Clutter-free Stocking Stuffers (Frugal Friday)

Tired of giving gifts that become clutter six months later? Yeah, me, too. I’m on a mission to have clutter-free stocking stuffers this year.

This past summer when I was helping some children clean their room, I found several card games. Correction: I found pieces to several card games. Apparently, we no longer had the rest of the games, nor did we have the instructions to play them. For the record, I’d never ever played the games, nor had I seen my children play the games.

But I had bought them.

Oh, yes, I had. I bought the games, paid cold hard cash for them, wrapped them, and stuffed them in stockings on Christmas Eve. And here I was six months later throwing the bits and pieces in the trash.

Stupid tax.

In the name of stuffing a stocking, I had purchased things that no one had asked for and things that no one apparently loved. And they became clutter. Note to self: don’t do this again.

The Grinch in me wanted to say NO MORE STOCKINGS. But, we love the stockings! The stockings are the opening act of a day full of fun.

How do I reconcile that fun little bag full of treasure with the desire for less stuff later on?

Clutter-free Stocking Stuffers

In my efforts to curb this post-Christmas waste, I’ve set on a different course this year in how I go about filling my children’s stockings. The idea started that everything would be edible. But, I’m adapting it to say everything will be consumable. Edible, washable, stickable, and, hopefully, very little to pick up off the closet floor next July.

I don’t mind if they go through it in a day as long as it brings a smile and doesn’t become more clutter to pick up!

Here’s my little, but growing stockpile of items to stuff our stockings with. (That’s popcorn on the cob!)


Here are my plans for consumable stocking stuffers:

Breakfast

Every year amongst the stocking stuffers is breakfast. This is fun for the kids and easy on me. I know that they will have fun and/or healthy items to eat during that “hyper-excited-it’s-Christmas-morning!” rush. This has traditionally been small, sampler sizes of granola bars or cereal, the prerequisite orange or clementine, juice boxes, and other fun breakfast foods, like those Dinosaur egg oatmeal packets.

You can save on these items by using coupons, watching for sales, or saving up the samples that you might request through different companies.

Snacks

My kids don’t get to enjoy “snack” foods all that often. So, bags of Pirate’s Booty, fruit leathers, and popcorn on the cob are welcome little treats. And a round of Jamba Juice gift cards bought on discount at Costco will make for a fun post-Christmas outing.

Watch for sales on snack foods in the coming weeks and buy a few each week so it doesn’t crunch the budget.

Toiletries

What kid under the age of 8 doesn’t love character bandages? Along with Band-aids, I’m going to include this cool Mickey Method hand soap as well as Tow Mater branded toiletries. My dad always gave us toothbrushes in our stockings, so I’m going to do a round of dental supplies as well. Thankfully, my kids care about their teeth.

CVS and Walgreens do a lot of promotions on toiletries like this, so watch for sales on these items, too.

Cheap Toys

What can I say? Yes, I’m also going to include some minimally priced toys like coloring books and water balloons. Those are definitely consumable! Do you know how fast a 3 year old can whip through a coloring book? My kids get a kick out of these and for a buck, they’re an easy, cheap extra. Plus, they just really, really like them.

Unlike the card games that went to the round file.

Target’s dollar section and Dollar Tree are good places for these kinds of toys.

Stocking stuffers are one of the highlights of our Christmas morning. We open stockings first. They are the start of the day’s fun, if you will.

Giving consumable, clutter-free stocking stuffers is a great way to reduce the things that you (and your kids) have to clean up as well as ensure that there are fun and tasty diversions to start the day off with a bang.

12 Days of Christmas

I’m participating in 12 Days of Christmas, a collaboration to bring you all kinds of great ideas from around the web.

Be sure to visit these blogs for more Christmas inspiration on a variety of topics.

How do YOU save money?



Disclosure: Disney consumer products provided me with the Disney samples pictured.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for hosting! I posted recipes for pomegranate salad and cabbage potato soup.

  2. Some great ideas to consider. Thanks! I found some cute soaps at Michael’s (craft store) that look like candy. I’m hoping the kids don’t try to eat them, but I know they’ll be stoked when they find out that they get to take “candy” into the shower with them :) We, too, are trying to diminish the clutter and increase the gratitude (hopefully)! Thanks for the tips.

  3. I love these ideas so much! Thank you for sharing!!!

  4. Oh, one more thing: character anything (toothpaste, bandaids, etc.) goes over HUGE with my kids since this mama will not typically shell out extra bucks for Spiderman’s face. Dollar Tree is excellent for this during Christmas, though, as you mentioned.

    • Thanks for mentioning Dollar Tree! We have a new one in a nearby town, and I’m not used to thinking of it for holiday-type stuff. Good to know that I can get good stocking stuffers there!

