Friday, January 30, 2009

Start your Christmas Shopping NOW! (Article from local class)

*First off, thanks for those who came. Good stuff. Second, here is what I talked about in written form. If you've heard me talk you know that I justjabber until my face turns blue, so this written form is prolly quite different.

Also, if you have ideas you want to add to this article, please comment!

Christmas shopping year round!

Reasoning, instructions and emotional support for those who are afraid

Let’s argue (so I can win)!

1. This sounds like woooork! Boo! Yep, it is work. I have 3 words for you: suck it up! Saving money is a full time job, but it is worth it! Plus, when you pull this off you can lord your frugalista status over all of your friends and then get stuck teaching classes like this (live the dream people).

2. I know nothing about online shopping. Friend, you are missing out. I have always shopped in my jammies… but now I don’t get funny looks from the cashier! Online shopping is easier than you think and is quite a lot of fun! You can compare prices, watch for deals and read product reviews all while you eat breakfast! If you need to learn, this is what I suggest. Find some hip looking gal (or guy) from church, your child’s dance class, or chase down your 20 year old grandkid. Beg them for help. You will reap multiple benefits: You will learn all about the online world, you will make a new friend (or get in touch with a loved one on a closer level) and you will make someone feel important! Good job!

3. I don’t have time! Yes you do! Divide this list into however many months you want/need to get this done. Pretend you have 50 gifts to buy and 10 months. Okay, no problem, buy 5 each month! Easy!

4. I can’t afford to do this! Yes you can! Just like above, divide it up! Give yourself $20 each month to get your shopping done. To pay for that, eat out one time less each month. Done!

5. Your budget is unreal! I can’t do that! Maybe not yet. Remember I have years of experience and I have learned new things each year. Cut yourself some slack and just start small.

Any other arguments? Feel free to tell me!


1. Make a list of people in your household that you shop for (kids and spouse should cover it)

2. Make a list of people you MUST buy for. Some examples are: Anyone who buys you a gift every single year (unless we can talk them out of it… more on this later)

3. Make a list of people you kind of feel like you should do something for. Examples: coworkers, bosses (unless you feel a burning desire to kiss up, then move this person immediately to the full out gift category), neighbors, friends from church, children’s teachers

Now that your lists are made, let’s go back to list one.







Me (Shep’s wife)

Now lets make this list a bit prettier (remember, I write my lists out by hand every year. I am only doing this all fancy-like because I’m putting this online when I am done).

Larry (6 years old)

Big gift:

Toy gifts:




Clothing gifts


Total cost:

Curly (3 years old)

Big gift: Rocking Horse ($20)

Toy gifts:

1 Jedi Sword 2 pack ($7)



Clothing gifts

1 set of 5 shirts, 5 pants, 2 shoes and a coat ($20)


Total cost: $47 so far

Moe (1 year old)

Big gift: Big Teddy Bear ($5)

Toy gifts:

1 Pirate set ($8)

2 Car pack of 3 ($4)

3 Coloring books ($2)

Clothing gifts

3 sets of jammies, 2 packs of socks, winter jacket and boots ($25)


Total cost: $44


Big gift: Walking Stick ($17)

The rest:

Ped Egg ($10)

Book ($2)

Indiana Jones Movie ($7)

Total cost: $36 so far

Me (Shep’s Wife)

Big gift: Clothes from Old Navy sale ($20)

The rest:

Book ($8)

Knitting Book ($3)

Total cost: $31 so far

Family gifts:

I put things here like movies, books, games… things that everyone would like but that I can’t give to just one person.

Okay, first take a gander at Larry’s list. It is completely blank. Enjoy.

The other lists are still in progress. Note the total cost.

*Quick tip on gift wrapping. I am lazy and cheap. So, I buy the cute gift boxes at any discount store I stumble in to. I write the name of whoever is getting the gift in teeny print on one side of the box. I keep all my boxes and reuse them next year and the year after that until the boxes fall apart. Easy to wrap and a money saver!

Things to note on these lists that will give you some self control tools (we hope)

1. The ages of your main giftees. Younger kids really don’t need much, usually the gifts for them are really to make you happy anyhow, so STOP buying things they don’t need! Case in point: in 2007 my youngest child was 5 days old Christmas morning. He received one gift under the tree. Does that make me a bad mom? I’m going to go with no since I gave him a fairly generous gift a few days before when I BIRTHED HIM! Besides, I’m pretty sure the kidlet did not care much. Also, you need to think of the precedent you are setting. Start SMALL (and stay that way!)

2. The toy threshold (if you are shopping for kids). Each child gets one big “Santa” (or whatever) gift. Then they get 3 more toy gifts. From past experience I have found that toy gifts are amazing and glorious until toy gift 4. After that it just becomes a series of ripping paper and reaching for the next gift. We want to maximize the wonder of Christmas around here, so we stop at 4. Everything is spectacular for the kids and our budget is safe.

3. Clothes toys… love the bulk they add under the tree. Think about this. If you have kids, you need to buy them clothing. A lot. I buy clothes a year or so ahead. I keep them in a closet, sorted by size and stored with their receipts. Every Christmas I pull them all out, put them under the tree and let the kids open them. The kids aren’t THAT excited about the clothing, but it was another present to open and I take everything back up and put them into my closet at the end of the day. Everyone wins. Plus, since I buy clothing far ahead, I ALWAYS get good deals on them!

4. The total. This is important to watch. I have a limit for kids, usually $50 per child for Christmas. Here’s the thing though. I don’t give a rip at how much I spent per kid, as long as the boxes are even. Kids don’t see receipts when they are young, but they can notice that Larry got 3 boxes and Moe got 6. So, right this second don’t worry about the cost (as long as you are under budget), worry about the quantity.

