Easy Stocking Stuffers (Frugal Friday)

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I’ll never forget the Christmas I was seventeen. My younger siblings were 14, 12, 10, and 3. I told my mom I would take care of buying the stocking stuffers.

Then I promptly forgot.

Until Christmas Eve when she asked me about it. If I remember correctly, I stood there with my mouth open for several minutes. As a look of panic crept across her face, I grabbed the car keys and headed for the closest grocery store that was still open at 10 pm on Christmas Eve.

$40 later I had some stocking stuffers and a few well learned lessons.

  1. Don’t buy stocking stuffers on Christmas Eve at the grocery store.
  2. Plan ahead.
  3. Make a list and check it twice.
  4. Don’t make promises that you won’t keep, especially to your mother.

Since that fateful Christmas Eve 21 years ago, I’ve stuffed more than a few stockings. Here are some of the things that we like to buy that don’t break the bank.

Breakfast

My kids really don’t want to wait for a sit-down breakfast before opening presents on Christmas Day. I didn’t either as a kid. My parents’ solution was to open a box of See’s candy and pass it around. While I still love that tradition — for myself — I’m not about to let my kids get all hyped up on chocolate and toys before I’ve had a chance to drink my coffee.

My solution is breakfast. In the early years, I bought multipacks of the sugary cereal, which in reality isn’t any better than See’s. However, more recently, I’ve used granola bars, clementines, fruit leathers and juice boxes to fill out the stockings — and provide a more wholesome breakfast than Lucky Charms.

If you watch sales and use coupons, you can find these items very affordably. And if you plan ahead, you can request free samples and stockpile them.

Candy and Popcorn

Now that your kids have had their breakfast, it won’t hurt to have a bite or two of candy. It’s a fun treat — and it’s cheap. I try to get novelty candy that we wouldn’t normally have, like movie size boxes.

Microwave popcorn or homemade bags of popcorn are a big hit and are usually quite inexpensive. Pair that with a movie to watch later in the day and you’ve got a fun gift. What kid doesn’t want to eat his very own bag of popcorn?

Coloring Books and Dollar Store Activity Books

Coloring books run as low as a dollar and my kids have yet to tire of them. My older guys prefer activity books, like Sudoku, but either way, it’s a frugal gift. If you planned ahead at Back To School, you’ve got some new crayons to add to it.

Videos

Whether you buy them at thrift stores used or new at Walmart or Target, videos don’t cost a lot these days and kids get really excited about them. I’ve seen movies as low as $5 new and about a quarter for something that’s been seen before.

Collecting Cards

If your kid is into sports or Pokemon cards, these little packs carry a big punch for about three bucks. I have no idea what the fascination is, but my guys have gone through the craze, and really enjoyed receiving them in their stockings.

Small Lego or Playmobil Kits

It’s hard to find cool toys for less than five bucks, but it can be done, especially when you shop online. Recently I found a number of inexpensive Lego sets for three or four dollars. I realized that stocking up for stockings and for the occasional “prize” is not a bad idea, especially since they are hard to find in stores.

Coupons

Remember when you used to make coupon books for your parents? Well, you can do this for your kids. Include free passes to watch a movie, skip the dishes, or stay up late.

Not only does this gift cost you nothing, but it wins you the Mother of the Year Award if you create your coupons wisely.

Stocking stuffers don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. With a little wise planning and clever shopping, you can treat your kiddos to all kinds of goodies.

How do YOU save money?

Whether it’s stocking stuffers or some other money saving idea, share it with us by posting your link below or leaving a comment.

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Comments

  1. I actually bought most of my stocking stuffers at the grocery store. All the individual little containers of food, that I usually won’t buy.

    Did you know they make individual packs of dill pickles? Crazy, but fun for them!

    Little cans of V8 Fusion, gum and jerky. My kids will think they are in heaven!

    However, I forgot about coupons! I haven’t made them in a while and that would be the perfect gift addition. Great idea.

  2. Great ideas! I tend to shop the dollar spot at Target all year round for stocking stuffers. I also try to find fun trinkets at yard sales. One tradition we have is cereal. Each child gets a box of sugar cereal in their stocking. Well it is next to their stocking, because it is a big box.
    Toni

  3. Great ideas! Thanks to some drug store deals and back to school specials, I have some things tucked away for stockings. I’m not sure how frugal this is since I haven’t priced them yet, but I like to put a big apple and an orange in the toe of the stocking. This was a family tradition when I was growing up.

  4. We don’t do stockings because we are Jewish, but having to get gifts for 8 nights of Hanukkah is just as hard! I buy one nice gift for each child (last year each girl got an American Girl doll). And then each night after is a small gift. Usually, it is something from a thrift store, yard sale, or consignment sale that I bought all year long – books, DVDs, Polly Pockets, Little Pet Shops. Some of these things are cheap enough new, but used they are under a dollar!

  5. What I do for the food part is I buy Little Debbie’s Christmas Tree Cakes. We actually have a tradition that my children each have two stockings. A downstairs one and an upstairs one. We hang fireplace paper on the wall at the top of the stairs and then hang their stockings there. What we put in there is a juice box and a Little Debbie’s cake and a little something to keep them busy till my husband and I get up. Usually we put in a game for the handheld game system or a card game that they can share or a small activity or coloring book. My children who still live at home are now 21,18, and 17 and they still look forward to this tradition. This year I even found Little Debbie Rice Krispie treats, which are their favorites.