  5. My stupid tax is typically from a garage sale, but it’s still taking up space. I love practical gifts for everyone. Especially from garage and rummage sales. Can’t beat the price. :)

  6. Great ideas, Jessica. :)

    Thanks, as always for hosting Frugal Fridays! :)

    Tammy

  7. Stephenie says:

    Awesome ideas! Only wish I had started buying stocking stuffers earlier in the year as I have seven stockings to stuff! LOL

  8. In my boys stockings I put duck tape (the colored is always a hit) – regular tape, cameo yarn, glue sticks – because the love to rock out their nerf guns and I always hate that they take my stuff!

  9. My favorite thing is to stuff the stockings and stock the pantry at the same time. My kids always get full-size versions of their favorite things in their stockings–Nutella, dried cherries and apricots, cashews, larabars, tea bags. I’ll write their name on the outside and pop them into the pantry–though I do mark their name on the outside. But everyone shares their favorite goodies, and really, it’s stuff I buy anyway. But they love to see the full jar with their own name on it.

    They also get things like bubble bath and new toothbrushes. And really, they love to get them.

    Maybe it won’t be easy to please them when they get a little older!

  10. I love your idea of everything being consumable, but I have taken a different approach. I am spending more on stocking stuffers than ever before. Why? Because I am getting the kids exactly what they want and asked for. I know they will love everything I put in there so while it is a more expensive than getting whatever is cheapest at the store that will fit in the stocking (what I used to do). I did this last year and it was a big hit, so will keep doing it. It does mean spending less on the larger gifts under the tree and having to watch for sales a little bit harder, but it is worth it.

    Oh and there are plenty of consumable goodies in there – I love adding their favorite foods to their stockings.

  11. I always put a couple of rolls of scotch tape in my daughters stocking. She is thrilled as she loves to use tape (she’s 6) and I am thrilled b/c she will have her own and stop using up all mine! I also like to put cute socks or barretts or chapstick in hers. I may give her her own stapler this year! Sounds crazy but she will love it.

  12. Great ideas! We also add underwear to everyone’s stockings. The kids get a kick out of seeing what kind of “fun” underwear everyone gets (including Dad).

  13. I came to the same realization several years ago. I have a teenager (boy) and an almost-teenager (girl) here. They both get clementines, toothbrushes, gum. He gets Axe stuff and McDonalds (blech – that I never buy ) and Caribou Coffee gift cards. She gets ponytail holders, barrettes, etc., and Wendy’s and Subway gift cards.

    I love the idea of the colored duct tape. I may add that in. She is forever making duct tape wallets or flowers or something. And I may add some Sharpie markers this year because they are always taking mine for school.

  14. I have teenage twins, so it’s harder and harder to do inexpensive stocking stuffers. My goal is $20 or less per stocking. I’m usually able to get a free T-shirt for each of them using the frequent $10/$10 purchase at JC Penneys, and I add a book off Paperback Swap. Those 2 items take up a lot of space, which helps. :-) For her I add her favorite lip balm, fuzzy socks and a ton of chocolate (per her request). He gets some candy but also a tool or two, a wrench, pliers, etc., to start building a decent set for when he is on his own. I also look for freebies throughout the year for both stockings and Easter baskets. I’ve already got a pastel mug that was 79-cents for my daughter for Easter and will be looking for coffee, hot chocolate and tea samples to fill it. Thanks for the ideas. Like others mentioned, I may add duct tape to both stockings! (My daughter learned to make flowers out of the colored duct tape in art last year – very pretty!)

  15. We’ve been doing this since our kids were little. Now that the kids are teens we add things like favorite scents of body wash, perfume, iTunes cards, hair bands, etc. It’s actually gotten easier to fill stockings frugally. As they get older it seems things they want get smaller, and more expensive!

  16. I LOVE the idea of the breakfast edibles in the stocking. Awesome. For a while, my family did “dollar tree” stockings, too. Adults and kids alike participated — you got $10 to spend at the dollar store on whatever kind of silly fun stuff you could find. Doesn’t solve the problem of waste since it really was random, but at least it was cheap!

  17. Great ideas; I love the notion that I won’t be tossing something I spent money on in less than a year. I had that same stupid tax to pay and I HATED it!

  18. I stuff our daughter’s stocking with art supplies–consumable and great for the long days of winter break from school.

    It is also great b/c I can collect them all year long and buy marked down items or use coupons.

    I gather things like: colored pencils, sharpeners, markers, modeling clay, stencils, rubber stamps, etc.

    I round it all out with edible items-yum!

  19. I’ve done socks and tights, and homemade barrettes, headbands, etc.

    I usually print some paper dolls and paper toys from online.

    Then we have candy and a clementine.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Hair things are definitely consumable at our house! I can’t believe how quickly they pull them out and lose them!

