They were in the clearance bin, as stocking stuffers often are: a trio of Crayola scented markers for 17 cents apiece. The markers will go to a flamboyant young relative who’s all about creativity; at age 9, the dude is using YouTube to learn how to knit an infinity scarf.
In years past I’ve hit post-holiday sales to buy the next year’s holiday gifts and even some items for the house. This year I’ve been curiously inert when it comes to bargain-hunting.
The Crayolas may have gotten me off my own mark, however, since I’ve begun to notice yard-sale signs.
While I attend fewer sales than I once did, I’ve found them to be sources of great gifts (some of them still in the shrink wrap). Last year I went to just one, but as it was a community-wide sale it provided a lot of bang for the buck.
The bulk of my haul was books but I found a few other oddments that made small, fun gifts. Most became stocking stuffers, a tradition I enjoy. It’s an idea that’s gotten out of hand; last year I got a press release defining “affordable” stocking stuffers as those that cost $50 or less. Ho-ho-no!
Frugal-hacking the holiday
Pretty sure I’ve never paid retail for a stocking stuffer. Most of mine come from clearance bins, yard sales and the Financial Blogger Conference expo hall (home to fun and funky promotional items like piggy banks and teeny-tiny flashlights).
Last year I cashed in Hallmark Gold Crown points for a Starbucks gift card for my niece, lover of chai tea. My Coke Rewards points got me a $5 McDonald’s GC for one of my great-nephews, and a Black Friday special at Walgreens netted me some free Scunci ponytail holders for the other great-nephew (the flamboyant one).
Other odds and ends come to me as I find them: free-after-rebate items, giveaways (I’m not the only blogger who does these), dollar items at Jo-Ann Fabrics that cost 50 cents after the coupon, the “free” box at some of those yard sales.
As the boys get older I weigh the pros and cons of putting too much in their stockings and under the tree. The older great-nephew is 14, and it won’t be long until he’s looking at college. Wouldn’t his needs be better served with some cash for textbook rentals? At times I think I should forgo holiday gifts altogether, and just transfer money into their accounts.
An affordable celebration
Two things keep me from doing that:
- The fact that I generally spend little to no cash on them, and
- I really like giving presents.
Holiday presents make me happy. While I do need to be careful how much I spend, wrapping and delivering gifts brings me fond memories of my own childhood holidays. Frugal hacks + careful spending = an affordable Christmas.
Incidentally, I budget for special occasions the same way I do for categories like insurance and retirement planning. That is, I assume that holiday spending is something I’ll do, and make plans so that it can be done without fiscal pain.
I’ve got seven months to stockpile rewards points and keep my eyes open for affordable gifts. The annual library sale takes place in early May, and it’s calling my name. Bonus: Books are easy to wrap.
How about it, readers: Have you been picking up items here and there? If you’ve already finished your shopping, feel free to gloat in the comments section.