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There is a long-standing Father's Day tradition in my family. Since we were kids, my brother and I have celebrated the holiday by buying our dad a bottle of Old Spice after-shave lotion. The classic bottle retails for about $10.75 and two of them last my father a whole year. It's a tradition that has worked well for all of us. He always seems happy to receive his fresh supply and I like keeping my holiday spending in check.

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Statistically, though, I am in the minority. According to a recent survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF), shoppers are expected to spend an average of $94.32 on Father's Day gifts this year. That represents a 3.8-per-cent increase from the $90.89 spent by consumers last year. Although Father's Day spending still pales in comparison to what the average shopper spends on Mother's Day gifts - $126.90 this past May - the holiday is reaching further into our pocketbooks.

"A slight uptick in Father's Day spending is another sign people are starting to open up their wallets again," said Matt Shay, president and CEO of NRF. "Whether it's a large family get together or surprising Dad with the new gadget he's had his eye on, there are many ways people will choose to celebrate this year."

I expect, though, that this is the kind of holiday where many would prefer to simply make the day meaningful than spend a chunk of money on another forgettable gift.

According to Debbie Frye, general manager of Flyerland.ca, the most important part of Father's Day is deciphering what will really make Dad happy. And it doesn't need to cost a lot. Here are a few of Ms. Frye's suggestions:

Give an experience. Many hard-working dads don't take the time off to treat themselves. "Give the gift of your time and do something he really likes to do," says Ms. Frye. If your father is into fishing, find a local fishing hole and plan a fishing trip together. If your dad is adventurous, you can check out what's on offer from such companies as LifeExperiences.ca. According to the site's Father's Day flyer, you can buy a Rockies rafting experience for $75 or a stock car driving experience for $149.

Give a lesson. If you dad has always wanted to learn a certain skill or art, Father's Day is a good time to recognize that interest and sign him up for a lesson or two. If he's into photography, many camera shops offer workshops. For example, in Ontario, the Henry's chain offers three-hour workshops with seasoned professionals that cost $80. Head to an instrument store to find lessons for the music lover or to a tennis or golf club for the sports enthusiast.

Give a subscription. There is a magazine to suit every whim and indulgence and a subscription is the gift that keeps on giving for a whole year. Even U.S. magazines shipped to Canada are an affordable gift. One of my husband's favourites is ESPN: The Magazine, and 26 issues cost US$49.

Search for deals online. Flyerland.ca has a section devoted to Father's day deals around the country and has rounded up flyers from stores such as Home Outfitters, The Source, Sears and Bass Pro Shops. You can find a full Father's Day coupon book on the site, which includes a free printable book filled with colourful coupons for kids to give dads. Popular coupon site Redflagdeals.com is also featuring new Father's Day deals each day.

If you're still at a loss for a Father's Day gift on a budget, Ms. Frye has a back-up plan. "Make him a special CD of his favourite tunes. You can go to iTunes and pull it all onto one CD." A classic mixed tape - that's almost as good as a bottle of Old Spice.

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