Christmas in July – 10 ways to start planning now and avoid holiday debt

**This post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small amount of compensation when you purchase from my links, which I"ll totally blow on waffle fries and sweet tea, y'all!**

Being extremely active on social media, I’ve seen tons of updates about how Christmas is just around the corner.  As much as I don’t want to start planning right now (procastinator!) it’s important so that I’m not breaking the bank in December.  So many families don’t plan for the holidays early enough, and end up putting a lot of their holiday gifts on credit cards.  Proper planning and smart shopping starting now can help you save in the long run, and avoid massive credit card bills when the new year rolls around.  Check out these 10 tips for making your Christmas as financially un-stressful as possible!

Start Christmas planning now avoid holiday debt

10 tips for planning Christmas on a budget

10.  Start making a list of what your kids want – As you hear them ask for specific things, or notice something that they could use, add it to a list.  You can easily make a list on your smartphone with an app like Evernote, and access it from anywhere.  This will really come in handy once you start actually purchasing gifts.

9.  Put aside money each pay period – Set aside a little bit each time you get paid.  Cut out stopping for coffee in the morning a few days a week, or maybe pack your lunch for work instead of going out.  Use that money for your Christmas fund instead.  There are about 25 weeks from the beginning of July until Christmas, so just saving $20 a week means you’ll have $500 to spend on gifts!  Be sure that money goes into a separate account so you don’t accidentally spend it!

8.  Subscribe to Amazon deals – Did you know that Amazon has Gold Box lightening deals available for a short period each day?  Subscribe to get those deals in your inbox and never miss out again!  Many of the deals are well over 50% off!

Start Christmas planning now avoid holiday debt

7.  Start cleaning out toys – Go ahead and start going through your kids’ toys now, and get rid of items that are broken, missing pieces, or that they have outgrown.  Once you pare them down and see what they have left, you’ll have a better idea of what they need.  You may realize they already have tons of stuff they still play with, or that they could use more Barbie clothes or Legos for their collection.  It’s easier to figure out what to buy when you have an accurate list of what they already own.

6.  Talk to your family about what to buy – If you have family members that always give your children gifts, talk to them about what they plan to purchase.  If there are specific items that you know your child wants, let everyone know.  If you plan to buy something that has accessories or add-on kits, that’s a great thing to clue family in on.  Another great way to share your child’s holiday wish list is through a site like GiftBirdy, which lets the kids make their own list online and then share it with others.

5.  Shop Craigslist, Ebay, and consignment sales – You can find great deals on gently used (and often new) items by searching Craigslist and Ebay.   I’ve also found great gifts by shopping yard sales and consignment sales in during the fall.  Your kids are going to open the boxes and use their gifts anyway, so why not buy something that’s out of the box but still in excellent condition?  This is a great way to pick up things like toddler toys, video games, outdoor toys and more, for often less than 50% of the regular retail price.  (Just be sure to exercise caution when purchasing items from Craigslist.  Meet sellers in a very public place, and if a deal sounds way too good to be true, it probably is.)

4.  Utilize layaway plans – If you have your eye on a big ticket item that you don’t currently have the money for, see if one of your local stores offers layaway.  You can pay a portion of the money up front, and then make payments over several weeks.  If the item goes on sale while it’s on layaway, most stores will honor that price and adjust it if you just bring it to their attention. Toys R Us, KMart, and Sears are just a few of the stores that currently offer layaway programs for their customers.

3.  Shop daily deal sites – Sites like Zulily and One Kings Lane offer short term deals on popular items.  Sign up to get their updates via email, and you’ll know about the big deals as soon as they are available.  Last year I got the super popular Pillow Pets for my kids for $1o from for just $10, when they were retailing for at least $25 at other stores!  Be sure to share deals your friends would like as well, because most of those sites reward you with credit when your friends place an order.

Start Christmas planning now avoid holiday debt

2.  Check out the clearance section – Big name stores like Walmart and Target always have items on clearance, so when you are doing your regular shopping each week, take a second to check out the clearance aisle.  I have picked up several gifts at a huge discount that way.  I also like to look for clearance deals at local drug stores, and even grocery stores have good deals sometimes!

1.  Saving pocket change – Instead of using that change in the bottom of your purse, set it aside for your holiday fund.  Just a few coins here and there can really add up!  Do the same thing with found money, and you’ll have a nice little stash of cash to add to your holiday budget by the end of the year.  Every penny really does count, trust me!

Start Christmas planning now avoid holiday debt

Using these tips and a few others, I managed to spend just $250 on holiday gifts for my six children last year.  Christmas on a budget is totally possible, as long as you plan ahead!  Need some ideas for budget friendly gifts?  Check out the post I wrote with over 100 gifts you can get on Amazon for $2.00 or less, including shipping!

