Sunday, December 21, 2008

55 Ways to Save Money Buying Christmas, Hanukkah or Holiday Gifts

"A hug is the perfect gift; one size fits all, and nobody minds if you exchange it."

I've always enjoyed giving gifts, but have never had extra in the budget to spread as much good cheer as I would like. After hanging out at my place of worship with the quilting grannies, who survived the depression, I learned, "Think depression. Recycle. Make do with what you've got. Thank God."

When I was propelled into solo parenting, I couldn't afford 'needs', like electricity. Car insurance was a luxury. The monthly budget that I barely paid every month and a half did not include 'wants.' I fell back on my creativity. Here are fifty-four money saving Christmas tips I've learned through the years.

  1. Use your interests or talents. I oil painted 100's of Christmas ornaments for friends, family and business associates. Materials: Curtain ring, round piece of canvas, Elmer's glue, and oil paints. I also painted 5x7-inch paintings of a personalized mailbox and larger pictures for close family members. Do you cook, scrapbook, knit, crochet, paint, sew, or make soap or jewelry? Use your unique talents or learn how to create gifts for family and friends.
  2. Make Christmas ornaments. I used to give mysons two Christmas ornaments each year. One ornament was purchased the year before during after Christmas sales, and the other one I made. Google "Make Christmas ornaments" to find ornaments you'd enjoy making. Some years I attended a Christmas ornament exchange party. Invite 21 people. Each person makes 21 ornaments. You go home with 20 new homemade ornaments.
  3. Shop the Christmas sales. After Christmas, I wait until at least 75% off to start buying next year's birthday, wedding, baby shower, and Christmas gifts. I also buy wrapping paper, plates, napkins, cards, and holiday decorations. What newlywed do you know that has Christmas ornaments? Holiday decorations make great wedding gifts. Every season, Hobby Lobby sells candles, dishes and other decorative items starting at 50% then down to 90%. When the sale hits 90%, I check it out. One year, I bought Easter bunnies that were perfect gifts for young children and babies and craft supplies that were great for older children. I buy gift and spa baskets when they hit 75-90% off.
  4. Shop thrift and consignment shops. I shop year round at Goodwill, Salvation Army, The Arc, and Disabled Veterans. I find many new items still in their shrink-wrapped packages. Stores donate unsold sale items to thrift stores. For pennies on the dollar, I've purchased sterling silver, silver plate, new shoes, clothes, and unopened gifts. I only buy when the thrift store marks them down 30% if I really love it, but preferably 50% or 75% off. Purchase cookie jars, canisters, gift tins, platters, or plates. Bake cookies or brownies or candied nuts. Load plates with goodies, then wrap in plastic and add a bow and a recipe card. I also watch for porcelain dolls throughout the year to buy for my granddaughter.
  5. Host a cookie gift swap. Bake 12 dozen cookies. Invite friends to bring theirs. Swap. Then plop them on a plate or in a tin and give them away as gifts.
  6. Shop holiday sales year round. Hobby Lobby sells theme-oriented gifts for every holiday. And there's some kind of holiday or two every month. I shop their holiday sales when they hit 75–90% off. You can sign-up on line for their email alert.
  7. Check clearance racks all year long. The first place I head in a real store is the clearance rack. However, after buying clothes for $2-3, a skirt on sale for $20 doesn't seem like that much of a geat bargain.
  8. Sell goodies on EBay. Clean out closets and drawers. Sell it on EBay to earn money for the Christmas piggy.
  9. Bid on and
    I've found great stuff on these sites. However, after realizing how addicting online auctions can be, I wouldn't let myself buy anything until the credit card was paid off. I'm still grieving over that old timey asparagus server that I refused to fight for! Now I set a limit and don't go over it.
  10. Try Craigslist. Craigslist is a noncommercial, service-oriented, non-corporate online garage sale where you can buy and sell your used goods.I bought a name brand $500 dishwasher for $75. Iwas thrilled.
  11. Check Free Cycle.The Freecycle Network™ is a grassroots, nonprofit movement of people who give and receive free in their own towns. Membership is free.
  12. Make gift baskets. One year, I could not compete with the gifts that my co-workers planned to give everyone in our division at our company party. I had gone overboard at one Hobby Lobby sale and purchased too many expensive baskets for dirt cheap. I loaded them with items from other sales, thrift stores and dollar stores. Everyone thought I spent more than I did.
