I have been seeing more and more Christmas related items this year as the holidays quickly approach. I too have had my moments of panic with the idea of buying so many gifts. Then I went back and reread the article I wrote myself last year that I called “Frugal Christmas Shopping.” It made me smile because it reminded me of all of the frugal tricks and ideas I used to amass a huge pile of gifts for my loved ones.
Last year, I was very broke because I had chosen to work less. I had used the spare time to do money saving activities and to take advantage of really great couponing/saving sales and events. This year I have worked full time, almost the whole year, and while the balance in my bank account is higher, I haven’t been able to take advantage of as many great deals because I simply haven’t had the time (See Budgeting While Working Crazy Hours).
Now that I am no longer working full time, I am starting to get back into the swing of using my spare time to really save money and make the money I do have go further. I am already starting to amass some really great Christmas gifts.
Here are some ideas to save money at Christmas without sacrificing the fun-
1. Christmas Gifts Don’t Have to Be New- My entire family shops at thrift shops and yard sales. We don’t expect all gifts to be new and if we can get great, quality items for less, then I say more power to us. Many Goodwill Stores actually receive new Target surplus items and sell them at great discounts. Plus many of us like unique/collectible items that can’t be bought new. Used books are usually a good idea.
2. Buy Gifts Early and Keep Lists of What You Bought for Who- Certain members of our family, myself included, buy gifts all year round when they find great deals. When Christmas comes this really saves a lot of money. It also helps to keep a list of what you have bought for who to make sure you buy what you need for everyone and don’t overbuy for someone.
3. Shop Christmas Sales- Stores are competing for your business this time of year. They often offer fantastic deals just to get you in the store. Don’t let their strategy work. Buy the great priced item you came for and leave.
4. Buy Useful Gifts- Some of my all time favorite gifts are also the most useful gifts. Last year my boyfriend bought me a GPS that I use every day. My brother bought me a nice set of glasses at a closeout store that I also use every day. Look back and think of all of the “fun” items you have been given over the years that have later ended up in the family yard sale, if you can even remember them.
5. Discuss Wants and Needs- Our family, being as frugal and practical as we are, decided last year that we would discuss what we really wanted/needed. This ended up being a huge success (see the gifts I received listed in idea #4). This made it a lot easier to figure out what to get everyone and also made it easier to watch for great sales on items we knew we were buying. It’s like an adult Christmas list.
6. Use Your Resources- Working at Target my mother gets a discount when she shops there. I have free Amazon.com gift cards from using Swagbucks.com. We all look out for high value coupons at stores we shop at such as $10 off. All of these things add up.
7. Free Wrapping Paper- I save the comics from the hundreds of newspapers I buy each year (for the coupons) so that I can use them as wrapping paper. Last year this worked great because it saved me from having to do a lot of cutting. I also save really cool store bags and tissue paper that come with my purchases. My favorite is getting free underwear at Victoria Secret and getting a great bag/tissue paper too. See Frugal Gift Bags. Also see Free Printable Gift Tags. These are also green ideas.
8. A Reusable Tree- My family used the same one for my entire childhood saving a lot of money instead of buying a live tree every year. If you don’t already have a reusable Christmas tree there are some really fantastic deals out right now.
9. Coupons Aren’t Just for Food- I get a lot of great unusual items couponing that end up making really cool gifts. Last year I got free travel size board games, Victoria secret underwear, and expensive lotion among other things all free with coupons.
10. Keep Your Eyes Open for Free Gift Cards- Couponers know all about deals that involve free gift cards, but you can also acquire them in other random ways. Many pharmacies offer free gift cards with a new or transferred prescription. Kohls is well known for giving out Free $10 off of $10 purchase store cards. Stores where you have reward cards often give out free stuff as well. Last year my work was giving away free gift cards(See Frugal Christmas Shopping). You can use these to buy gifts or to give as gifts.
11. Give Something Meaningful- Are you planning on passing on a family heirloom? This might be the right time to do it. I treasure my aunt’s high school ring that she gave me because it is an irreplaceable gift.
12. Give Something You Made- I saw a story on TV last year about a woman who turned the fruit from her backyard trees into jam and gave it as Christmas gifts. I have three orange trees in my backyard (See Waking up to cold Florida air and oranges) that are producing more than we can eat that I will gladly give away. My sister will also create unique artwork that makes for really cool gifts.
