Friday, October 1, 2010

Holidays the Frugal Way: Part 1 Gifts

The first day of October! Happy Fall Ya'll! It's time to change all the decorations in the house and really start thinking about the holidays. The thought of that daunting task can become very overwhelming if you don't start out organized. You have gifts to buy, meals to plan and decorations to prepare. Stay tuned to House of Collums over the next week for a series of posts about how to be organized and save money this holiday season.

I always start with making that ever growing gift list. Trying to remember not to buy Uncle Roy another bottle of Old Spice. Speaking of Uncle Roy, didn't he get remarried to Aunt June? She has her three kids from her first marriage (the one before Uncle Roy the first time) and then you have Uncle Roy's boy from when he was married to Aunt Linda (that was in between him being married to Aunt June). And I think Aunt Linda's oldest daughter (who still considers herself part of the family) has three kids now.......! Oh that list could go on forever! It seems like every year several more people are added and that Christmas budget keeps growing. The presents get smaller and cheaper so everyone gets something. Here are some ideas to help cut that list without hurting feelings and save yourself some money.

Making the list smaller:
1. Draw names- My family started this a few years ago. On my side of the family we have a large number of grandchildren. So we have started drawing names amongst the kids. 2 kids= 2 presents Saves my pocketbook AND I think it fosters in the older kids the joy of giving because it's more personal.
2. Play Dirty Santa/White Elephant- People every where call it something different but the game is the same. Set a price limit, whether the gift should be useful or silly(we've done a combination before see the maxi pad Christmas slippers below) and let the gift stealing begin! Guys bring a guy gift and ladies bring a ladies gift.
These were my gift to a co-worker a few years ago along with a gift certificate for a pedicure.
3. Do you really need to buy something for everyone?- I think we get caught up every year in wanting to make people happy. We fill like we have to buy something for everyone. That gets overwhelming and expensive. In years past our closest circle of friends had all exchanged gifts (these are friends that are more like family), but each year with the addition of children it kept getting bigger! We decided about 2 years ago to start only exchanging gifts for the kids.
4. Cut the number of gifts to each other- When our oldest was about 3 we decided that instead of giving her tons and tons of gifts and "spoiling" her (because in the future that may not always be an option) we implemented the 3 gift rule. What's our basis? Jesus received 3 gifts from the Wise Men. The catch? We (Mom and Dad) bring the BEST gifts, the ones wanted the most! Now Santa brings more than 3 gifts but usually not more than 5-7 and they are small (that's because he gave us a call and told us what our kids wanted the most). Santa is cool like that!

Remember, just because you don't give a gift to Uncle Roy doesn't mean you love him love him any less. It just means that you're family is being smart and saving cents and your sanity! Discuss these changes with your family in advance to make sure everyone is in agreement.

Making that list smaller saves money, but so does getting gifts cheap! I shop all year long (when I have the extra money) looking for deals on presents I can use.

Getting the cheap deals:
1. Target- Every summer right before school starts Target does a HUGE toy clearance. 50-75% off!!! I have a suitcase full of toys that will be spread out between my daughters, cousins, nieces/nephews and friends. Some will also be used as part of our yearly sponsorship of a two children from the Angel Tree.
2. Swagbucks- I can't sing the praises of Swagbucks nearly enough! It's free to join and easy to win free stuff. Simply sign up here, use Swagbucks to search online and win swagbucks! Redeem those swagbucks for gift cards and gifts of all kinds. I'm not a die hard swag head that waits for the next code to be released but I do search every Friday to get Mega Swagbucks and I snatch up any codes that get released on Facebook. I have enough right now to get two $25 gift cards to just about any store imaginable. So yes, if you get a giftcard from the Collums' this year it was probably free!
3. Giveaways- There are so many blogs online just begging for you to "follow" them and sign up to win giveaways! What better way to score free gifts!!! Check out my top 25 favorite blogs here to get started. You can also check out for a great list of blogs giving stuff away!
4. One Kings Lane- One Kings Lane offers designer products for your home for up to 70% off. I'm not saying you'll like it all or be able to afford it all. Some of the stuff I look at and think they have lost their minds! But when you sign up you instantly get a $15 credit which can go towards shipping costs! That credit could equal one small, very nice gift! You have to act fast each day because the sales only last 72 hours and the small items go quickly!
5. Black Friday- I think Black Friday is a holiday in itself! At least for me and my group of shopping buddies! Yes it's crazy, yes it is stores over packed with people, standing outside in the cold...but the deals to be had are sometimes outstanding!!!!!!!!!!! That's all I'm going to say for now. There is a HUGE post coming all about Black Friday!
6. Homemade gifts- This is a whole post in itself. I'll try to get it up later today!

How to organize it all:
A few years ago I started making a spreadsheet that listed everyone's name that my family would be purchasing gifts for. This list includes their name,size, gift ideas and later you can look back to see what you bought last year. Makes life a lot easier! I just add a new page each year. You can download the Holiday Gift List here.  Just remember to keep this list away from prying little eyes!

Just keep in mind that this time of year (and all year really) is about giving. So make sure you take the time to give of yourself whether it is to volunteer somewhere, sponsor an child from the Angel Tree, donate a toy to Toys for Tots or fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child make sure you are setting an example for your family.

As always, if you have a problem viewing or don't know what to do you can email me at thehouseofcollums at gmail dot com.

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