  13. Create food gifts. From flavored oils to cookies to brownie mixes to soup mixes to creating gourmet candied nuts, teas or coffees, everyone loves to eat and drink. Make muffin, brownie, cookie, cake, tea, coffee or chocolate drink mixes. Mix together dry ingredients and place in a plastic baggie, press and seal bag, a hand-sewn or embroidered bag, or a canning or decorative jar. Great for co-workers or associates. Ships well and arrives in perfect condition, even if the truck drives through freezing weather. Bake mini-loafs. Bake your favorite fruit bread. Wrap in foil. Include recipe as the gift tag. Place in a brown paper bag, fold down and punch two holes in bag. Pull ribbon through holes and tie into a bow.
  14. Use your computer and printer. Design or print out templates for every member of your family. The Microsoft web site provides templates that include business cards, recipes cards, place cards, luggage tags, calendars, wedding planners, CD/DVD labels, return address labels, stationary, gift certificate coupons, budget planners, party planners, bookmarks, alphabet flash cards. Download free clip art from Microsoft.
  15. Shop outlet sales. I've lived near a Libby glass factory, a card and gift factory and other outlets. I shop their sales racks, which are even cheaper than their seconds are. Some outlets sell seconds, last year's products, overstocks, or undamaged items. Inspect slightly less than perfect items to make sure you can easily repair obvious damage.
  16. Give grocery gift cards. Single parents, the elderly and others on tight budgets appreciate grocery store gift cards. Then they can choose the foods they love, instead of receiving someone's discarded, off-brand, outdated canned sardines. Yes, Charley, I received sardines one year in a well-meaning Christmas "food" basket.
  17. Buy already-viewed DVDs/movies or used video games. I buy already viewed movies at Blockbuster and pawnshops. Video game shops sell already used games.
  18. Give to those less fortunate than yourself. As a single parent, most Christmas's I grieved because I could not buy my sons what they wanted. One year, I told the boys that our Christmas presents were buying presents for another family that had nothing. We got their wish list. I took the boys to the store. They picked out all the clothes and toys themselves, and then wrapped them. When we took them to the home, the tree was bare, as was the floor underneath the tree. I placed the turkey and all the trimmings on the bare table in a bare kitchen. Kyle jumped up and down so excited. He wanted them to open their presents, "Right now!" But I explained, they would open their presents on Christmas Day. That was one of our best Christmases.
  19. Re-gift things you don't use or like. Are your shelves bulging with candles, perfumes, lotions, bath powder, or other items that you can't use or don't like? Give them to someone you know will enjoy them. I'm allergic to certain expensive cosmetic brands, which is great for family and friends. I never re-gift to someone who knows the person that gave me the gift.
  20. Not crafty? Buy from friends. Do your friends make beautiful homemade gifts or create delicious foods? Help them out.
  21. Barter things you make. Exchange what you make or something you want to get rid of in exchange for another person's craft or cooking. One year I exchanged the jewelry that I made for a beautiful pot.
  22. Make your own gift-wrap and tags with recycled items. Make gift tags from gift wrap and old Christmas cards. Cut tag from gift wrap and fold in half. Cut tag from Christmas card, and then punch a hole for ribbon. Sometimes wallpaper stores give away their old wallpaper books, which makes great gift wrap. Use the funny papers. Stamp designs on newspapers.
  23. Wrap gifts in creative containers or cloth. I bought fragile Christmas carolers, wrapped them in tissue paper, and placed them in a Christmas-designed hatbox. Wrap a matching scarf around a box containing jewelry. Put a hat and scarf in a wooden box. Wrap a picnic basket in a tablecloth or barbeque grilling tools in an apron. Wrap kitchen gifts in kitchen tea towels.
  24. Look to nature. Do pine cones abound in your neighborhood? Collect and make pine cone ornaments, wreaths, candle holders, or napkin rings. Spray paint pine cones silver or gold and throw them into a basket. Wrap basket handle with ribbon. Trim holly, bayberry, holly, juniper, sage, or pine trees. Make centerpieces, wreaths, swags, and garlands using floral supplies—floral wire, sponges, etc.
  25. Give gift certificates to a restaurant. Each year an associate gives me three burrito coupons at my favorite restaurant. It doesn't cost them a lot, but I LOVE the certificate.
