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Editors Note: This post was originally published in December 2018, but was updated in November 2019
Anyone who knows me or has been following our blog for any length of time knows that I love to find ways to save money. I wouldn't exactly call it a passion, but it's definitely a hobby.
I have mentioned before that my husband and I started out our married life in debt and it took us a while to learn how to manage our money.
Now, I feel like I could write a book about all the ways to make a dollar stretch! Hmm. Maybe I will some day. ;-)
In the meantime, here are 5 things I consistently do to save money and make my Christmas shopping dollars stretch.
Buy throughout the year.
One of the benefits of having a Christmas envelope is that the money is available throughout the year if you find a good deal.
I frequently do some Christmas shopping in the Spring at the annual Teach Them Diligently homeschool conference where I'm sure to find good books, Lamplighter Theater audio dramas and other items that are staples in my Christmas gift-giving.
Buy off season.
Budgeting and saving money includes all the extras like gift wrap, bows, gift tags, etc. Those things can really add up!
The absolute best time to purchase gift wrap, trimmings, ornaments, and other seasonal items is right after Christmas when these items are marked down 75 to 90% off! If you have the storage space, this is the perfect time to stock up on these items for next year's gift giving. This includes tins, cellophane baggies, and labels for homemade food gifts.
Also, many times you can find wrapping paper in non-traditional Christmas colors (like purple and green) and patterns that can be used for other gift giving throughout the year.
Buying off season can also apply to gifts. Ornaments, decorations, and other generic gifts can be purchased and put back for gift-giving to neighbors, teachers, the mailman, etc. or as additions to next year's gift baskets.
DIY gifts and giftwrap.
If you don't have the space or desire to store wrapping paper until next year, you can still save money on paper by making your own. The Dollar Tree has plain white paper. Have the kids customize it with paints or stamps (finger-painted hand prints are especially fun for toddlers!). Or, leave it white and tie a colorful ribbon around the package.
You can also make your own gift tags. We have saved cards from previous years and cut out the pictures for DIY gift tags. Or, use "scraps" and embellishments from other crafting projects (scrapbooking, card-making, etc.)
Think outside the box with gift giving.
Gifts don't have to come from a store and be wrapped neatly in a package. Here are some unique ideas:
Did I hear an audible gasp at this suggestion? Okay, I'm going to admit it and on the Internet for all eyes to see: I have bought my children used items as gifts before.
Before you give a shudder of disgust, let me explain. We're not talking about underwear from Goodwill, here! (Um, my apologies to anyone who has ever actually bought underwear from Goodwill.)
When all my kiddos were little (think the 5 and under crowd), I would occasionally find barely used toys at garage sales. It occurred to me that I could purchase the item, sanitize it with bleach when we got home, hide it until Christmas or the child's birthday and they would never know or care that it didn't come new from a store. (I once found a Fisher Price Little People farm set for a fraction of the cost of a new one.)
As the kids got older, we found other gently used items that would be out of our price range if purchased new.
Ebay is a great place to look for secondhand gifts, especially refurbished electronics (iPods, iPhones, etc.). Often you can get these with a warranty, just the same as you would a new product.
When deciding if an item should be purchased used vs. new, ask:
Is it important that this item be new, or will we get just as much use and enjoyment if we purchase it used?
Sometimes, purchasing new really is the better option. For example, if the cost savings of purchasing a used item is minimal or if it significantly extends the life or usability of the item by purchasing new, then we definitely purchase new.
Not only do we sometimes save money on gift-giving in this way, but it also teaches the kids from a young age that we don't need the latest and greatest of everything. Now, as my teens have income of their own to spend, they have learned to be very careful with it. In fact, many times, their first instincts are to look for it used first. Except underwear! ;-)
I hope you've found a couple of new ways to save money this Christmas! If you have any new ideas, I would love to hear them.
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