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How to Give Great Christmas Gifts on a Budget

Updated on August 23, 2012

It's hard to believe, but Christmas will be here before you know it. If you're panicking about at the thought of trying to provide your children with a memorable Christmas on a tight budget, this article will provide some ideas to help you take control of the situation.

Getting Started

Before you do any holiday shopping, it's smart to keep in mind these basic tips for planning a great Christmas on a tight budget:

  • Pare down your Christmas list. When you're on a tight budget, you can't buy gifts for everyone. Go through your list and decide where to cut back. For example, I only purchase gifts for children and a few very close adult relatives. You could also check out 10 Handmade Christmas Gift Ideas for some inexpensive present suggestions for the adults on your list to free up some cash for buying presents for your children.
  • Set limits. I'm a big fan of the four gift rule: something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. I've also heard of families setting a limit of three presents per person because that is the number of gifts the baby Jesus received. Do whatever works for your family.
  • Join forces. If there are bigger items that your children really want, consider having everyone make a donation towards these purchases. Most people would rather see a child get the one toy they truly wanted on Christmas than 10-20 smaller items that will be forgotten in a week.

Shop at Amazon for Great Christmas Gifts

Amazon's large selection and low prices make it a great part of anyone's holiday shopping strategy. It's especially good for planning a budget Christmas, however. You can earn credit to spend on Amazon in the following ways:

  • If you have a credit score that will get you approved, consider applying for an Amazon rewards Visa. You'll earn points with your purchase to be redeemed towards Amazon gift certificates.
  • Sign up at to earn points for searching the web. When you hit 450 points, you can redeem them for a $5 Amazon card. I earn about $10 per month for my Christmas shopping this way.
  • Trade in books, DVDs, and video games for Amazon gift certificates.
  • Become an Amazon affiliate and earn money whenever someone buys a product after clicking through a link on your website.
  • Do odd jobs to earn money through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Read the Amazon Mechanical Turk: Getting Started ebook to learn how to take advantage of this service.

Take Advantage of Customer Loyalty Programs

I love customer loyalty programs. If you save up your points throughout the year and redeem them at once, they can be a good source of free or cheap Christmas gifts.

Popular customer loyalty programs include:

  • My Coke Rewards - Points from Coke products can be redeemed for t-shirts, magazine subscriptions, Shutterfly photo gifts, and other great prizes.
  • Best Buy Reward Zone - If you end up having to buy a major appliance or a new computer during the year, sign up for a free Reward Zone membership and earn points that you can use for video games, CDs, and DVDs for your child.
  • Staples Rewards - Earn rewards throughout the year when buying school supplies, printer ink, and miscellaneous items for your home. Redeem rewards for craft kits or educational toys.
  • Pampers Gifts to Grow - Pampers codes can be redeemed for children's toys or Shutterfly photo gifts. "Free" codes are circulated online fairly regularly, so consider signing up even if you don't have a little one in diapers.
  • Disney Movie Rewards - This program has some excellent prizes you can earn, including DVDs and Starbucks gift cards. Like Pampers Gifts to Grow, they often give out free codes so you can earn points without actually buying anything.

Use Coupons Wisely

Coupons are good for more than just groceries. When used wisely, they can help you mark some items off your holiday shopping list.

  • Hasbro often puts out printable coupons around Thanksgiving that make for very cheap board games when they are paired with store sales.
  • Target has a printable coupon section online that often includes coupons for toys. Many of the coupons are worded so they can be used to buy clearance toys for even greater savings.
  • If you have 'tween girls on your shopping list, you can often find coupons that will let you get nail polish, lip gloss, and scented body sprays for almost nothing. Bundle the items together in a pretty dollar store container for a fun customized beauty kit.
  • Coupons for markers, colored pencils, construction paper, and various other art supplies for children are abundant during the back to school season. These items make great stocking stuffers.
  • Coupons for things like cartoon character toothbrushes and decorated band-aids are also good for filling out your child's stocking.

Focus on the True Meaning of the Season

If you're cutting back on holiday gifts, look for ways to make memories that don't involve spending any cash. This might include baking Christmas cookies, building a snowman, or watching classic Christmas movies curled up under some warm blankets. When your children are grown, these are the things they'll remember the most about your Christmas celebration.

Holiday Spending Advice


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