  26. Give books. Purchase books that look new at thrift shops or 'friend of the library' sales. I found John Grisham's delightful book "Skipping Christmas" for 50 cents. It was in perfect condition and a perfect stocking stuffer. Save time, gas and money. After $25, free shipping plops it on your doorstep.
  27. Sign up for
    Amazon Prime is a membership program providing an "all-you-can-eat" fast shipping for eligible purchases. It costs $79 a year can be set up to automatically renew annually. Benefits include: Free Two-Day Shipping on more than one million in-stock items sold by Upgrades to One-Day (Overnight) Shipping for just $3.99 per item. Two-Day and One-Day shipping usually apply across business days. Prime also offers special weekend and other shipping options for qualifying merchandise. Free Standard Shipping for eligible items shipped to P.O. boxes in the continental United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. territories, possessions and protectorates) and APO/FPO addresses with U.S. zip codes.
  28. Be on the alert for white elephant gifts. Sometimes friends throw out items that are perfect for white elephant gifts. If your mother-in-law gives you something beyond horrible, stash it away for party's asking you to bring a white elephant gift to exchange.
  29. Shop garage sales. I still grieve the new cappuccino machine I passed up. I find new items still in the boxes, wedding gifts newlyweds sell, or collectibles at garage sales. Jewelry picked up cheaply can be taken apart and restrung with other beads in new designs for a new bracelet, necklace or earrings.
  30. Shop the dollar stores. Each dollar store seems to have its specialty. Learn where to get what where. Buy pretty bottles. Pour shampoo or body wash into each bottle, plop in a plastic flower. Wrap a bow around the neck. It looks like it came from an expensive store. Fill gift baskets with paper, cookies, hair barrettes, pens, toys, books, you name it.
  31. Make jewelry from gemstones or glass beads. I brought black and white pearls, jade, coral and other expensive beads from Thailand, then designed and made necklaces, bracelets and earrings for family and friends. Several necklaces that I made would sell for $100's of dollars. I only buy beads when they are on sale.
  32. Sew unique presents. I've made plush robes from terry cloth purchased on sale. I enjoy making cloth dolls, especially Raggedy Ann's. One year I gave a three-foot tall rag doll to a friend. You can make pajamas, slippers, toys, tablecloths, and puppets. Use old clothes to make quilts or purses. I've made Christmas napkins by the dozens from scrap cloth found on sale in the end cuts bins at fabric shops. My first year as a single parent, I couldn't afford a winter coat for my son who was in first grade. I had corduroy and coat lining material given to me by my grandmother. I went to an Army-Navy outlet and purchased attractive patches. The military man was horrified because I mixed Army, Navy and Air Force patches. I didn't care. I loved their designs and most important they were color coordinated. After passing the coat down to his brother, the dog chewed up a part of the coat. I still have it.
  33. Take advantage of free shipping. I shop online stores in their sales outlets, and then wait until they email free shipping. If you are on their email list, you know when they have sales or free shipping.
  34. Shop online and get cash back. If you have a few bucks, shop retailers online and get a percentage back for purchased items. You can earn 1% to 20% cash back and redeemed from the FatWallet account. Ebates includes a database of 900 retailers and gives from 1% to 25% cash back. At LiveCashback, you can comparison shop and receive a percentage back for using their services. The internet has opened a completely new world for shopping and receiving cash. Check out Cash Crate, Inbox Dollars, Treasure Troopers, MyPoints, and Shop at Home.
  35. Take advantage of credit card reward points. Some credit cards allow you to exchange reward points for gift cards or gifts they offer.
  36. Use discount coupons. Don't overlook your newspaper coupons in November and December. Check online coupons. links to web sites offering coupons. However, one web site that I used took too much time to research to find a coupon or the coupon was out of date. One time my new computer refused to talk to my printer. So I copied and pasted the coupon, code number and graphics from an online coupon into a Word file. I took my computer to the store and pulled up my Word file at the cash register. They took the coupon.
  37. Sign up for email coupons or money-saving newsletters. I signed up for emails from Hobby Lobby, Hancock Fabrics, Sally Beauty,, and JC Penney. Every week, month or season, they send discount off or free shipping coupons. During the holidays, holiday savings offers pack my inbox.
