Today we are going to map out a plan on How to make Christmas easier on the budget. Planning and holidays must go hand in hand, especially if you are looking to save money. Use these tips and find a few more at Simple Living Country Gal on a variety of simple life topics.
I don’t care what people say, it’s the little things that get you, and Christmas is no exception. If you are like me, then you are always watching your budget. This translates to constantly doing what you can to keep things in check by trying to stay clear of budget busters. Budget busters are those hidden expenses that seem to jump out of nowhere and cause us to whip out the credit card. If you don’t see them coming, they can quickly throw a budget on its ear.
My goal today is to help you make Christmas easier on the budget with our best frugal holiday tips. Try one or all and take some of the stress out of creating a holiday that is merry.
It never fails, no matter how much I plan for the holidays I tend to be over what I estimate. Year after year, it was the same story. I would set a limit on what I could spend and before I knew it was over budget. After one pretty crazy expensive holiday, I finally had enough. I took a look at what I spent that year to see where the most money went. I was floored at what I found out.
I have two words for you.
You know, the little goodies you stick in those wonderfully festive stockings hanging by the chimney with care? Well, those little trinkets can add up quickly. Especially when your kids get older and every trinket they seem to want needs plugged in or at the very least….batteries.
The biggest problem is I love stockings. They are fun to fill up and fun to watch people dig into. I love doing them so much that each year, I fill a stocking for my Hubby, my parents, my kids, my grandkids, my kid’s wives and girlfriends, even our pup! All those goodies, however, can add up quickly.
How to make Christmas easier on the budget
Over the years, I found a few ways to save big on those stockings. A few creative ways that have helped me to continue doing something I love without going into debt to do it.
Tip #1 Make a list
My best tip to save money on holiday shopping is to start in July if you can. That is usually when the best sales hit for those stocking stuffers. If you are reading this after July, no worries! There are still deals out there you can take advantage of.
First, you will need to make a list. You can use a small notebook, but if you want something preprinted, I have a list you can download below. When choosing a notebook look for one that is small enough to fit into your purse and has a pocket that will hold coupons. This is the one I use, and it works perfectly.
Inside the notebook, make a list of everyone you plan to fill a stocking for along with a budgeted amount to help me to stay on track.
SLCG PRO TIP: When making the list, take the time to really think about the person and what they like. For stockings, personal is better, and funny is good too. As you think of things, write them in your notebook.
From today on, keep this notebook with you whenever you are out running errands or sitting next to you if you are shopping online. If you see a deal, you can snag it because you will now know exactly what you need for each person at any given time.
Tip #2 Make a budget
For each person on your list, make a mini-budget. A projected price you want to stay under for each person listed. You should be able to fill a small stocking this way for around $30 and a large for a bit more. This will especially be true if you are doing a themed stocking like a quilting or a makeup stocking.
Keep a dollar amount in your book next to the person’s name so you never go over budget. After your list is complete, add up all the amounts for all the people listed inside so you have a total budgeted amount.
A great tip is to have a separate account set up just for holiday shopping. This way can help you to keep better track of what you’re spending and stay within budget much easier.
SLCG PRO TIP: If you have a debit card for this account, label that card “Holiday” in marker somewhere on the front or back. This will remind you to only use this account for holiday shopping.
If you are a cash person, you can keep an envelope with your list. On the envelope, keep a running total so you know how much cash is inside. Remember if you choose to use cash, be very careful of how you are keeping and carrying it with you. Having a running total or a separate account for the holidays are tools meant to keep your stay on track and on budget. It will also allow you to take advantage of deals because you have the money you need earmarked for that very thing.
Tip #3 Clip coupons
My boys love their toiletries and prefer some pretty expensive brands. To help, I start looking for coupons at the end of the summer. Back to school is when those coupons come out and by clipping them you can help with the pricing of brand name selections.
Back to school is also when the best ones show up. By taking advantage of the sales and the coupons, you can greatly cut back on the amount you would normally spend.
How it works:
- Clip any coupons as you come across them and tuck them into an envelope with the words “Holiday” or “Stockings” written on the outside.
- On your holiday list put an * next to each item that has a coupon.
- This is your reminder at the store to take advantage of any sale you see for an item with a coupon.
This one tip alone will save you big because you will never forget that you have a coupon again!
Tip #4 Start early
I know I know, you hear this all the time, but it actually is the secret to saving BIG money on your holiday shopping. It will also save time and help you avoid the dreaded holiday stress that comes with last-minute shopping. Keep your eyes open year-round for any deals that pop up, but really hone in your focus in July and August.
