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 on a budget…a tight budget. So I am sure you are constantly doing what you can to keep things in check trying to stay clear of budget busters.
Oy, budget busters.
You know 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.
This article is going to help you make Christmas easier on the budget and hopefully better prepare for a big-budget buster and show you how to save money by holiday shopping where you may not expect it.
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 of 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 that you stick in those wonderfully festive stockings that hang by the chimney with care?
Well, those little trinkets can add up and quick. 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.
I do them for Hubs, my parents, my kids, my kid’s girlfriends, our dog, and even a few of their close friends as well.
I love wrapping each and every item in there and then watching the recipients open them all laughing at some and yes rolling their eyes at others.
I remember the first year I did a stocking for my dad. He was so touched to see I put in is favorite pencils (perfect for his crosswords), his favorite candies, and even a few silly gifts picked out just for him. He was surprised to see so many of his favorite things. When you know someone, a stocking is an easy gift to give.
All those goodies, however, can add up quickly.
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.
How to Fill a Stocking on the Cheap – Make Christmas Easier on the Budget
Tip #1 Make a list
I usually start in July. That is usually when the best sales hit for those stocking stuffers. Also, it tends to be a time when those holiday movies hit for a little summer fun and tend to get us in the Christmas mood.
I will begin brainstorming over my stocking recipient list.
A small notebook works well for this but if you want something preprinted, I have a list you can download below.
If you want to use a notebook instead, choose 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 I will make a list of everyone I am making a stocking for this year along with a budgeted amount to help me to stay on track.
When making the list, take the time to really think about the person and what they like. For stockings, personal is better. As you think of things just write them in your notebook.
From July on, this little book should be with you whenever you are out running errands.
If you see a sweet deal you can snag it knowing what you need for each person all the time.
Tip #2 Make a budget
For each person on your list make a mini-budget.
You should be able to fill a stocking this way for around $20 but sometimes a bit more is needed especially if that is the only gift you are doing for a person.
Keep a dollar amount written 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 so you have a total budgeted amount.
I like to keep that money in a separate account and label the debit card HOLIDAY in black marker. This will ensure I only use money set aside for holiday purchases.
If you are a cash person, no worries. Keep an envelope right in the notebook with some of the money so if you see a deal you can take advantage without dipping into your grocery fund.
Tip #3 Clip coupons
My Prim A Dona boys love their toiletries and must have the best brands. (Eeek, how did THAT happen??) So coupons are a must if I am going to purchase them.
Back to school is usually when the best ones show up and I take full advantage.
This is another reason why Summer is a great time to start.
I clip any coupons as I come across them and tuck them into my notebook. (This is why a pocket is so handy inside.) I will then place an asterisk (*) next to each item that I have a coupon for. This tip will never let you forget a coupon again!
Tip #4 Start early
I know, I know you hear this all the time but it actually is the secret sauce to saving BIG money. Not only that but you will also save time and avoid the dreaded holiday stress.
Try to keep your eyes open year-round for any deals that pop up, but really hone in your focus in July.
That is when those back to school sales hit and they are the best time to pick up some great deals so don’t miss out!
Notebooks, pens, crayons, markers, locker stickers, socks, even dorm room accessories that are great for a bedroom work well for stockings.
Tip #5 Think outside of the box
It helps to know what your recipient likes and if you do you will want to keep a few suggestions in your notebook as well.
If my mom is munching on a new favorite mint, I will jot it down so I can add it to her stocking stash. It really is fun when they open up their goodies and they see their favorites inside!
Tip #6 Vintage penny toys
These are much easier to find nowadays and I just 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”.
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.
This saves me from having to hunt down items closer to the holidays and also from overbuying. Make sure to write the recipient’s name on the outside of the bag 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 for the life of me figure out whose bag it was!
Another tip is to not wrap your gifts early. I did that once, only once…..and ended up having to open things to make sure I had a certain item bought.
Lesson learned. Wrap last.
Tip #8 Keep track
When I purchase an item I will write it in my notebook and highlight it as well so I know not to buy it again. I do not recommend crossing items out.
When you start as early as I do you may forget what was bought. I have been shopping and bought something twice because I couldn’t read it after I had crossed it out on my list.
Written down means “buy” and highlight means “bought”.
A simple solution that saves money by avoiding repeat buying.
And that’s it! If you start now I promise 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.
- 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 – cuz, I’m no the
- 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 that 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.
I have even more gift ideas to help you save money holiday shopping jump over to my Gift Guide page!