There are many ways that you can save money at the holidays and still share the holiday spirit.
When my children started to school, I decided that homemade gifts would be the way to go. How do you buy a gift for someone that you only know in their work environment and who has how many ever children's families purchasing gifts too. There was always the bath products - lotion, bath gel, bubble bath, bath fizzies; the candles; the "teacher" paraphernalia; etc., but how many times can a teacher get the same type of gifts before they are ready to explode. I decided that it would be nice to make them a plate full of the cookies that we bake each year. I pick up a festive plate on sale and fill it with goodies that the kids help me make. That way, they have the treats to enjoy and share with family, and they have a plate they can use in the future.
For the grandparents, we tend to use pictures of the kids for their gifts. We have done photo books, calendars, collages and such in the past. They love pictures of the grandkids and usually, around the holidays the on-line photo shops have excellent coupons - offering 30%, 40% and more off. If we do a collage, we usually place it in a nice frame to complete the gift. If you know what size collage you will do, watching the sales can help you find a nice frame for a reasonable price (or you could find a frame you like and make a picture to fit).
Last year we also tried paint your own pottery. It was a nice opportunity for the kids to paint a personalized mug/plate for the grandparents.
Buying All Year
Now, I don't buy everything ahead of time, but I do start to watch at clearance sales throughout the year for things that I can give as gifts. Especially for clothing. I like to be able to buy nice outfits and if you buy them at the end of season for next year, you can generally get a really great deal. Especially if you can couple it with additional % or $ off coupons. I do watch though for toys that go on sale as we enter the fall. Generally, by then, I have a feel for what other gifts I would like to get for the kids I am buying for.
Additionally, right after Christmas is a great time to stock up on supplies for Christmas - wrapping paper, cards, tape, napkins, plates, etc. Everyone clearances those items out to free up their shelves for the next season. If you have the place to store them, why not buy the supplies for 50% or more off. You can also buy tins, plates and more for sharing your homemade goodies next year.
Coupons can be a great way to save money on the gifts you are buying. For instance, when I hit the Black Friday sales, I was armed with $ off coupons at Toys 'R Us and % off coupons at The Children's Place. Coupled with the already great sale prices that they were offering on Black Friday, I was able to get some awesome deals. Store coupons are found in ad, in the paper, in the mail or on-line.
Coupons can also help when you are stocking up on the ingredients needed for baking. I find that it is best to buy those ingredients in the early fall, when the retailers are starting to put them on some great deals.
If you buy something that you plan to give on what you think is a good sale, continue to scan the sale ads. Many stores will adjust your purchase if they offer the same item at a lower cost. Others will even adjust your purchase price by matching a competitor's deal. And, if they don't, return it and rebuy it,if it will save you money. I don't make a special trip to do this unless the savings is significant, but I do check my ads at the beginning of the week and that way, if I know I will be by that store, I can stop in for the savings.
There are a number of rewards programs out there that can help you save money during the holidays. My grocery store offers gift cards after you spend so much in the store. By participating in programs like Harris Polls and MyPoints, you can earn points that are redeemable for gift cards that you can use to buy Christmas presents. If you carry a credit card, why not have one that pays you back. We have cashed in our points from these different programs, not only to buy gifts, but also to treat ourselves to a low cost dinner out at favorite restaurants.
This is a new one for me. I only started reading blogs this summer and let me tell you, I have learned about some great deals from both on-line and brick stores, I have found coupons that I didn't know were available, and you can even enter to win a giveaway, which can help you save money.
Right now, the members of Walmart's ElevenMoms group are hosting giveaways. One example you should check out is Alyssa at Keeping the Kingdom First. She currently has a $500 Walmart gift card up for grabs. To enter, share your most creative way to save money at the holidays.
This approach works for me to save money at the holidays. To learn more tricks and tips check out Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks In My Dryer.