The thought of shopping for gifts, with all honesty, sends me into hyperventilation right around September. I’m good most of the year, because the birthdays and anniversaries are spread out. September hits and I’m a mess! This year I’m starting to hyperventilate NOW because my oldest is heading to Pre-K this year, so I know the “I wants” are going to start. So and so has this Mommy, “I want” it for my birthday, or Christmas. My head is spinning from the thought of it already.
I never gave gift giving a second thought when I was younger. When I was single. When I had a really nice paycheck. When I only had nephews and a niece…….those were the days. I was Cool Aunt Staci who gave great gifts to all the kids in the land. Then Cool Aunt Staci had kids. Money got tight, because Cool Aunt Staci didn’t have that nice paycheck anymore, but rather a mortgage to pay and insurance to worry about, oh and of course, food, clothing and the basics for her own expanding family.
The pulse rate started to quicken after my second child was born, money got a bit tighter when Cool Aunt Staci became DADADADAH: Unemployed Mommy! The Cape is optional. I chose to just take the wristbands with my new superhero outfit. They’re tin foil, not platinum like Cool Aunt Staci’s were…but I digress.
Here’s why my heart beats faster, my palms get all sweaty and I begin to get cotton mouth, in September: BOTH of my children have birthdays in November, which is then followed by Christmas. That’s right. Unemployed Mommy has to figure out how to make the budget for gifts STREEEEEEETCH for two birthdays and a boatload of Christmas cheer. And guest what? Those superhero wristbands gave me the power, the power to succeed. How? I’m going to share that with you, because really, that’s the point of this whole post, right? Right!
The very first change I made to cut my spending: Told my siblings no more Christmas gifts for the adults. Only buy for the kids. They were HAPPY to oblige. Who wouldn’t be? They save, we save, everyone’s happy to do it! Obviously, we still buy for our parents, but it cuts the spending dramatically. I know other families who have also started doing Secret Santa. They get together at Thanksgiving, put the names of everyone in the family in a hat, you pick the name out of the hat and buy for ONLY that family member. It cuts spending a lot, even if you have smaller kids. They won’t be able to buy gifts themselves, however, it cuts gift buying for your family BIG TIME.
The second change I made was to become more active with Swagbucks. If you haven’t heard of Swagbucks, well, don’t admit it to anyone. You MIGHT get laughed at. I’ll tell you this- Swagbucks are digital dollars that you earn, which can be redeemed for gift cards and various other products in their Swagstore. Products such as electronics, games and so on.
I spend the entire year earning my digital dollars by using their toolbar to search the internet, checking their widget for codes, checking the toolbar for codes, visiting the site and taking daily polls, watching silly videos, visiting their special offers page and a multitude of other “FREE” activities. You can also make purchases through Swagbucks at online retailers and earn Swagbucks, but I rarely do that—I just earn with free ways and at the end of the year, when I start to shop for the holidays, I redeem the digital dollars and buy gifts for family members. Just glad my nephews like video games! SCORE for me.
There are plenty of other places to earn rewards, like RewardPort, My Points and RewardTV. All great places that I also use to earn points and redeem for gift cards, or try to win gift cards. I just use the cards to shop for the family, or if the gift card is really good, I just give that as the gift!
My third gift giving change, which is more for birthdays that arise throughout the year: Re-gifting. You think this chick is desperate, right? Well, I’m not. My kids get a lot of gifts for their birthdays and the holidays. Some of the gifts are duplicates WITHOUT receipts. Why waste a perfectly good gift? If we’re invited to a birthday celebration where the child is the right age, we have a few stockpiled gifts we’ll never use, or be able to return. No harm, no foul. Just keeping within our budget!
Amazingly, the fourth gift giving change, people are enjoying a lot. Who knew? I either bake or make their gift. I must tell you, when invited to a friend, or family members home for the holidays, or just a nice dinner-buying wine is expensive and flowers die. So, I bake, or sometimes I make something. I bake cookies, perhaps some cookies, stamp a plain white box, display them pretty-pretty. People love it.
Sometimes I put together a basket of different kinds of snacks I have collected with all of my freebie hunting, OR the favorite of the girls who just had babies—all the freebies I have gotten for baby stuff, like samples of diapers, ointments, soaps, washcloths and anything else, even formula, I put into a basket, or a gift bag and they love it. I do a lot of hunting for the freebies, so it’s sweat equity rather than money that “buys” these gifts.
When I run into trouble, I always go back to buying through cash rebate websites – that’s a back up plan, not really a change I made, because I’ve always shopped through online cash rebate sites. I earn a ton of cash back, that we are able to put towards our “dream” vacation-or to just help pay the bills!
There’s always a way to save money when buying gifts, these are just a few of the ways that I “Keep it Frugal” for me and my family.
*Swagbucks links are my referral link.