Keep on saving!  :o)

**Remember, y'all, this post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small amount of compensation when you purchase from my links, which I"ll totally blow on waffle fries and sweet tea, y'all!**

Top 5 Gift Ideas for Teachers

**This post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small amount of compensation when you purchase from my links, which I"ll totally blow on waffle fries and sweet tea, y'all!**

As a mother of five school aged children, I am often stumped as to what sort of gifts to give teachers during the holiday season.  While my children are with their teachers for most of the week days, we really don’t get to know them well enough to know what they would like as a gift.  I usually try to give something somewhat generic that everyone would like, as well as inexpensive so that I’m not breaking the bank buying gifts for everyone.  If you’re trying to figure out what to buy your child’s teacher, check out some of my suggestions below!

Top 5 gift ideas for teachers

© Pilarin | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Top 5 Gift Ideas for Teachers

1.  Gift cards

You can’t go wrong with a gift card!  It’s no secret that teachers aren’t the highest paid professionals out there, and often spend a good bit of their personal money on supplies for the classroom.  A simple $5 or $10 card to Starbucks, Target, or a local school supply would be a great gift for any teacher.  Even better would be a Visa or Mastercard card that could be used anywhere!  I know some people feel like gift cards are impersonal, but you could always add in a handwritten note thanking them for all they do.

2.  Edibles

Who doesn’t like indulging in a sweet treat?  A small bag of chocolates or a mug with hot cocoa mix are both easy, inexpensive gifts.  If you’d like to step it up a notch, you could give them something a little more “gourmet” like these handmade wine spreads from Saucy.  Your local sweets shop or bakery would also have several yummy items that would make great presents.  The gift of food is something that the recipient can share with their family as well.

Top 5 gift ideas for teachers

3.  Personalized items

Personalized items like notepads and pens are things that every teacher can use.  You can easily order them online from sites like Vistaprint, and customize them with your child’s teacher’s name.  You could also opt for something like a monogrammed coffee mug, and fill it with candies or tea bags, giving them something they can enjoy now as well as for years to come.

Top 5 gift ideas for teachers

4.  Handmade items

One of my favorite gifts we have given in the past was for a teacher two years ago that was getting married.  I printed out a simple wedding cake outline on cardstock and each of the children in the class colored and decorated their own cake.  We then cut them out and attached them all together (like a honeycomb centerpiece) to make a standup cake that could sit on her desk.  Another great option is to have each of the children draw a picture or write something telling their favorite things about their teacher, and have them all put together into a book.  A simple comb binding could be done at an office supply store, or you could scan them in and use an online service like Shutterfly to have them printed into a hardcover book.

Top 5 gift ideas for teachers

5.  Handwritten note

If you are really on a tight budget and can’t afford to give a gift to your child’s teacher this year, consider giving them a card with a handwritten note inside, telling them thank you for how much work they do every day.  If they have really made a difference in your child’s life, let them know.  Teaching can be a hard (and often, thankless) job, and they’ll really appreciate hearing from you how much you appreciate them.  Be sure to have your child write their own little note to include as well.

Top 5 gift ideas for teachers

If you have a room parent that is coordinating a gift from the class, they may ask for a small cash contribution and then use that to buy one large gift like a gift card to the teacher’s favorite store or restaurant.  Before spending time putting together your own gift, check with the room parent and see if they already have something planned for the whole class.

 Still not sure what to get your child’s teacher?  Just ask them what they would like!  I asked a few of my own teacher friends, and here’s what they had to say:

Barbara from Atlanta’s Frugal Mom said: “What I always liked and treasured best was the personal gifts. As a spec Ed teacher, it meant the world to me to get a “thank you” note from both the child and parents one year from a particular child, especially since she struggled so with the act of writing.  As tempting as it may be, I advise steering away from “teachery” nik-naks. I can’t tell you how many apple-related paraphernalia I have!”  Make sure to check out the rest of MY frugal teacher gift ideas.

Lindsey from Redhead Baby Mama had this to say:  “Personalized notepads are awesome, I once got a travel coffee mug with my initial embroidered on the inside. I still use it! Otherwise, giftcards, or a handwritten note go a long way!”

Miranda from Not Super…Just Mom wrote about teacher gifts on a budget earlier this year, and this really says it all: “When I’m wondering why in the world I got into this profession, I open my “Bad Day box” and read those notes and cards. I remember the students who’ve said “Hey, you know? You made a difference.” I remember that moment and that student and I know that I don’t suck at this. Someone out there thinks I’m doing a good job. And then I find a little well of renewed strength to make it through the day or week or grading period.”

No matter what you choose, don’t forget to think about the other teachers that your children has, such as enrichment instructors like art, music, speech, etc.  Often those teachers are overlooked around the holidays, but they would appreciate a special gift as well!  We typically give a larger gift to their main teacher, and smaller gifts for the other teachers.

What do you give your child’s teacher for the holidays?  Are you a teacher yourself, and if so, what is the best gift you have received from your students in the past?  Share in the comments below!