5. The adult gifts. We keep our total close to the kids unless there is a pressing need for something, or someone really wants a special gift. More on that later.

As you can see, if I obey my list and budget, I will spend $300 for my family Christmas gifts.

Now, let’s talk about List number 2 from the top. (Remember that or is your head swimming yet?)

This list is much easier (as it should be)!

1. Grandparents A

2. Grandparents B

3. Sister family A

4. Other Sister and family A

5. Sibling from family swap B

6. Aunt and Uncle A

7. Great granny B

8. Best friend that I see every day and family

9. Favorite friend from high school that I still talk to (just pretend, okay?)

10. Husband’s best friend family

11. Person who always gives us a fancy gift

Okay, big scary list, right? Not so much. Here is what you are going to do with this. You’re going to think about your family. Look at Grandparent A. They love to eat at Happy’s Chinese Resturaunt in Idaho Falls (for the record, the best Chinese food in the state. Eat it. Love it. Thank me later.). So, let’s make life easy. Call sister A and other sister A and go in on a gift certificate together for $21, so $7 each. Then, make your kids do some lovely craft for their grandparents and attach a picture of the child who did it, the age and some memory the kid told you about them. Instant sentimental gift. I’m going to be money that Granny and Gramps will prefer that to the $40 seat warmer you were looking at when you rushed to the mall last December. While I enjoy a warm hiney, I prefer a warm heart. Let’s look at Grandparents B. They are on a mission and don’t need more junk. Send them pictures of the kids, letters and a calling card. Ta da. Now on to sister A. She just had a baby. Buy diapers. On sale. Getting the picture?

This is what I do. I think about that person and what I hear them say, what they complain about, get all excited over, etc. I buy what I would like if I were them. And, if applicable, I include a gift receipt. But… and here is the key… with the exception of the people who gave you life (remember them?), spend NO MORE than $5 per gift (that includes family gifts). Parents, I say give them $10.

Now, before you scream “cheapskate!” let me help you here. Look at life, think of how broke you are. My money literally tells me that you aren’t the only one hurting. So, go to your family and tell them what you are going to do and beg them to do the same for you. Do it with your friends too. They’ll probably tell you that you are a genius. Take the credit, it’s okay. But, one day, I may ask you for a favor…

Another way to save that is a total duh: gift exchanges. If you have more than 2 siblings or more than 4 cousins… either keep gifts from the dollar store or do a gift exchange.

I know what you are thinking. What in the frick can you get for $5 that isn’t pure junk? Hold on, I’m getting there!

Finally for group 3 in our list. The people you feel compelled to do SOMETHING for every year.

Some sample people:

1. Paperboy

2. Mailman

3. Coworkers

4. Not to close neighbors

5. People from church

Get the idea?

This is simple. Go to the dollar store tomorrow. Buy twice the amount of clearance Christmas cards than you need. Write a Christmas letter in December and attach a cheap pic of your family. Mail it. Done. Not the Christmas card or letter type? Okay. Alternative one: Suck it up and deal. Change causes character growth you wanny! Alternative two: Send out a cheap postcard (made on your printer)or an email that says, “Happy holidays, read out blog (then give a blog address). Alternative three: make cookies and take them around.

Either way, keep it cheap! Really cheap! Odds are very few of these people will return the favor, so you don’t want to be out more than $10 when this is said and done (though I’m not including postage there… sorry!) Also, keep track of this list. If someone doesn’t do anything for you this year and it suits your fancy, feel free to omit them from next year’s list. Nothing personal, but you have to watch those pennies!

Now… some ideas for buying cheap gifts!

For list 1 (family in your home):

First off, if you have small children, there is nothing wrong with gently used FREE toys. Find a pal and trade some toys. Just this year one of my children got an amazing Santa gift that was about 2 years old that a friend gave me. It is the favorite toy and used every day.

Second, start watching sales. Clothes go on sale year round. Buy the clearance a year ahead size wise and stock up!

Toy sales… here is a huge hint. has enormous toy sales starting around Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). Save that part of your budget until then (unless you find better deals sooner, then buy some birthday gifts during the sale).

For bigger family gifts, plan what you want around tax season and buy ahead. Then use your self control and don’t touch whatever it is until Christmas (or take away the temptation and store it elsewhere)!

For list 2 (still gifts, but cheaper):

Black Friday is your friend. But, try something new and shop it online this year. Same deals, but they start at midnight.

Watch for cheap magazine subscriptions. This year I bought 4 different friends subscriptions to Rachel Ray Magazine that cost me about $3 each. Perfect.

Watch online websites for deals, snatch up the best ones without thinking who to give it to. Promise, you’ll find the right person for the gift.

For list 3:

There are always deals for cheap to free photo prints. Watch for them and then have your pictures made for cards. Easy!

Final tips:

Be realistic! I realize my numbers are SMALL. Maybe too small for you to do this year. So, do this. Figure your Christmas budget last year. Half it. Stick to that amount at all costs.

Whatever you do… no credit cards. Debit or cash. Seriously. I can’t think of a single gift that is worth a 19% interest rate right now.

Keep your list (well, a copy of your list) with you at all times. You never know when you will find a gift for Christmas that you can check off. Plus this will keep you from over buying!


Debi (Dubs2007) said...

1- (other argument) I always worry that by the time christmas comes they won't want it anymore - or will have already bought it for themselves.

And what a fabulous article! I was sorry I couldn't make it to your class last week, and soooo excited when i saw you put it online!

The Vineyards said...

I know you hate Walmart (I do too) but they are having an awesome clearance on all of their toys from Christmas. At least the one here was. Like $60 toys for $18. There was this awesome High School Musical giant dollhouse, regularly $125 for $30. Thought you might want to know!