July 26, 2012

20+ Ways to Save Money on Christmas Gifts

For many people, Christmas is a favorite time of year. Unfortunately, it can also be the most stressful. The costs of Christmas cards, Christmas trees, decorations, and gifts can really burden one’s finances.

You might be wondering why I am talking about Christmas today when it is only July.  Both of my children’s birthdays fall in July.  Once their birthdays have passed I begin thinking about the next big event, which is Christmas.  Giving myself  some time to think, plan, and prepare helps to save money.  Hopefully, this post will encourage you to think ahead and plan too so that you can also save money.

Here are some ways to save money on Christmas gifts. Another day we can discuss ways to save money on the other parts of Christmas.

1.  Get help from friends and family.  Let them know what you’re shopping for.  When I do this, other people let me know when they spot a good deal on something I need.  It goes both ways.  I have been known to text pictures to people at midnight on Black Friday with deals they might be interested in.  It helps to have others watching out for what you need.

2.  Ask friends and family what they want.  Hopefully, this will avoid countless hours shopping, racking your brain, wasted gas, extra unwanted products in the environment, and the hassle of returns.

3.  Try gift cards.  Some people may think this is inappropriate, but I think it’s a great solution.  Gift cards save time, wrapping paper, shipping expenses, and help avoid unwanted gifts.  Let the person buy what they want.

4.  Save your receipts.  Get an envelope for your purse or have a special file folder in your filing cabinet.  You never know when you’ll have bought the wrong size or something didn’t work.  It’s really upsetting to return something without a receipt and not get the full value of the item.

5.  See if your store offers a gift receipt.  I think it’s nice when someone includes a gift receipt in the box.  This avoids the uncomfortable situation of asking where they bought it or if they still have the receipt.  I’ll admit that many times I’ve been left with things I couldn’t use or return.  Gift receipts are great!

6.  Be specific in your requests.  If someone asks what to get your child, try to be as specific as possible.  Tell them the exact name of the toy or their specific pants size.  Before Christmas and birthdays, I have my kids write a list of the things they really like and want.  Then when family asks for gift ideas, I have something to tell them.  I like to have a variety of lower priced items on the list too (such as hair bows, stickers, etc.) so that people don’t feel like they have to spend a lot.  This also helps with people looking for filler items.

7.  Consider drawing names with co-workers or family.  We did this with my husband’s family for several years.  To make it more fun, we kept the names we drew a secret and were surprised when we exchanged gifts.

8.  Buy just for the children.  This is becoming a common practice in our families.  We buy for our parents and the children.  This has really cut down on spending and getting unusable gifts. It also makes for a more relaxed Christmas.

9.  Consider playing a game instead of swapping gifts.  Try a white elephant or dirty Santa game.  Some games involve bringing a nice gift that someone would want.  Other games involve bringing a funny or prank type gift.  There is usually a gift maximum price suggested, such as $10-20.  With the games, each person brings one gift and each person leaves with one gift.  Be prepared for lots of laughter and fun.

10.  Be realistic.  While you’re out there shopping, you’ll probably find loads of great deals and things you want for yourself.  Be sure to budget in some money for things that you want.

11. Make a budget and stick with it. NO CHARGING! If you can only afford a $20 gift then make those dollars stretch. There are deals all around so that you can make your purchase special.

12.  Take those credit cards out of your wallet.  It’s much more tempting to charge something and purchase something out of your price range when the credit cards are in your wallet.  You don’t need a debt hangover in January.

13.  Try making homemade gifts.  With the new craft items, DIY tv shows, and Pinterest, hand crafted items have made a comeback and are more desirable.  Do you have a nitch?  You can make note cards, pillows, crocheted hats, wreaths, and many other different things that are nice.  A gift doesn’t have to be store bought.

14.  Instead of individual gifts, consider a family gift.  You could purchase a popcorn bowl and fill it with microwave popcorn, candy bars, and a new DVD.  Perhaps you could purchase the family a season pass to the aquarium or something else they would like.  The key is to think about the family and what their interests are.

15.  Keep a gift closet or special place for gifts.  Years ago, I used to have a gift closet.  I would purchase things throughout the year and put them away for later use.  Now that I no longer have a gift closet, I have gift totes. It’s not as convenient but the concept is the same.  I find things throughout the year that I think people will like (on clearance or not) and put them away for Christmas. Honestly, I think it is a more thoughtful process because I am able to think ahead and consider the person that I am buying for.  I am also able to pick up a few extra things for teachers, co-workers, and extended family.

