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Frugal Ways to Shop for Gifts at Christmastime

Updated on December 9, 2012

Shop Selectively for the Growing Child

Good health is the greatest blessing.  Clean, fresh clothes will be outgrown before next summer!
Good health is the greatest blessing. Clean, fresh clothes will be outgrown before next summer! | Source

Heart and Soul

Nearly every loving parent is guilty of loving their child too much, especially at Christmastime. The precious child deserves nothing but the best, newest things - toys, clothes and electronic gadgets. This is a normal emotion, but it's really not practical.

When it comes to clothing, they will probably grow out of it in six months to a year. By the time next Autumn returns there is nothing but passing it along to another family or giving it to the Goodwill. This article is designed to help Moms find quality used or bargain basement items at a fair price.

The rule of thumb is to buy off season, but many times there isn't enough cash to spare buying in advance.

Here is what I have learned....

Shoes and Undies Should Be Purchased

New Shoes - Quality Footwear

Shoes is one thing that cannot be compromised. Using other kids' shoes is a temptation to overcome. Yes, shoes are expensive, and their usage time is limited but the fact remain the same. Everyone stomps their feet upon the pavement a little differently. A "hand me down" shoe worn by another child can only cause your growing child's foot difficulties. Best to invest a little and buy a quality shoe even if you end up cutting corners in other areas like T-shirts, pants, sweaters, hats, and so on. Make quality shoes a priority - they will be better off for it in the long run.

Underwear will need to be purchased new, but socks, tights and long underwear can sometimes be inherited if they are in decent enough condition.

Rites of Passage

I was surprised to find out that my child was MORE interested in the hand me down, because their slightly older friend used to wear it, adding a certain mystique to the clothing! It helps if that someone special is someone that they look up to!

Forming an Informal Co-Op

It's not difficult to see who has kids slightly older than your own. Ideal if you can return the favor, but giving can be done in a circle.

Here in Croatia we try to get the kids to change out of their "nice" clothes from school and wear the jeans or sweats with patches in the knees to go play in. The object of the game is to be able to give a big sackful of barely worn clothes to the neighbors. One hand washes another, and these used - but - in - good - condition items are a lifesaver, economically.

Of course they should be fresh laundered and maybe even lightly pressed when given. One person starting the chain is all it takes!

Target on Black Friday

These shoppers are hoping to catch some great bargains at Target on Black Friday.  Avoid the crowds and shop using Target's mark down strategy as shown on the chart.
These shoppers are hoping to catch some great bargains at Target on Black Friday. Avoid the crowds and shop using Target's mark down strategy as shown on the chart. | Source

Target Labels' Legend:

Last digit of the Price Tag
What it Means
What to do!
9 - example, $49.99
Original Price
WAIT. OK you are taking a chance, but this item will be reduced.
8 - example $29.98
It's been reduced once already
1. Buy it at the lower price or 2. Wait for further discounting
4 - example $14.94
This is the final markdown
Buy it now, because this is as good as it's going to get.

Target on the Retail Giant, TARGET


Target is a fabulous place to buy clothing, toys and other items for kids and the entire family. Why? Because the items are good to better quality and are definitely priced to move.

There are other stores to find great deals at, but Target for me is one of the only stores where I can also get quality. It saves a lot of time and henpecking - and since this is my Hub LOL, I say - just go to Target (or Tar-Je, like a French boutique).

Moms in the know LOVE Target because the quality is good enough for gifts and the pricing is very accommodating to even single parents who have to watch every penny they spend. There is a method to the madness, based on the label coding, which can be easily deciphered. The last digit tells it all (see table):

Other Great Target Reductions

Of course this may vary from store to store, but it is no secret that Target reduces many items on a weekly or biweekly basis. Items ordered online and then later returned to a local store are not a part of the store's normal inventory, and because they are white elephants, they may be reduced as much as 90%. Take a look in the store and don't be shy about asking the manager for the discounting schedule.

This is the "classical" reduction schedule:

Monday: Children's clothing, baby items, gift wrap, electronics, office supplies.

Tuesday: Domestic items, home decor, kitchenware, Women's clothing.