  20. I feel your pain. My 3 yo ds stuck a whole set of those cards in his piggy bank one by one never to be seen again.

  21. I always include two movie tickets in my kid’s stockings. A friend of mine has a daughter who sells reduced price movie tickets as a fundraiser right before the holidays so I buy two for each of my teenagers and then they can take a friend to the movies during Christmas break. This has been a HUGE hit each time I do it. I also stock up on headphones when they are on sale in the pre Christmas sales and put a set of them into each stocking. My kids go through 3-4 prs of headphones a year with Ipods, computers, etc. so they are always a precious commodity in our house. Often they go on sale for $2- $5 a set prior to Christmas.

    • I love the movie gift cards. I think I will get them movie theater gift cards instead of the other cards I was planning on getting! Thanks!

  22. Great ideas! The one thing that I put in stockings that I haven’t seen mentioned is magic towels- I get them for $1 at the Dollar Tree and my kids think they are fun!

  23. I love it. We usually do the same thing. Candy, toiletries, especially. Last year I got a six pack of scotch tape for my husband and one for my daughter to go in their stockings. They loved it because they go through the stuff like tissues and it was a little offbeat and funny.

  24. We started doing breakfast edibles a year or two ago, and love it. It has the added bonus of letting mama sit a bit longer too.

  25. We do silly socks, toothbrushes (usually a fun spin brush), clementines, M&Ms and/or lollipops (these are rarities for us), and coin purses with a buck inside or a bunch of quarters. I may do a couple of CDs we can sing to in the car together. And I bought a bunch of polly pocket Princess things on consignment, so I’ll divvy those up between the girls — no packaging, just tucking them in since I got them for $2 at a school sale. Hot Wheels for my little boy. Love the mini pringles, too — we never buy that stuff so it’s extra special!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Your idea about buying a bulk of toys made me think of Disney pins that I’ve bought on ebay before. Not necessarily consumable, but small and cheap and easy to divvy up.

  26. Great ideas! Thank you! I always got fun toothbrushes in my stocking. I thought they were awesome because we normally just bought the plain boring ones : )

  27. Great ideas- we love stockings at our house, too! I second office supplies that were mentioned in the comments- they’re popular no matter what age kids are. Also for girls it’s always easy to get nail polish and discounted jewelry. And the staple every year at our house? Socks! :-)

  28. There are some really great ideas here! Once my kids get a little older I’ll definitely be doing things like movie tickets and homemade gift certificates for extra priveledges or activities.

    This year each stocking will have a single carton of Goldfish, two granola bars, a little bit of money, and a Lush Ickle Baby Bath bomb. The later would be quite pricey for large families as their $4 a pop. Since I’ve stopped buying packaged foods for snacks the Goldfish and granola bars will be a huge hit. As for the money, my 2 y/o is getting a piggy bank and the 5 y/o is obsessed with saving for Lego Batman toys (To be released in 2012) so it will fit with our other gifts.

    Somewhat related question for Fishmama:
    Do you have a hard time finding things to give your younger boys? We were a bit stumped because our boys share the same interests and we really don’t want any more trains or plastic dinosaurs around! I hope they younger one branches out a bit as he gets older or this is going to be tough every year. I don’t want to think about how many Legos we’ll end up with!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      For a season I crammed in bigger things like character tshirts, coloring books, and DVDs. More expensive, but less twaddle.

  29. Cannot express how much I LOVE the breakfast idea.

    We suffer from the scattered-pieces-syndrome too. Last year, I bought these neat little science kits. By the time I remembered them, the pieces were gone. Boo~Hiss! Money flushed.

  30. love these suggestions, I’ve been having similar thoughts for this year’s stockings. We did add a more costly item though: wool socks! The kids don’t have any and really should for all the sledding trips our New England winters usually afford! Also, waterproof mittens/gloves, since they ALWAYS lose them. We then add breakfast, like you, and I love the idea of dental supplies! I’ve heard there’s colored floss…

  31. We do stocking similarly. We put batteries in there for any toys they’re getting, cereal bars and fruit snacks, a fun new toothbrush and toothpaste (brushes always, toothpaste only if I can find it on sale w/a coupon) and kid shampoo/body wash which I usually buy throughout the year with coupons and stockpile. We’ll add hair clips for our girl (who knew these were consumables? our school is like a black hole for barrettes!) and stickers or craft supplies for everyone. We’ll also do socks because everyone NEEDS them by this time of year, and a fun ice pack or water bottle if it’s needed for a lunchbox.

    Love the idea of the cartoon band-aids. We go through them like crazy and our kids would love that since we only get them every couple times when I can find them on sale.

  32. Rachel jones says:

    One toy that is always a winner in my kids stockings – the woopie cushion. Usually $1.00 and hoyelra of laughter.