  38. Comparison shop. Shop by category at PriceGrabber. It also provides quick links to the most popular products, reviews and ratings, rebates, merchant coupons, shopping green, and the product of the day. Check out NexTag, Shopzilla, Froogle, PriceWatch, and DealTime. The includes online bargains, sales, coupons, and freebies. There are over 50 online comparison-shopping web sites. Google 'comparison shopping' to find them.
  39. Utilize senior or friends and family store discounts. My best friend was seventy plus and went with me to stores or restaurants offering senior discounts, so I could save money. Some retail stores allow their employees to provide a discount to friends and family. Thrift stores and some retail stores offer discounts to seniors on certain days every week.
  40. Take advantage of company discounts. I worked for a company that allowed employees to buy their products for cost or cost plus a certain percentage. My friends thought I spent $24.99 for children's videos that were available to me for $3.50!
  41. Buy one big gift. The first year I became a single parent, I didn't have money to buy my sons multiple gifts. So I purchased one set of Omagles on sale. It was a building kit with enough pieces for both boys to play with. My sons loved Legos™, so I closely watched for Legos™ sales throughout the year. One year they snooped in my closet and saw their Christmas Legos™. I hid them somewhere else and didn't give them those Legos™ that Christmas. I saved it for their birthdays.
  42. Make a memory keepsake gift. Collect all the favorite family recipes from your recipe box and your mom and grandmother's and put together a family cookbook. If you are a scrap booker, you can make the binder or use a loose-leaf binder, plastic sheet protectors, and tabbed dividers. Use recipe cards or print out recipes on paper bought at a paper outlet. Include family memories with the recipes. Insert photographs. Include blank pages for your children to add their favorite recipes. Or decoupage family photos on a recipe box and include recipe cards. Frame your children's art for their firstborn's nursery.
  43. Collect free samples throughout the year. Stuff the stockings for nothing. Never pass up a free book or potholder. Ask for free hair care and perfume samples. Give free lotion or cosmetic samples to the elderly who can't afford them. Sign up the weekly email newsletter listing free stuff on the web from listing free stuff on the web.
  44. Cash in rebates. Some gifts or stocking stuffers are reasonably priced after you receive the rebates. Don't miss the rebate deadline or instructions of what you are to send.
  45. Celebrate Christmas after Christmas. When my sons visited their father for Christmas, I celebrated our family Christmas when they returned. I saved money—big time—because I bought their presents at the after Christmas sales.
  46. Search online for coupon codes. Before heading out to shop at the malls, check online for coupons. When shopping online, open a new window and search for coupon codes before checking out. When you find free shipping, and 20 or 30 percent off, shop the retail store online clearance sales or at their outlets.
  47. Ask for gift boxes throughout the year. Every time I buy anything at a retail store, I ask for a gift box. Come Christmas, I'm stocked with all the boxes I need.
  48. Shop at stores that match their competitor's lower prices. Check the ads. Find the lowest price, and then take the ad to the store that will match the competitor's lower price on the same product.
  49. Look for new customer discounts. Some web sites provide free or deep discounts to new customers.
  50. Look for discounts on photo gifts. Grandparents love photo gifts—calendars, mugs, flip books, stationary, photo books, ornaments, key rings, photo skins, coasters, mouse pads, placemats, jewelry, clothing, golf towels, frames, balls, magnets, note pads, keepsake boxes, puzzles, playing cards, luggage tags, photo DVDs, posters and photo books. Upload your photos and send the gifts to recipients. Check out,,,, and
  51. Dumpster dive at colleges. When students go home the middle of December, they dump trees, wreaths and other Christmas decorations into college dumpsters.
  52. Give the gift of time. Take an elderly person or single-parent child shopping for the parent. Babysit so a single parent can Christmas shop.
  53. Give money to a charity. We live in a country that has far more than others around the world. My mother gives money to charities in my name and I receive a thank you card as my Christmas gift.
  54. Make an IOU or redeemable coupon books. They can be for services, favorite meals, babysitting, chores, or anything you can give.
  55. Make use of frequent flier miles. Use miles to purchase magazine subscriptions and gifts.

The best gift we can give is free. It's love. The greatest gift to share? God's love.

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