen of free: Generosity on budget requires thought

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Graduation season is upon us.

One quick look at our calendar and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. No fewer than nine open houses fill the weekends in late May and early June. Even a minimal gift of $10 per grad adds up to an unexpected price tag at an already busy time of the year.

You want to bless those young potential-filled grads, but you’re not sure how you can afford it. Here are a few ideas to trim the budget and celebrate new beginnings.

Buy cards in bulk

Greeting cards can be expensive. Cut costs by buying a box of either assorted or identical greeting cards. I love the website Dayspring, but you might even be able to find them at a Hallmark or Family Christian store. Rather than pricing out at $3-plus per card, you’ll end up spending as little as 35 cents. Want to maximize your savings? Pick a box of graduation cards on clearance in late June after the demand is decreased.

Think outside box

Create a care package postcard. Need to spread out the expense of graduation gifts? Use a word processing or design program to create a personalized postcard for graduates. Include blanks for students to fill out their favorites — candy, school supplies, snacks, colors, and more — as well as their new address. Self-address and stamp the postcard, and then whenever the student needs a boost of encouragement, they can drop the postcard in the mail for you to create a personalized gift.

Rarely do students drop them in the mail the same week, so you’re able to spread out the cost throughout the year.

Shop year round

We typically give the same book to new grads. So throughout the year, I watch the price of that title like a hawk. As soon as it drops on an online retailer, I jump on buying several copies with the knowledge that we’ll have students we want to bless in the spring. A bonus is having the gifts on hand when you need them so you don’t have to make a trip to the mall.

Creativity key

Get creative in your wrapping. Don’t drop $4 to $5 on a gift bag that likely will be thrown away by the end of the evening. Instead, wrap your gift in something unique. Whether it’s fabric or the color comics, you’ll stand out and spend less.

Cruise clearance

Graduation gift items are always at their lowest price by late June. Head to craft, gift and stationery stores to grab items for next year. If you have a student planning to don a cap and gown in the next academic year, it’s also a great idea to shop for party goods, too. Just be sure that they don’t have the incorrect graduation year on them.

Give a $5 gift card

It’s OK if you can’t afford to drop a lot of coin. Even your small gift is significant. Whether it’s for a Starbucks run or to buy shampoo at Target, a $5 gift card is certain to lift the graduate’s spirit. Any gift is a good gift.

Write a letter

Sometimes we just don’t have the budget to spend on every single invitation we receive. At a minimum, think about writing a heartfelt letter encouraging the new grad. Share some of the struggles you encountered as a young adult. Point out the gifts you see in that student. Encourage them to reach for their full potential. You might be surprised that such gifts have more value than a $50 bill.

Generosity on a budget requires extra thought. With careful planning, you might end up saving yourself time and money while blessing a student with a unique and meaningful present. Inspire and encourage the graduates you know, but keep your budget in check, too.

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. Send questions, column ideas and comments to newstips@dailyjournal.net.

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