The holidays are upon us. They seem to come earlier and earlier each year. It is easy to get caught up in the frenzy and buys lots and lots of stuff for lots and lots of people. So I am going to share our strategies for doing Christmas Shopping on the cheap.
First, save! If we don’t have the money we don’t buy things! If you haven’t been saving all year, squirrel away what you can now and shop with that.
Decrease your to buy for list. Seems harsh, I know. We only buy for the kids in our family and sometimes something small for our kids friends. We decided adults wouldn’t exchange gifts unless it is something extremely thoughtful, personalized, home made or a service you can perform (like a free house cleaning, carpentry services, etc.). We let our families know a few years back that we would be doing this due to budgetary constraints and that we would appreciate it if they only bought gifts for the kids as well. I know that for a lot of families this is bucking tradition. But our experience has been positive. Our families still usually get each other a little something (they don’t follow instructions well) but the holiday buying has become so much less stressful, less expensive and more thoughtful.
Keep an Amazon wish list throughout the year. This is useful for birthdays as well as Christmas. I keep an Amazon wish list for each person in our family. You can add items from Amazon or from other websites. I add items throughout the year, as I come across them, that I think the kids would like or need, or items they have mentioned wanting. Then when I go to do my shopping I have have a nice list already put together. And I share this list with family when they ask for gift ideas. I also use this list to comparison shop. If I find an item on another website and add it to the Amazon wish list, Amazon will tell me if they stock the item and how much it is. Sometimes they have it cheaper. This helps prevent “panic” buying of random stuff just to have gifts.
Shop all at once. Using my Amazon lists, and knowing my budget, I wait until I have figured out exactly what I want to buy, then go online and make one big order. I often wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday when I can get some better prices on some of the items I am planning to order anyway. The past few years I have made one Amazon order and one Rainbow Resource order (they have great educational toys, books and small, fun, inexpensive stocking stuffers). I spend enough on each to qualify for free shipping and I end up having the vast majority of my Christmas shopping done all at once.
Thrift store it. We make regular stops at thrift stores and just keep our eyes open for things we need or that would make great gifts. I know some people think buying used items for gifts is tacky but I couldn’t care less. My kids don’t care and you get so much more for your money (and keep things out of landfills) that way. For example, I found them each a t-shirt, one Lego Ninjago and one Angry Birds, at Goodwill the other day and spent less than $5 total.
Craigslist. You know that expensive toy that your kid would love to have? Find it on craigslist. You will pay a lot less for it and as a bonus you won’t have to fight with the stupid packaging that stuff comes in. For example, I have been looking at Nintendo DS and DS Lite prices on Craigslist and have been seeing them for $50-$75 including games, cases, accessories, etc. That is half the retail price, if not less.
Make homemade gifts. If you can sew, build, cook, brew, write, etc. then make gifts. It is a great, inexpensive way to give gifts. Just be sure you keep your material costs low. You can find a ton of great ideas on Pinterest.
Don’t send Christmas cards. Ouch! I know. I really enjoy sending a receiving Christmas cards, but they are just so expensive. And the postage is rediculous. Instead, send a email update letter and Christmas greeting to your friends and family. But still send Grandma a card by regular mail. In years past we have taken what we would have spent on postage a donated to buy chicks through Samaritan’s Purse. A great way to give while saving.
Don’t buy daily deals, lightning deals, etc. My reasoning here is twofold. First I would end up paying so much more for shipping or order more than needed to get free shipping if I shopped these. Second, I can not take the constant bombardment of “you must buy this now”, constant searching for deals, constant shopping. I haven’t found the prices on those deals to be super amazing either. I think it is easier to loose track of your budget with these as well.
These are the strategies I have found work best for me right now. What are your favorite ways to save during the holidays?