That is when those back-to-school sales hit, and they are the best time to pick up some great deals.
Notebooks, pens, crayons, markers, locker stickers, socks, and even dorm room accessories that are great for a bedroom. These all work well for stockings. Art supplies are great for young kids, and with these deals, you can do a full art stocking for a fraction of the price. Add a coloring book, stickers, or even a set of paints and glitter, and you have a really wonderful stocking gift.
A few Ideas:
- Young kids – Crayons, kid scissors, stickers, notebooks.
- Teens – Notebooks, pens, highlighters, whiteout, notecards, and pencil sharpeners.
- Adults – Notebooks, calendars, sticky notes, pens, highlighters, notecards, ledgers, organizers, and staplers.
Tip #5 Think outside of the box
It helps to know what your recipient likes to do, snack on, and wear. If you already know these things, make a note on your list. This tip works year-round and is another reason why a master list is such a great time saver.
Watch for clues when you are with people. For example, if you see a friend munching on a new favorite mint, jot it down on your list so you remember it when you are out shopping later on. It is fun when they open up their goodies, and see their favorites inside! You might just be surprised at how much those little treasures brighten up someone’s face. It shows just how much you pay attention to them and that is a gift all its own.
Tip #6 Vintage penny toys
These are much easier to find nowadays, and I love to tuck in a small trinket from days gone by. My folks love the stroll down memory lane, and my boys get a kick out of what we used to consider “fun”. Yes, never underestimate the joy of a simple kazoo or a paper doll set and how it can bring a smile or spark a fun conversation.
Tip #7 Organize as you buy
I like to keep a brown paper grocery bag for each recipient and put the gift inside as soon as I get home. You can also use a laundry basket or a cardboard box. This saves me from having to hunt down items closer to the holidays and overbuying. Make sure to write the recipient’s name on the outside as a reminder.
This tip may sound too simple to do, but trust me on this. I forgot to do this once and couldn’t figure out whose bag it was for the life of me!
Another tip is not to wrap your gifts early, or you run the risk of having to unwrap things just to be sure you do not buy something twice. That is why it is always best to wrap things all at once for each person and close to the holidays. Doing so will ensure you have all the things you need and remind you what you purchased so you can explain any silly, questionable, or out-of-the-ordinary gifts.
Tip #8 Keep track
When you purchase a gift for someone on your list, it is best to highlight it rather than cross it out. This way, you can still see what was on the list and remember what you have purchased already. This is helpful, especially if you are working on a theme this holiday. When you start early on, you run the risk of forgetting what was bought. This tip will prevent that from happening.
By creating a list now and breaking it down into bite-sized pieces, you will turn a pretty overwhelming project into a simple and even fun smaller one, and before you know it, you will be able to check off most of your gift-giving list!
There is nothing more satisfying than knowing a large chunk of my shopping is completed early and at huge savings. This is also my recipe for a stress-free holiday!
Just for fun, here are some of my favorite stocking ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Frugal Holiday Tips Shopping List
- Lottery tickets
- Baby bottles of booze (for recipients that are of legal drinking age!)
- Cell phone accessories
- Pens, pencils, markers
- Office supplies
- Small journals
- Recipe cards – don’t forget to fill out a few with your favorite recipes!
- Dvd’s (bought on black Friday for $1.99)
- Vintage toys
- Card games
- Nail polish
- Kitchen items
- Pez Dispensers
- Pet items
- Snack food
- Shot glass
- Goat lover’s Coffee mug
- Coffee/hot cocoa
- Postage stamps and notecards to mail
- Hair accessories
- Mini clipboards
- Magnets (funny ones)
- Seeds or bulbs for spring
- Book of inspirational quotes
- Flashlight or headlamp (who doesn’t need a headlamp!)
- Fun shoelaces
- Roll of quarters (college students love this one!)
- Detergent/fabric softener in travel sizes for the college student
- Hand lotion
- Foot lotion/pumice stone
- Body wash/loofa
- Nail clippers/tweezers/mini scissors
- Funny cocktail napkins/wine glass jewelry
- Silly pillowcase
- License plate frame
- Bumper sticker
- Cartoon Band-Aids
- Recordable mini picture frame – this is perfect for family and friends who live far away.
That should be enough to get you started, but if you want my complete list, check out The Ultimate Stocking Stuffer List for Guys.
Sometimes all you need is a few frugal holiday tips such as this one on how to make Christmas easier on the budget to save money on holiday shopping this year.