Christmas is just around the corner. It is such a joyful time of year, but it can also bring significant stress because money is always tight.
We are a one-income household. This is a recent development, but even when I was working, my income wasn't significant enough to make much of a difference. So when Christmas rolls around, there's always a few weeks of stress as we try to figure out where money for gifts is coming from.
There are a few things I do to make this time of year a bit easier on our budget and I hope you will find my quirky habits to be useful for your own budgets.
Shop for presents all year.
My husband's side of the family exchanges stockings. Now, these are regular stockings because there is NO way everything can fit in an actual Christmas stocking. We usually end up with a grocery bag or gift bag packed full of small individually wrapped gifts and goodies. This is usually the only thing we spend money on for Christmas since our budget is so tight and it's SO much easier on my mind and our bank account if I spend all year picking up little gifts and treats to stock pile for the upcoming stocking exchange.
My favorite place to look for gifts for these stockings is the seasonal (dollar) aisle at Target. Can I get an amen?! Seriously, people, that section is my jam. I ride the escalator up from the parking garage to the main level and my eyes immediately search out that aisle. I grab a cart and start at the same spot every time. I take my time letting my eyes roam over each item so that I can seek out the treasures that are bound to be hiding. I can find yummy and cute scented candles for $3 or fun holiday socks, cute little seasonal decorations from $1-$5. I could go on and on about how wonderful the seasonal aisle is at Target but I'd much rather you go and experience it yourself!
My other favorite place to shop for gifts are the end caps of the aisles at Target. These usually hold clearance items that can either be junk or splendid treasures!
And because I use the entire year to shop for these small gifts, I am able to fit them into our monthly budget throughout the year instead of having to scrounge up a few extra dollars at the end of November or mid-December to finish up the stocking.
I know not everyone is gifted with a crafty bone, but there are so many simple things you can do to make meaningful, cherished gifts for loved ones at Christmas time that don't require hours of crocheting or sewing!
If you have salt, flour, cinnamon and water (plus an oven), you can easily make cinnamon-scented salt dough ornaments for your family. Last year, I made some for my nanny kids to give to their parents and I may or may not have also made some with our dogs' pawprints in them. All you do is mix the ingredients together, roll them out into your preferred size, press your hand (or paw) into them and bake them until they're hard. That's it! And they make ADORABLE gifts.
Another easy crafty (and tasty!) gift is homemade mixes. Whether it be a mix for cookies, cocoa, or spices, it's often super cheap to buy all the ingredients and make several sets to give out in cute jars or containers.
One year, I made a few different types of infused olive oils for my family. Not only were they fun to make, but they were delicious! They're super simple to make and I was able to gather the ingredients inexpensively by shopping at Aldi.
Get money by spending money.
You're probably thinking, "Right, Caitlin. Like that can happen."
Hear me out.
There are several apps I use where I simply submit my receipts from grocery shopping, filling up my gas, going out to eat, etc., and by doing so, I accrue points. And when I end up with enough points, I can eventually cash out for gift cards to any number of retailers or even Paypal. I submit all my receipts all year long and then around this time, I cash them out for a little bit of extra spending money.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not getting rich from these apps. I have mmmmaaaayyybbbbeee cashed out about $50 this Christmas season. It's not a lot, but every little bit helps when we have next-to-no Christmas budget!
Yes, these apps are legit. I have successfully cashed out of all the ones I am about to suggest and have not had a single issue with any of them.
Below are the apps I use. I am including referral codes to some of them. If you download the apps, be sure to use the codes I provide because then we BOTH benefit by getting cash back referral credits! Win win!
The first app I'll suggest is Ibotta. Now, Ibotta doesn't play nicely with Aldi, so if you ONLY shop at Aldi, this will not be your go-to. I happen to also spend my fair amount of time at, you guessed it, Target. There have been a few times where I've killed it by getting cash back offers that almost negate the amount I've spent at the store. How cool is that?!
Click here to find the Apple download of Ibotta. And remember to use my referral code: cviftte
The second app I'll suggest is Receipt Pal. It takes almost any receipt and will in-turn give you points that you can later cash out for gift cards. Click here for the app download. No referral code given.
Receipt Hog is a lot like Receipt Pal, but with an added bonus of sometimes getting tickets to use on an in-app slot machine that can often garner you extra points. I've received up to 20 extra points this way! Click here for the app download. No referral code given.
The next app is called Find & Save. This one is fun because it features many different retailers in your area that you can scan receipts from. I use it for Aldi, Target, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's and many other retailers. Click here for the app download. No referral code given.
The last app I want to feature is called Fetch Rewards. This one gives me crazy points for shopping at Target and buying featured brands. I have only been using this one a few months and was able to cash out a $10 Amazon gift card already! Click here for the app download. And be sure to use my referral code: BQ8BK.
Those are my thrifty Christmastime tips. They've made my life a bit easier in this season of pinching pennies. And in doing so, I've been able to make a few pennies for myself! I hope these tips, plus my Pinterest page and those apps are useful to you and your family as you scrimp and save to make for a successful Christmas!
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