With Christmas quickly approaching, it is time to start thinking about pulling out all those glorious decorations and getting ready for giving all those thoughtful gifts! In an effort to alleviate the stress associated with the holidays, here are some helpful tips to save while still being able to give in honor of that first Christmas when we were given the best gift of all, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.
1. MUSIC MIX
Remember back in 8th grade when it was all the rage to make your friends a “Mix Tape” (yes, I am referring to the cassette tape)? Well, nowadays with the popularity of the MP3 player, why not create a “mix” of music for those you love inspired by something personal? For example, if your sister loves to exercise on the elliptical, make her a “playlist” that includes inspiring songs with a quick beat to make her 30-minute journey even shorter! Plus, she will be thinking of you every workout. Paul said in Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (NIV). We can all use a little prayer of thanksgiving.
2. STOCK UP
Make some space in your closet and purchase gifts when they are on clearance. Then at Christmas time, you are prepared without needing to go pay full price for gifts. For example, twice a year Target has a toy clearance. This is a great time to stock up on gifts that never go out of style, such as bubble toys for little ones or board games for older children.
Create a budget and stick to it. Easier said than done, right? Well, it is time well spent to direct your money where to go rather than to watch where it went. Determine the amount you have to spend on Christmas gifts, and then break it up per person to know how much to spend on each. After you start shopping, keep a running total per person. Also, start shopping as early as possible, and you will avoid having one big expense in December.
Use free gift cards to purchase presents. Have you ever heard of SwagBucks? It is an internet search engine, only instead of simply searching for your online answer (for nothing), you earn points (called SwagBucks) that can be redeemed for items such as Amazon gift cards. What an easy way to save up for holiday spending! It takes me a little over two weeks to earn 450 “bucks” which can then be redeemed for a $5 Amazon gift card (or other gift cards)! If you are already searching for things on the web, then just start using Swagbucks.com as your search engine and you’ll begin earning freebies as well!
Let’s not forget the important motto: Homemade gifts really do make the best gifts! Remember when you were little and you made your mom a gift for Christmas and she cherished that gift for years. The thought, inspiration, and journey that it took for that item to be completed and given to the recipient means so much more than choosing a store-bought item. The gift you make can even be cookies or other food items or the ingredients for a recipe. One year, with my children’s help, I made felt snowmen to adorn a jar of brownie mix ingredients. I must say, even though it was the cheapest Christmas present I ever gave, it received the most “Thank You’s” hands down! One forum I like to visit to get homemade gift ideas is THIS.
6. GIFT BASKETS
Use coupons to get supplies for gift baskets. It’s fun to do themed baskets! When you get popcorn and soda for cheap, add a family-friendly movie (or a Visa gift card) and put it all in a plastic bowl or a basket (from a dollar store). Then, you will have a really fun, themed gift basket for a very frugal price! Pop some extra popcorn as “filling” in the basket and it makes for a really great presentation! Other ideas include a basket of manicure supplies or even grilling tools and spices for a special guy!
7. DISCOUNTED DINING
Want to give friends or family a thoughtful gift of a dinner out on the town? Restaurant.com sells restaurant gift certificates for a fraction of the cost (use a promo code so that a $25 gift certificate costs only $2). The catch? They have stipulations (such as spending a minimum amount before the certificate can be applied) and because you print them out at home, they aren’t beautiful. I like to ask for these as gifts so we can eat out at restaurants more often. Plus, they are based on zip code, so personalized shopping for an out-of-town friend is easy!
8. CAPTURING THE MEMORIES
Keep a lookout for sales on printing photographs, which you can then frame and give as gifts. Walgreens often gives coupon codes for free photo collages. Just upload online, pick up at the store, and add a frame for a super cheap 8”x10” collage of a special day with grandma! Along those same lines, if you have a little more time, online photo sites (such as snapfish.com and artscow.com) are great for creating photo books. Just upload your photos and design the book online. They will ship it right to you! For less than $10 you can have a personalized gift that the recipient will use and display all year long!
9. COUPON BOOK
Let’s not forget about the age old make-your-own-coupon concept. There is nothing like receiving an act of service from someone you love. A free “Mow the Lawn” or “One-Hour Back Scratch” or a “You-Get-to-Choose-the-Movie Night” are thoughtful coupons and useful! Just use the wizard in Microsoft Word to create a “Gift Certificate” and make it into your personal coupon (or print some ready-made ones here.
As we are excitedly anticipating the giving of gifts to our loved ones, I can’t help but remember that there are so many who have absolutely nothing to give – those who are, in fact, hungry and have nothing to eat right now. I encourage you, while doing your grocery shopping, to spend just three dollars on some nonperishable items for your local shelter or food pantry. Save the items from each shopping trip. Then, take your children to donate those items collected before the holidays begin. You will be teaching them a lifelong lesson in giving that no money can buy!
In every gift you give, you can include your favorite Bible verse or a verse that God has put on your heart. Simply print your verse on colored paper and attach it with a ribbon. Encourage someone and draw them closer to Jesus!
In all the hustle and bustle that gets associated with gift giving, I hope that this small guide will give you a jump start on saving this holiday and help you approach Christmas with a renewed spirit. As believers, we can give back to God through humbly and faithfully serving others. In 1 Peter 4:10, we are encouraged to “use whatever gift [we] have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (NIV). My prayer is that this Christmas season will be one of peace and reflection on that first, special gift of God’s Son that changed the whole world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
TrueCouponing.com is a faith-based money saving ministry focusing on equipping families to save their hard-earned money on their everyday spending. Kati Kiefer is the founder of TrueCouponing.com and saves her family on average more than 70% off their grocery and shopping expenses. Learn how to easily save for your own family at a free workshop near you! Just visit TrueCouponing.com for dates and times.