Is your Christmas shopping budget a little small this year? This is my first official year as a stay at home mom, and I can say for a fact, I only have about $100 to spend per kid this year.
In the past, though, after being a single mother living on one income for three years after my oldest daughter’s dad left us when she was six months old, I have had to come up with some creative end-of-year seasonal money strategies before. I am applying those strategies once again now that we are a family of four living on my fiance’s income.
My kids are 7 and 2. They honestly aren’t greedy when it comes to toys. It is part luck and part parenting. My oldest has no interest in toys and she never has. As long as she has somebody to talk to, or harass (like her little sister), she is happy. The other one is only 2 and she is perfectly content playing alone with blocks and puzzles. I have asked them both for Christmas wishes requests this year. Princess asked for a bike and a puppy, and Pumpkin asked for all the things she already has (Violet, phone, Lightning McQueen pushcart). Clearly she isn’t ready to make her own wishlist yet.
Since a bike is out of season and over budget, “Santa” will not be bringing Princess a bike. Perhaps “Easter Bunny” will bring one this spring, though.
So what do you get your kids when you only have $100 each to spend? Personally, I find it more thrifty and smart to buy long lasting high quality toys than a bunch of cheap crap that will be lucky to last it through a month or two without breaking.
Here is my plan for this year:
Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.
Each kid gets one $50ish big gift, something they need or really want. Then both get a Puppy Surprise dog that I picked up on Black Friday for $15 each. Each kid gets $8 pajamas I ordered on Black Friday weekend from Target.com. They get a $5 stocking stuffer (eos lip glosses for the oldest, a wooden car for the youngest), socks, a book, and a DVD to share.
Have you heard the saying, “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read?” Essentially I am following that rule this year with a little extra “want.”
Now, with 13 shopping days left until the big morning, and budget blown, I am pulling out my special shopping strategies.
- Use Rewards Points. First, I cash in my favorite rewards points for rewards. I’ve got some great photo gifts from Shutterfly on the Pampers Gifts to Grow rewards program and Huggies rewards program. You can earn points by watching videos, finding them on the brands social media pages, and entering packaging codes. One year I got Princess a Taggies ball with my rewards and we’ve used it for years.
I also like using the Recyclebank rewards program and Purina MyPerks rewards program. These both let you leave reviews, complete tasks, and watch points for rewards. I’ve also gotten free Scholastic books by collecting Kelloggs points.
Sometimes you have to pay shipping on your rewards, but generally, I’ve found that the shipping is reasonable (if not free!)
- Do marketing research surveys throughout the year, collecting gift cards and other freebies along the way. Swagbucks has been the easiest for me to use and save up several $5 Amazon and Target gift cards through the year.
Be careful with all marketing research surveys and make sure they’re legit. Marketing research is essential to large companies so it’s easy to find them. Personally, I loved studying marketing research in college.
But the actual marketing research surveys are going to be boring and they’ll pay you very little for your time. They’ll ask you what parts of an advertisement you noticed first, what you liked, and what you didn’t like. They may ask you about items you own or purchase (such as about your cable provider).
You should never have to provide your actual address or phone number – unless you’ll be testing a product they’ll need to ship to you. I’ll be writing a post about legit marketing research companies in the future. Also, I suggest that you never install anything on your computer.
- Discount stores. Around here in Middle of Nowhere-ville, we have several Amish owned liquidation stores. They get store returns, overstock, retired products, and damaged box items by the palletful. They’re referred to commonly as “scratch and dent stores.” I check in tothese stores frequently for bargains. There are “English-owned” (non-Amish) stores like this too.
I’ve been able to find amazing deals here at these stores. Once I paid $5 cash for a brand new Philips Wake-Up Light that I knew retails for $65+. My intentions were to eBay it for the profit, but I found myself using it in my own bedroom. I can easily buy nail polish, makeup, little notebooks, and candy to fill stockings at these stores for a fraction of what I’d pay at a mass retailer like WalMart or Target.
- Family and Friends. My kids are lucky to have grandparents on both sides that love gifting them Christmas presents. Nothing too much, which I am happy for as we do not have a large home. The oldest also has a Girl Scout gift exchange. Some family friends also usually give them a little goodie bag. They don’t need to wake up to a room full of Christmas gifts under the tree on Christmas morning.
- Remember, Christmas spirit is about love, family, thinking of others, and giving. It’s not about what you get. I have my kids pass on their coats and toys they’ve outgrown to organizations and churches that collect these items for needy families. They love to do this and take pride in it. We also try to keep in mind the local animal shelters at the holidays. We might not be able to afford to provide the organizations with cash donations, but we can usually find a way to take part and give a helping hand.