Back in the days of single motherhood, I had to be pretty darn creative to come up with Christmas gifts for my two little boys. Penny pinching was the name of the game and the only way that Christmas shopping would even be remotely possible on my budget.
Even though my sons are long grown and money is no longer a problem, I am still a penny pincher at heart. For families struggling to purchase holiday gifts for their families this year, these money pinching tips will work for you.
1. Order free stuff.
When my kids were small, I’d only buy cereals which listed free merchandise offers on the back. My pinch penny strategy was to collect box tops and UPCs all year long, and then order free loot in the fall. Over the years, some of the free stuff we’ve seen over the years included movies, music CDs, character wrist watches, cars, piggy banks, and lots of other fun items that made fantastic Christmas gifts.
2. Visit job fairs and earth fairs for free gimmies.
Civic organizations are big on educational fairs that come with lots of free promotional gifts for kids and adults alike. Frisbees, key chains, rulers, tee shirts, water bottles, coloring books, and posters are some of the free things that a penny pinching parent can find at these events. My best score ever was half a dozen one year old evergreen saplings from an Earth Day celebration. These were transplanted into recycled flower pots and made fantastic free Christmas gifts for my friends.
3. Dumpster dive.
I can’t help myself, even after all these years I still cruise the alleys on trash day for free loot which embarrasses the heck out of my kids. They haven’t quite realized like I have that dumpsters and alleys are filled with awesome treasures that can make wonderful Christmas gifts with just a little bit of cleaning. My better finds included never-opened Coleman coolers, an antique set of blue speckleware, a set of oak dining room chairs, and a vintage iron bed frame. Talk about a penny pinchers dream! These are the kind of Christmas gifts that will have your family squealing “Ooooh, you shouldn’t have!”
4. Painted boxes.
Another favorite penny pinching tip of mine was to hit the backs of furniture and appliance stores for discarded appliance boxes. When the kiddos were asleep, I’d tap into my collection of $5 mismatched paint from Home Depot to turn these super sized boxes into painted castles. These simple Christmas gifts kept the kids well entertained clear into summer.
5. Shop for antiques at thrift stores.
Thrift stores are filled with lots of good junk, some of which may be quite valuable. For the past month, this penny pincher has been quietly scooping up vintage 1960s era candy tins for holding homemade caramel corn, always a favorite Christmas gift for neighbors and co-workers. Other thrift store finds that make great Christmas gifts on a penny pincher’s budget include vintage paperbacks or books, quality holiday decor, collectible glassware and vintage costume jewelry.