By Mary Kuffa
This article was originally published on September 28, 2018.
I went in to Dollar General the other day, (September 24th to be exact) to pick up a birthday card (because I’m not spending more than $.50 on one) and I couldn’t believe what I saw. I walked down an aisle lined in ornaments, bows, placemats, glittery festive ribbon and blow up Christmas decorations. My 4 year old son was so confused, “Mommy, can we get this blow up snowman for Halloween?” Exactly child. Halloween is next, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas. We have 2 more big holidays to get through until I can justify putting 6 foot tall inflatables in my front yard. Our society has gone absolutely mad and has literally made Christmas a 13 week holiday to prepare for and spend money on.
Growing up, Christmas was full of great childhood memories for me, and still is to this day. I realistically know that when my Halloween wreath comes down November 1st, my Christmas one will go up. The biggest obstacle for me during the holiday season is simply to not go broke.
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I like to follow Dave Ramsey and agree with most of his concepts involving money. The most life changing one for me though was when he said, “Christmas is not an emergency! It doesn’t sneak up on you. Lack of planning is not an excuse to use credit cards!” This year my goal was to have as much Christmas shopping done as fast as possible, preferably before October with zero debt. Luckily I only have one child to shop for, but I can guarantee if I had more, I’d follow the same concept even more out of fear of breaking the bank in November and December. I also have 7 nieces and nephews to shop for, in addition to my other loved ones, so it’s imperative that I am smart about my spending being a single income household, but still able to wrap up some awesome gifts!
Here are a few of my money saving tips for the holidays:
- Shop in August for toys. I know this seems silly (and we are already past August), but do it. The stores are giving things away. Literally! GIVING IT AWAY! They are clearing the shelves for back-to-school and gearing up for the holidays. My sister is a huge shopper. I can guarantee you’ve seen her at Meijer, Target, Kohl’s or Kroger at least once. Her rule of thumb is unless it’s 75% off or more, don’t waste your time. A 50% off sticker that once brought me joy does nothing for me. The 90% off shelf is where you’ll find me! I was able to score my son $200 worth of toys for $50 just a few weeks ago on nice, quality toys.
- Kohl’s Cash! I shop at Kohl’s maybe once a year. I don’t have a Kohl’s card. I don’t like going in to Kohl’s. But, I do love me some Kohl’s cash! Why? Because I can shop online and pick it up at the store for free! I’ve had friends send me their coupons and I am able to buy Derek toys for FREE! I was able to score him 3 toys for $3.16. Not a bad deal!
- Hit up the stores the week after Christmas. I know, I know, this is a given! I am partial to Hobby Lobby. I specifically shop for teacher gifts, wrapping paper and DIY gifts for Derek to make the following year! I have to buy a lot of teacher gifts being Derek goes to Childcare and preschool. That’s a total of 7 teachers. On last year’s shopping trip I was able to score all the teacher gifts for under $10 for this year! It’s a huge weight lifted off of me knowing I don’t have to worry about that expense this year.
- Have your kids make gifts. I feel like this is always good in theory but people tend to go overboard. You don’t have to be overly crafty to give your kid a paintbrush and let them become little artists. Every year my son makes ornaments. The first couple years we did the salt dough ones with his handprint or foot print. We have graduated to some more “homemade” looking one since he thinks he’s Picasso when he has a paintbrush in his hand. Last year I was able to score ornaments for him to paint this year for $.20 cents each. These are great for Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents. And who doesn’t love a homemade ornament? They are such special keepsakes.
- Do a cookie exchange. I hate baking. I suck at it. I don’t even necessarily enjoy sweets. I’d choose a jar of dill pickles over a plate of cookies any day of the week. With that being said, my family loves to bake! I usually settle for making chocolate covered pretzels as my item to contribute because those are hard to screw up (even though I’ve managed to do that numerous times). At the end of the cooking day, we divide everything up equally. I was able to score some cookie tins at the end of the season for $.25 each for me to use for this year’s exchange. These are perfect for holiday parties, gifts for neighbors, mail carriers, hair dressers and whoever else you want to share some holiday cheer with!
- Make an Amazon cart. Every time my son sees a toy or commercial that really excites him, I browse Amazon on my phone, find the item and throw it in my cart. It’s not to say I’m going to buy it, but when I have some extra money, I can go in my cart and buy a few things at a time. I know they are things he will love and I’m most likely getting the most competitive price.
These are just a few ways that I skate out of the holiday’s debt free. Christmas is a magical time of the year. Let’s not ruin is by going in to debt and taking away from the magic of the season.