After baby arrives sometime in November, I know I won’t have a chance to do holiday shopping. I also know better than to count on being able to do anything comfortably in the third trimester, so I’ve set a deadline for myself: Get all holiday shopping done by mid-August. I have about 20 people to shop for.
You may have read about how I got holiday gifts on a tight budget last year. Here is my plan of action to make it as frugal as possible:
For my 10 nieces and nephews, spanning the ages of 1 to 16, I am going to make another felt ornament for each of them. Here are the ornaments I made last year:
I’m actively collecting inspiration photos on my Pinterest board DIY Felt Ornaments. Please feel free to send me some links or pins to relatively easy-to-make ornaments. I’m close to deciding what to make and picking up the materials, but I will need years and years of ideas for the future!
I usually get $5 – $10 toys for nieces and nephews and $5 toys for my friends’ children. I’m starting at the July Target toy clearance sale. This sale is coming up in this week or next — so stay tuned! Last year was a big score, so I hope to be able to snag some good toys for 50 – 70% off again. I already scoped out the toys on sale for 50% off right now at my local Target, including Sofia the First and My Little Pony figurines that the girls will like, and Planes and Matchbox toys that will be great for the boys. One nephew will be seven, though, and I’m not sure what 7-year-old boys like to play with. So, I’ll probably opt for LEGOs if I can find them. There were a few LEGO sets for 30% off, but they’re out of my price range. Here are the latest updates on the 2014 Summer Target Toy Clearance Sale, from my favorite Target site, All Things Target.
Meanwhile, I am keeping my eyes on my favorite couponing sites, to snag deals as they pop up. My favorite sites for these kinds of deals are: Living Rich with Coupons, Money Saving Mom, and Hip 2 Save.
For Little Stapler and Baby Stapler (Santa should leave him a gift, or else Little Stapler might start asking questions about this Santa guy), I also plan to go to fall consignment sales to find lightly used toys they would like. I’ll pick up new toys for them if I can get them at a good price, but they don’t have to be new for my little guys to love them. To find local consignment sales, check out the list on Consignment Mommies. That’s probably the best place to find LEGO and Thomas the Tank Engine sets within my price range.
We don’t get many gifts other than for the kids in our lives, but my parents spend Christmas morning with us, so I like to get them something. They are both avid readers. For my dad, I add books he would love to my Paperback Swap wishlist and hope that someone posts it in the next 5 months. I also scout them out at library book sales. My mom is a tougher nut to crack in general, but she does love British mysteries and art books. The only trouble is finding the ones that she hasn’t read yet.
For everything else … there’s rewards programs. One of my credit cards offers rewards in the form of gift cards. If I strike out for a particular niece or nephew, I could either use rewards to order them a gift card to a store they would like or use rewards to get a gift card and use it to buy their gift. Either way, it won’t cost any money.
Other rewards programs, like Coke and Disney Movie Rewards, usually provide goods as rewards. They both provide free magazine subscriptions, which are a good gift for someone who has a voracious interest in something and therefore has all the gear, has read all the books, and doesn’t need anything else. Or maybe the person is a minimalist — there’s probably a magazine for that (it should be named something like “Recycle This Magazine.” har har).
I usually stuff stockings with practical items like toothbrushes and floss, candy, and random $1 items I stumble on that would make the recipient giggle. I coupon my way through the pragmatic stuff, usually getting things for free. I have already started picking up these items. During the sale at Sears for $50 worth of grilling items for free, I picked up some grill brushes and beer can chicken holders for the men in life. They went straight into the “stocking stuffer” box in my basement. I also stumbled on a useful gift for my mom at Williams Sonoma’s clearance sale last week — an iPad cover to prevent cooking splatters.
Keeping Track of it All
Other than always being on the lookout for good deals and getting creative with your resources, the trick to having a frugal holiday is to stay organized. The last thing you need is to be scrambling at the last minute to find all those gifts you thought you had, only to discover that you never picked anything up for cousin Billy. Or worse, to go out and get Billy a full-priced gift by Christmas and then find the great gift you already got him after you already sent out the full-priced gift.
To keep track of everything, here’s what I do:
- Make a list of gift recipients and keep it handy (mine is in Google Drive, but you may prefer an old-fashioned paper list for your wallet)
- Jot down how old each child will be in December.
- Designate a gift storage area. For those with curious kids, I know you have to get creative. Little Stapler isn’t that curious yet, so I just keep items in a box in the basement.
- As soon as I bring the gift into the house, I pop it into the gift box and check it off of my list.
As for Mr. Stapler’s present? I’m stumped, as usual. I’m sure he’ll suggest something on December 15th and I’ll wind up paying full price for it, but it’s hard to anticipate what he might want 5 months in advance.