*This post is Tiffany’s top five teacher gift ideas.  Check out mine here:

Frugal Teacher Gift Ideas

Keep on saving!  :o)

**Remember, y'all, this post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small amount of compensation when you purchase from my links, which I"ll totally blow on waffle fries and sweet tea, y'all!**

Ten Gift Ideas for the Whole Family

**This post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small amount of compensation when you purchase from my links, which I"ll totally blow on waffle fries and sweet tea, y'all!**

Often around the holidays, we are faced with buying gifts for families with multiple children. Trying to figure out what to get for each person, and fitting those individual gifts into your budget can be draining, both mentally and financially. One of the things we always suggest to friends and family when they ask what to buy, is that they put together a family present that everyone can enjoy. Here are some great “whole family” gifts that everyone is sure to love.

10 gift ideas for the whole family

10 Gift Ideas for the Whole Family

1. Movie passesAlmost all major movie theater companies offer gift certificates or cards that you can load with an amount of your choice.  You can also order them online in $25 and $50 denominations if there isn’t a theater near you (Regal and AMC gift cards are available on Amazon). Surprising a family with a gift card that will allow them to take their children to a movie and purchase some popcorn or candy is a gift solution that never disappoints. This works especially well for families with teens or children of varying ages, because everyone loves going to the movies! If that’s still too much for your budget, a movie gift basket is a great alternative. One or two DVDs, boxed candy and popcorn, and a bottle of soda makes for a fun night in, and they can watch the movies over and over in the future. (Psst…if you are a Costco member you can buy cheap tickets online and in store!)

Also, if you live near a Studio Movie Grill, Groupon frequently has a GREAT deal for movie tickets!


2. Museum, Aquarium or Zoo memberships

My children love to visit local museums, and we’ve received family passes as gifts in previous years that allowed us to go multiple times over the course of a year. Many museums have exhibits that change several times a year, so there is always something new to see each visit. Be sure to check and see if their local museum, aquarium, or zoo is part of a reciprocal program, such as ASTC, NARM, or AZA.  Reciprocal programs allow families to use their memberships for free admission to other participating museums, zoos and aquariums.  Another thing to consider with museums and aquariums is that they are inside, whereas zoos are not, so if they live in an area with extreme weather conditions, they may get more use from a membership that allows them to be indoors during their visits.

3. Video games

We have several gaming systems in our home, but they are specifically for use as a family.  If the family you are shopping for has an Xbox or Playstation system, buying them a game that they can play together is a wonderful gift. Just Dance and Mario Party are two of our favorites, as we can play together as a family, instead of just one or two kids zoning out in front of the television.  If the family you are purchasing for doesn’t have a gaming system, and it’s in your budget to purchase one for them, there are quite a few bundles available right now on Amazon that include the system, multiple controls, and often more than one game.


4. Board gamesBoard games can also be a lot fun, especially the ones that can be played by a wide range of ages.  Yahtzee is very popular in our house, even though the younger ones don’t really understand the concept, we team up and they have fun rolling the dice and writing down the scores.  Pictionary, Jenga, and Guesstures (like charades) are fun classic choices too. Of course, if you really want to knock it out of the park, you could go for some newer games that are SUPER popular right now, like Pie Face, Gas Out (eww, I know!) and Speak Out (aka the cheek retractor game). All of these games are simple enough for young children, yet still entertaining enough to keep the older ones involved.


5. Hotel weekend

Who doesn’t love staying the night in a nice hotel?  Find a hotel that is close to the family you are shopping for, and book them a room for the weekend.  Be sure to look for hotels that have free wifi, continental breakfast, and a pool that is open.  Some hotels even offer free happy hour appetizers in their restaurant, or a game room in the lobby.  You may not be able to buy them a vacation, but you can gift them a faux getaway, and that can still be loads of fun!  We have a hotel about 10 minutes away from us that we love to take the kids to for a treat.  They have an indoor pool, a lending library, a game room, a snack bar, free breakfast, and awesome happy hour deals.  It’s a ton of fun for them, and a nice break from the stresses of home for us.

These family gifts are sure to be enjoyed by everyone, and you don’t have to go broke buying them.  Still not sure?  Here’s another quick couple of suggestions below:

6. Outdoor games such as bocce, badminton, trampoline.  Check out these great outdoor toys for little ones!

7. Pizza/Date night Offer to take the kids out for pizza while the parents go on a date night.  Make sure to peruse Scoutmob and local Groupon deals for date night inspiration, and to try out new pizza places!

8. DVD set of classic movies (Disney is a great choice)

9. Family Fun Center pass (miniature golf, bowling, arcade, go karts)

(If all else fails, and you don’t think any of these would work for your situation, you can NEVER go wrong with #10)

10.  Amazon gift card

You can buy one last minute, you can send it via email, and they can choose whatever they want for themselves.  Clothes, games, toys, electronics, gift cards, you name it, Amazon has it.  Some people feel like gift cards can be impersonal, but I’d much rather get a gift card than some ugly sweater I’m never going to wear!

Have you ever received or given one large family gift?

What do you think about gift cards as presents?  Practical or tacky?

*This post includes affiliate links, and I earn a small commission from any items purchasedMaybe even enough to take my kids out for some family fun!*

Keep on saving!  :o)

**Remember, y'all, this post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small amount of compensation when you purchase from my links, which I"ll totally blow on waffle fries and sweet tea, y'all!**

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