    Susan

  6. Jessica,
    Thanks for always hosting such a great, mom friendly and frugal party!
    Merry Christmas
    Kristin

  7. Whoops, just realized I entered my post last week (#25) — feel free to delete. Coloring books are a great idea for stockings! Not least of all b/c they take up a good amount of space.

  8. My daughter is 15 so I normally struggle to find items to put into a stocking, however this year it’s been easy and not as expensive. Nail polish, fingernail filers, small packs of nuts, cheezits, $5 gift card to Starbucks, $5 iTunes gift card (I never saw before in this denomination, but this year over Thanksgiving WalMart had a few, I haven’t seen since). My daughter doesn’t eat candy, but I think I will look for the Little Debbie rice crispie treats that was mentioned earlier.
    Happy Holidays Everyone!

  9. Christmas stockings are my favorite part of the morning. I hit the Target or Michaels $1 bins. We also get the kids new underwear, socks, hairbands, toothbrushes, etc. They have a blast.

    I am 41 and I still get a stocking from my mom filled with goodies.

    Thanks for the link-up.

  10. My kids love getting movies in their stockings. I found 2 of the new movies they wanted on Amazon on Cyber Monday for ~$10 each, used swagbucks plus free shipping & spent less than $1 OOP!

    Thanks for the coupon booklet idea! My kids will love that!

  11. We always have breakfast after the gift opening:-)

  12. My little one is only two and has developed a love for Play-Doh at preschool, so I bought a multipack to separate and help fill his stocking. A few dollar-bin dinosaurs will help too!

  13. These are great tips! Thank you!

    I have gotten quite a few toy freebies this year that have all been stored away for stocking stuffers.

    Happy Holidays to you and your family!
    JRFrugalMom from
    Frugality Is Free

  14. carlasorensen says:

    For me as a mom and grandma, I still do stockings for my grown kids, my grandchildren, and my husband. It is up to 16, and we are on a tight budget. What I do is collect things all year when I find things really cheap on sale, or even at yard sales. I try not to put a bunch of junk that will get broken or lost right away! Usually I give everyone new socks or footies from the Dollar Tree, or for the men warm socks from Walmart. I always put an orange in the toe, some candy, divided out from big bags in my own baggies, or cute Christmas baggies that get after Christmas on sale for 25 cents. This year, for the kids, I am adding small cups of apple sauce and cheese sticks. Everyone gets a pen, which I have divided out from a bigger pack, and the same with individual kleenex “bags”.
    Baby #6 is getting a stocking, too, with washcloths, plastic bags to put used diapers in, and 3 onesies.
    My husband usually gets a couple more things . . just because.

  15. My kids each get a box of sugary cereal for Christmas b/c they are not allowed to eat it during the rest of the year. It’s inexpensive, MUCH anticipated and very much enjoyed by all.

  16. One year when I was a kid my parents gave my sisters and I each $30 in our stockings in addition to all the usual toys and games. I think they had received some kind of Christmas bonus and were sharing with us. Anyway, that experience was so awesome for me…I was 10 and $30 was easily the most money I’d ever had at one time. Anyway, I’m not planning to put $30 in my kid’s stockings but I am going to give them each $5. Kids love having money of their own and it provides good opportunities to learn about how much things cost!

    Another thing I’ve done in the past is put McDonald’s gift certificates in there. My daughter LOVES McDonald’s and I rarely take her there so the gift certificates are really a promise of something that is special to her.

  17. My little guy is only 2 1/2 but this year I’m putting a new toothbrush and toothpaste in there (and will probably do that for years). Also, he’s getting a bottle of bubble bath, and a few small $1 toys I picked up here and there. One of his grandmothers sent him lots of little Japanese candies from Cost Plus and I can see getting some different candies like that as fun in the future.

  18. I can’t think of many fruits that aren’t available year round. Even cherries are in-season several times a year imported from S. America. Pomegranates are still only available (at least in TX) Oct-Jan. Since they are special, santa stuffs them in our stockings.

  19. all great ideas in the last 23 years of raising children we have did a bit of everything in stockings love your ideas

  20. One of my kids’ favorite stocking stuffers is cans of ravioli and easy mac. They love it! They also LOVE when I go to Sam’s Club and buy a case of ravioli or a big pack of hot chocolate, etc. and wrap them under the tree. They remind me every year to not forget about the food. :)

  21. My kids are 5 and 2 1/2. Two years ago, I realized my 3 year old was more excited about the wrapping than the gifts (he found those fun later) so I started wrapping each thing in the stocking. He didn’t notice there wasn’t so much in there (and of course, we filled the toe with fruit) because he was spending so much time opening. They were not pretty–some of them I used a strip of leftover paper and just wrapped it around so it covered MOST of the little toy. He loved the surprise of opening ten little gifts.

    Most of our stocking stuffers are “new to us” toys from yard sales and thrift stores. I also did a toy swap with another few moms. We got together with several of our kids’ gently loved, but no longer enjoyed toys of about the same value and swapped out. Mostly things like race cars, some happy meal toys, rulers, or stampers (my friend’s kid had no interest in art stuff while mine loved it), and little men. (we had all boys) It was a fun, free way to unburden ourselves of unwanted toys and fill stockings at the same time!! This probably won’t work for me when they get into elementary school, but for my preschooler, it was fabulous!!

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