Don't make it rain: 10 money-saving tips on shower gifts

If April showers bring May flowers, June weddings bring even more showers. And it doesn't just seem like more babies are born in the summer; that's a fact, according to CDC figures. That raft of July and August births makes spring and summer baby shower boom time, too.

Lots of celebrating means lots of presents, and if you're on the giving end, you might feel some pressure.

"Since it's opened in front of all the other guests, it's tempting to spend more than you can really afford, just so you won't look cheap," Nina Callaway of the Spruce blog noted.

If you're in danger of running out of budget before you run out of pregnant and soon-to-wed buddies, you can take steps to give shower gifts that are frugal, but thoughtful −cost-conscious, but not cheap.

Here are 10 ideas from Callaway and other special occasion and frugal family experts:

Budget-friendly shower gifts for the bride-to-be: 

According to Callaway, a frugal bridal shower gift only works if you give a present that still involves time and thought, and if you're close enough to the recipient so that any sentimental gifts (like a frame or book of memories) will really mean something to her. It also helps if the wedding gift later comes from the couple's wedding registry.

The Money Crashers blog advised always ignoring the registry, leaving those ideas to the shower attendees who don't know the couple like you do. The Money Crashers advised giving one of these gifts instead:

A utensil caddy. "Make it your personal mission to outfit the bride with all of the kitchen utensils she'll need in her home. From spatulas to wooden spoons, measuring cups to whisks, all can be bought cheaply from a big box store."

A wedding day survival kit.  "Grab a plastic case from your office supply or drugstore, and fill it with goodies that could mean all the difference in a pinch. A packet of safety pins, a couple of bandages, bobby pins, nail files, clear nail polish, tissues, a packet of painkillers, stain wipes, and a snack and a bottle of water."

Thank you cards. Include a bag of pre-cut cards, stickers, die cut paper and other embellishments, along with scissors and adhesive.

Wedding date frame. "If you know that the bride and groom's new home is decorated sparsely, get them started on their decor with a date frame. It's super simple, but really impressive for a bridal shower."

Wedding countdown. Callaway suggested a "Countdown to Your Wedding," made up of cards with magazine photos, heartfelt advice and other remembrances to help the bride get excited about the wedding.

Inventive, inexpensive shower gifts for pending parents of infants: 

A baby shower offers a little more leeway for the frugal giver because new parents will need all manner of things, from frozen meals to keepsake ornaments to wipes for mopping spit-up. Frugal bloggers gave these suggestions saving the big bucks on gifts for small babies:

Check out the registry, and then move along. If the expectant parents have a registry, definitely check it out, recommended the Four Hats and Frugal blog. "By really paying attention to what is chosen, you can see what products are important to the mom-to-be and what kind of shower this may turn out to be. For example, if most of her picks have to do with breast feeding, you know that is something truly important to her and you can gift accordingly." Keep that wish list in mind when you find related frugal baby shower gifts in places where you actually shop, like your favorite department store.

Gift from the grocery aisles. If you typically associate buying gifts from the grocery store with last-minute desperation, think again. According to Four Hats, the grocery store typically has at least one sale on diapers, baby food, baby lotions, pacifiers, sippy cups and more.

"Also, take a look down the laundry detergent aisle," Four Hats advised. " Sales on Dreft and 'Free and Clear' detergents pop up quite a bit. A most grateful mom-to-be will squeal if you can give her the gift of a laundry detergent stockpile."

Gift the rest of the family. Create a basket filled with coupons for a Red Box movie (or a month or two of Netflix) and popcorn, sparkling cider and other treats so everyone can relax on one of those boring nights leading up to the birth of the baby.

Put it on a card. This is not Christmas: parents-to-be will welcome gift cards. "Giving a gift card to a new mom is like giving her license to shop for whatever will make her life easier at that time," Four Hats noted. "Since babies can be particular when it comes to the type of bottles, disposable or cloth diapers, and pacifiers they like, giving a gift card gives her the chance to try out other items and see which ones fit her baby." Save on the cards at an online discount provider like Gift Card Granny. 

Re-use without re-gifting. If there's a mini-Baby Boom going on in your circle, consider giving all the new parents the same gift. That accomplishes three things: If it's a good idea, you get maximum value from it. You also avoid expensive impulse buys when shopping for individual showers, and you can become known for the gift. Future expectant couples in your group will count on you for, say, Baby's First Christmas ornament, a new parent's first aid kit, or a nice hardback copy of Goodnight Moon or Guess How Much I Love You?

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