Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How to save a TON of money on your Christmas

Had to start off with pictures of some cute kids :)

     We are a family of 8 in our home, with many many other people in our extended family and quite a few friends that we are so close to that we consider them family and celebrate the holidays with them.  At least once a week, it's normal for us to have 15-20 people in our home for dinner - and even more for Thanksgiving & Christmas.

     Now - those of you who know me, know I love Christmas.  It's magical for me... and it's my goal to make it magical for everyone around me.  It's truly a celebration of Jesus' birth, and is the time of year for family to be together and celebrate with one another.   I completely understand that some families don't celebrate with presents and gifts - and that is very much ok.  I'm not too keen on "presents".  Presents to me are generic.  It's giving someone something with no meaning behind it other than for them to have something they might like to unwrap.   A gift is so much more.

     A gift is something you've put thought into.  Something you may have made.  A scarf you knitted while praying for the recipient, hair clips you've made picking out the perfect colors for someone, personalized ornaments, or anything bought in a store that ties the gift giver and gift getter together... such as a wine bottle opener for a dear friend who is moving away after sharing many "wine nights" together.  I can't bring myself to give presents very often... and hate doing so.

    Being thrifty, frugal, cheap, etc - whatever you want to call it is as important to me year round as Christmas is to me this time of year.  With a little planning, some time spent scouring the internet for good deals, shopping clearance items in the off season, and FREEBIES - everything comes together nicely while I spend about 25% of what things normally cost.

     Here are a few tips:

*** FREE STUFF (Or almost free stuff). 
     It's everywhere all year long - you just have to find it.  This year, the Paper Coterie ( had 2 offers for new/existing customers to get $40 worth of their products for FREE.  Their personalized photo journals are $18 each.  I uploaded a picture, added a cover caption for each of the 2 books I ordered - and it was just under $9 to have them shipped.  Then Brandt did the same.  For $18 in shipping, we got 4 GORGEOUS (Seriously - their products are VERY VERY high quality) personalized photo journals to give as 4 gifts.  This NORMALLY would have cost $90 to have purchased and had shipped.  We paid 20% of what it would normally cost.  $4.50 for a gift I am excited to give - and that the recipients will LOVE.

     Yesterday, a blogger, Heather at the EO gave away a $20 photo book from The Blurb to her first 50 commenters.  I was lucky and was one of them.  However - when I got to their website - they had such great deals on other items (50% off 2nd copies too!) that I ordered more photo gifts (like Instagram books, and Facebook picture books) for people too.  Watch blogs for giveaways on items that would make great gifts!!

     SWAGBUCKS  Use their site as your search engine - and earn swagbucks.  Which in turn can be redeemed for giftcards.  Which in turn can buy almost anything you need, want, or wish for to survive... including some awesome Christmas gifts that can be purchased during their Black Friday Deals Event or Cyber Week Deals Event...  I used Swagbucks casually this past year - and was able to redeem them for $225 in Amazon Giftcards.  I used that FREE $225 to buy over $750 worth of gifts during their Black Friday sales this past week.  Total NO-BRAINER.

*** MAKE STUFF  (It's MUCH easier than you think - and SO much better!!!)

             Handprints for Grandparents are an awesome gift... portrait ornaments are nearly free when you buy the ornaments after Christmas on clearance for the following years gifts.  I bought 4 boxes of picture ornaments (snowflakes) for $1.90 a box last year on clearance.  I snapped pictures of the kids in their Christmas clothes - popped them into the frames - and have 4 gifts to give to the grandparents and great grandparents for about $11 total.

          Name ornaments.  For $30 on ebay I was able to purchase a BUNCH of scrabble tiles and scrabble trays.  B cut the trays down to size for me - to fit 3, 4, 5, and 6 letter words/names - and everyone got their own name + a couple of seasonal words (Hope, Joy, Love, Gift, Fir, Tree, Jesus, etc) for a gift.  I made 10+ gifts that everyone LOVED.  Some hot glue to secure the tiles to the boards, and a red ribbon glued behind the middle tile in a loop for hanging - and Voila!  Perfect gift!

     Bath Bombs:   For about $50, I was able to buy everything I needed to make a TON of homemade bath balls in some pretty incredible scents (epsom salts & essential oils are the 2 main ingredients - add a drop of food coloring for some beautiful colors).  Martha Stewart has an awesome recipe and guide on how to make these.  I made over 100 large bath balls, decorated some tins/jars to "wrap" them in - and had 15 + really REALLY nice gifts to give to some very deserving ladies who said these were better than any store bought bath balls they'd ever used.  

