Friday, November 25, 2011

Saving Money on Holiday Shopping, or Is It Really That Time of Year Again???

Making my list and checking it twice.
Image by Sicha Pongjivanich

Holiday shopping.  I don’t know about you, but those words strike fear into my heart.  We can barely make the bills as it is, and now we have to fit even more into our overstretched budget?  While I would love to say “The heck with it!  Everyone is just getting homemade gifts this year!”  the reality is that that option would never fly.

I have an 11-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl.  They aren’t going to be happy with handmade doodads or coupons for hugs.  The older one has already amassed his list for the year and, as usual, it’s pretty heavy on the electronics.  The younger one isn’t quite as picky, but she still knows her mind and knows what she likes.

Here’s the good news though.  There’s still ways to keep from taking such a heavy hit.  Here’s some of the strategies we’re going to be using this year to keep from getting evicted the day after Christmas:

  1. Starting early.  Since summer we’ve had our eyes open for gifts for the kids.  We started talking about it with the family a while ago too, so they know what to look for.  I’ve already picked up a game for the oldest that was part of a buy two get one free deal, and I have a Hello Kitty playset stashed in the closet for my daughter.
  2. Buy used.  The kids couldn’t care less.  Fortunately, most of my family who I am buying for doesn’t either (or if they do, they don’t say anything because they know we have a limited budget).  Places like Gamestop and Half-Price Books are great if video games and books are on your list.  Used clothing from a quality consignment shop can go a long way (my daughter will be getting clothes from here). 
  3. Shop online.  While this might initially seem more expensive since you have to pay shipping, it actually saves us quite a bit.  We can comparison shop and get good deals, and Amazon usually suggests used options for cheaper that can still be purchased through their site.  Plus, if you are doing most of your shopping at once, shipping is likely to be waived.  For me, the best part of shopping online is that I know exactly what I want to buy and I’m not swayed to buy more when I see the stuff on the shelves.
  4.  Pick little items up here and there.  For the next few shopping trips between now and Christmas, we’ll be picking up small items and stocking stuffers on our regular grocery runs.  Some great inexpensive stocking stuffers that kids love include coloring books, crayons, and candies.  My daughter loves to have her nails painted so I’m going to stick a couple of inexpensive nail polishes in her stocking.
  5. Know when to say when.  It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of the season.  Everyone has all sorts of neat knick-knacks out and goofy little doodads, and I already catch myself seeing random items and saying “Oh, that would be perfect for so-and-so!”  But once the shopping is done, it’s DONE.  Don’t let yourself get caught up in the whole “Just one more” game.  Retailers are counting on this and you will quickly blow your budget.

Make a plan, make a budget, and stick to it.  We’ll get through this, I swear!


  1. Love that you mentioned buying used--I think that's a hard thing for people (confessing to this myself) to get used to, but it makes a HUGE difference. Last year I scored a 12-room dollhouse on Craigslist that would've cost literally hundreds of dollars new for $25. I had my poor dh rip apart free, untreated pallets and made workbenches for my boys--the grandparents picked up some real-but-cheap tools and a toolchest, and the kids had the Christmas of their lives. It's harder when they get older, though--age apparently breeds expense;).

  2. I'm glad that I don't have to deal with a lot of snobbish behavior from people on my list. I do get appalled when I see people acting ungrateful because they got something that was used or even regifted. Does it work? Yes. Is is something you wanted? Yes. WHO CARES???