Clutter-free Stocking Stuffers for Christmas
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Tired of giving gifts that become clutter six months later? Yeah, me, too. I’m on a mission to have clutter-free stocking stuffers for Christmas.
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.
A few summers ago 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.
And paying a stupid tax.
You see, I was paying for the error of my ways. In the name of stuffing a Christmas 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 in how I go about filling my children’s stockings. The idea started that everything would be edible and therefore gone within a day or two. Since then I’ve adapted my clutter-free stocking stuffers motto it to require everything to be consumable. Edible, usable, consumable, and, hopefully, very little pickupable 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!
Consider these ideas for clutter-free stocking stuffers. I’ve rounded up some of the items that I’ve purchased for my kids here on this Amazon idea list.
Breakfast in a stocking is fun for the kids and easy on me. When I was growing up, Christmas breakfast involved passing around a two-pound box of See’s candy. As much as I love my nuts and chews, I know that a breakfast of straight sugar isn’t a great way to start the day.
Instead I include in the stockings fun and/or healthy items to eat during that “hyper-excited-it’s-Christmas-morning!” rush. This might include 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. Sure, they might still have a good dose of sugar, but at least we’re taking a stab at real food.
Note for next year: You can save on these items by using coupons, watching for sales, or saving up the samples that you might request through different companies. If you build a stockpile as the year progresses — watching the best by dates — you can easily acquire clutter-free stocking stuffers on a budget.
I don’t typically stock our cupboards with “snack” foods all that often. So, these items make fun additions to the stockings. In the past I’ve included bags of Pirate’s Booty, fruit leathers, and popcorn on the cob as well as Jamba Juice gift cards bought on discount at Costco. This year I’ve picked up things like beef jerky, Cheetos, sodas, and candy. Since I rarely buy soda and candy, this is a treat!
Note for next year: Watch for sales on snack foods at back to school time and buy a few each week so it doesn’t crunch the budget. I loaded my Ralphs/Kroger card with all their freebie Friday coupons for several weeks and redeemed those for my clutter-free stocking stuffers.
Consider these edible stocking stuffers:
- small boxes of cereal
- granola bars or snack bars
- fruit leathers
- small packages of dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries or Funky Monkey snacks
- juice or milk boxes
- clementines, apples, or oranges
- candy canes and Christmas candy
- small bottles of apple cider
- individually packaged crackers or cookies
- popcorn (try popping corn on the cob)
- movie theatre candies
- rice cakes
- favorite teas and coffees
- coupons for restaurants
Toiletries can span all ages and sexes. What kid under the age of 8 doesn’t love character bandages? Along with Band-aids, you can include character dental supplies as well as hand soap, hand sanitizer, and shampoo.
For older kids I’ve included electric toothbrushes, facial cleanser, dry shampoo, shower caps, hair ties and headbands, razors, and travel size products.
Note for next year: CVS and Walgreens do a lot of promotions on toiletries like this, so watch for sales on these items, too.
Toys and Tech
Yes, toys can be clutter-free stocking stuffers, especially when they are things that can be used up, like coloring books, colored pencils, and water balloons. Those are definitely consumable! Do you know how fast a 3 year old can whip through a coloring book? My girls have run through my large Prismacolor box of pencils in a matter of weeks.
On the tech side, phone cases, ear buds, and even batteries are things that kids can easily use that won’t become clutter.
I’ve rounded up some of the items that I’ve purchased for my kids here on this Amazon idea list.
Try some of these consumable stocking stuffers:
- hair products
- silly string (yes, it will be gone in seconds)
- pony tail holders (at my house, these are totally consumable. They disappear constantly.)
- hand soap
- shower gel
- scented hand sanitizer
- gift cards
- coupons for experiences with you
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.
How to Save Money
- Get free samples. I originally got this tip from Freebies4Mom last year. Since then, I’ve stashed away any free samples that I’ve heard about online . I have a bag in the pantry where I hide items like small boxes of cereal and granola bars.
- Bundle some candy. It seems that Walgreens and CVS often have great deals on candy near the major holidays. Don’t buy individual packages if a bulk bag is cheaper. Simply bundle a handful of sweets in a piece of fabric or tissue paper and tie with a ribbon. Even M&M’s and Skittles work this way.
- Make playdough. I’m planning on mixing up several batches of homemade dough for my littles this year. Create a homemade playdough kit.
- Visit the dollar store. Use caution because purchases can still add up quickly, but you can find great little trinkets at these discount stores. Just don’t take too much money with you and you should be fine.
- Make muffin tin crayons. I stocked up on 25 cent crayolas at back to school time. Each of my bigger kids will receive a new box. But, I’m going to take all the broken chunks and melt them down into bigger crayon “muffins” for my little ones. Simply sort crayons by color themes into aluminum muffin liners. Heat in a warm oven until melted. Cool completely before removing the foil.