     Sugar Body Scrub:  For about $35, I bought everything needed to make these jars of body scrub in scents like Gingerbread, Cinnamon, Peppermint, Citrus & Basil Lemon.  It's just sugar, coconut oil, essential oil(s),  a pretty jar with a printable label for the lid, and a ribbon to finish it.  Package it inside a box with some tissue paper and wrap it nicely - and for about $2.50 each, you have a $20 gift to give.

     Scarves:   For $10 at Walmart, you can buy a circle knitter (which is re-used for each scarf) - and for $6 more you can buy enough yard to make a gorgeous scarf for someone.  $6 for a homemade scarf is a GREAT deal.  Add a nice card - pray for the person while you make it - and you have a gift anyone would love to receive.

     Holiday treats:   Bake some cookies or some fudge.  Go to your thrift store and buy all the old metal tins you can find (ya know - the ones some cookies come in).  Buy some beautiful holiday colored spray paint and paint the tins.  Buy a paper doily, and paint a 2nd color over the tin through the doily (OR leave it just a solid color or use some Holiday rub-on decals).  Package cookies inside wrapped in tissue paper or wax paper...  you have a beautiful handmade, homecooked gift for less than a few bucks each. 

*** SHOP WISELY:  Clearance is your friend!!!

     I shop clearance year round for stocking stuffers - and gifts too.  Target has a wonderful after the Holidays toy clearance.  We're talking 70% off!!!  I buy much of the kids clothes a year ahead in the off season - just find the clearance rack, and buy a size or two bigger than your kids are now.  Next year - those $3.50 Christmas PJ's will fit them - and you'll save yourself some money!

     Each year, everyone gets a pair of Christmas socks in their stocking - and we take a picture of our feet all lined up.   These socks are just over $1-2 on clearance and are normally $5-10.

     Even if it's not for Christmas - it's a good idea to stock up on Birthday presents when you can.  Each of my kids get invited to a few parties throughout the year - and it's so nice to pull out a $5 gift when the time comes than go shopping and pay $25+ for one.   

     Restaurant Gift Cards ROCK this time of year.  So many places offer you an extra $25 if you buy $100 of their giftcards.  I gladly do this for places we typically eat out at.  It's like feeding the 3 little kids for free! has some wonderful deals (literally $5 for $50) too - just read the fine print... sometimes you can only use them on certain days - or have to spend a certain amount.  I've used their gift cards several times with no issues and LOVE them!

     Groupon has wonderful deals too - Just pick your city/state - and you'll get some awesome bargains!  Yesterday - I bought an indoor waterpark pass for $10 that's normally $35... VERY cheap entertainment for our larger family!  I've purchased Pumpkin Patch tickets for less than 50% off there too...  I check it daily to see if there is anything ridiculously cheap that I'd use.

     Zulilly.  If you're a mom - check this out.  I've clothed my kids with their unbelievable bargains for the past several years.  I bought this years Christmas clothes there for UNDER $30 total for the 3 little kids.  It would have been almost $100 had I bought them through another store.  Zulilly also carries many many other items besides clothing for kids.  I've brand name clothes for our whole family, shoes, boots, Christmas decor, household items and MUCH more for 60-80% off.

WHEN IN DOUBT - Stuff a Stocking!

     Anyone who spend any part of Christmas with us, gets a stocking to open.  Stockings can be bought for $0.50 to $5.00 each after Christmas on clearance.  I always keep a handful of the $0.50 ones.  Personalize them with some Elmers glue and glitter - and stuff away!   With what?

     Gum, Candy, Candles, Handsoaps (trust me on this one -nobody can tell the difference from clearance Christmas hand soap from Bath & Body works even if it's a year old!), fishing lures, nail polish, nail polish remover, matchbox cars, a bottle of microbrew/imported beer, single serving bottles of liquor - coloring books, crayons, and SO SO SO much more... 

     It's really simple to make a stocking for someone... to personalize it or tailor it to their liking - and finding stocking stuffers on clearance year round is a cinch.  Anything small enough to fit in a stocking is fair game!  I typically keep a large laundry basket FULL of stuff I've found on hand and can almost always find a stocking for it to fill!

I hope this helps!  I'll be posting again tomorrow with a MASSIVE Stocking Stuffer list sorted by whose stocking you'd put it in!   

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