Wednesday: Health and beauty aids, garden / outdoor items, Men's clothing, groceries, toys.

Thursday: House wares, lingerie, sporting goods, luggage, shoes. 

Friday: Home improvement, perfume, jewelry, cosmetics, hardware, automotive.


These are in a class by themselves because when the holiday is over, the old tinsel and glitter is really priced to move fast. The stores call it the 3-3-2 system. In the 8 days following the holiday, seasonally obsolete items are reduced from full price to a whopping 90% off.

What isn't sold is then given to charitable organizations.

  • 50% - First three days (example December 26, 27, 28)
  • 75% - Next three days (example December 29, 30, 31)
  • 90% - Last two days (example January 1, 2)

Shopping Hypnosis

The Big Red Eye in the Sky... LOL...
The Big Red Eye in the Sky... LOL...

Dishwasher Friendly Items

If you purchase or receive used teddy bears and other stuffed animals, wash them in the dishwasher (yes, dishwasher!!) with the same detergent tablet that you use to wash your dishes. The cycle is less abusive than a go-round in the washing machine. They will be sterilized and ready to be nuzzled against with no risk of bacteria or infection passed along from the toy's former owner. Hanging them out on the clothesline on a dry sunny day (out of direct sun, if possible) is better than throwing them in the dryer - the colors will stay brighter, longer.

Fun and Games

Toys and Equipment

Basic baby equipment includes a stroller, books, stuffed animals and didactic toys (like Legos, Blocks, and things that require concentration and deductive thinking). If something object is designed to fit into some niche, it's bound to improve concentration and learning.

These are all great to pick up used at Goodwill or a garage sale. Again, the Mommy Co-Op is another great use for this. Give another Mom your toys that they don't use anymore and you may be receiving a similar bag of goodies in the near future.

Don't be upset if you may need to re-oil the wheels and adjust the seat, washing the cloth backing in the washing machine. At least when they spill on it you won't feel nervous about all that money you invested in an overpriced stroller, which makes for more relaxed parenting.

Craigs List and EBay, are great options too. The word on the street is that Garage Sales are still the king of bargain land because no delivery and you see exactly what you get. Besides that, negotiating is welcomed and encouraged.

A lot for a little

Toys, jeans, and other cool things can be found at yard sales, flea markets and the like at a fraction of the cost of buying them new.
Toys, jeans, and other cool things can be found at yard sales, flea markets and the like at a fraction of the cost of buying them new. | Source

This little piggy...

Kasica Prasica or Pig Container is the treasured objects of children living in Croatia.  Savings are placed inside for a rainy day, if even for the weekend!
Kasica Prasica or Pig Container is the treasured objects of children living in Croatia. Savings are placed inside for a rainy day, if even for the weekend! | Source

Learning Good Habits Early

Kids' things are in constant transition. The toys they like, the jeans they wear. My pre-teen aged kids have taken to the frugal way of life and I have to say, they look pretty sharp considering that 80% or more of the clothes they get were purchased on sale or given to me as second hand clothing.

USED THINGS CAN BE GIVEN AS GIFTS - as long as they are clean and well presented. I bought my daughter a sleeveless zip up vest in fake fur that she absolutely adores - it cost me all of $7.

The reality of the matter is - until kids finish growing, it's rapid growth time, Mom! Like a revolving door, clothes and shoes come in the door, go out again (to another Mom). Invest in shoes, get coats and jeans on discount, and use hand me down's whenever possible. In most cases they have hardly been used and can carry you through a season of everyday wardrobe needs.

Thank You

Keep the wheels of the hand me co-op flowing smoothly with "thank you" gifts. Most of the people I know give a jar of delicious home made marmalade after receiving a generous bag filled with quality hand me downs. Saying thank you for the effort of someone's time, care, and remembrance is never to be taken lightly.

A bouquet of flowers, coupons to a restaurant meal out (like 2 for 1, or Tuesday free entree) or some other freebie might also be appropriate.

I know if someone gave me coupons to Chili's I would never forget to save my hand me downs for them in the future! But that is my personal preference, LOL. There are ice cream discounts at Ferrell's, Baskin Robins and a score of other possibilities to choose from.....


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