13. Collect Baskets- I love to receive gift baskets! Last year I refused to spend an outrageous amount on wooden or plastic baskets at the stores to put my gift basket items in. This year I collected new looking baskets when I saw them at thrift stores so I will have really fancy baskets for my gifts. Even better, most of my gift basket items were free from couponing.
14. Don’t Count Out Dollar Stores- I Personally love Dollar Tree (where everything is $1 because I can afford everything in the store). You can make nice gift baskets (see #13) or find stocking stuffers.
15. Change Up the Family Gift Exchange- Instead of doing a gift exchange where everyone tries to one up each other by buying the nicest gift we do a Bad Santa gift exchange. By ‘Bad’ we mean BAD. Everyone has to buy the worst possible gifts for under $5. Among the Best Worst gifts were pig’s feet and a stuffed bird. You never know what you will unwrap. This tradition has become a favorite because it is hysterical.
16. Include Your Pets but On the Cheap- Our Pets love getting Christmas gifts too, but we never spend much on them. We get cat and dog treats free with couponing . Nothing excites our Rat Terrier more than a .25 cent thrift store stuffed animal that she can rip the stuffing out of. The cats are really happy with empty cardboard boxes. Go figure.
17. A Make Something Party- Have a party where you make cookies or ornaments that can also be given as gifts can be double the fun because you will be able to spend time with family and friends.
18. Give a Service- People need help with all kinds of things. You can even make a ‘coupon’ book. This only works if you actually do what you say you will and if the person is willing to accept the help.
19. Not Quite Homemade Cards- Cards from the CVS Photo Printer, Printed off your computer, or having your kids make cards can be unique gifts for relatives.
20. Get technical- Give someone a music mix for their iPod or on a CD (does anyone use those anymore?), Digitally create a work of art for someone, burn a CD or USB drive with a collection of photos, preserve old family photos by scanning them into a computer, or help a low tech person do something technical. Putting 80s rock music on mom’s computer might be a good idea.
21. Give an Experience- A day trip to the zoo, rock climbing or year passes to something. Living in FL it is often a great deal to buy season passes to smaller theme parks which we can use all year.
22. Bring Back the Potluck- Who says the person who hosts Christmas dinner has to pay for everything? Having family and friends bring their own dishes is fun and makes things easier for everyone. There’s a reason it has been around for so long.
23. Hand Me Down Decorations- My mother is determined to give away the majority of her Christmas decorations this year because she is downsizing. She has boxes and boxes and boxes of things to distribute. I plan on sticking with the resolution my brother and I made last year not to buy any Christmas decorations and to decorate my house with the decorations I grew up with and love. It makes my mom ecstatic to finally be able to give this stuff away. Don’t be afraid to put the word out through the family tree. I find that Christmas stuff is easy to amass not as easy to get rid of unless you know it’s going to someone you love.
24. Second Hand Decorations- If you don’t have a parent determined to pawn off all of their stuff on you like I do, thrift shops may be a good option. Most thrift stores have gotten smart and saved all of their Holiday decorations for this time of year. You can stock up on all sorts of decorations that are barely used (Hey, Xmiss is only once a year) and barely cost anything.
25. Ask for Help- I was getting overwhelmed with the idea of hosting my entire family for Christmas for the first time this year until I realized I wasn’t alone. All of them are happy to help me with anything I need.
26. Adopt a Pet Instead of Buying One- While it is hard to argue that a pet will save you money, they do bring lots of joy. If you are planning on a pet for Christmas, do a good deed and consider rescuing a pet from a local shelter or rescue group.
27. Keep it Simple- There isn’t just one perfect gift for each person, if you have to pay too much, drive too far, stress yourself out too much whatever X perfect gift is it probably isn’t worth it.
28. Take advantage of the Internet- Play free Christmas music on your laptop. Watch free streaming movies. Google codes for free Redbox/Bluebox movie rentals. Print Free Printable Gift Tags. Print free tree ornaments for the kids to color. Price shop for gifts. The internet has saved me much more money than it has ever cost me.
29. Re-gift- I know that this one may be controversial to some, but we have all been given a gift that we know we will never use. For example- Will anyone care that the gift basket you won in the office gift exchange was re-given to someone who would love it? Why stuff something in the closet to gather dust that someone else would use?
30. Enjoy the Things that Money Can’t Buy- I love being surrounded by the people I love. I love my home and the calm I have created there. I love the holidays and cold air. I spend time enjoying how lucky I am to have what I have. It’s over stated but true, “Money Can’t Buy Happiness” so give thanks and love and it won’t cost you a thing.