16.  Don’t wait until the last minute.  Shopping the week before Christmas means that things will be picked over and you’ll have to choose from what’s left. You may not end up with a nice gift like you had planned, or you may have to pay more for something.

17.  Find discount codes.  Never buy anything online without looking for a discount code first.  Try sites such as RetailMeNot.com and FreeShipping.org.

18.  Give the gift of service.  Instead of you and your friend exchanging gifts, consider giving a gift of service.  Everyone wants to go out on a date with their husband.  Many of us don’t go out though because we can’t afford to go out and to pay a sitter.  Give your friend babysitting services.  You could also give other services such as housecleaning, gardening, raking, etc. Perhaps you could pick a chore that she doesn’t like to do.  Use your computer or art skills to make a certificate for the services you are giving.

19.  Consider giving something used. I remember just a few years ago my son kept asking for Rescue Heroes. Each of the figurines were around $10 each. Finally I did some searching online and found two huge lots on ebay. I got the two lots for around $50, including shipping. Something similar happened with Polly Pockets for my daughter. She soon realized that she could only get a few Polly Pocket pieces for $15 but we found a big box with buildings, figurines, clothes, and more on Craigslist for $40. Consider the person you are buying for and decide if they would mind something used.

20.  Consider regifting.  Regifting doesn’t have to be tacky or thoughtless.  We all get gifts we don’t need.  Hang onto those gifts and try to thoughtfully give them to someone else.  Perhaps you could give them to your neighbor, mail carrier, your child’s teacher, the person that picks up your recycling, or your favorite bank teller.  Regifting doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  Just make sure what you are giving is considerate of what that person likes and that the gift is in good condition.  Here is a post with regifting tips.

21. Look for early sales. Loads of people shop on Black Friday but now stores are doing something different — Some are offering a week of online savings where specific items are offered each day during the sale.  Some stores are also offering big savings before Black Friday. They want your business and your money so they are looking for competitive and creative ways to get your attention.

This is certainly not a complete list of ways to save on Christmas gifts.  Which ways do you save?

image credit

This article was originally written by me in 2007. It has been revised and edited.


Karen

July 26, 2011

More Birthday Savings

Every now and then I like to post deals that I got and show you how much I saved. I don’t do this to brag but because I am excited about saving money and I want to inspire you to save. 🙂

Cuddlebug’s birthday is this week. He is my baby. He is my heart.  I can’t believe he is turning six. Where has the time gone?  

Cuddlebug’s interests have changed a lot over the past six years and then in a way, they really haven’t changed much at all.  They have just developed more.  He is still into cars, trucks, balls, and Magnext.  His newest interest is badges and handcuffs.  He says he wants to be a cop someday. It is bedtime and I’m feeling a big nostaligic so I better get on to the deals.

I have explained many times before about purchasing birthday and Christmas items throughout the year. Target is known to clearance their toys after Christmas (usually in January) and then in the summer (usually in July). There are some good clearance items other times of the year too. You just have to catch them at the right times.

When Target has their toys on clearance I usually take the opportunity to purchase things that I know my kids will like. I put them away for the next birthday or Christmas and this saves a lot of money.

Magnext magnet set – reg $19.99, $9.98 clearance

G.I. Joe R.H.I.N.O. vehicle – reg $49.99, $12.48 clearance

Air Hogs Moto Frenzy – reg $24.99, $6.24 clearance

Cherokee leather blue and orange shoes – reg $17.99, $4.48 clearance

Door hanger kit – reg $3.99, $.98 clearance

Animal adventure sticker book – $1.00 from Target dollar section

Color Wonder soft sticks – $1??
Everything I purchased came from Target except for the Color Wonder sticks.

At regular prices this would have cost around $122-$125 but I paid about $36. As you can see, shopping throughout the year saves a lot of money.

What deals have you found lately?

Image (c) Karen Weideman.


Karen

July 4, 2011

Another Thrifty Birthday

Last year I told you about the ways that I purchase my kids’ birthday presents for a low price.  Today it’s Alligator Girl’s birthday so I thought I would show you once more how I save a lot of money.  Here are the gifts that we got her.

BFC Ink Hair Sylin’ Kit 14.99, 7.48
We got this at Target. It goes with the doll she got for Christmas.

Paperoni butterfly kit 5.04, 2.52
Target clearance

Paperoni puppy kit 5.04, 2.52
Target clearance

Paperoni kit with 1200 pieces 14.99, 3.74
Target clearance. We got these for her because she really likes do create things and draw.

