Frugal Friday: Budget Friendly Stocking Stuffers

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Forgive me while I take the next few installments of Frugal Friday to talk about Frugal Christmas. I realize that not all my readers celebrate Christmas, so please indulge me just a wee bit. I think many of my suggestions for saving money at the holidays will transfer to any gift giving and celebrating that you might do according to your family’s traditions. For the FishFam, Christmas is a great time of celebrating and it is also a big time of potential spending. I gotta watch myself, especially when it comes to Christmas Stockings.

Our family has always been big on fun stockings. Years ago my Granny handknit me a stocking, and a tradition was born. Every sibling, cousin and grandchild on my mom’s side of the family has a stocking in the same style as mine. My mom, God bless her, has taken up the knitting needles to pass on these family heirlooms.

Years ago, like when I still lived with my parents, I offered to handle the stocking stuffers. At 18, I was sure I knew better than my mom what we would like to find on Christmas morning. Unfortunately, I promptly forgot! It wasn’t until about 9 pm on Christmas Eve that my mom asked me about them. Dumbfounded, I grabbed my keys and headed for the only grocery store that was still open. My sister and a friend and I rummaged through the store, looking for fun treats. The pressure was on, especially since my baby brother was only 4 at the time. We did not want him to be disappointed. In the end, I spent a small fortune due to poor planning.

Even with the best of planning, stockings stuffers can add up. Here are some suggestions to help you offset the costs that can accrue quickly.

  • 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 or received from VocalPoint in the mail. 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. Just package a handful of playdough from this recipe in sandwich size bags.
  • 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.
What’s a budget-friendly item that you like to stuff in stockings? I’d love to hear it!

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Don’t forget! Next week, December 10th will be a special themed week for Frugal Friday. Bring your suggestions and creativity to the topic: $10 Gifts. I’d love to see how creative we can be with our deals and steals!

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  1. What creative ideas for stocking stuffers!

    I've always wanted to knit..but I just can't find the time. How cool would that be to knit them stockings? 🙂

  2. This is one area of Christmas I really struggle with. Having teenage boys is pretty hard. I usually hit up the Dollar Store too. Thanks for your ideas!

  3. We like to add some pencils and little note pads – I usually can find good deals on these around back to school time or free when I need to add a bit to make my ECBs workout at CVS. Same with free nail polish for my daughter!

  4. I really like the muffin tin crayon idea and am seriously considering using it for my three year old. Thank you for a great post.

  5. I agree… free samples do make really fun gifts! 😀 We don't do stockings… but I save some of the free samples I get to use in gift packets… or just as a fun surprise for someone who isn't into requesting free samples like I am. 😉

    Tammy from 🙂

  6. I've done whole gifts using those freebies and free-after-coupon drugstore deals. My sis and bro-in-law are big travelers, so they love getting toiletries that are tiny and airline-travel-safe. They request them now!

  7. My mom did the free-after-coupon deals last year. It was fun digging through all of the goodies!

  8. Christmas Stockings are a BIG deal in my family. I still receive a stocking from my parents with toothpaste, lotion, contact solution, etc and I am 40. She still wraps everything too. I don't do too much Christmas shopping year round, except I do pick things up for Christmas stockings. Back to School is a great time to load up on .25 crayons, paint,glue sticks, etc. I find ALOT of stocking stuff on Target clearance racks too.

  9. I make homemade playdough, too. I save the little deli containers (the kind that might have salad dressing from the salad bar or a tiny bit of macaroni salad) and lids to put it in.

  10. I love your ideas! As you point out, even the "cheap" items from the dollar store really can add up, so it's great to have some alternatives. I added some ideas of my own my FF post today (in the Mr. Linky).

  11. Great suggestions — Growing up my Mom would put in our stockings: wrapped candy cane, a couple of small tin foil chocolate wrapped santa's, a orange, pair of socks or mittens, ribbons, paper dolls and for my brothers small toy cars.

  12. I posted my idea for a DIY dishwasher clean/dirty magnet. Mine features one of my cats who got into the fireplace ("dirty" side) and another photo in which he's squeaky clean. I think it would work well with baby photos too — great small gift for grandparents!

  13. For those rare times I eat at McDonald's, I always order a Happy Meal and save the toy for a kids' stocking stuffer.

    It's only a few things, but they do make for nice surprises – I have a tiny stuffed dog for my son and a mini My Little Pony for my daughter. I also dig them out for trips and other times when an occasional treat comes in handy.

  14. I loved My Little Ponies as a girl but hate the new style they have with big eyes and misshapen heads. So, I went online and found the exact same baby Cuddles pony, used but in good condition for a couple of bucks. This will be a stocking stuffer for my daughter, as well as flashcards from the Dollar Store, some candy treats, and some SEEDS worship CDs (Bible verses set to fun, not obnoxious music).

  15. Those are some great ideas! I'll be stashing many of the ideas for when I finally have little ones. Growing up, our stockings were never the same without a little orange! (mandarin orange)

  16. Stocking stuffers are something I try to accumulate throughout the year. They are similar to items I would use in a birthday party goodie bags, so if I am running really low I stock up through Oriental Trading Company, but that only happens every couple years.

    My other favorite place is the grocery store. 🙂 Not on Christmas Eve, though. The week after Fourth of July and other small holidays they put all kinds of neat trinkets on sale for as low as a quarter each. Light up bouncy balls, glow sticks, headbands, bracelets, airplanes, etc. They may often have American flag designs on them, but my kids never mind.

    Some great ideas here!

  17. I got some great inexpensive stocking stuffers using the vistaprint 'freebies' this year – you have to pay shipping, but if you order a few things it works out to a dollar or two per item – and I got personalized pens, banners, hats etc for the holidays!