- Create photo books. Good deals abound on photo books. (Don’t forget to get cash back by ordering them through an Ebates or ShopAtHome merchant.) Kids of all ages would love a photo book of their own, be they toddlers, tweens, or teens. Just upload photos you know would interest them.
- Pick out a gift card. Even $5 to a favorite shop or restaurant is a pleasant surprise. Pick one out at ShopAtHome and get cash back from the purchase as well.
- Pass on a family heirloom. My mom did this for years, wanting to ensure that we received the things that were important to her. She always included a small note, explaining the history of the item.
- Write a love note. Share with your peeps how much you love them. It’s free, but it’s priceless. Get our free printable letter for your child here.
What are YOUR favorite clutter-free stocking stuffers?
Originally posted December 1, 2011. Updated December 18, 2017.
We buy traditional candy, which never lasts long but the rest would qualify as non-clutter. For the females we purchase shower puffs, nail polish, hair ties, single-use face masks, Chap Stick, cuticle cream, and socks. For the males we purchase socks, Chap Stick, razors and shaving cream. Other items include small packages of specialty coffees and teas; art supplies; earbuds and charging cords; lint rollers (we have pets); and $5 or $10 gift cards. For the grandparents we usually put in a book of stamps and a package of note cards – they still like snail mail.
Great ideas, Janet!
I have enjoyed searching through your blog. WE have 7 children. I too was filling stocking with future clutter for years. Until 3 years ago it was time to buy one more stocking for New baby and I saw the small version. I asked Grandma to sew us all New stockings instead of store bought but make them small. Now we fill our stockings with candy treats the kids usually do not get through out the year. The money I save I use toward another larger gift just from Santa. Like a doll or something. One bigger gift rather than a stocking full. We try to use the rule for gifts…something to wear, something to share, something to read, something you want, something you need, plus I add something handmade. Cutting down on the material side of Christmas as made it more family focused.
Great strategy. Thanks!
I always find a fun inexpensive electric toothbrush, new toothpaste, a new bath scrubbie, fun charater bandaids, new crayons or fun pencils/pens, an activity book, a new book or small half-price gift card, some fruit at the bottom, and a $5 Starbucks gift card. My kiddos (ages 5 and 9) get a kick out of being able to buy their own treat or drink at Starbucks. Oh, and new socks too! I have done the same thing every year and my kids really look forward to it.
I have the exact same xmas stocking as in your pictures! Santa gets the kids things that Mom would never buy, like Pop-Tarts and funky flavored potato chips.
Aren’t they great? My granny made mine back in 1972 and my mom made the rest of the family’s to match.
I love this idea! We have a herd of 7 and even if you only have one to herd this is such a smart idea! Thanks!
Hope it helps!
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.
Well, that’s fun that it came up on google. I posted another list of updated items: http://lifeasmom.com/2013/12/stocking-stuffers-theyll-actually-use-and-enjoy.html
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! 🙂
Stockings! Oh so much fun to do.
My daughter is getting;
Box of raisins
Free Peeps from Rite Aid
1 bottle of nail polish (she is four and only needs 1)
new ornament for 2011
My 3yr old son is getting;
Underwear (yay for being potty-trained!)
Drummer Hoff board book
$1 lego box set
box of raisins
My hubby got;
can of nuts
can of peaches ( which he loves)
box of zone bars
Cologne ($5 section at walmart has his favorite)
favorite lip balm
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!
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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!)
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
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!
I have never done that. I may have to try it now that so many moms have mentioned it.
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! 🙂
I mean hours of laughter!! I am the worst phone typist EVER!
One toy that is always a winner in my kids stockings – the woopie cushion. Usually $1.00 and hoyelra of laughter.
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.
There’s a Clippie Fairie at our house who steals all the hair clips, I’m sure.
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…
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.
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!
For a season I crammed in bigger things like character tshirts, coloring books, and DVDs. More expensive, but less twaddle.
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! 🙂
Socks is a great idea!
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 : )
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Those are so fun!
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!
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.
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.
Hair things are definitely consumable at our house! I can’t believe how quickly they pull them out and lose them!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!)
A tool each year is a fantastic gift! I love that!
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.
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).
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.
Not crazy at all, Heather. My daughter loved office supplies when she was little. In fact, she’s in college now and she still does.
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.
I think that’s great! The things my kids ask for is too big to put in a stocking, typically.
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!
Love the jar idea!
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!
Tape–oh, tape—what a favorite of my children. They can go through an extra long roll is a day. Very consumable!
Yes, always tape! And post-it notes are another popular item.
I always do tape too. My kids have all loved it.
Awesome ideas! Only wish I had started buying stocking stuffers earlier in the year as I have seven stockings to stuff! LOL
I know. It hurts a little when I don’t start early enough.
Great ideas, Jessica. 🙂
Thanks, as always for hosting Frugal Fridays! 🙂
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. 🙂
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!
I love these ideas so much! Thank you for sharing!!!
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.
Thanks for hosting! I posted recipes for pomegranate salad and cabbage potato soup.