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How I buy gifts when money is tight
We’ve all approached the holidays at some point in our lives without knowing how we would be able to afford to buy gifts. You may have just paid for your broken-down car to be fixed or you had an unexpected expense creep up at the beginning of the month. Or maybe you simply just don’t make a lot of money and can’t afford to buy lavish gifts.
Whatever the case may be, gifts for the holidays don’t need to be expensive to be special. I personally am quite content with a thoughtful card and my favorite candy bar. But, it’s understandable that kids are a bit different and want more specific (read: expensive) gifts. In all my years of gift shopping for my kiddos and tiny family members, I’ve picked up some tricks to keep my costs down and still give them awesome presents.
1. I make a total budget for the season
First, I need to figure out how much I can truly afford before I go out and start buying gifts. I try to keep it as low as possible, between $10-$20 per child and between $15-$25 for adults. It serves as a fun challenge for me as well.
I shop early and throughout the year for items that go on sale with rock-bottom prices. I have an entire post about why you should shop early for Christmas, be sure to check that one out for more helpful tips!
2. I minimize the amount of adults I buy gifts for
In my family, we’ve all kind of silently decided that we’d only buy for the kiddos (I have 8 to buy for). This keeps the costs way down. Instead of my having to buy for a family of 4, I now just have to buy 2 gifts for their kids. It cuts down my cost by half, in most cases.
The adults I do buy gifts for are my in-laws and parents. That’s it. They are the ones that bought our gifts when WE were kids and it’s only right to repay some of the beautiful memories they created for us.
3. I don’t go to the mall
As much as the mall seems like a great one-stop shop idea, with all of it’s season’s sales, I decided long ago that the mall is not the best place to save money on gifts.
Instead, I shop Costco, Big Lots, and online through Rakuten.
Costco has really cute pj’s and outfits for the kids and their toy selection is really good. Their books are also a great hit for the readers in your life.
Big Lots has awesome gifts for Christmas if you’re creative. I found baking sets for the aspiring bakers, name brand toys, and they have an awesome selection of electronic-type gifts that would be at least double the price anywhere else. This year, I found a virtual reality headset for $12!
Rakuten helped me this year when I was too busy (and also lazy) to physically go shopping. I hate standing in lines, finding parking and shopping from store to store around this time of year. I don’t have to tell you how crowded it is or how rude people can be. So, I try to avoid that as much as I can.
Rakuten not only helped me buy all my remaining 6 gifts in 30 minutes, but I got 13% cash back on my purchases that I was going to buy anyway. The deals I got online were already great, so getting money back was awesome!
If you’re interested in signing up, you can use my link for an automatic $30 when you spend $30!
4. I shop around for the best deals (online)
My daughter is a slime-addict. Truly she needs an intervention. I can’t get her to play with anything else right now. So, when her Christmas list included slime, I shopped at Michaels and got it for $3. Is she going to love it? Absolutely! Does she care how much I spent, not at all.
Initially, she mentioned that the slime she wanted was at Target. When I looked at Target’s prices, they were $20-$30 for a starter kit. I kept looking around until I found a starter kit at Michaels that turned out to be a really small fraction of the cost.
5. I limit the amount of gifts I buy for my kids
Buying 3 gifts is plenty for my kids. I buy them a dress for church, and two moderately small things off of their list.
Our tree doesn’t have to be full of gifts for our hearts to be full of happiness. My kids have never complained about how many gifts they get. And my house is not crammed full of junk every year. It works out great and everyone is happy.
6. I buy 1 gift for the kids to share
This probably sounds to you like a disaster waiting to happen, but believe me, it’s an awesome way to save on gifts and have them play together. I usually buy a board game that we can all play, but I put both of their names on the gift, so they know it belongs to both of them. It makes them BOTH responsible for it and it gives us a chance to have family time.
7. I stay away from gift cards
I hate the idea of people knowing how much I spent on them and I don’t like the lack of thought that goes in to buying a gift card.
I’d rather spend a little extra time and get them something I know they will enjoy and spend less money in the process.
What I’ve learned from my experience
At the end of the season, many of us have regrets and feel guilty about all of the money we spent. We go in to January feeling stressed and wanting to revamp our budget. It doesn’t have to be like that. With the tips above, you get to spend within your limit and everyone who gets a gift from you will be thankful and happy. And you go into the New Year on the right foot.