Hello Kitty stampers, set of four 1.00
Target dollar section

Hello Kitty stationery set 14.25, 3.09
Claire’s Boutique clearance

Hello Kitty pouch with silly bands 4.50, 1.00
Claire’s Boutique clearance

skort 6.99, 1.74
Target clearance

Disney Princess belt 6.00, 1.00
Walmart clearance

white eyelet shirt 35.00, 4.00
Belk clearance

Build-A-Bear dress, shoes, bloomers 25.00?, 3.50
I got these at a consignment store. I don’t know exactly what this would cost at Build-A-Bear but I’m guessing it would be about $25.00.

These items would have cost about $130 but I paid around $30 for everything. It saves a lot of money to shop the clearance sales throughout the year.

Do you shop ahead for birthdays and Christmas presents?


Karen

December 22, 2010

12 Useful Tips for Regifting

We have all received gifts that we find unuseful. There are some things that can be returned and other items leave you wondering where in the world they they came from. Rather than tossing or donating your unwanted gifts, consider repurposing them by regifting. Although regifting may sound tacky to some of you, here are some useful tips to consider.

1. Don’t give partially used gift cards. I received a used gift card more than seven years ago when my daughter was born and I still remember it like it was yesterday. The gift card was for $17 and some change. It left me wondering if they returned something and just gave me the gift card from the return or if someone gave them a gift card and they used it, and were giving the leftovers to me. If you have a gift card with an odd amount on it, consider adding a few dollars to it so that you can use it for a gift. Rather than giving someone a gift card with $17.86 on it, add $2.14 to make it an even $20.

2. Only give new unopened gifts. If you have to dust it or clean it first, then don’t regift it.

3. Consider using your unwanted gifts for a gift exchange party. Some refer to this game as Dirty Santa. I have played it with family, co-workers, and at church Christmas parties. It is actually pretty fun. You pick a number and that determines when you’ll get a turn in the game. The first person picks a wrapped present and they unwrap it. Then the next person can take the first person’s present or choose a new wrapped present and unwrap it. Each present can only be taken twice. Honestly, I think this is one of the best ways to unload an unwanted gift. For these gift exchange games, it’s usually assumed that people will bring something funny or something they don’t want.

4. Don’t just regift something to get rid of it. Make sure the person will like or appreciate the gift.

5. Remember who gave you the gift in the beginning. Don’t regift the item to someone who will show it the person who gave it to you. You don’t want to regift that book to your cousin who will show your aunt.

6. Make sure all the paper and tape from the original gift is gone. You don’t want evidence that the item was already gifted to you. (You need to be careful of this issue on things you buy from the store as well. I have seen items on the shelves that had a little bit of tape or wrapping paper left on the boxes.)

7. Be careful what you say about the gifts people give you. I’ve heard of people telling others humorous stories about the gifts they received from others and then regifting the items the next year. The people knew the item was a regift because they remember hearing the stories from the year before.

8. Make sure you know what’s in the box. You may get a present that has a crock pot on the box, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a crock pot inside. Some people simply reuse boxes. It would really be a mess if you thought you were giving someone a crock pot, but you gave them something else. Or worse, there could be a card inside with your name on it.

9. Only regift current items. And by that I mean don’t give someone an old CD, discolored cologne, a bath product that is no longer sold, etc. I remember one year someone gave me a set of Bath & Body Works products. I took it back to exchange it for a different scent and found out that Bath & Body Works had new and different packaging from what was on my gift. To make things worse, when I opened the gift, there was an expired coupon inside.

10. If you don’t have money for a gift, then choose something that your friend has complemented in your home. Then tell them that you didn’t have any money to buy them something, but you knew they really liked the crystal clock you have on your dresser, and you wanted them to have it. Honesty would probably be appreciated and the person would actually get something they like.

11. Don’t regift handmade items. Handmade items are very personal and the person receiving the item will be sure to ask, “Did you make this?”

12. Consider using your unwanted gifts for those in need. Each year, I know that my church will collect coats, blankets, and toys. I also know that each year I will assemble shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. I have used things that we have received to help fill the shoeboxes. (Of course the items were new.) This is an inexpensive way to bless others with a new item of something that you don’t need.

If you don’t want to regift, but don’t want to hurt your pocketbook, try this certificate from Regiftable.com. You can make a certificate for something you want to give someone, such as free babysitting. I’d love for someone to give me some free babysitting or housecleaning.

Do you regift? What items have you regifted? Do you have any regifting tips?

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Karen