  33. Rachel jones says:

    I mean hours of laughter!! I am the worst phone typist EVER!

  34. This post could not be more timely! I was just tempted to grab a whole bunch of cheap chocolates at Walgreens but stopped myself. I am a dietitian and feel like everyone goes so overboard with the junk food this time of year. A little bit is fine but massive amounts is not good for anyone. So I am going to do lotions, razors, lip balms, etc for the adults (free with coupons of course) and lip balm and perhaps those paper dolls that Prudent Homemaker was mentioning. Love the ideas and the push for no more clutter! :)

  35. When my kids were young, they LOVED getting their own roll of tape! They are now 15,18, and 20 and still talk about how much fun they had getting tape!

  36. Those are some really great ideas. I’ve heard financial guru Dave Ramsey use that term “stupid tax” before, too. I do like that popcorn on the cob. That is a really clever and creative gift. Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather

  37. We don’t “do Santa”, but hanging stockings looks lovely, so we’ve morphed the tradition a bit. Just before Christmas, we all go together to our favorite grocery store, which has a fantastic bulk foods and produce section. Everyone chooses fun treats we don’t buy on a regular basis: odd fruits, dried fruits and nuts, small candies, that sort of thing, plus other bulk treats like jerky, popcorn, etc. Then we have a lot of fun parceling the goodies out into small bags, and those are tucked into the stockings Christmas Eve. They’re breakfast Christmas morning. It’s inexpensive, enjoyable for the morning, and GONE by the end of Christmas day. :)

    • We don’t do Santa either. Our four-year-old knows that Mama and Da fill her stocking, and each other’s stockings. She is looking forward to helping both of us this year. (Most of the presents come from grandparents, but she knows the others are from us, too!)

  38. I love these ideas. My kids are older (1 in high school, 1 in college) so consumable stocking stuffers are easy. I stick with the 3 C’s: candy, coffee gift cards, and cash. :)

  39. Great ideas! I love that Mickey soap…and method in general!
    We always gave “smaller” gifts in our stockings….like my first CD wasn’t under the tree….it was in my stocking. Less under the tree, but less junk in the stocking, too.

  40. I absolutely love the idea of going with consumables. I love doing stockings, but it can get a little crazy with all the goodies that won’t last long….and if I just gave food, it’d be gone that day, heh. But the band-aids? Genius. And the popcorn on the cob? I’m definitely stealing that idea. So fun.

  41. I absolutely love this! Its right up my alley! We do play board games… but I am tired of all the pieces and storing them (they can be so bulky and The Game of Life is a pain to put away). So this year we got the travel sets (they were on sale… what can I say?) So far so good, easier to clean up and easier to put away… I will be on the look out for more! This year we didn’t put the stocking stuffers in the stockings because the wall is thinner than our last place. We placed them on a little table near by… chocolate oranges, coloring books, a drinking cup, and a slamwhich card game.

  42. cathi carpenter says:

    I agree… I do not do the little “trinket-y” things…. I do food stuffs… bath stuff…BOOKS! Even batteries for all those… “MOM!!! MY Wii REMOTE DIED” moments!

  43. Stockings! Oh so much fun to do.

    My daughter is getting;
    hair-bows
    socks
    Cuties
    Box of raisins
    New toothbrush
    Free Peeps from Rite Aid
    chapstick
    1 bottle of nail polish (she is four and only needs 1)
    new ornament for 2011
    Candy Cane
    Apple

    My 3yr old son is getting;
    new belt
    Underwear (yay for being potty-trained!)
    Apple
    Cutie
    Drummer Hoff board book
    Peeps
    chapstick
    $1 lego box set
    toothbrush
    box of raisins
    candy cane
    ornament

    My hubby got;
    can of nuts
    can of peaches ( which he loves)
    box of zone bars
    craisins
    New toothbrush
    Cologne ($5 section at walmart has his favorite)
    Shaving cream
    favorite lip balm

  44. Jen Shearer says:

    Great ideas moms! We always give silver dollars or $2. bills in the stockings. Our son saves them up and spends them on something special. He also gets a book of stamps and notecards for thank you notes ($1. at Michael’s) to write when the chaos calms down. Since he thinks Santa left them he doesn’t fuss about doing them…

    • Love the Thank you card idea. My boys are getting ‘too old’ to make them, that is the perfect gift to take the excuses out of the picture. VERY cool! :)

  45. It’s 2 years after you wrote this post and it came up on google when I searched for stocking stuffers for my kids. I also don’t want more clutter in my home and wanted easy, cheap stocking stuffers. THANK YOU!!! My kids will be getting fruit snacks, pirate booty, cheetos (my son’s favorite, which i NEVER buy) and coloring books.

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