Financial Travel Tip #97: Sending Gifts Home Without Spending a Fortune

Sending gifts home to family and friends while you’re abroad might seem like a lovely idea, but in practice it’s difficult to do without spending a fortune.

When I started traveling full-time, I tried to keep up with all the birthdays and holidays, celebrating with family and close friends by sending trinkets from my current destination home as presents.

I spent a fortune.

Even if the trinket itself was light in weight, the cost of postage was heavy – and depending on where I was at the time, arrival was questionable (late arrival was assumed, regardless of when it was sent).

Ironically, I might not have honoured as many holidays and gift-giving occasions with presents if I weren’t traveling; somehow I felt an obligation to send a little piece of my life abroad back to them, just like bringing a souvenir back home for somebody (without coming home with the souvenir).

It’s an example of how ingrained ideas and habits can reveal themselves when your circumstances change.

Sending Gifts Home But I’m not tackling the greater topic of social spending habits here. We’re talking about sending gifts home without going broke.

I still send gifts home, but much more judiciously and periodically. Here’s how I do it:

Online Ordering The easiest way to send a gift home from abroad is to order it online and have it delivered direct. An extra $ 5 on gift wrapping makes it an occasion. It’s also a great opportunity to earn frequent flyer miles by shopping through online portals.

Traveling Companions Occasionally you might cross paths with somebody who is headed to your old neck of the woods. Assuming they’re somebody you trust (and they have room in their bag), you can give the present to them to bring back and mail from your home country.

My mother – bless her – sent a few care packages to me this way when I was in Australia, saving hundreds of dollars in postage.

E-Books I have a few family members who have e-readers and love books. We share books we’ve recently enjoyed with each other (and in a way, we are brought closer despite physical distance) by buying them online and sending them to their account (kobo, kindle, etc) or email address.

E-Cards This is a lovely way to recognize a holiday or celebration in a low-key way. A well-selected e-card with a message is free (or very low cost), and usually appreciated.

Visits Home I like to use visits home as an occasion to bring trinkets from my current destination to give away. Visiting home also carries its own unique set of spending (and giving) scenarios.

Every time I’ve visited my home town of Toronto, I’ve spent big bucks. It’s partly because I tend to spend time abroad rurally and my expenses naturally increase in cities, and it’s partly because I often use visits home to restock on any packing list items that require replacement.

But it’s mainly because I use my time visiting with family and friends to make up for the celebrations we’ve missed while I was abroad. It’s never named as such, but it’s reciprocal; there’s always a reason to splash out when in the company of long-missed family and friends.

How do you send gifts home while you’re abroad? Or do you at all?

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